If you are ever in El Castillo, Costa Rica, near Arenal, follow the hand painted road signs to Pizza John’s. Down a gravel road and through a a garden hedge you will stumble upon some of the best pizza anywhere, ever. (Including New York, Chicago, and Italy.)
We wandered in from the road like strangers through a saloon door in an old western movie, but once the delightfully eccentric host passed out pies and shots and really delicious Missouri style BBQ to the communal table, the Colonel, the multiple Robertos, the Earp brothers, the lawman, and Taco the Dog, “todos éramos hermanos”.
Like the volcano itself, that night took my breath away. An amazing moment of conviviality, sharing a love of, and love through, good food. The only thing lacking was a singalong. But sadly, no one knew how to play the guitar.
These chocolate covered jellies are an experiment in bringing together an assortment of seemingly unrelated flavors and turning it into a party in your mouth. Plus, with the dark chocolate outside and the bright sriracha inside, they sort of look like a volcano.
Volcanos (Bourbon Sriracha Honey Jellies)
Because the jellies need time to gel, I like to make them a day ahead of time. Makes 2-3 dozen depending on size.
- vegetable oil
- 5 (1/4 oz.) packets unflavored gelatin
- 3/4 cup bourbon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha
- 1 cup honey
- 6 oz dark chocolate
- 2 Tbs vegetable shortening
Rub a silicon chocolate mold (or ice cube tray) with a light coating of oil. Set aside. Place gelatin in a small bowl with 1 cup cold water. Set aside. In a small heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine bourbon, sriracha, and honey over low heat. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Add gelatin mixture. Bring to a low boil, remove from heat and pour into prepared mold. Refrigerate overnight or until firm, about 2 hours.
Remove jellies from mold. In a double boiler, melt chocolate and mix in shortening. Let chocolate cool for about 15 minutes to avoid melting jellies. Coat jellies and place on a sheet of parchment or silicon mat until chocolate hardens. Enjoy!
Heading back to work Friday was tough – on one hand, there was no need to slather myself in SPF 100 – on the other, there was no sun, no catamaran, and no scheduled pineapple break. One way to remind myself of just how delightful Costa Rica was was to fix a snack my Tica dive master ate after time under the water. Arroz con leche, essentially tasty rice pudding, crosses multiple Latin cultures, and each is a little different. This recipe is inspired by the arroz con leche I tried sitting in a hammock chair last week, a taste that mimicked the happy union of horchata and a lime daiquiri.
Arroz con Leche
- 3/4 cup rum (in this case, Centenario from Costa Rica)
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- peel from 1 lime
- 1 Tbs lime juice
- 1 cup rice
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teas ground nutmeg
Bring rum, water, cinnamon, star anise, lime peel and juice to a boil in a 3 quart pot. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add milks and nutmeg, Simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently until rice is soft and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Mixture should thicken slightly, but still be rather liquidy. Remove from heat and pour into serving bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours until cool. Enjoy!
I’m diving in Costa Rica this week! Yay! But alas, I am away from my kitchen. However, I am working out wonderful ideas for boozy flan. And tres leches cake. And possibly something with a shark theme. All I know is new items for experimentation will be purchased in duty free. Please hold.
Every Lifestyle magazine tells me the same thing: Superbowl=brownies. Not sure why. One would think with all the chili/wings/fried chicken/pulled pork sliders with Doritos crushed into the buns/bacon greased everything that dessert would consist of an orange slice or a stomach pump. But if Martha, et al tell me it is the perfect time for brownies, who am I to break tradition? It would be like not Tebowing in the end zone? Right? I read that somewhere. Please to explain to me this American pass time? I didn’t have TV growing up. I have a nerdy father. I spent my first Superbowl party making out with a born again Christian! European football doesn’t need helmets!! I’m just doing what the media tells me!!!
So yeah, Kahlua Brownies
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon double dark cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
- 3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light-brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon Kahlua or other coffee liquor
- 3/4 cup (4 1/2 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- 2/3 cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter all surfaces and dust with cocoa powder.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan on low heat, melt butter. Add chocolate and espresso. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat, stir in both sugars until well combined. Add eggs, vanilla, and Kahlua and continue stirring until well incorporated. Sift flour mixture over batter, and stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared baking pan; smooth top with the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows, chocolate chips and nuts evenly across the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, about another 15 minutes (30 minutes total). Be sure not to over bake. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 9 or 16 brownies.