Posts Tagged ‘candy’

With having completed Alton’s fudge recipes, I have officially cooked my way through the first 100 episodes of Good Eats. How many recipes has that been? Honestly, I haven’t counted. Fudge is something I have a favorite standby recipe for, which my mom received years ago, handwritten on an index card, from an old woman she met at church. Though I don’t make fudge often, I know which recipe I always reach for. Did Alton’s chocolate fudge recipe dethrone Mom’s? Read on to find out.

Chocolate Fudge

For Alton’s chocolate fudge, butter an 8×8-inch square pan and line it with wax paper. For an easy way to line the pan, place the pan on top of a large piece of wax paper and use a sharp knife to cut the paper diagonally from each corner of the pan. Place the paper in the buttered pan and the corners will magically fold/overlap perfectly, and you can trim any excess with scissors.

In a two-quart saucepan combine 2 3/4 C sugar, 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, 2 T unsalted butter, 1 T corn syrup (helps to prevent crystal formation), and 1 C half-and-half.

Stir the mixture over medium heat until you are certain the sugar has dissolved and the chocolate has melted.

Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and place a lid on the pan for three minutes; this helps to remove any crystals that have formed on the sides of the pan.

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Lid placed on pan for three minutes.

After three minutes, remove the lid and clamp on a candy thermometer, letting the mixture cook until it reaches 234 degrees; if you have high humidity, Alton says you will want to go a few degrees higher.

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Bringing fudge to 234 degrees.

As soon as you hit 234, turn off the heat and add 2 T butter to the top of the pan, but do not stir the mixture. The butter will keep the surface of the fudge from drying out while it cools. Be careful not to agitate the pan at all during the cooling process, as this could cause large sugar crystals to form in your fudge.

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Butter added at 234 degrees.

Once your fudge hits 110 degrees, use a wooden spoon to stir it very quickly. Stir the fudge until its surface becomes matte and it falls from the spoon in clumps. Finally, add 1 T vanilla extract and roasted/chopped nuts, if desired; I opted to leave my fudge plain.

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Quickly stirring fudge with a wooden spoon.

Spread the fudge into your prepared pan and let it cool at room temperature for two hours. This particular fudge should be stored at room temperature.

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Fudge poured into prepped pan.

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A piece of Alton’s fudge.

While Alton’s fudge had a very rich chocolate flavor, it lacked the dense creaminess I like in fudge. Instead, this fudge seemed to have a dry, slightly crumbly texture. Some online reviewers complained of this fudge being gritty, but that was not a problem with my fudge. I simply like my fudge to be a bit less dry. Don’t get me wrong… this fudge is certainly good, but it still can’t top my mom’s.

Peanut Butter Fudge

Unfortunately, there is no online link to Alton’s recipe for peanut butter fudge, though there appears to be a video. To make his peanut butter fudge, place two sticks of butter (cut in pieces) and 1 C smooth peanut butter in a large glass bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, poking a few holes in the top to release steam.

Microwave the butter/peanut butter on high for two minutes. While the bowl is in the microwave, prepare an 8×8-inch pan by buttering it and lining it with wax paper (see chocolate fudge recipe above).

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Buttered/lined pan.

After microwaving, remove the plastic and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon.

Cover the bowl with plastic again and microwave for two more minutes on high.

Remove the plastic and stir in 1 t vanilla and 16 ounces of powdered sugar, sifted (I sifted the sugar straight into the bowl).

Stir the fudge with a wooden spoon until it is dull and thick, and then switch to a potato masher to get the sugar all mixed in.

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Blended fudge, ready to go in pan.

Press the fudge into the lined pan, top it with additional wax paper, and refrigerate for a couple hours, or until set. Store this fudge in the refrigerator.

Unfortunately, I somehow never got a photo of a piece of this fudge. If I’m going to go for fudge, I typically reach for chocolate, but Alton’s peanut butter fudge is pretty fantastic. This fudge tastes like the peanut butter filling of a peanut butter cup, and is really quite addictive. Of the two fudge recipes in this episode, this is the one I would surely do again because it is super delicious and very easy to make.

As someone who likes to cook regularly, my dad came up with a great Christmas gift for me in December. He and I do not live in the same town anymore, but he called a gentleman where I live and arranged to have all of our kitchen knives sharpened. I dropped the knives off at the knife sharpener’s house one morning and had them back a few hours later. He sharpened 13 items, including our serrated knives and two pairs of kitchen shears. Our knives are just like new again! If you know someone who cooks a lot, keep the knife sharpening idea in mind as a gift! FYI:  The knife sharpener told me to never try to sharpen my knives at home, nor to hone them with a steel. Instead, he told me to use a strop to hone our knives prior to each use; a strop is a piece of leather that was traditionally used to sharpen straight-edge razors in barber shops. Now, onto the 94th episode of Good Eats, which was all about candy.

Peanut Brittle

I have made some candy in the past, such as fudge, divinity, and caramels. Peanut brittle was the first type of candy Alton made in this episode. For this recipe, you will need a heavy saucier with a lid, a wooden spoon, and two half-sheet pans; line one pan with a silicone mat, and lube the back side of the other pan liberally with vegetable oil.

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Two half-sheet pans, one with its back oiled and the other lined with a silicone mat.

Begin by rubbing the sides of your saucier with a vegetable oil-coated paper towel, as this will help with crystal formation on the sides of the pan.

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Saucier with its sides oiled.

Next, put 3 C of sugar and 1 1/2 C water in the saucier.

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Sugar and water placed in saucier.

Place the pan over high heat. Note:  If you are worried about your stove producing uneven heat, Alton suggests placing a cast iron skillet between your saucier and your burner to diffuse heat. Stir the sugar/water mixture occasionally, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pan and set a timer for three minutes. This will allow the steam in the pan to wash down any crystals from the sides of the pan.

After three minutes, remove the lid and decrease the heat to medium. Meanwhile, toss 1 1/2 C lightly salted peanuts with 1/2 t cinnamon and 1/2 t cayenne pepper.

Continue cooking the syrup until it reaches a light amber color and has slow bubble formation, which Alton says is at 350 degrees; Alton says you really do not need a thermometer to make this brittle, as you can just eyeball it. I decided to use the thermometer, as “light amber” seems subjective to me. Yeah, so Alton’s temperature of 350 degrees is COMPLETELY WRONG, and will result in scorched syrup. I had to discard my syrup and begin again.

This time, I decided to eyeball the light amber color.

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Second attempt at syrup – this is what I determined to be light amber.

Once you have reached light amber, turn off the heat and dump in the peanuts, stirring.

Immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared silicone mat, distributing the nuts evenly with a spatula. Press the mixture down with the lubed backside of the second prepared pan. Set the brittle aside to cool completely. Once the brittle has hardened, place the second half-sheet pan, this time inverted, on top of the brittle pan. By shaking the brittle between the two pans, you can easily break it into pieces. So, my verdict of this recipe is not that favorable. I have no idea how Alton recommended 350 degrees for the syrup, as it was just way too high. The second time I made my syrup, I think I probably pulled it off the heat too early, as my brittle did this weird foaming thing when I poured it onto the mat.

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Brittle poured onto mat and beginning to foam.

My resulting brittle was opaque, somewhat gritty, and had an odd white hue. The candy tasted fine, but it wasn’t what I think of as brittle, which is normally caramel-colored, shiny, and clear.

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Even my dog thought my brittle looked weird.

I think this recipe would have been much more successful if Alton had provided the correct temperature for the syrup, which a Google search says is around 300 degrees. In theory, the eyeballing technique could work for someone who makes candy often, but candy making requires more precision than eyeballing. I’d follow a different peanut brittle recipe next time for sure.

Acid Jellies

When we were kids, our parents would give us each a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I preferred nut-free candy (still do), so my box was typically a mix of caramels, creams, and jellies. It had been years since I had last had a jelly, so I was pretty stoked to see jellies appear in this episode.

To make Alton’s version of jellies, combine in a saucepan 1/2 C fresh lemon juice, 1/4 C fresh lime juice, 1/2 C water, and 8 packages of gelatin. Set this saucepan aside with no heat.

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Gelatin, lemon juice, lime juice, and water combined in a saucepan off of heat.

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Gelatin mixture after sitting.

In a second small saucepan, place 1 C sugar and 3/4 C water, and place the pan over high heat. Again, you can use a cast iron skillet as a diffuser, if you wish.

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Sugar and water placed in small saucepan over high heat.

Stir this mixture until the sugar dissolves and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, place a lid on the pan and set a timer for 3 minutes. As with the recipe for brittle above, the steam in the pan will serve to wash crystals down that may have formed on the sides of the pan. After 3 minutes, remove the lid from the pan and attach a candy thermometer. Cook the syrup until it reaches 300 degrees.

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Sugar syrup cooking to 300 degrees.

Once at 300 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup into the gelatin mixture, stirring constantly.

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Sugar syrup being poured into gelatin mixture.

Place the mixture over low heat, continuing to stir until the gelatin dissolves. I had some difficulty with this phase of the process, as a solid mass of sugar seemed to form in the bottom of my pan. I am guessing this was because my sugar syrup cooled too much too quickly. I opted to increase the heat under my pan, allowing the sugar to dissolve again, which worked.

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Gelatin mixture placed over low heat to dissolve.

Once you have a smooth, clear mixture, add 2 T lemon zest and 2 T lime zest, and pour the mixture into an oiled 8-inch square pan.

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Completed jellies, poured into greased pan.

Let the jellies sit at room temperature for four hours. Once set, turn the jellies out and cut them into 1-inch squares with a pizza cutter.

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Jellies, cut into cubes.

Transfer the cubes to a bowl and toss them with the remaining 1/4 C sugar until coated.

Move the cubes to a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan, and allow them to dry for 24 hours at room temperature before eating.

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Alton’s jellies.

Alton’s jellies had intense citrus flavor and a great balance of sweetness and tartness. I did find them to be a bit more rubbery than I would have liked, but that could have perhaps been due to my difficulties with combining my two mixtures. I am tempted to try these again to see if I can get a better result, as they were pretty and their flavor was great. My only other complaint with these candies was that they remained very sticky and damp on the outside, and they never really dried out as Alton said they would; I found that this was a common complaint in the online recipe reviews, and I am not sure how to fix that issue.

Chocolate Taffy

I suppose you couldn’t really have a candy episode without including something chocolate, so that’s where chocolate taffy comes in. This recipe requires only a few ingredients, beginning with combining 1/2 t salt, 2/3 C Dutch cocoa, and 2 C sugar in a large saucepan.

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Salt, sugar, and cocoa.

Stir this mixture with a whisk to combine, and add 1 C light corn syrup, 1 t white vinegar, and 1/4 C + 1 T water. Stir the pot over medium heat to dissolve the sugar, and then increase the heat to bring the chocolate to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and attach a candy thermometer.

Cook the chocolate until it reaches 260 degrees, and then stir in 1 1/2 T butter.

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Chocolate cooking to 260 degrees.

Pour the taffy onto a silicone mat-lined pan, smoothing it with a spatula, and set it aside to cool for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, don latex gloves and lube them with butter. It is time to pull the taffy. First, use the mat to fold the taffy into thirds.

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Taffy, folded in thirds.

Next, fold the taffy in thirds again, but in the opposite direction. Knead the taffy with your hands, as if working with dough. The chocolate will still be quite warm.

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Taffy, folded in thirds the other direction.

Pull the taffy from both ends, folding them back into the middle.

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Pulling ends of taffy back to the middle.

Then, pick the taffy up and continue to twist and pull the taffy until it has striations in the middle and is very hard to pull.

Roll the taffy into a log on the silicone mat and cut it into four pieces with kitchen shears.

Roll each piece of taffy into a snake, cutting each log into 1-inch pieces. If the candy becomes too hard to cut, you can place it in the microwave for about five seconds to soften it. Keep the taffy pieces separate while you work, or they will stick to each other.

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Taffy cut into individual pieces.

Roll each piece of taffy in a piece of wax paper and place them in an air-tight container. This one was disappointing for me because my taffy came out rock hard, while Alton described something like a Tootsie Roll. I am guessing that my taffy was not pulled enough to reach the desired texture, but I did pull it until it felt like it was solidifying. Maybe I needed to soften my taffy again, and pull it more? Or, maybe the “T-Rex” nickname my brother gave me as a teenager was more justified than I realized? Either way, I don’t think I will do this one again. All-in-all, this episode was pretty “meh” for me.

Now seemed like a good time for me to do another Good Eats special episode. The second special episode, “Down and Out in Paradise,” has a tropical theme, so I wanted to prep all of its recipes while it is still summer. This is an episode that I clearly remember watching when it originally aired, watching it along with my dad. With a whopping eight recipes, this episode took a little time to complete, but it was a fun one.

Coconut Shrimp with Peanut Sauce

First up, a shipwrecked Alton prepared coconut shrimp in his island abode. While you could use shredded coconut from the grocery store for this recipe, if you really want to make it Alton’s way, you will roast and shred your own fresh coconut. To do this, place a whole coconut in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, which should cause the shell to crack. Wrap the cooked coconut in a towel and whack it on a hard surface to fully crack the shell.

Using a sharp knife, score the coconut flesh in quarters and remove it from the shell; it is okay if the brown membrane remains. I found that it was difficult to remove the coconut from the shell, while Alton made it look super easy. Once you have all of your fresh coconut meat, you can grate it by hand or in a food processor, or you can store the meat for a week in the refrigerator, covered with cold water.

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Shredded fresh coconut.

Additionally, for this recipe you will need 15-20 count shrimp (cleaned and de-veined), cornstarch, Kosher salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper, egg whites, and peanut oil. Begin by combining 1/2 C cornstarch, 1/4t Kosher salt, 1/4 t white pepper, and 1/4 t cayenne pepper in a bowl.

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Cornstarch, Kosher salt, white pepper, and cayenne.

In a separate container, lightly beat 4 egg whites. While you heat peanut oil to 350 degrees on the stove, you can prep your shrimp for frying by coating them in the cornstarch mix, dipping them in egg whites, and subsequently dipping them in your shredded coconut.

Fry the shrimp in the peanut oil for about three minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve the shrimp with Alton’s peanut sauce and lime wedges.

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Coconut shrimp with peanut dipping sauce.

Alton did not prepare the peanut sauce in the episode, but the recipe can be found with the shrimp recipe. To make the peanut sauce, combine in a food processor 1/4 c chicken stock, 3 ounces coconut milk, 1 ounce lime juice, 1 ounce soy sauce, 1 T fish sauce, 1 T hot sauce, 2 T chopped garlic, 1 T chopped ginger, 1 1/2 C peanut butter, and 1/4 C chopped cilantro.

I am not the biggest shrimp fan, but I thought this recipe was pretty fantastic. The coconut coating was super crispy and light, while the shrimp were tender, and the peanut sauce was spicy, tangy, and a great accompaniment. I plan to make this one again for sure.

Chocolate Coconut Balls

Keeping with the coconut theme, the second recipe in this special episode was for chocolate coconut balls. Coconut-wise, Alton did not specify that you use fresh coconut in this recipe. I happened to have some leftover fresh coconut from the coconut shrimp recipe, so I used the rest of that, along with some store bought shredded coconut. You will also need toasted macadamia nuts, which you can toast in a 325-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. In case you do not already know, macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, so be sure to keep these away from your pups.

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Macadamia nuts, after toasting in the oven.

Dump 1/2 pound shredded coconut in a bowl, along with 1 C toasted macadamia nuts, chopped. Add 1 C sweetened condensed milk and 1 1/2 t almond extract. Using your hands, mix everything really well and form the coconut mixture into 3/4″ balls, setting them on a foil-lined baking sheet. This mixture is quite sticky and you really need to compress it to form it into balls.

Let the formed coconut balls sit at room temperature for four hours to dry out.

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Coconut formed into balls.

Once dry, dip the balls in 12 ounces of semisweet morsels melted with 1 T shortening.

Let the balls sit until the chocolate has set up.

These are quite a tasty treat, tasting a lot like a Mounds candy bar. The macadamia nuts add a nice crunch, though I don’t know that I could discern what type of nut is in these. The coconut stays fairly moist and the chocolate sets up fairly well. My mom has a huge sweet tooth and recently had back surgery, so I took a couple of these balls to her yesterday to cheer her up. She dove right in and seemed to like them quite a lot. This is an easy recipe for a fun treat.

Island Ceviche with Pickled Onions

Of all the recipes in this episode, the ceviche recipe was definitely the one I was most excited to try. I absolutely love ceviche, first having it years ago with my dad at a restaurant called Aqua in San Francisco; I was amazed at the light, bright flavors in ceviche, instantly becoming a fan. We are very lucky now because we have an excellent ceviche restaurant in our town, which was opened just a few months ago by Chad White, a chef who competed on the last season of Top Chef. I was seriously excited to try my own hand at ceviche in my own kitchen, and Alton’s recipe seemed like a good place to start. To start, cut 1/2 pound of firm white fish into bite-sized pieces. Place the fish, along with 1/2 pound of bay scallops into a bowl with 6 ounces of fresh lime juice. Toss the fish to coat and refrigerate overnight. The online recipe tells you to sear the fish in a pan, but Alton did not do that in the episode.

When I went to finish prepping my ceviche, some of my scallops still looked raw in the middle, so I left my fish in the lime juice longer. Once your fish is ready, drain the lime juice from the fish and add 1 medium papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced. Also add 2 seeded and diced plum tomatoes, 4 seeded and diced serrano peppers, 1 C diced sweet onion, 1/2 C chopped cilantro, and 1 seeded and diced jalapeno. Toss to combine.

Add 1 T white wine Worcestershire (this is now sold as a marinade for chicken), 1 T Mexican hot sauce, and 2 oz tomato juice.

Serve the ceviche in empty papaya skins, along with pickled red onions. Though Alton did not make the pickled onions in the episode, his recipe is included with the fish recipe. For his onions, bring 8 oz champagne vinegar to a boil, along with 1/2 C sugar and 2 seeded serrano peppers.

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Serranos, sugar, and champagne vinegar.

Pour the hot vinegar over 2 sliced red onions.

When I served our ceviche, I skipped using the papaya skins as bowls, and served tortilla chips on the side.

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A bowl of Alton’s ceviche with pickled onions and tortilla chips.

We really liked the overall flavors in this ceviche, though we should have purchased higher quality fish. While the scallops were nice and mild, our fish was slightly “fishy.” I would like to try this again with high quality fish. Definitely do not skimp on the quality of fish if you choose to make this. I liked the inclusion of the papaya in this recipe and the pickled onions are a great garnish. With all of the peppers in this, it does have a decent amount of heat, but it is not overpowering. I think this recipe is probably amazing, but I just couldn’t get past my fishy fish.

Papaya Soup

You can’t really have an island-themed episode without including some recipes that center around tropical fruit. Enter:  papaya soup. When watching Alton prepare this recipe, I was not quite sure what I would think of it. I opted to prep it as a side dish for us. When purchasing papayas, look for fruit that is about 80% yellow and without large discolorations or bruises. If you plan to let your papayas ripen on the counter at home, set them stem side down for even ripening. For this soup, you will need 4 papayas (I opted for two since I was only prepping two servings), fresh mint, 3 limes, 2 lemons, fresh berries, fresh ginger, sugar, and water.

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Ingredients for papaya soup: papayas, lemons, limes, fresh mint, berries, and ginger. Not pictured: sugar and water.

Begin by peeling, seeding, and dicing your papayas, dividing the fruit evenly in your serving dishes. Add 2 T chopped mint.

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Fresh papaya.

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Fresh papaya and mint.

Meanwhile, dissolve 1 C sugar in 1 C boiling water. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the juice of 3 limes and 2 lemons.

Pour the hot sugar/citrus liquid over the fruit and mint; I opted not to use all of the liquid, as it just seemed like too much for the amount of fruit I had. Add some fresh berries and chopped ginger for garnish, and serve.

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Alton’s papaya soup, garnished with berries and fresh ginger.

We both were pleasantly surprised by this dish. Though this was sweet, the sweetness was nicely balanced with the tang from the lemons and limes. The fresh ginger also really helped to cut the sweetness. Having not cooked much with papaya, I really liked the fruit in this dish. Honestly, you could serve this as a light dessert in the summer also. This is definitely an unusual dish that is pretty, interesting, and comes together in a matter of minutes.

Mango Salad

There is no online link for this next recipe, but I’ll write it up as Alton made it in the episode. I am an absolute mango freak, so I knew I’d really like this one. Toss together 2 diced mangoes, 1 sliced red onion, the juice of 1-2 Key limes (I used bottled juice), 1 T fresh mint or basil (basil for me), black pepper (a fair amount), and some feta cheese.

Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. This was a great salad, which we ate alongside the coconut shrimp.

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Completed salad with feta.

This salad has the sweetness of mango, the bite of red onion, the tang of lime, the saltiness of feta, and the spice from pepper. In a nutshell, it has a little bit of everything. Super tasty.

Mango Chutney

I grew up eating chutney, as a condiment on my grandma’s curry. Though I never knew my grandmother, my parents served her curry recipe to me from an early age, and it has been a favorite meal of mine for years. A blend of spices, onions, raisins, and apples, this wonderful curry is served over rice with bacon, hard-boiled egg, banana, peanuts, bean sprouts, and chutney as condiments. I do not recall ever eating homemade chutney when having curry, so I was really stoked to see how homemade chutney would pair with Grandma’s classic. So, last week I whipped up a batch of Alton’s chutney. The ingredients needed for Alton’s chutney are vegetable oil, chile flakes, red bell pepper, red onion, mangoes, fresh ginger, brown sugar, curry powder, mango juice, cider vinegar, macadamia nuts, golden raisins, white pepper, and Kosher salt.

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Ingredients for chutney: Kosher salt, golden raisins, ginger, brown sugar, red bell pepper, cider vinegar, red onion, macadamia nuts, chile flakes, mango juice, curry powder, pepper, and mangoes.

First, heat 3 T vegetable oil in a pan and add 1/2 t chile flakes, cooking until fragrant.

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Chile flakes heating in oil.

Add 1 C diced red bell pepper and 2 C diced red onion, and sweat over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Next, add 4 pounds mangoes, diced, along with 1/4 C minced ginger. Cover the chutney and allow it to cook for three minutes, or until the mangoes soften.

Stir in 1/2 C brown sugar, 1 T curry powder, 8 ounces mango juice (I used a mango lemonade), and 4 ounces cider vinegar. Simmer the chutney for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Finally, add 1/2 C golden raisins and 1/2 C toasted/chopped macadamia nuts (you can toast them at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes). Season the chutney to taste with white pepper and Kosher salt.

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Raisins and macadamia nuts stirred into chutney.

This recipe makes a fairly large batch of chutney, so I opted to divide mine among small jars to freeze. Of course, I had to try the chutney over Grandma’s curry.

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Alton’s chutney over my grandma’s curry.

Let me tell you, this chutney is fantastic. It is sweet, tangy, tart, and bright, with a faint hint of heat. Honestly, I think it makes my grandma’s curry better than ever. I am anxious to share it with my parents to see what they think. You really could use this curry in a variety of ways – using it anywhere you would use other condiments. I will absolutely make this again.

Spicy Pineapple Slices

Recipes don’t come much easier than this one. Simply peel, core, and slice pineapple, sprinkling it evenly with Kosher salt, pepper, and chili powder.

Grill the slices until tender and warm.

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Pineapple slices on the grill.

We ate this as a side dish, alongside sandwiches, and we both thought it was great.

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Delicious grilled pineapple.

The heat of the chili powder is fantastic with the sweetness of the fruit. What are Alton’s tips for selecting pineapples?  First, pick fruit that sounds solid when you thump it. Also, look for large fruit that is about 50% yellow and 50% green, as pineapples do not ripen further post-harvest. Small crowns are desirable because large crowns indicate that a pineapple has used up its sugars.

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Large pineapple, small crown. About 50/50 yellow/green.

Sweet and Sour Pork

Last, but not least, Alton’s sweet and sour pork finished out this episode. Note that there is another recipe online for coconut macaroons, but Alton did not make those in the episode, so I did not make them either. You will have to start Alton’s sweet and sour pork the night before you plan to serve it. Start by making a marinade of 2 t minced garlic, 1 T minced ginger, 2/3 C soy sauce, 1/4 C flour, and 1/4 C cornstarch.

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Garlic, ginger, soy sauce, flour, and cornstarch combined for marinade.

To the marinade, add 1 pound of cubed pork that has been seasoned with Kosher salt, and allow the meat to marinade overnight.

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Pork in marinade overnight.

The following day, drain the marinade from the pork and dredge the pork cubes in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fry the pork in 375-degree peanut oil until golden brown, and set aside.

In a skillet, heat 1 T peanut oil with 2 t sesame oil. Add 1/3 C each of diagonally sliced carrot, diced onion, and diced celery.

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Celery, onion, carrot, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper.

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Onion, celery, and carrot, sauteeing in oil.

Cook the vegetables until they are translucent. Add 1/3 C diced red bell pepper, 1/3 C diced green bell pepper, and 1 C chopped pineapple.

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Bell peppers and pineapple added to pan.

Next, add the fried pork to the pan, along with a mixture of 1 C ketchup, 1/4 C red wine vinegar, 1/4 C sugar, and 1 1/2 ounces honey.

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Sauce and pork added to pan.

Cook over low heat until the pork is tender and heated through.

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Cooked until pork was heated through.

I served Alton’s sweet and sour pork over rice and we thought it was really good.

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Alton’s sweet and sour pork over rice.

The pork was tender inside and slightly crispy on the outside, but far from greasy. The sauce was a perfect blend of sweet and sour flavors. Alton’s version of this classic is a good one.

I was very excited for this episode of Good Eats because my dad made this recipe for Ted and me several years ago. I remember telling my dad about Good Eats, thinking he would really love the scientific approach to food. My dad’s first reaction to Alton Brown,  however, was to ponder who the “nerdy” guy in the Hawaiian shirt was. After watching a few episodes of the show, he became hooked and was a true Good Eats devotee. We went to my parents’ house for dinner one night several years ago and Dad told us he would be making a special dessert of Alton’s. Sure enough, it was Alton’s banana split. Dad was critical of his recipe outcome, but we all thought it was great. Needless to say, I was excited to try making this dessert myself.

Banana Splitsville

The star ingredient of the 25th (Have I really done that many already?) episode of Good Eats is sugar. One recipe is featured in this episode, but it features sugar in a few applications. To start this recipe, you make the candy garnishes, or “doodads” as Alton calls them, for your banana split. You put sugar in a saucepan, adding water until you have the consistency of wet sand. The online recipe calls for a full cup of water, but this will give you a consistency that is far thinner than what you desire. I used a half cup of water, at most. Oh, and you want to add ~ 1 T of corn syrup to this mixture, as it will prevent the sugar from recrystallizing.

Sugar, corn syrup, and water.

Sugar, corn syrup, and water.

Heat this sugar syrup over high heat until the sugar dissolves. If you have a candy thermometer, you will want to use it at this point. I made a mistake in using too wide of a pan, so my thermometer was not submerged.

Heating the sugar syrup, but my thermometer was not submerged enough.

Heating the sugar syrup, but my thermometer was not submerged enough.

This left me to go by my eye, but I do not recommend that method if you have not made candy or caramel before. While your syrup heats, prepare two sheet pans by turning them over and covering them with parchment paper. When your syrup hits ~300 degrees, you can begin to swirl the pan. Until this point, you want to leave the syrup alone. You will know that your syrup is approaching 300 degrees, as it will start to turn amber in color.

Around 300 degrees.

Around 300 degrees.

When your syrup reaches 340 degrees, remove it from the heat. It will be a deep amber by this point. Stir the mixture slowly, as you do not want to incorporate too much air; this can result in cloudy candy. Continue to stir the mixture until it falls from a spoon in a steady stream.

Around 340 degrees. Cooling the syrup by stirring gently.

Around 340 degrees. Cooling the syrup by stirring gently.

When your syrup has reached this point, you want to make your “doodads” by swirling the syrup over the parchment paper, creating abstract sugar art to accessorize your banana splits. I found that I should have waited an additional minute or so before starting my doodads because they were easier to make as the syrup cooled more. Do not over-obsess about your doodads, as they will likely not be perfect, nor will they all look alike. Once your doodads are made, allow them to cool on the parchment.

Doodads.

Doodads.

Doodads.

Doodads.

While your doodads cool, put the remaining syrup back on the heat until you see faint wisps of smoke; when this happens, remove the pan from the heat and add an equal amount of heavy cream. The caramel will bubble and hiss.

Syrup back on the heat.

Syrup back on the heat.

Cream added once smoke was seen.

Cream added once smoke was seen.

I added nearly 2 C of cream, roughly guessing as to how much cream to add. Put the caramel back over the heat and cook for ~3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not be alarmed if a glob of caramel seems to be in the bottom of the pan, as it will melt again when you put it back over the heat. The sauce for the dessert is now complete. If possible, make this in advance, so it has time to cool down. When ready to serve dessert, quarter one banana per person, leaving the peels on.

Bananas and sugar.

Bananas and sugar.

One banana, quartered, per person.

One banana, quartered, per person.

Rub the exposed surfaces of the bananas in sugar, and then remove the peels.

Bananas coated in sugar.

Bananas coated in sugar.

Place the sugared bananas on a rack over foil, and brulee them with a torch until they are golden brown.

Sugared bananas over foil.

Sugared bananas over foil.

Torching the bananas, with a helper.

Torching the bananas, with a helper.

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Golden brown bananas.

Golden brown bananas.

At this point, all of the components of your dessert are ready. For plating, put the caramel sauce in a squeeze bottle and squirt it in a decorative pattern on the plate. Top the sauce with four banana pieces, layered like Lincoln logs in two layers.

Caramel with bananas.

Caramel with bananas.

Add a scoop of ice cream (I used store-bought vanilla, or you could use Alton’s vanilla ice cream recipe), and top with a doodad.

Finished banana split.

Finished banana split.

12-18-2014 032 We ate these banana splits as dessert after a regular weeknight dinner, and the dessert definitely stole the show. The great things about this dish are the contrasting textures and temperatures. While the caramel sauce is smooth, sweet, and smokey, the bananas are warm, moist, and coated with a crunchy shellac. In addition to the bananas, you have cold ice cream and a crunchy doodad. This is a great dessert, and I would definitely make it again. The resulting presentation is impressive, especially given the effort put in. I can see why my dad wanted to make this when he originally watched the episode. It is a great dessert.