01 Jun For clever cooks, ‘Social Security’ is a well-stocked larderFor years, my much-loved month of May included a day trip to Helena to take in the talents of area chefs at the Artbeats Four Star Chefs Tour, an annual fundraiser that benefited the Grand Street Theater, the Helena Symphony and the Holter Museum. Until this year, that is. Deciding the event had run its course, organizers hung up their aprons for good after last year’s event. Left behind are memories of a fabulous foodie event, and of course, the spiral bound cookbook souvenirs of chef tours gone by, filled with fantastic recipes to make at home. One of my favorite chefs on the chefs tour was Sandee Reif Cardinal, owner of Earth to Table Chef Services, a personal chef who cooks for clients in their homes between Helena and Great Falls as well as fly-fishermen who return to enjoy the river near Craig every year. I’ll never forget watching her whip up her Chocolate Mousse Cake, a velvety smooth decadent dessert she referred to as “Social Security” because the recipe made two cakes, one you could enjoy now and one to tuck away in the freezer for later use, perfect for serving to unexpected guests. Her “Social Security” concept struck me as genius at the time. And since then, I’ve made it a secret mission to stash staples in the freezer, the fridge and the pantry that I quickly can transform into something suitable for an impromptu entertaining emergency.And you just never know when that might happen, especially during the summer when the living is good and life slows down. Those leisurely fun-in-the-sun days when afternoon turns into evening, and suddenly everyone’s hungry, and by the way, what’s for dinner?
“Social Security” pays you back for planning and preparation. It eliminates the need for that last-minute dash to the grocery store or the desperate pizza delivery dial-up.
Set aside some time to stock up on some stellar staples, and you’re primed for nosweat summer entertaining, anytime.
One rock-star ration I love to keep on hand in my freezer is a bag of EZ Peel jumbo shrimp. Thawing in about 10 minutes under cold running water, these treasures can become speedy shrimp scampi, shrimp quesadillas, shrimp cocktails or sausage and shrimp skewers in no time. Find them in the frozen seafood case at Albertsons.
Gourmet pastas are another valuable asset to stash away in your cupboard to serve with grilled fish or meat or with a homemade sauteed vegetable sauce. Grocery stores carry a wide variety of pastas or indulge in some extra-special varieties from Wines by Wednesday at 312 5th Ave. S. Most pastas will cook and be ready to serve in the time it takes to enjoy a glass of wine with your guests.
More often than not, you’ll find a pint or two of heavy whipping cream in my fridge. It sure comes in handy to make a quick cream sauce or chocolate ganache sauce or to whip with almond or vanilla extract to serve with fresh berries for dessert.
A bunch of bananas gives you a bevy of options in the kitchen as well: frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, banana pancakes, banana milkshakes, banana bread, or one of my favorite lastminute desserts, bananas Foster. It’s so easy to make, and we always seem to have everything we need to make it, which isn’t much: butter, bananas, brown sugar, Galliano (though you could substitute rum) and vanilla ice cream.
On your next trip to the market, why not grab a bag of frozen shrimp, some special pasta, a carton of heavy cream and a bunch of bananas? With these key ingredients and this week’s Special of the Day: Simple Solutions for Social Security, you’ll be all set for summer.
If you’re looking for something quick, easy and different to serve for breakfast, making this is as simple as melting butter, blending batter and baking in the oven.
With all the fresh fruit in season for toppings, it might just become your go-to guest breakfast of the summer.
PUFFY BAKED PANCAKE» 4 tbsp. butter » 4 eggs » ½ cup milk » ½ cup flour » ¼ tsp. salt » ½ tsp. vanilla Preheat oven to 450°.
Put butter in a glass pie plate and set in preheated oven to melt.
In a blender, combine eggs, milk, flour, salt and vanilla.
Blend until thoroughly mixed.
Pour batter into pie dish when butter has melted and return to hot oven.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until pancake has puffed and turned golden brown.
Slice into wedges and serve with your favorite toppings: powdered sugar, orange butter, syrup, sliced strawberries or other fresh fruit.
Serves four to six.
SPEEDY SHRIMP SCAMPI OVER ANGEL HAIR PASTA» 20 jumbo EZ Peel shrimp » 4 tbsp. butter » 2 tbsp. olive oil » 2 cloves garlic » ¼ cup green onions, sliced » 2 tbsp. lemon juice » Parsley sprigs to garnish » 2 cups angel hair pasta, cookedThaw shrimp in colander in sink under cold running water until thoroughly thawed, for about 10 minutes. Pull tails and shells off and discard. Let dry on paper towels.
Heat butter and olive oil in medium saute pan over medium heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, shrimp and green onions. Cook shrimp just until pink on one side and turn. Cook other side just until pink. Add lemon juice and stir to combine.
Serve hot over cooked angel hair pasta, five shrimp per person. Pour sauce over shrimp. Garnish with parsley sprigs. Serves four and can be doubled.
BANANAS FOSTER OVER VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM
» 1 quart Vanilla Bean Ice Cream» ½ cup butter » ½ cup brown sugar » ¼ cup Galliano
» 2 bananas
Remove Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from freezer to soften. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt ½ cup butter.
Add ½ cup brown sugar when butter is melted and whisk to dissolve sugar.
Increase heat and simmer sauce gently.
Add ¼ cup Galliano. Sauce will bubble up. Whisk until smooth.
Remove from heat and add two bananas, sliced into thin slices.
Scoop softened Vanilla Bean Ice Cream into wine glasses or stemmed dessert dishes.
Spoon Bananas Foster over ice cream.
CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE by SANDEE REIF CARDINAL» 2¼ cups graham cracker crumbs » ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar » ¼ cup cocoa » ¾ cup melted butter » 1 quart whipping cream » 9 egg yolks » ¾ cup each sugar and water (dissolved by boiling) » 14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, choppedTo prepare crust: Whisk together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and cocoa.
Add melted butter and mix with hands.
Divide and press into two 9-inch springform pans. Bake at 350° for eight minutes.
Cool completely on racks.
To melt chocolate: With serrated knife, cut chocolate into pieces. Place in a small stainless bowl over simmering water. Use a rubber spatula to stir occasionally until melted.
To prepare cake: Whip cream until soft peaks form.
Do not overbeat. Place in a bowl and refrigerate.
Separate the yolks into a clean mixer bowl. With the whisk attachment, beat the yolks to a pale, fluffy, ribbon stage.
While beating the yolks, heat the ¾-cup sugar and ¾cup water. Boil to dissolve.
While hot, slowly add to mixer while beating yolks.
The batter will deflate but reinflate.
Whip on lower speed until the yolks reinflate, four to five minutes.
Place the melted chocolate in a big bowl.
In three or four additions, add the yolk mixture, folding in with a big spatula after each addition.
Fold in the whipped cream in several additions.
Spoon the mousse into the two springform pans. Level with spatula.
Refrigerate for a few hours and serve. Garnish with chocolate shavings, raspberries and raspberry sauce.
Or wrap each cake in plastic wrap and foil and freeze for later use. To use, thaw 30 minutes before serving.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at email@example.com .