Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Supper for a Stormy Night

Tuesday Night Menu
Braised Pork Chops with Root Vegetables
Brown Rice Pilaf
Field Peas
Peach Kuchen

Peaches by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
A real thunderstorm settled over our town late this afternoon, with high winds that snapped the dry pine trees and hail that damaged cars. We were cozy in our darkened house, eating a comforting meal made special by the fresh summer vegetables and fruit. We began with my favorite pork chops, braised with carrots and potatoes and concluded with a Peach Kuchen.
The Peach Kuchen is from Beans, Greens, and Sweet Georgia Peaches by Damon Lee Fowler, a Savannah writer  whose books are packed with "must-try" recipes. I pulled "Beans, Greens," from the shelf earlier in the spring and have cooked steadily from it. The peach kuchen recipe is a custard tart with a press-in pie crust made with butter and cider vinegar. It is easy, easy and especially yummy with the dead-ripe peaches from my fruit bowl. My daughter ate two servings and plans to eat another slice for breakfast. In fact, this recipe would be perfect for a weekend breakfast, when you have the 15 minutes needed to cook the custard and 40 minutes for the kuchen to bake. The mango variation sounds nice for the winter months when we get South American mangoes.
Note: the 1 cup of sugar leads to a very sweet custard - I plan to cut the sugar by at least 1/4 cup next time. I also added a splash of vanilla to my custard.
Peach or Mango Custard Kuchen
from Beans, Greens and Sweet Georgia Peaches
by Damon Lee Fowler

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar


1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

4 large eggs

1 cup half and half
1 cup sugar (you may want to cut this amount)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 heaping cup peaches or mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into cubes

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flour, sugar and a small pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Work in the butter until the mixture resembles cookie dough (you can do this with a pastry blender or your fingers). Work in the vinegar, then press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of an 8-inch square casserole or 9-inch round pie plate. Bake in the center of the oven until the crust is beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees.

2. Add water to the bottom of a double boiler. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat until they are smooth. Whisk in the cream until smooth, and then stir in the sugar and a tiny pinch of salt. Transfer the custard mixture to the top half of the double boiler and place it over the simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove it from the heat.

3. Spread the fruit over the crust and pour the custard over them. Bake in the center of the oven until the custard is set and the crust lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fowler suggests using raspberries, mangoes and peaches in this dessert, as well as blackberries, blueberries and sliced strawberries.

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