Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Double Dipping

A recent New York Times article noted that lots of dip gets consumed during the Superbowl. And a lot of dips do the consuming, some of whom double-dip. Personally, I think it's disgusting to put the same food item that was already in your mouth back into a communal food bowl. (Yet using chopsticks to pick food out of communal food dishes in Chinese restaurants doesn't bother me. Perhaps my brain considers it a "when in Rome" situation.) I'll do it when I'm sharing a dip-type food with my husband (Mr Minx and I have already shared plenty of bacteria over the years), but never when non-husband dippers are involved. It's as much not wanting to experience the germs of others as not feeling the need to share mine.

Some folks don't think it's a big deal. I'm pretty sure I have seen a certain someone commit the heinous deed in the past, and I made sure to avoid that particular diplike substance for the rest of the party (both the foodstuff and the double-dipper).

From the NY Times article:
The team of nine students instructed volunteers to take a bite of a wheat cracker and dip the cracker for three seconds into about a tablespoon of a test dip. They then repeated the process with new crackers, for a total of either three or six double dips per dip sample. The team then analyzed the remaining dip and counted the number of aerobic bacteria in it. They didn’t determine whether any of the bacteria were harmful, and didn’t count anaerobic bacteria, which are harder to culture, or viruses.

There were six test dips: sterile water with three different degrees of acidity, a commercial salsa, a cheese dip and chocolate syrup.

On average, the students found that three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth to the remaining dip.

Each cracker picked up between one and two grams of dip. That means that sporadic double dipping in a cup of dip would transfer at least 50 to 100 bacteria from one mouth to another with every bite.

The kind of dip made a difference in a couple of ways. The more acidic water samples had somewhat fewer bacteria, and the numbers of bacteria declined with time. But the acidic salsa picked up higher initial numbers of bacteria than the cheese or chocolate, because it was runny. The thicker the dip, the more stuck to the chip, and so the fewer bacteria were left behind in the bowl.

Professor Dawson said that Timmy was essentially correct. “The way I would put it is, before you have some dip at a party, look around and ask yourself, would I be willing to kiss everyone here? Because you don’t know who might be double dipping, and those who do are sharing their saliva with you.”

So there you go. Unless you want to share saliva with everyone in the room, just say no to double dipping.


funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Not as Bad as it Sounds

I got home from work last evening to the smell of cooking bell peppers. Neither Mr Minx nor I particularly like bell peppers, as they tend to overwhelm just about anything they are cooked with. But they are an integral part of both sausage and peppers and gumbo, so we do allow them in the house from time to time.

"What are we having for dinner tonight?" I asked, as Mr Minx helped me off with my coat. His hands smelled of fresh cilantro.

"Mexican Vomit Soup," he replied. To my look of horror, he added, "I tasted it; it's pretty good."

I went to the kitchen and tentatively opened the lid to the soup pot. Peering in, I saw a pale orange substance, chunky and opaque, and understood Mr Minx's name for the dish. But it smelled pleasantly of cumin and cilantro, and I was hungry, so sat at table with my spoon ready.

The soup was rich and flavorful. There were large chunks of tomato and celery, corn kernels, and bits of pork.

"Did you use the rest of the pork tenderloin in this?"

"Yes. And the leftover pasta sauce." Mr Minx had made sauce last week, using both sundried tomato chicken sausage and meatballs.

The flavor of the soup was not unlike tortilla soup. It was delicious, and I devoured it with gusto, pleased that there was enough left over that I could take some for lunch during the week.

"Bet you didn't notice I put the leftover polenta in it," Mr Minx said later. A-ha! No wonder there wasn't the usual rice/pasta/potato starch addition.

What a great way to use up leftovers - make soup! Mr Minx has done this before, creating a very flavorful dish out of a combination of weird leftovers. He has a knack for it, you might say, whereas I am a little afraid of turning out something nightmarish.

What's the weirdest concoction you've ever created with leftovers?

ETA: Based on Amy's comment...I'd like to change my question to "what's the weirdest EDIBLE* concoction you've ever created with leftovers?"
*meaning it tastes like food and not garbage.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sushi + Kids = Noisy

It's been quite a while since Mr Minx and I went out for sushi. The last time we had it was in September, when we were in Albuquerque. Before that, it was July's Morimoto excursion. I had to go to the mall to pick up my new glasses today, so I left work early, did just that, then we went to our favorite local emporium of raw fish, Yamato Sushi. It was 5:30 and only two tables were taken. By the time we left, less than an hour later, it was standing room only. The place is pretty small, only about 12 tables plus the sushi bar, and I counted 11 children, 9 of which were under the age of 8. They were squirming and yelling and crying and rolling on the floor. I'm not a big fan of Rugrattus Americanus, and so many of them in an environment not a daycare center or school (which of course I would never set foot in) made me itchy.

I was shocked to see that sushi restaurants (at least this one) seem to have become the new family restaurant. What I want to know is: what the hell do kids eat in a sushi restaurant? I've been an adventurous eater since birth, pretty much, but there's no way I would have touched raw fish. These kids were so busy squirming and whining, being admonished by parents to "sit please," I'm sure they didn't eat much at all.

Do your beasts children eat sushi?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Foodie Makeover

Have you all seen Ruth Reichl lately? She finally lost the natural-look crunchy granola frizzball hair and got a flattering haircut and allowed herself to be subjected to a good straightening. She looks stunningly youthful, although she still insists on holding her head at that weird angle for photos.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Asian Snacks

Mr Minx and I were elated to find a new (to us) Asian grocer in the Towson area, Towson Oriental Food Market. The information came from the schoolgirl waitress at one of our favorite Chinese joints who gesticulated and ummm'd and errr'd about the location. Not good with street names and evidently not a driver, she eventually mentioned "the diner" and "Hooters" and I knew it had to be located in the Joppa Road/Loch Raven area. It is, in fact, in Parkville, at 8424 Willow Oak Road, just off Loch Raven and a block from Putty Hill Avenue.

The store is small, with a limited produce section and freezer cases holding such delicacies as dumplings and "pork bung" (intestines). There's also a vast quantity of Asian junk foods, from Pocky to peanuts. We couldn't resist buying some of the Filipino snacks, mostly because their names made me giggle like an idiot.

The Ding Dong mixed nuts are comprised of dried peas and beans, peanuts, crunchy corn bits, and crackery bits, flavored with garlic and onion. The Boy Bawang (chili cheese flavor) are a lot like Corn Nuts, but not as tooth-shatteringly hard. The flavoring was mild and salty, neither tasting of chili nor cheese.

Both are good snacks for football-watching. Maybe we'll save the rest for the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Having grown up in a Polish-American family, I am no stranger to those fried confections topped with a blizzard of powder sugar known as chrusciki. Before I was born, my maternal grandmother made them regularly, along with paczki (donuts), pierogi (filled dough pockets), and gołąbki (lit. pigeons; stuffed cabbage leaves). Once I came into the world, however, her time was taken by babysitting (me) and consequently, I got very few of those home-made treats. But...we lived in what once was a Polish neighborhood, and there were still bakeries in the area that could provide us with reasonable fascimiles of home-made. To my tastes anyway. My mother always liked to remind me that Mommy's were better, and having never tasted them, I couldn't argue.

When Mr Minx and I shopped at Wegman's the other day, I spotted boxes of White Eagle chrusciki in the bakery aisle and bought one, for nostalgia's sake.

Unfortunately, these did not turn out to be my madeleine. Fresh and tasty, they were not as fried/greasy as I recall, and there was perhaps a little too much powdered sugar.

And most had broken in transit, leaving none in the actual familiar "bowtie" shape.

I've had some nasty chrusciki in my day. I remember, with no fondness whatsoever, those that our next-door neighbor, my grandmother's first cousin, brought us one afternoon. Her daughter made them, she bragged. Well, her daughter must have kept her powdered sugar next to a box of mothballs and a bag of dirty laundry, because that's what they tasted of. It was like eating deep fried gym socks. I choked down part of one to be polite, and Grandma discreetly trashed the rest of them once cousin Mary shuffled back home.

(And that leads me to an aside: don't even try to store powdered sugar for any length of time, as it absorbs the flavors of everything around it. One of my co-workers made a chocolate cake with completely inedible icing. She evidently stored her confectioner's sugar in the same closet with her Yankee Candle collection.)

Does anyone out there know where to get truly tasty chrusciki in the Baltimore area? (And anything else Polish as well, besides the Krakus Deli on Fleet Street.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Case of the Watery Polenta

So I decided to make another recipe from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook this weekend - the New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon-Ancho Sauce. In the restaurant, this is served with a sweet potato tamale. Lovely, but I wasn't going through the rigamarole of making tamales, plus Mr Minx doesn't like sweet potatoes. Instead, I decided on some cheesy polenta and since we had leeks in the fridge, I'd braise them for a side dish.

I did have to make some substitutions in the pork recipe, as I didn't have the wide variety of dried chiles called for, nor did I have apple juice concentrate for the sauce. That all turned out perfectly well, however, and some of the pork is going into sandwiches for tonight's dinner.

The polenta, on the other hand, was fairly disastrous. The recipe I use calls for 3 cups water or stock plus one cup water mixed with one cup cornmeal. I had a scant cup of cornmeal left, so I used 1 cup of stock and 1 1/2 cups of water, mixed with equal parts cornmeal and water. I started out pretty good, with the water evaporating nicely and the cornmeal granules becoming tender and plump. I usually grow weary of stirring and watching my stove getting covered with blops of hot cornmeal as it flies out of the pot, so I turned the heat off and put the lid on, allowing it to cook the rest of the way on its own. I also added about a cup of corn kernels at this point.

When I started cooking the pork, I turned the heat on under the now nicely thickened polenta and stirred in a couple of ounces of cheddar cheese. Once the cheese was melted, I turned the heat down as far as it would go and replaced the lid. With the pork finished and the leeks out of the oven, I decided to give the polenta one last stir...and found a pot of cornmeal soup with corn kernels for texture! The once thick porridge was now watery! What on earth happened - can anyone tell me? I usually add cheese to my polenta near the end, and this has never happened before.

No pics on this post - it's just too ugly. The polenta flooded the plates, and the melted leeks, although delicious, were pretty ugly, especially with a pool of yellow underneath. I'm just glad it all tasted better than it looked!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Brussels Sprouts - Again

While perusing the Mesa Grill Cookbook, I found this simple recipe for Brussels sprouts. Being a fan of the little cabbages, I made them this weekend. It gave me a good excuse to test a new-to-me technique for removing the arils from a pomegranate: Cut pom into halves or quarters. Submerge fruit into a large bowl filled with water. Peel off skin and discard. With your fingers, work arils out of the remaining fibrous substance. The fruit will sink to the bottom and the lightweight membrane will float to the top, easily skimmed and discarded. And no red fingers!

Whaddya know - it worked great!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate and Walnuts
adapted from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook

1 small container Brussels sprouts, trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp butter
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
2 T toasted walnuts, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice sprouts, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste, tossing to coat. Place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes or until one is easily pierced with the point of a knife. Remove from the oven and toss with the butter, pomegranate seeds and walnuts. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Broadway Diner

Last night, after a hard day of configuring my Mother-in-Law's new computer and watching football, we decided to have dinner the Broadway Diner. Past diner experiences in the Dundalk area were usually had at the Boulevard Diner, but I was ready to try the new kid in town.

Mr Minx and I had driven past the Broadway Diner construction site for many months, yet never had the opportunity to eat there. The decor was much like our local Nautilus Diner with similarly colored wood trim and ceiling treatment, and like most diners had a pastry case in front of the entrance, luring patrons in with its glistening éclairs and strawberry-topped cheesecakes.

The menu was the typical huge selection of classic diner fare, burgers, and Greek specialties, but there were some twists. There were a selection of burgers, for example, served on focaccia bread, and some oddball salad choices ("Mango Swordfish Salad"). We went for the more pedestrian: liver and onions (my MIL); chef salad (BIL); prime rib (Mr Minx); and "Land and Sea" (moi). Except the chef salad, entrees came with the usual choice of soup or salad plus vegetables and/or potatoes. In other words, a ton of food.

I had never tried liver and onions before, so ventured a forkful of my MIL's. It tasted, unsurprisingly, like liver. I didn't mind it, but a diner-sized portion of the stuff is way too much. Her mashed potatoes were much like homemade: lumpy, red skins here and there, and seasoned with something oniony. I liked that the roast beef on my BIL's salad was unseasoned brisket, the only stuff I'll allow in a roast beef sandwich (a holdover from my Jewish deli-filled childhood). Mr Minx's prime rib was at least the 20oz advertised, if not more. It tasted merely ok, but the green beans on the side were still surprisingly crisp and fresh-tasting. My "Land and Sea" was an extravagance which included a NY strip steak topped with spinach, a portobello mushroom, and melted cheese, accompanied by two each crabmeat-stuffed scallops and shrimp. The meat was flavorful and well-seasoned, and the crabmeat was of the lump variety. My baked potato was marred by its aluminum foil wrapper, but it was moist and needed little butter. Everything was very tasty.

Between my husband and myself, we have enough leftover beef for two more meals, which is one of my favorite things about diner food: it's a good value for the money.

Although I do like the Boulevard Diner, I think I'd like to make the Broadway a more regular dinner destination when we're on that side of town. There were plenty of things on the slightly offbeat menu that I'd love to try.

Broadway Diner
6501 Eastern Ave
Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 631-5666

Broadway Diner on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mesa Grill Cookbook

Having enjoyed meals at both the New York and Las Vegas outposts of Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, I was excited to see that there was finally a Mesa Grill cookbook. I spotted it in the Borders at the Time Warner Center and made note to put it on my Amazon wish list (aren't I bad?). It was a welcome Christmas gift.

I plan on making several dishes from this book in the coming year. So far I've tried one, or most of one: Red Chile-Honey Glazed Salmon with Black Bean Sauce and Jalapeno Crema. I'm not a big bean-eater, and didn't feel like running to the store for creme fraiche or jalapenos, so I stuck with what we had: salmon, ancho chile powder, dijon, and honey. I served it with some leftover macaroni and cheese (Alton Brown's stovetop recipe) that I "Southwesternized" by adding a finely minced chipotle in adobo, ground cumin, chopped red onion, and cilantro. The combination of meat and starch reminded me of one of my very favorite hot lunches from grade school, fish cakes and fabulous mac-and-cheese (second only to Mom's).

The salmon came out beautifully crusty on the outside and medium-rare on the inside. I loved that the glaze was so simple - three ingredients - and tasted so good. I'll definitely make this again, maybe with the crema next time.

Red Chile-Honey Glazed Salmon

Ancho Glaze Salmon
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 salmon fillets, 8-ounces each
2 tablespoons canola oil

1. Whisk together honey, ancho and mustard in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.

2. Preheat grill pan or nonstick sauté pan over high heat. Brush salmon with oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Place salmon in the pan, skin side down and cook until golden brown and a crust has form, 2-3 minutes. Brush the top of the salmon with some of the glaze, flip over and continue cooking until a crust has formed and the salmon is cooked to medium doneness, 2 minutes longer.

3. Remove from the grill, glazed-sized up and brush with more of the glaze.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Cauliflower Soup

For dinner last night, I knew I wanted to do something with the head of cauliflower that had been sitting in the fridge for a week, but what? I looked through a couple of cookbooks and came up with this simple-yet-fussy recipe for cauliflower soup from Rocco DiSpirito.

It's simple because the actual soup part consists only of onion, cauliflower, water, and a little oil, salt, and pepper. After a whir in the blender, it's a creamy yet cream-less concoction with good flavor and a silky texture. If one omitted the oil (and sweated the onions in a little cooking spray) and used chicken stock to add flavor instead, the dish could be practically fat free. Perfect for those of us who are trying to lose a couple of pounds in the new year.

The fussy part comes in to play with the garnishes - basil syrup and fried pine nuts, the oil of which is added to the syrup to flavor it further. They make for pretty garnishes, to be sure, but I wouldn't be above adding a few leaves of fresh basil to the soup before pureeing, with maybe a touch of sugar. And there's no need to fry the nuts - I toasted them in the microwave so as not to dirty another pan.

Aromatic Cauliflower Soup
adapted from Flavor

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large head of cauliflower, separated into florets
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pine nuts
1 t ground coriander
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large soup pot over low heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper, cover pan, and sweat onions for ten minutes. Add the cauliflower, season, and stir well to coat. Increase heat to medium and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a quart of water and increase the heat to high. When the water boils, reduce the heat so that the soup simmers. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is very tender.

Turn off heat and let cool, unless you want to burn yourself in this next step. Transfer to a blender in batches and puree until smooth. Return pureed soup back to the soup pot.

Put the walnuts or pine nuts on a paper towel and microwave, uncovered, for one minute. You want these to get toasty, and if one minute doesn't do it, microwave for another minute, then add increments of 30 seconds, until the nuts are aromatic but not burnt. Spray with a little PAM and toss with salt, pepper, and coriander. Set aside.

The original recipe called for a rather fussy basil syrup made by blanching fresh basil and then pureeing it with simple syrup. That's fine if you want to do that, but I didn't have fresh basil, nor did I feel like making a syrup. I did have a tube of that Gourmet Garden basil stuff in the fridge and mixed it with some honey and some olive oil. I wasn't sold on the combination of sugary basil and cauliflower to begin with, so this was about all the investment I was going to make on this component.

When ready to serve, heat the soup (but do not boil). Ladle into bowls. Drizzle a few spoons of basil syrup (if you've done that step) on top and pile some nuts on top. Serve hot.

The basil was an interesting touch, but I'm still not sold on the syrup idea. The nuts are pretty essential, however, as they give the smooth soup some much-needed texture. Because it is so easy, I am very inclined to make the basic soup again, perhaps adding other ingredients or flavors. Let me know if you try it. :)

Friday, January 04, 2008

More Best of 2007

I didn't only eat restaurant food, you know. :)

Best Meal Cooked by Me: Our Valentine's dinner of Crespelle di Mare e Pesto

Best Meal Cooked by Mr Minx: This is a toughie, since my handsome husband does most of the cooking in our house, including stellar soups and spaghetti and meatballs. I think the dish I always look forward to is his meatloaf.

Best Cookbook: The Joy of Cooking is the most-used cookbook in our extensive library, and completely indispensable. If I was forced to whittle my collection down to only one, this would be it.

Best New Cookbook: I didn't get as many cookbooks this year as I have in the past, but several popped up in the latter part of the year as birthday and Christmas gifts. All are lovely, glossy affairs, but I think the one that will get the most use in 2008 is Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook. I am especially interested in attempting the sixteen-spice chicken and the coffee-rubbed steak, two dishes we had at the Mesa Grill in Vegas.

Best Food-related TV Show: I would love to say Bourdain's No Reservations takes this honor, but he's gone all soft and pink and warm-hearted after the birth of his daughter. No Res was a bit of a snooze this past season, and I hope the upcoming new episodes reflect a return to the old grumpy Tony (he quit smoking - he's got to be at least a little cranky). Bravo's Top Chef has consistently been entertaining. But my vote goes to Iron Chef America. Not only are the chefs all world class and cook food I would actually eat (unlike the various weird stuffs topped with caviar and truffles from the Japanese version), but they also gave us an entertaining competition with the The Next Iron Chef. And I'm happy that Symon won, although Besh would have worked for me too. Not that he would have worked for know what I mean.

Best Fast Food: I'm proud to say I don't eat much fast food. Once a year is about it for me. For the most part, I think eating it is akin to putting garbage in your body. But I make an exception for Chik-fil-A. I only eat the classic chicken sandwich with pickles, dry. Yum!

Best Burger: Every couple of years we have a food trend that creates an explosion of new specialty chain restaurants. I think the hamburger is the new bagel or the new coffee or the new "fresh Mex." A burger (like a cup of coffee or a quesadilla) is something anyone can make at home quite simply, so a plain burger on a bun doesn't really grab me (sorry, Five Guys). If I'm going to pay good money for a burger in a restaurant, I like it to be a vehicle for toppings. To that effect, I do like Cheeburger Cheeburger for the sheer volume of stuff one could put on their beef, but the toppings offered are relatively boring. So my vote for best embellished burger goes to Red Robin for the Santa Fe burger, fire-roasted poblano pepper, guacamole, sauteed onions, crispy tortilla strips, lettuce, pepperjack cheese, and ancho mayo. I also like the Italian-style burger that comes with sauteed peppers and onions, a wheel of breaded mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce. Sneer if you want at my chain burger, the meat tastes like real meat, and it also tastes flame grilled, not like liquid smoke. The calorie counts for these things are through the roof, so they are an occasional "I need beef!" indulgence.

Best Fries: I couldn't do a "best burger" with out its number one accompaniment, now could I? Unfortunately those steak fries at Red Robin suck. They're hard, dry, and flavorless. And here's where Cheeburger Cheeburger shines - not only do they serve crispy brown shards of potato goodness, you can also get an order of "frings" - fries AND thin and crispy onion rings. Fattening heaven!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

Believe it or not, I was inspired by Paula Deen, of all people, to make a pumpkin gingerbread trifle for Christmas dinner. At first I thought I'd be all gourmet about it and buy some of the delicious gingerbread available at Whole Foods at this time of year. The pumpkin custard would of course be Creme Anglaise, from scratch, with added pumpkin. But the more I thought about, the more I realized that nobody would know that I didn't make the custard from scratch, and that a trip to Whole Foods for one item was a waste of gas. Boxed mixes to the rescue!

The only gourmet thing about this recipe was the caramelized pears between the cake and pumpkin layers. And the freshly whipped cream. Oh, and the aged rum used to soak the cake layers. I think it was dynamite. Looked nice too.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle with Caramelized Pears

1 box Betty Crocker Gingerbread mix, prepared according to package directions and cooled, cut into approximately 2" squares
2 boxes Jell-O Instant Vanilla Pudding
1 quart milk (I used 2%)
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
caramelized pears (recipe follows)
ground ginger
3 tablespoons dark rum
almond slices

Place the vanilla pudding mix and milk in the bowl of a mixer and blend well. Add the can of pumpkin puree and the spices to taste. If you want, you can also add a tablespoon of brown sugar, but the dish seems to get sweeter the longer it sits, so it's not really necessary unless you have quite the sweet tooth. Refrigerate the pudding for an hour or two until it's set.

To assemble the trifle: place half the cake cubes into the bottom of a trifle dish, making sure to leave no gaps (tear cake into smaller pieces if necessary). Sprinkle with half the rum. Place a layer of the pears on top of the cake, then spoon on half of the pumpkin filling. Repeat the layers, using the remainder of the cake, pears, and pumpkin. Top with freshly whipped cream, sliced almonds, and drizzle with some of the leftover caramel sauce.

Caramelized Pears
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
3 ripe but firm pears, peeled and cored, sliced lengthwise into 4 or 5 pieces each
2/3 cup heavy cream

Place the water in a 12-inch nonstick skillet and pour the sugar into the center of the pan, taking care not to let the crystals adhere to the sides of the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is bubbling wildly. Add the pears to the skillet, cut-side down, cover, reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook until the pears are nearly tender.

Uncover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the sauce is golden brown and the cut sides of the pears are partly caramelized, 3 to 5 minutes. Shake the skillet in a circular motion so that the pears don't stick and the caramel flows around them. Be careful - molten sugar is extremely hot! Pour the heavy cream around the pears and cook, shaking the pan back and forth, until the sauce is a smooth, deep caramel color and the cut sides of the pears are beautifully golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove pears to a bowl and allow to cool. Pour the remaining caramel sauce into a separate container and reserve. There will be sauce left over after making the trifle - it's delicious over pound cake or vanilla ice cream, so don't waste it!

Like the festive red and green trivet? I knitted it myself. :)