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Consider serving pecan pie trifle for dessert

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Nov 22, 2017

(Nov. 24, 2017) As I awake from the world of silence, I am filled with an array of excitement.

There is no time to waste; a quick shower will have to suffice as I dash out of the Manhattan hotel. Cabbies are abundant as I double-check to make sure I have my knives and address for the Food Network.

The city of neon lights never sleeps as the billows of steam reiterate their distinctive style. So much hustle and bustle lurks behind the hours of darkness. Chelsea Market is my destination; indecision sparks my last chance to turn around. Sometimes anticipation is more unnerving than reality itself.

I am greeted by a most gracious staff and led to the studio where “Chopped” is filmed. Three big men stand before me and an aura of confidence and experience permeates the air before me. I pray that I am not the first to be “chopped.”

This is an all-day affair: competition, judging and cleaning the kitchen in between rounds makes for a long day. Instructions are explained and before I know it I hear Ted Allen say, “Testing one, two, three.”

In a split-second certainty seems to slow down and I feel I am on the outside looking in. It is at this moment I hear the proverbial words, “Chefs, open your baskets.”

The theme is leftovers and the mystery baskets are leftover turkey, day-old stuffing, refrigerated cranberries and stale pecan pie. The meals that are served on Thanksgiving typically taste better the following day. I am so relieved that I am not staring at ingredients that I have absolutely no idea what they are and how to cook them.

The challenging aspect of this basket will be to reconstitute the ingredients in a creative way. I have no time to be nervous; I must concentrate and come up with a game plan quickly. It is at this very moment I decide to make a turkey sausage Napoleon topped with a sunny side egg up and a dollop of cranberry chutney.

I will use the crust from the pie to make the layers for the Napoleon. It is important to cut the dough into the shape of a Napoleon. Once I have achieved the correct shape, I will deep fry the dough for a crisp foundation. Then I will make a compound butter with some of the stuffing. Adding a stuffing butter to the dough will mask any sweetness from the pecan pie and reinforce the theme of leftovers.

I will make sausage out of the turkey. The turkey is already cooked so this will not take much time. There will be several contrasts in texture which will parlay wonderfully with the runny egg. Cranberry chutney is simple to make and time friendly which will help my cause tremendously.

My fellow competitors and I make a mad dash to gather our ingredients. It’s bad enough the time on the clock is very limited but viewers do not realize how difficult it is to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen.

There is part of me that wants to see what the other contestants are making but I do not dare to look. There is only a few minutes left and I have to really hustle to get all of my ingredients on the plates. It’s amazing how fast time flies. Before I know it, Ted Allen is counting down and announces “Time is up.”

As we start to turn and head for the judges, a constant beeping keeps going off. As I try to distinguish what in the world is going on, a familiar furry face mirrors my every move. I suddenly realize I am not on “Chopped,” I do not have a chance of winning $10,000, and I am not in New York City.

My alarm clock and kitty are reminding me that I have to get up and go to work. Four o’clock in the morning comes rather quickly. Before I can even think about getting ready, I need to feed my five cats, three squirrels, geese, ducks and birds. Cleaning, cooking and wash are daily chores and need to be completed before my nine-to-five begins.

Ocean City is a far cry from New York, but I love my little blue house on the water. My tiny kitchen and I have become best friends. I cannot imagine spending a day without the thought of cooking and entertaining. That being said, I do realize there will be those who beg to differ.

Thanksgiving is over and leftovers are the blue-plate specials for the next few days. Revising traditional dishes perks up ones appetite and keeps family and friends coming back for more.

Pecan pie always graces the Walker’s table at Thanksgiving. I adore pecan pie but pecan pie is pecan pie. Consider a pecan pie trifle. Layers of pound cake soaked in Crown Royal Vanilla whiskey, followed by hunks of pecan pie, and whipped cream makes this dessert as decadent as they come.

If you prefer whipped cream with more depth of flavor and texture, blend 8 ounces whipped cream cheese (room temperature), 1 ½ cups whipping cream, 1/3 cup powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

It is the season for unexpected company and one has to be prepared to make a dish on the spur of the moment. Trifles are fun and make a stunning display on your table. Recipes are filled with improvisation according to one’s personal preference which means there is little chance of making mistakes. What more can a host ask for?

The principal of pecan pie trifle can easily be applied to other types of pie. Trifle dishes are generally glass, so be aware of the presentation. If you are serving it to children, replace the alcohol with swirls of chocolate and caramel sauce. Enjoy!

Secret Ingredient - Habit. “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”

— Aristotle

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