Monday, February 9, 2009

Easy, Breezy Sunny

Cooking For Real with Sunny Anderson

Wednesday Dinner Date
Choc-Nanner-Nut Custards
Parmesan Herbed Orzo

Sunny is making a romantic dinner in the middle of the week, which I guess is meant to point out that special meals don’t have to take a long time.

She starts with dessert which is a vanilla-wafer-crusted-banana-custard-pie type of thing. The bad thing is that the recipe doesn’t use the entire box of vanilla wafers, which means they could easily end up being eaten by someone at one seating.

The crust is 20 wafers processed with sugar and a bit of salt and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. I’m not sure the crust really needs the sugar. Sunny pours the crust mixture into heart shaped ramekins and presses them in using a shot glass. Good idea. She just covers the bottom not the sides.

The filling is bananas, nut and chocolate! She chops bananas and they go into a big bowl. She chops a tiny handful of nuts (I would toast them first) and they go in with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Sunny adds tiny chocolate chips and stirs the mixture together. She pours it into the crust lined ramekins.

Hold on a sec. This could be weird. Sunny is going to bake a mixture of just CHOPPED bananas, nuts and chocolate. Oh, wait, I jumped the gun. Thank goodness, there IS a custard going over the top.

Thinking about this, I think I would prefer PUREED bananas stirred into the custard mixture. I made a banana bread with CHOPPED bananas, instead of mashed, and I think it looked kind of nasty.

Sunny makes the custard with lemon zest and 2 egg yolks. Uh-oh, she didn’t separate the eggs individually over a little bowl. If there had been a mishap, she would have yucked up 2 whites with a bit of yolk. I like to separate them SEPARATELY to prevent that.

She adds 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 cup cream to the yolks, plus a few drops of vanilla extract. She whisks that small amount of custard with a HUGE whisk and pours it over banana mixture in the ramekins. It goes into a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s not jiggly in the middle.

Sunny starts the orzo dish, boiling one cup of orzo.

She moves on to the entrée, beef tenderloin, which Sunny says is expensive but really tender. She cuts it into 12 fairly big pieces. She rolls each piece in a lot of freshly ground pepper and then wraps each in an envelope of prosciutto. She wraps it “like a love letter”.

Sunny adds oil and butter to a sauté pan and heats it up. She places the prosciutto packages in, seam side down, and sears them. She says the prosciutto protects the delicate meat.

Back to the orzo, Sunny zests a lemon and adds a diced red onion half. Romance alert – raw onions and garlic may not be the way to go.”They” say there’s no problem if BOTH are indulging, but I might soften the onion in the pan after I take out meat and skip the garlic. That will make the flavor a little less zippy, but for a date meal, it may be worth it.

Sunny tells us about the Wednesday night dinners she used to host when she worked in radio. She’s so easy-going. You feel like she’s just cooking away and you happen to be there to catch the conversation. I think we all like to watch people that we like.

She adds pressed garlic, olive oil and fresh lemon juice to the lemon zest and onion for the orzo. She sets that aside to develop more flavor.

Sunny takes out the custards, which be served hot or cold. They are studded with the chocolate chips and pieces of banana.

Again, I really think I would purée my bananas until they were silky smooth and add that to the custard.

May I confess one other thing? I’d leave out the chocolate chips. I LOVE the idea of a banana custard, but I’d be happy without the chocolate.

Sunny checks the meat. She wants it crispy on every single side. She removes the beef cubes from the pan and adds some shallots for a quick “pan sauce”. I’m happy she’s putting one together, because I personally feel insecure when something doesn’t have a sauce. She adds about a half cup of chicken stock to the bits in the pan and reduces it. (I might have started with some brandy.)

To finish the orzo, Sunny adds some chopped parsley and freshly grated parmesan. That is looking quite superb. She mixes it all together with the orzo and puts it in a serving dish.

Sunny adds stone ground mustard to her sauté pan and stirs it well. She turns down the heat and adds a bit of cream. Parsley goes in at the last second. She plates the “filet mignon minis”. Orzo goes on next. That looks good. She pours over the sauce. Yum. That does look good. Really, really good. And a breeze to make.


Emily said...

Haha, SOMEONE is YOU!!

I don't think the crust needs the sugar, either. In a graham cracker crust I think I use a tablespoon.

Mmm, Sunny knows how to put together a delicious, romantic week night dinner!

Now I'm just really hungry for banana pudding.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

The tarts look like a variation on old -fashioned banana pudding. Maybe that's why she didn't puree the bananas in it. She was going for that feel.

That is weird about sugar with Nilla wafers. Definitely overkill!

Sunny Anderson said...

hey girl ... loved the play by play! dessert started as a "chunky monkey custard" hence the chunks of banana, but somewhere in the planning i got sick of my monkey biz and changed the name. plus, i was really going for easy, less steps- the whole weds night thing. btw, love the bread pic! ... and brandy is where it's at! actually the pan sauce really was a spur of the moment thing while taping, so between acts, i scoured the set and threw it in. i have a sauce i do at home and somewhere in planning, it got cut for time, then when we taped, we had time leftover ... so without my planned sauce ingredients on hand right in the moment, improv is where i went. again, i cont. to luv the site (just cuz i read, doesn't mean i expect kindness, just honesty :-)) ...thanks! you are way better than dvr or tivo on top chef! they should give you a web gig!

Sue said...

Hiya Em,
I'm also starving for banana pudding. I just found out a cousin of mine (grown) has never (almost) ever eaten a banana. I can't even imagine that...I guess chocolate would be a lot worse.

Hi Rach,
This is definitely a fancified, but easy, version of banana pudding and I want some NOW. I'm definitely making this recipe with my one little revision of pureeing the banana.

Hey Sunny,
Thanks so much for the nice words. Your proscuitto wrapped tenderloin was really a great idea. I got the whole chunky-filling-for-the-tart idea, but I just LOVE the texture of a smooth banana custard. YUM! And it was smart to use vanilla wafers as the crust.

Your sauce did not seem like an afterthought at all.