I miss restaurants. I miss visiting places like Washington DC and Las Vegas, and of course New York City, where I have enjoyed some of the greatest restaurants in the world. Since the pandemic hit, we have been getting creative with cooking at home, and nothing cures the pandemic blues more than a fabulous dessert.
I asked some of my favorite chefs from around the world, and some of the best food bloggers who consistently offer great advice and recipes, to share their best dessert recipes. The response was overwhelming – and I’m going to spend the next month making these delights at home. Your VIVANT editor will gain at least ten pounds, but it will be worth it.
(Cover image: Banana cream pie with caramel drizzles and chocolate sauce from Emeril Lagasse)
Bam! I got Emeril’s recipe for banana cream pie!
First up, when I’m in Las Vegas, what’s the first thing I do? Hit the slots? Play a few hands of blackjack? Nope. I go straight to the Delmonico Steakhouse to get one of chef Emeril Lagasse’s fabulous steaks, done to perfection. (You didn’t really think I’d be eating the airplane food, did you?) And today is my lucky day and yours as well, because I managed to convince Emeril to share his recipe for banana cream pie with caramel drizzles and chocolate sauce. If you haven’t had this before, you’ve really missed out. This is no ordinary banana cream pie! This is a classic Emeril’s recipe that has been on the menu since day one and continues to be one of the most popular desserts at his restaurants. Each pie uses three pounds of bananas and features Emeril’s signature custard filling and graham cracker crust topped with freshly whipped cream, caramel and chocolate, and one whole vanilla bean, not just the bean filling. When things open back up again and Las Vegas trips once more become part of your reality, go straight to Delmonico’s and get a piece. Until then, here is Emeril’s recipe so you can make it at home.
I’m Bananas over Chef Stephanie’s Maple Pecan Brown Butter Bananas
And while we’re on the subject of bananas, whenever I have some overripe ones I make some banana bread loaves with walnuts, chia seeds or whatever I happen to have in the pantry. Chef Stephanie Harris-Uyidi, whose wonderful travel-cooking adventure show series Appetite for Adventure will debut in the US this year, gave me a new idea on what to do with those bananas. She also has some marvelous recipes in her book, The Posh Pescatarian: A Collection of my Favorite Sustainable Seafood Recipes. Chef Stephanie’s recipe below for Maple Pecan Brown Butter Bananas is very customizable, and you can use as many bananas and pecans as you’d like, and top it off with whipped cream or make it a la mode. Chef Stephanie says to make sure to use real maple syrup!
From Paris with Love: Ultra soft chocolate chip cookies with sunflower seeds
My next trip to Paris won’t be for a while, but thanks to Matthieu Carlin, Executive Pastry Chef at the Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel just overlooking the Place de la Concorde, I can have the next best thing to being there. Straight from Paris, Chef Matthieu shared with me his recipe for ultra soft chocolate chip cookies with sunflower seeds, which are absolutely perfect for a weekend afternoon. I made some last weekend, binge-watched Netflix and they were so good, my wife and I ate the entire batch. Magnifique!
A classic summer combination: Rhubarb and Strawberries from Executive Pastry Chef Ruben Ortega
Houston definitely holds its own for restaurant culture, and Chef Ruben Ortega, executive pastry chef of the H Town Restaurant Group, which includes four must-go destinations for when you visit – including Backstreet Café, Hugo’s, Caracol, and Xochi, has a great seasonal favorite that you can make at home – and it’s a great opportunity to make good use of your backyard rhubarb and strawberries. Chef Ruben says that at the restaurant, they alternate between fruit cobbler and crisps on the menu to accommodate the best fruits available throughout the season, and he gave me some useful advice. “Some fruits are better in crisps and crumbles than in cobblers,” Ruben told THE VIVANT. “Such is the case with the classic combination of rhubarb and strawberries. The smell of this seasonal treat baking will fill your kitchen with summer.”
Ruben tells me he also worked on two cookbooks: Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico, and Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from our Neighborhood Café.
London calling: For Apple and Rhubarb Pie
My memories of time spent in London are all pleasant ones, right down to the big, greasy English breakfast at our hotel in Covent Garden. But the English experience is more than bangers and mash – the English do love their rhubarb. Chef Calum Franklin at Rosewood London’s Pie Room. Pie Room? Yes, please! Any restaurant named “Pie Room” is first on my list, and Chef Calum even has a “pie tasting menu” with a wine pairing for some of the best-looking savory, meat and sweet pies around.
Cheesecake: The ultimate wellness experience from Miraval Resorts
Perfect for a party – or alternately, if you’re like most of us and still in seclusion, just sit down in front of the TV and eat ‘em all yourself. Believe me, you won’t have any trouble doing so. From Miraval Resorts, which promises a custom wellness experience based on your intentions, I love the idea that my own personal wellness experience will include cheesecake. I think they’re onto something.
Chef Risa Gives You Permission to Eat the Cake Batter
Award-winning pastry chef Risa Magid Boyer, owner of Vanillamore in the New York metro area, puts sweets at the center of her menu, complemented by seasonal savory food. She gave me a preview of her upcoming cookbook, Sweet. Savory. Social., which will be out late this summer on Amazon – and it’s out of this world. Remember when you were young, and your mom would be baking a cake and if you were good, she would let you lick the spoon? Well, Chef Risa has the perfect comfort food that will bring back those pleasant childhood memories. Her butter cake has a raw cake batter goo on top which is totally safe to eat!
Tiramisu classic from Chef Luigi Diotaiuti, of the Al Tiramisu Restaurant
Summer blues? The word tiramisu literally means “cheer me up” in Italian. And it does! “I am a very positive person by nature and I wanted my restaurant to reflect a joyful attitude, which partly explains why I called my place Al Tiramisu,” says Chef Luigi Diotaiuti. Washington DC has no shortage of over-the-top, best-of-class restaurants, but Al Tiramisu stands out.
“Another reason I chose the name was the wild popularity of the classic dessert during the 1990s,” he says. “Everyone was going crazy for it – except maybe for Tom hanks’ character in Sleepless in Seattle who famously asked, ‘What is tiramisu?’ At the time I was the chef in the open kitchen at Primi Piatti in Washington DC. Very often, customers would come to greet me and say, “Save me some tiramisu for dessert!’ At least one client sent a driver in a stretch limo to the restaurant just to pick up a tray of the dessert.” Chef Luigi shared his classic recipe. It takes time to set, so prepare it at least a few hours, or up to a day, in advance.
Torta soffice di pere con ricotta e pinole (pear, ricotta and pine nut cake).
What else can I say about this? The name itself is delicious. I love making desserts with Sicilian ricotta cheese, which is often included in the region’s most prized desserts. Best-selling author, chef, and Mediterranean diet ambassador Amy Riolo shared this one from her Italian Diabetes Cookbook. Amy tells me, “Luckily, many organic, gourmet, and Italian grocers now sell high-quality ricotta. Sometimes, you can even find artisan-made, hand-dipped ricotta. If you go to an Italian deli that makes cannolis, ask them for some of their ricotta to use in this cake – they usually keep it in the back.”
The Enchilada Queen Shares her Enchilada Queen Classic Flan Recipe
I’ve tried my hand at making flan and the results aren’t half bad, but Sylvia Casares – the “Enchilada Queen” who oversees Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen in Houston – is now the Queen of Flan in my book. She is well known around Houston for border foods, and especially for her delicious flan she sells at both of her restaurant locations, made from an old family recipe I convinced her to share with me. If you’re in Houston, go see Sylvia for a piece. If you’re not in Houston, get in your car and go there. It’s worth the drive. Sylvia also published a hardback cookbook of her recipes called The Enchilada Queen Cookbook.
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.