Last week at a family get-together I was lamenting mentioning my return to work tomorrow and my dear aunt invited me over for dinner to start the school year right. Both Aunt Patricia and Cousin Bridget are phenominal cooks, So I jumped on the invitation. Then I was asked what I would like to eat. "Lamb shanks", I blurted. For some odd reason, I had been craving them all summer. Anyhoo, These ladies combed Western New York to satisfy my culinary whim and finally tracked them down at a butcher in Buffalo. Then, the shanks had to have a ton of silverskin removed before a low and slow braising. Here is the finished product:
Heaven! I volunteered to bring dessert. I decided to make a pavlova. I am a big fan of Nigella Lawson and I own all of her cook books. In almost every volume she has authored, she includes a pavlova dessert. I've wanted to make one for ages. This is how I went about it:
Whip nine or so egg whites, add two cups sugar gradually. Add two teaspoons each of cornstarch and white wine vinegar. Prepare a piece of parchment paper upon which you have drawn a circle (I used a dinner plate). Pile the egg white mixture and use a spatula to create a glossy, billowing disc. Place this in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Immediately turn the heat down to 250 and bake for an hour and a half.
The baked meringue is a thing of beauty when it leaves the oven. Its fragrance is what I imagine angel wings to smell like. The outside is a dry, crackly crust. Inside is a puffycloud of marshmallow. Invert this lovely circle of delight onto the serving platter and peel off the parchment. Just before serving, pile on copious amounts of lightly sweetened whipped cream. A layer of cream an inch or so thick ought to do it. Top this with fruit sugared to taste. It should not have too much sweetening because the contrast of the sweet meringue and the tartness of the fruit is key to this dessert.
The origin of Pavlova is a matter of debate. While it is agreed that it was created to honor the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in the 1910's. What is unsure is whether the dessert was first presented to dear Miss Pavlova herself in Australia or in New Zealand. Doesn't really matter, I had the most delicious meal I've had in months.