A few weeks back, I was pondering which winter dishes I haven't had enough of this year. And now I'm facing a perfect weekend for comfort food cooking. Wet, chilly but not really cold, and I have a weekend at home between two troughs of travel. Nothing to do but clean house, dig in the freezer and cook things.
The problem is, how to decide what it will be? There are those packages of Grateful Growers pork necks I've squirreled away in the freezer, waiting for the time to make a ragout. I definitely won't be in that mood in April.
There's the package of frozen duck confit I picked up at Costco on a whim and haven't gotten around to using. I have a nice bag of flagolet beans from Kalustyans in New York, too, so I have makings for cassoulet.
There's the recipe for chicken and rice with curry mustard sauce from my friend Janie Schneider at the James Beard Foundation. (How can someone small enough to fit into dresses from Top Shop come up with such comforting food?) Janie and I both are from South Florida, and this reminds me of a shortcut version of the arroz con pollo I knew growing up.
And while I'm picking through all those choices, I need to make a dessert to tuck away in the freezer a next weekend's mountain trip. I made another James Beard House recipe for a bake sale a couple of weeks ago, and it was almost my bar cookie ideal -- crispy crust with a chewy topping of salty cashews and butterscotch. But I thought the crust should be thicker, so I want to try it again using a smaller pan. The original came from Amy Scherber of Amy's Bread, and she used a pan size that isn't usually found in home kitchens.
Here's the original recipe. I'll try again and report back.
And in exchange, I'd love to hear what you end up cooking this weekend. Chilly, rainy -- how can you miss a comfort-food weekend like this?
Butterscotch Cashew Bars
From "The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread," by Amy Scherber.
2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, cold
1 1/8 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups cashew pieces, roasted and salted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Great a 17-by-12-inch sheet pan (see? who has a 17-inch sheet pan? I'm thinking 13-by-9 should work -- kp) lightly with softened butter and line it with aluminum foil, pressing the foil up the sides of the pan and into the corners. Grease the foil with softened butter.
Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Dice the butter into 1 inch pieces. Place half the butter in the food processor. Pulse a few seconds. Add half the brown sugar and pulse again, then add the remaining butter and brown sugar and process 20 to 30 seconds, until a coarse meal forms and the dough is just beginning to gather into a ball.
Spread the crust in the prepared pan and pat it gently into the corners. Don't pack it down too much or it will be tough. Bake 5 minutes, then prick all over with a fork. Return the pan to the oven and bake 10 minutes longer. Crust should be slightly browned and soft to the touch. Remove from oven and cool a few minutes. Leave the oven on.
Place the butterscotch chips, corn syrup, butter, water and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the chips and butter have melted and the topping has just begun to get bubbly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cashews.
Spread the topping over the crust. Try to get it in the corners, but it will spread out as it bakes. Bake again for 11 to 15 minutes or until the surface is brown and very bubbly.
Cool completely on a rack before cutting into squares. The original pan size made 25 pieces, but since you'd get thicker pieces in a smaller pan, you can cut the pieces small. They'll be very rich.