This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12
One of my greatest joys is feeding people. It’s a selfish pleasure, really, because I get such a wonderful kick out of making something that causes someone to squinch up their eyes in glee and really enjoy what they’re eating. And even better if they finish it and ask for more!
I am so blessed to be able to have this experience at least once a week with my uncle and my husband, who are patient recipients of my experiments. Most of the time they’re pretty pleased with what I feed them. But truthfully I think it’s partially because they aren’t very picky eaters. We have had a few laughs, with probably the funniest thing being the time I decided to make a vegetarian casserole – one of my dearest friends and her kids were coming for dinner that Sunday as well, and they don’t eat meat. The kids, having been raised as vegetarians, are pretty offended by meat. They’ll look at you with those big eyes and ask, “Is that MEAT?” Talk about guilt-inducing behavior.
So I decided to make a mushroom casserole. Basically just mushrooms in a gravy type sauce with baked biscuits on top. Now I make almost everything from scratch, but the recipe called for canned biscuits and I was in a hurry. I decided to just go with the flow. I bought these biscuits called GRANDS which, as I found out later, are large sized biscuits. Now the recipe didn’t specify GRANDS but I thought, “what the heck, I won’t need as many!” Ha. Famous last words. I certainly didn’t need as many, and they are much thicker than the regular size (as far as I can tell).
I made the mushroom base, which was actually very tasty – full of yummy spices and herbs, and of course garlic and onions. Then I put the biscuits on top as per the recipe, and popped the whole thing in the oven for the specified amount of time. When the timer went off, everyone was sitting around the table, hungry. The casserole looked delicious, with the nicely browned biscuits covering the lovely mushroom-filled bottom. Until I lifted a biscuit and realized the bottom was completely gummy and not even close to done. It was gross! Can you imagine the stringy half-cooked dough strands, covered in brown gravy, hanging from the bottom of the biscuit?
I was mortified, but at the same time it was really funny. My sweet husband, who is always ready to come to my rescue, saved the day by flipping the biscuits over and cooking the casserole until they were completely baked. I wonder if that’s where the expression “half baked” came from? And my uncle, who is like a father to me, to this day has not seen fit to tease me about it – whenever the subject comes up he always just says, “It tasted pretty good”. Aren’t I lucky? But to this day I can’t stand the thought of mushroom casserole. Blech.
A few weeks ago I spent a Saturday going to garage sales and antique shops with two of my good friends. We stopped at a wonderful little Mom and Pop ice cream store and I had this ice cream that totally knocked my socks off. Okay, I wasn’t actually wearing socks because it was like 110° outside, but if I had been wearing socks, well, you can imagine.
I’m not going to tell you exactly what kind it was, because I don’t quite have my version of the recipe perfected, but I will tell you that it had a caramel fudge sauce and a vanilla ice cream base. So, I’m going use the vanilla ice cream recipe I posted here a month or so ago (albeit slightly modified) and this caramel fudge recipe I’m going to share now. There is one more ingredient, and I should have this down pat by the weekend, then I can post the whole thing. I can tell you it’s GOOD.
Start with a large heavy saucepan and add some granulated sugar. Sugar will melt and caramelize as it’s heated, but you have to be careful. There’s a tipping point where it will go from caramel to burnt and that can happen fast. The sam thing is true of browned butter – it can go from browned to burnt in a few seconds. So be patient and use low heat. Keep stirring as you melt it.
First it will start to look wet. That means it’s melting.
Then it will be clear and will start to turn brown. You don’t want it to be really dark brown, but too light and you haven’t cooked it long enough to get that caramel taste. It should be the color of maple syrup.
Here it’s getting nice and brown.
As soon as it turns the right color, put the butter in and stir it. It will bubble up a little. Keep stirring vigorously until the butter melts.
Now pour in the cream – it’s going to bubble up quite a bit so don’t be surprised. Stir it until it’s totally incorporated and smooth. Let it cool for about 15 or 20 minutes, and stir in the vanilla and the salt. Make sure to use coarse ground salt (I like kosher) so that you get a true salted caramel. Mmm. At Christmas I’m going to post my recipe for soft caramels – they are so good. Oh, and fudge, too. I have a fudge recipe that’s over 60 years old! You’ll love it. It’s a pain, but worth the trouble.
Now, you can either just sit and eat this with a spoon, or pour it over stuff. Hopefully this weekend I’ll have time to show you something else to do with it!
Salty Caramel Fudge Sauce
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Measure out the butter and the cream and have them near the stove.
- Use a large heavy saucepan (I used a 4 quart), and over low to medium low heat stir the sugar until it melts and becomes the color of maple syrup. Keep stirring so it doesn’t burn.
- When the sugar is the proper color, add the butter and stir vigorously until melted. It will bubble a bit.
- Add the cream – this should cause quite a bit of bubbling. Keep stirring until the bubbles go away and it’s nice and smooth.
- Let cool for 15 or 20 minutes and then add the vanilla and salt, and stir to combine.
- Keeps in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.