I’m not a party person. Crowds of people and noisy places are not my favorite thing. (Ok. That’s a lie. I love parties at my house where I’m in my kitchen. I’m a control freak.) I turn down opportunities to cook for large crowds because I’m not street legal to cater. I can and do take “personal chef” gigs, but I prefer small gatherings where I can avoid crowds and polite social engagement.
However, when one of my favorite families calls and asks for help celebrating their brand new deck, how can I say no? Everything about this group is big: big family, big hugs, big laughs, and big appetites. The new deck is called Deckzilla. Did I mention it’s big?
These are fun people ready and willing to have a good time. So I said yes. And promptly dropped everything for a marathon of rapid planning and food sourcing.
50 people, lots of hungry young 20-somethings, cold weather and Halloween costumes!
Though I am a first rate introvert, I had a blast. I got there early and had plenty of space to cook. Everyone was laid back and just happy to be together. A big rowdy family is not the norm for me, but I loved falling into the experience and rolling around with abandon. Cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen reminds me to tap some deep roots for improv and creativity, and I pulled it off pretty well. More than anything, I just enjoyed being in the middle of witty, silly mayhem.
The menu included lots of pork and a pretty awesome slaw with ginger, lemon, and honey dressing. I threw in a few dried cranberries too. You should hope I share the recipe for corn pudding with roasted garlic and cheese one of these days. There was more. but for now I’m going to share this dessert because you need to make a practice run before Thanksgiving. Seriously. Make this and/or take this to whatever Holiday feast you attend. Because, damn. Everybody will love you for this little bite of heaven.
- Shortbread Base
- Butter-3 sticks (11/2 c.) unsalted,cold and cut into pieces
- Flour- 4 cups, all purpose
- Brown Sugar-1 cup firmly packed
- Salt-1 tsp.
- Pecans- 4 cups, rough chopped
- Butter-unsalted, 2 sticks(1 c.)
- Maple syrup-2/3 cup
- Brown sugar-2 cups firmly packed
- Heavy cream-4 Tbsp.
- Vanilla-2 tsp.
- Salt-1/4 tsp
- Oven 350 degrees
- Use spray release on 2-9 x 13 cake pans. Line each pan with long overhanging strips of parchment paper. This becomes the lifting cradle when you are ready to remove these from the pan to cut.
- In a food processor combine the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter and pulse until you have a mixture that resembles wet sand.
- Divide mixture between the 2 pans and press firmly into the pan in an even layer.
- Bake for 20 minutes and remove from the oven.
- While the shortbread base is cooking, combine the butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the maple syrup and allow to come to a boil stirring frequently.
- Reduce the heat as soon as it comes to a boil and add the salt and heavy cream and allow to simmer for one minute.
- Add the vanilla and the pecans and stir well.
- Pour over the hot shortbread dividing the mixture evenly between the 2 pans. Smooth the pecan mixture into a even layer using a heat proof rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
- Return to the hot oven to cook for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for several hours
- (I cover mine loosely with foil and allow to cool overnight on the counter.)
- Using the parchment paper gently pull from the pans and place on a cutting board. I promise these are very firm and solid when completely cooled.
- Cut into any size you like. These are VERY RICH so a little goes a long way.