Southern Style Bourbon Pecan Pie with Biscoff Crust

This Thanksgiving I figured I’d have a go at one of my brother’s favorites, pecan pie. After our Ireland trip we definitely ascribe to the “everything tastes better with a little whiskey” school of baked goods, so I opted for a bit of bourbon to go with the southern style of the pie. Bourbon tends to add a nice rich depth to the flavor of anything with brown sugar. Adding the bourbon is optional; when done properly you shouldn’t really taste it, just a fuller silkier overall flavor. I also have a slight addiction to Biscoff/Speculoos cookies so I wanted to try that as a crust, hoping it didn’t overpower the pie and it complimented it perfectly. And my brother, the pecan pie snob, said it was the best he’s ever had.

  • 1 package Biscoff Cookies
  • Half stick of butter (softened)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Bourbon(and then help  yourself to a nice two finger pour like a good southern girl)

Makes a 9 inch deep dish pie

Grease the pan with just a little bit of the butter. Crush the cookies in the food processor, adding in softened butter a spoonful at a time. When thoroughly blended, press into the pie dish and along the sides. Bake for 5-7 minutes to set, and then set aside.

Grind the pecans in the food processor till the texture of coarse salt. I found it helpful to add the brown sugar a bit at a time till it was about he same consistency. Mix in salt and vanilla. Set aside.

Beat the eggs till fluffy, add in corn syrup and pecan mixture till blended, and pour into the pie plate.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, but check it at 30 minutes. If the crust seems too brown before the pie has risen evenly, turn down to 325 and cook for 15-20 till even. Let cool completely before cutting.

Top with whipped cream(I prefer to make mine with some heavy cream and Bailey’s) The pie should be soft and gooey but still be able to be cut in slices.

Unexpected Flavors: Lost and Found in Venice

I don’t need a paddle, I need pasta.

Upon returning to Venice for a day trip with my brother I had set my heart on finding the little patio restaurant I discovered on my last trip into town. Only problem was I couldn’t remember the name… or where it was…or what the dish was called. Only that we decided to find an authentic meal in Venice on a Friday night, and that was going to take some reconnaissance. We waited till around 8:30 near one of the piazzas, and watched for the most Venetian looking group of adults speaking Italian and walking with purpose…and followed them.. Down the maze of winding streets and bridges we walked a few feet behind until finally they darted down an alley. This was either exactly what we were looking for or we were about to get yelled at in Italian.

There is pistachio ravioli here somewhere, and I intend to find it.

A charming courtyard of winding green foliage and hanging lights, like a quaint garden party. They spoke little English and we spoke just enough Italian to order and It was perfect. Out of everything that was memorable about that meal the pistachio shrimp ravioli with cream sauce was otherworldly. It has haunted my dreams and was the kind of course you return to a place just so you can try to recreate a moment of perfection….and find what else they can blow your mind with.

So with this in mind I racked my brain on the flight, checked Google keywords  as we checked in at the hotel, read through hundreds of restaurant reviews and as we wandered the winding streets and shops and asked strangers while the regatta boats partied on by, still it eluded me. Tired, cranky and hungry, I opted for a quick nap before venturing out for replacement dinner. When I opened my eyes as if delivered by dream, “Al Profeta” was magically on my tongue! It came up in Google Maps! It was mine!

I poured over the menu again and again,  searching in vain through the menu for my long lost pistachio love. When I still came up empty my Italian still proved insufficient in my attempt to ask If it might still exist. The waiter pointed out another dish with pistachio, but it seemed a little strange.. But I had come this far. So I picked the entree with pistachio even if the other ingredients didn’t entirely make sense to me.

And a believer was born.

Pistachios, Ricotta, bacon “jumps” and… Cocoa pasta? I admit, I doubted it’s power. God help me I doubted.

I wasn’t sure what to expect,  but dammit I was on an adventure and not stopping now. When it arrived, I was intimidated by the inky color and silky black noodles. But if anything ever inspired me to soldier on it was the happy little bacon squiggles on top that dared me to dive in. The biggest shock in the first bite?  IT WAS NOT SWEET AT ALL. The predominant flavor was the bacon “jumps” throughout, which I at first somewhat unappealingly  mistook at first sight for onion. But the cocoa pasta had no sweetness in the flavor but rather added depth to the savory tones (not unlike a good buckwheat noodle) but with a lighter texture. The ricotta was smooth and fluffy and carried the lightly nutty flavor of the pistachios. Never before had I really considered cocoa as a savory ingredient, even knowing it wasn’t always sweet. But hello darkness my old friend, I will never underestimate you again.

And Al Profeta…we will dance again soon.

Modena

The thing about Modena (you’re pronouncing it wrong, regardless of how you say it someone will correct you while you are there) is it is exactly what a fairytale village looks like.

Brightly Colored Buildings

The narrow streets are lined with brightly colored buildings and it is impeccably clean. The sidewalks are so small people amble down the center of the streets moving over slightly to let the few cars pass.

Modena is ranked as one of the best cities for quality of life in Italy. Its known as the center for big industry, since it is the home of Ferrari and Maserati, and of course Vinegar. Balsamic Vinegar is known as the black gold of this town.

As we walked down the streets there were so many cute little cafes and shops. Everything pristine, and well kept.

 

In the center of Modena is the Piazza Mazzini and the Palazzo Comunale. The Duomo located there is a 1000 years ago.

Palazzo Comunale

This is the Duomo with the famed tower Ghilandia

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Cathedral Entrance

This is a side entrance that I wandered over to

I liked these gargoyles better.

So other than exploring the Fairy Tale-esque building, the main reason you visit Modena is to go the Museo Del Balsamico Tradizionale or one of the many Consorterias.

Im very excited to learn more about and taste Balsalmicos, but Im mostly excited to stand somewhere warm for a while

There will be one whole post dedicated to the visit to the Consorteria and all the incrdible balsalmicos I tasted.

So what else, other than Balsalmic, Fast Cars, Great Architecture, Amazing Restaurants would you want to see while in Modena.  Well theres the Albinelli Covered Market. This is the bustling hunb of this town.Its where most people gets their produce, fresh pasta, wine, salumi, cheese and more than likely gossip.

The market has all the little known specailties of Modena like Nocino, which is a locally made walnut liquor, Sassolino another local liquor used for trifles, ready made Trifles and Amaretti cookies which are two desserts that are quintessentially Modenese according to the locals.

 

 

The outside of the market is pretty unassuming

No big deal just some stunning artwork in the middle of the market

Produce stalls in the market

 

Fish Market in the Market

Some of these pictures I snagged off the internet, waiting for the market to open after lunch and an attempt to keep warm compelled us to get a little (more than necessary) Grappa and therefor the quality as well as quantity of pictures lessened.

 

The Grappas!

Tiganello

So I would be remiss if I didnt have an entire post dedicated to a phenomenal bottle of wine I had whilst in Parma. This wine was special. As was the company I shared while drinking it.

The wine itself, like most of Italy, is drenched in history. Often refered to Italys “first modern wine” it was the wine that broke all the rules in Tuscany and coined the term super tuscan.

The Antinori Family has been making wine for 600 hundred years

This wine was the first sangiovese to aged in barriques, the first sangiovese to be blended with non traditional grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon and later on the addition of Cabernet Franc) and one of the first wines made in Chianti that did not include any white grapes.

The wine is produced exclusively from the vineyard bearing the same name. A small 140 acre parcel. And since its inception in 1971, it has only been vinified in favorable vintages.

The initial reactions of the Italian wine establishment were, obviously, mixed, yet, from the very start Tignanello was immensely successful in the international markets, and soon it was hailed as one of the prized Supertuscans.

Ever since 1982, the blend has been the one currently used : 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.

In the cellar of La Greppia in Parma we had this last bottle from the 1988 vintage. A wine almost 30 years old. It was complex and lively still. Very pronounced tobacco with almost a curry powder like aroma. The fruit was not lost. Blackberry and jammy notes. The wine was silky. It was the icing on the cake for an already amazing meal. .

Ill always remember this meal and this bottle of wine.

Mercato di Mezzo

The Mercato di Mezzo ( ” The Middle Market”) is very close to the Piazza Maggiore near the Quadrilatico area. The area has been a meeting place since the middle ages, and after the unification of Italy, it was transformed into the first indoor market of the city, and in 2014 it was recovered and renovated, after many years of being abandoned it was finally reopened.

The market has 3 floors. The basement houses a craft brewery, the first floor food stalls, and the top floor a pizzeria. They offer meat, fish, sausages,cheese, fruit, bread, pasta, gelato, pastry and most importantly wine.

No one is outside because its January and it feels like it 15 below outside

The place was packed every time I went there and for good reason. The food is great and inexpensive. This is one of  bologna’s versions of fast food and it puts everything about American fast food to shame.

Lots of different type of fresh pasta are available to have prepared or take out.

Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna has a stall in the market. Glasses of wine start at 3 Euros for a generous pour.

Most of the stalls are run by or partnered with well known chefs and well respected shops and restaurants. The wine shop us partnered with a local wine museum and shop. The bakery, Forno Calzoni is affiliated with one of the most famous bakeries in Bologna. (So says their literature, I am not claiming to be a Bolognese Bakery expert, and I don’t know if my waistline could afford such endeavors)

Chatted with this guy and he said he really loved working in the market because of the people and the energy. But he was on the look out for another job since he was in his twenties and needs to find a wife and start a family. So any interested ladies head to the butcher counter…

I sat in front of the Butcher Stall, Macelleria Zivieri, because there were no other seats to be had. If you sit in front of the stall you have to order something from them. I ordered a small plate of salumi.

This is considered small?? Only cost 6 Euros.

Cannelloni special from the Romanzo Stall

This is the best cannelloni Ive ever had. It was very thin pasta rolled with a light meat sauce and tons of cheese. It was baked until the cheese on the top got caramelized and crunchy while the cheese on the inside was creamy and gooey.

 

Inexpensive wine from Tuscany

 

The wine stall was busiest second only to the seafood stall. I didnt want to risk waiting so long in the line that my seat got snatched up.  So I got wine from the same stall as the cannelloni (most of the stalls sell wine).  This wine is 92 points from Decanter magazine and cost 19 Euros. Its from a small 7 Ha estate in the higher altitudes of tuscany and is grown biodynamically. A great suggestion from the girl behind the counter.