Monday, February 20, 2012

Cochon's Chocolate-Oatmeal Moon Pies and Musings on New Orleans

Believe me when I tell you that New Orleans is the most fascinating and interesting places in the United States. I grew up in New York City, lived in San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Denver, Portland and Cuernavaca, but there is no place that feels more like home than New Orleans. 
I moved to New Orleans when I was 23 years old and lived there for 5 1/2 years. I bought a fabulous bargeboard shotgun house that had a small front porch, a garden with banana trees and was only a few feet away from a trolley barn in Uptown. I loved the ding-ding-ding of the trolley bells and the sound of the trolley coming down the tracks. 
I moved to New Orleans for law school, which was probably a mistake academically since I wasn't the most mature 23 year old and was too enticed by the city's nightlife (and I really never wanted to be a lawyer), but I don't regret my time there. Not for one minute. 
The city of New Orleans is complex: French, Creole and Spanish influences are strongly felt in many of the city's historic neighborhoods and the vestiges of slavery, segregation and post-war Reconstruction have clearly left their mark on the city in terms of poverty, class and equality. And there is crime. But there is also a tremendous warmth in the city, a colorfulness, a rhythm, a uniqueness and an energy that really can't be matched anywhere else in the United States. 
Every year around this time I get a very intense longing for "The City That Care Forgot." I miss the beads, the music, the pageantry, the parades, the Indians, the oak trees, the drinking and the crowds. I love New Orleans. And I love New Orleans during Mardi Gras. 
I decided to post these pictures from our most recent trip to the Big Easy, just 12 hours after my husband and I got married in New York. We decided to take that trip because we love the city and it's also where we met. We walked the streets, got lost in the Marigny, sat on the porch at our Bed & Breakfast and heard some great music on the city's street corners. 
While I can't get to New Orleans this year for Mardi Gras, rest assured I will be eating some Chocolate-Oatmeal Moon Pies*, trying to find Baby Jesus in a King Cake and putting back a Sazerac...or two! Happy Mardi Gras. 
*Recipe courtesy of Cochona great New Orleans  restaurants that serves up one of my favorite desserts...second only to the Creole Bread Pudding with Warm Whiskey Sauce at Commander's Palace
 

Chocolate-Oatmeal Moon Pies (Recipe by Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon in New Orleans, LA, published in Bon Appetit Magazine, February 2012)

Ingredients
Cookies
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (4 ounces), chopped into chocolate chip-size chunks
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 7-ounce jars marshmallow creme
Chocolate Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (2 1/2 ounces), chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup heavy cream
Preparation

Cookies:
Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine oats, cherries, pecans, and chocolate in a large bowl.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another large bowl, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat to blend. Scrape down sides of bowl. With machine running at low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat just to blend. Stir in oat mixture with a wooden spoon just to blend. 
Using a 1-oz. ice cream scoop or scooping out 2 level tablespoonfuls of dough, measure dough into 36 portions. Divide among baking sheets. 
Using your hands, gently press down on each dough ball until 1/2" thick.Bake cookies for 12 minutes. Rotate sheets front to back and top to bottom; continue baking until cookies are golden brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will appear underdone and shiny in centers), 7–8 minutes longer. Do not overbake. Let cookies cool on baking sheets.
DO AHEAD: Cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Spread 1 Tbsp. marshmallow creme on bottom of 18 cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies.
Chocolate Dipping Sauce: 
Place chocolate and honey in a medium bowl. Bring cream just to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over chocolate and honey; let stand for 1 minute; stir until melted and smooth. Drizzle over cookies or serve alongside sandwich cookies for dipping.
Yields 18 pies.
Chocolate-Oatmeal Moon Pies
Photograph by Ditte Isager
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