I came home from a one-week vacation to the Outer Banks and, for the first time, I had to recompress.
My friends Richard and Ralph have been driving to the Outer Banks for about 17 years. They rent a house and decompress, since both have jobs that require them to work hard, one at Yale-New Haven Hospital and the other at Electric Boat. This year they rented the house they had last year, a five-bedroom, 5½bath, three-story place on stilts on the beach. To get there or back from Corolla, North Carolina, you need a four-wheel-drive vehicle and must deflate the tires for the 15-minute drive. It is best to do this around low tide, which happened, while we were there, about 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. On vacation, 7 a.m. is early, and at this time of year, the sun sets about 7 p.m. Smart travelers don't want four-wheel-drive in the dark, so in our case, we didn't get into town too often.
I had cooked and frozen an eggplant Parmesan and a meatloaf; formed burgers and bought and froze Hebrew National hot dogs. I also bought and froze a nearly 8-pound chicken. We stopped at a Food Lion before we drove to the beach and bought fruit, vegetables, eggs and cold cuts for lunch. We took lots of wine and liquor and bought beer. We also picked up Richard's mother in New Jersey, along with her two dogs. The next day Ralph's sister, Danielle, and her husband, Tim, joined us at the beach.
We only went out to eat once, the last night we were there, to a seafood place called the Fin and Claw. There we munched on seared tuna and crab cakes. Not only was the seafood gorgeously delicious and very fresh, but the presentation and the garnishes were perfect.
This was, I must tell you, the most peaceful, warm, sweet vacation I've ever had. I had met Richard's mother only once, and had never met Danielle and Tim, and yet I felt as if I had known them forever. Everybody did everything, from making drinks to prep to cooking to cleaning up afterward. All the dogs behaved perfectly (an aging Shiba Inu and two 3-year-olds, a smallish Schnauzer and even-smaller Shih Tzu). We took lots of pictures of the beach, us on the beach, the wild horses that grazed on wild shrubs in people's yards, and sunsets. We read, watched a little television, talked and laughed. We spent hours on the beach, and a bit at the pool, too.
And we ate very well. But no dessert (except for a Carvel birthday cake for Ralph's birthday). I didn't miss dessert. But the day I got home, I made butterscotch pudding, since I had all the ingredients in my pantry or refrigerator.
From Richard Sax, Classic Home Desserts (Chapters, Shelburne, VT, 1994)
Yield: serves 4
3 cups milk, divided
4 large egg yolks
three-quarters cup dark brown sugar
one-quarter cup cornstarch, spooned lightly into a measuring cup (do not pack tightly)
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
whipped cream flavored with pure vanilla extract for serving (optional)
Rinse a heavy non-reactive saucepan with cold water and shake out excess water (this helps milk from scorching). Bring 2½ cups of milk almost to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together remaining one-half cup milk, egg yolks, brown sugar and cornstarch until smooth.
Pour about one-half of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and whisk vigorously. Repeat process two more times. Pour warmed yolk mixture into the pan of hot milk and bring to a boil, whisking over medium heat. Boil, whisking almost constantly (be sure to stir at the edges of the pan), for two minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.
Strain pudding through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Transfer pudding to 4 individual serving dishes, like custard cups. If you want to prevent the pudding "skin" from forming lay a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Chill for two to three hours. Serve with whipped cream.
About six months ago, Jack Chaplin, chef/owner of Chaplin's restaurant in New London, told me about a farm in East Lyme that makes jam, cookies and pies. It also has "open mic" and a pot luck lunch the last Sunday of the month. I stopped late in the spring, not a Sunday, but there were no pie, so I put my name on the farm's email list.
I got an email about a particular Sunday, and I drove over. A trio was playing and there were two different kinds of pie to buy, by the slice or whole. I bought a beautiful apple pie. It was as good as my own. The crust was flaky and the filling filled with lots of cinnamon. Maybe it is even better than mine. I ate one slice, took twice as big a slice to my neighbor and will take the rest to my dentist.
I'm not sure how often it is open. The owners live there (as do the apple trees). Call and see what is available. You can also order pies ahead of time. Consider that Thanksgiving is only two months away.
Old Orchard Farm
22A Scott Road
East Lyme, CT 06333