Saturday, December 11, 2010

Who brought the fruitcake?

     In my career that spans over 26 years, I have seen my fair share of fruitcakes. Heck, I bet down the line there are some that even think, I was a fruitcake. The problem with food service, is that it's not very selective on who gets into it. I can usually spot a kitchen grenade in the first five minutes. These people have a lot to say but, really aren't saying anything. They believe that getting a culinary degree is something that can be found in a Happy Meal. These people put into play lots of smoke and mirrors,  and the "look over there" tactic. The goody-two shoes that follow the Executive Chef around, hanging on every request that the chef makes. I just want to vomit.
     Anyway, these people remind me of fruitcake. I detest fruitcake. There is nothing appetizing about fruitcake. It has those weird little fruit that seem embalmed to me. I would always cringe, if a Chef asked me to cut them, they are almost impossible to cut, run over, smash, eat, cook, etc, etc. Whose idea was that?  Not to mention, after it is baked, it is then soaked in brandy, like some of the Executive Chefs that I have worked for. Why liquor?, why not whipped cream or chocolate?  I will never understand desserts like that one. But this is not a rant about how much I dislike fruitcake. Rather it is a rant about Figgy Pudding. First of all, the word pudding just sounds wrong, Don't you think, and bread pudding gets a category all it's own. When I think of bread, it is not in the pudding arena. I am not fond of wet bread, or bread that was purposely wet at one time. Then combined with the word pudding, Oh boy, all bets are off. Living in New England, it seems everyone is just itching to soak their bread in custard.

     Figgy pudding?, Did the Wiggles invent this, and what is it?  First it is a pudding, it is steamed,  it is ladened with nuts and figs and if that is not bad enough, it is made with suet. Remember suet was the hard fatty layer that covers the kidneys of cattle and suet is something that you hang out for the birds . ICK!! How did that get into dessert? Essentially, it is a big black blob, due to the dark sugars and black treacle, and cooked for long periods of time, boiled no less in a pudding cloth. What needs to happen is the pudding cloth needs to go over my eyes, as I attempt to eat this. It needs to be covered in whipped cream, M&M's, Snicker bars or fifty dollar bills, anything to make it more appealing and worth my while. Just the idea behind, how it came about makes my stomach turn a little.

     Figgy pudding was not the brain child of Tiny Tim's mother on Christmas eve, as the family sat by the warm fire. Although it congers up a happy, familiar feeling, wrapped in pudding. It was really created to preserve meat. In Victorian England, fodder was in short supply during the onset of autumn, and not wanting to lose their investments, cattle were slaughtered, thus what followed were lots of creative ways to use up the meat. Ugh, my stomach hurts. Well England was unable to do anything without the church tagging along, so pudding was baptized so to speak, and became associated with "Stir-up Sunday", where everyone in the family gave the pudding a stir and made a wish while doing so. Oh, boy!!! No Christmas figgy pudding is a pudding without various talismans baked into it, for wealth, luck, thrift and let's not forget for choking. Stick some holly in it, light it on fire and now, we got a party!!.

     Even though I hate all puddings of any kind, because of the egg factor. I will share an excellent pudding recipe. The beauty part about this pudding is you can change to suit your tastes. This pudding because it is close to Christmas will be chocolate with a hint of figgy pudding. 

4 cups milk
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips or if you like milk chocolate go for it :)
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tsps vanilla
2 tsps butter
6 egg yolks
5 extra fancy dried Calimyrna figs diced

In a bowl, mix together 1 cup of milk,  cornstarch, salt, vanilla and egg yolks and set aside. In a saucepan, heat to a scald 3 cups of milk, chocolate, sugar and butter. Ladle some of the warm chocolate milk, into the egg yolk mixture until it tempered(same temperature), add that mixture back to the saucepan and cook until mixture thickens but not boiling. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap.(this prevents a skin on the pudding) (YUCK)  Serve with diced figs and whipped cream.

Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.~ Oren Arnold


Tricia said...

I never knew what figgy pudding was, but thank you for allowing me to learn something while barfing in my mouth. :)

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