Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dessert for One

Although I've only spent a total of about one and a half years of my life living alone, I find that when I cook at home, more often than not, it is for me myself and I.  I've always been someone who values my time alone, so I tend to enjoy these occasions.  I can cook (and eat) whatever I want, without regard for conventional ideas about course progression (I am not averse to dessert for dinner) or nutritional value.  

There's something fairly luxurious about cooking a really good meal for yourself, and something even more decadent about cooking yourself a dessert.  If I'm in an indulgent mood, there is nothing more soul satisfying than Italian plums braised with butter and brown sugar.  

From late summer through early fall, these beautiful little eggplant colored plums can be found in farmer's markets and good produce stores (they're sometimes called Italian prunes or European plums).  Raw, they have a somewhat unpleasant taste, but once cooked, they are truly special.  I generally assume about five plums for one serving. 

Directions:  Halve plums and remove the pits.  Melt one tablespoon of unsalted butter in a small skillet over medium low heat.  Once butter is melted, place the plum halves, skin side down, in the skillet.  Place a tiny sliver of butter on top of each plum, and sprinkle brown sugar (I prefer dark) over the plums, about a quarter of a teaspoon in each plum (the quantity is a matter of taste though).  Sprinkle a scant pinch of salt over as well, I use Maldon sea salt for this (if you used salted butter omit this step).

Cook over medium low flame, turning each plum periodically, until plums are very soft, and a syrupy liquid has formed, infused with the pink of the plum skins (about 10 minutes).  If you happen to keep Armagnac in the house (due to the fact that I am not a seventy year-old man, I do not), a tablespoon or two added to the pan at the end would probably be great. 

At this point I would suggest pouring everything into a bowl, and topping with a couple of dollops of creme fraiche (I always seem to have some around, I guess because I buy it for a recipe that calls for a teaspoon and then am stuck with the rest of the tub), which will melt beautifully into the syrup.  Delicious.

As we get farther into fall and the plums become more difficult to find, I sometimes switch to apples.  I peel the apples and cut them into about eight or so wedges, and prepare them in essentially the same way.  However, I prefer white sugar with the apples, go a bit heavier on the salt, and instead of creme fraiche go with heavy cream.  Almost as good as the plums, and most definitely comforting on a cold night.

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