This Week

Mack's Corner

This Week

Playing for the 44 million people

I was watching the movie Invictus. The title comes from a poem by Ernest Henley. The poem was a stronghold for Nelson Mandela while he was in prison for 27 years. The story is about Nelson Mandela in his first term as the South African resident as he gives the national rugby team a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Mandela knew 2 things: the rugby team was a really big deal to the whites in South Africa and that people can be brought together if they have a common cause. At the time almost none of the blacks played rugby, they all played soccer. (Rugby is a British version of football, I'm sure rugby came first. The ball looks like a fat football but there's no forward passing, only laterals. They kick field goals but there's no real line of scrimmage. Like I said, football with weird British rules.)

With the blacks in power, most of them wanted to get rid of rugby and the team. But Mandela knew this would only split the country more. So he made them keep the team. He told the team captain that the team had to win the world cup. That would bring the country together.

He had 2 problems: Inspiring the team to win and getting the blacks to back the team and be interested in rugby. If you don't think Nelson Mandela is a smart man, you're wrong. Here's what he did. He sent the rugby team on a 2 week bus tour of South Africa, stopping in every large black village and town. The team would spend the day with hundreds of kids teaching them rugby. At the end of the day they left the kids with rugby balls, team hats and pictures of the team, all kinds of things. They made friends everywhere they went. It didn't matter that most of the team was white, the kids were kids and they just wanted to play and have fun. The magic was when the people of these towns heard the names of the players or saw them on TV or listened to the game on the radio, they could say "I know him. He's my friend. He gave me a ball and signed it." The black people now knew the team better than the white people, they had actually met them and played with them…

The other thing it did was show the team the people of South Africa. They had never seen the slums where most of the blacks lived. They had never understood or even met these people. To the team these people were far away. After the bus tour they knew the kids. They had seen the smiles on mother's faces as they watched them play. They were just people with hopes and dreams just like them and kids that loved to play and laugh. At the end of the movie a reporter asked the captain of the team how it felt to play for 63 thousand people in the stands. He said he wasn't playing for just 63 thousand people in the stands, he was playing for the 44 million people of South Africa.

God's like that: To most people God seems very far away. So he sent his son, Jesus, so we could meet him and get to know him. He also came so that we would know that he knows us. He lived with us and ate with us. We all know his story and have seen his picture. He's God …. That's Christmas.

I still don't know how to play rugby. But I will ..


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

One of my favorite restaurants in Napa Valley is Terra in St. Helena. The Chef is Hiro Sone and the pastry chef is his wife Lissa Doumani. Here's Lissa's Baked Apple Crème Brulee from the Terra Cookbook… (There are also some maple cookies that go with this, but you can buy those)..

Baked Apple Crème Brulee

For the baked apples:

6 Granny Smith apples, Fuji or Macintosh apples (these apples are mostly round, so they sit up well for this)

6 tbsp brown sugar

3 tsp butter

3 cups of hot water

3 tbsp sugar

For the Crème Brulee:

4 eggs yolks (crack the egg and open it in to your hand. Now let the white or clear part go through your fingers, keeping the yolk in your hand. You can move it from hand to hand until the white is all gone. Then drop the yolk in to a bowl.. The kids can help with this..)

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1/2 of a vanilla bean split lengthwise OR 1 tsp of vanilla

1 tbsp butter


3 tbsp sugar

Maple syrup & Cream

Preheat your oven to 325

To prepare the apples, with a small knife cut a cone out of the top center to make a 2 inch opening. Then with a melon baller, remove the core and some of the inside of the apple. Don't go through the bottom… You can also do this with a small knife, you just have to be more careful not to cut open the side of the apple.. Do this to all of the apples. (if you have 20 things going at once or you have to leave in the middle of coring the apples, just get a big bowl, fill it with water and add a tsp of salt to it. Throw the apples in the bowl. That way they will keep and not turn brown for hours) Then put 1 tbsp of packed brown sugar in the hole you made and 1 tsp of butter. You always want to pack brown sugar (i.e. push it down in to the cup or spoon)  in to whatever you are measuring it with. That way you don't have any air pockets and you get the correct amount….. Place the apples in a deep dish baking pan tightly together … Mix the water and sugar and pour it in to the dish with the apples..  Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 - 35 minutes, until the apples are tender, but the skin is still intact …. Let it cool .. then remove from the pan (pour the water out and we'll re-use this pan to finish).

For the Crème Brulee, combine the eggs yolks and the brown sugar in a double boiler (this is the same thing we did last week.. get a sauce pan, put 1/2  inch of water in the bottom and bring it to a simmer. Put your mixing bowl on top , over the water… now you have a double boiler… don't let the bowl touch the water) .. Whisk until the eggs become pale yellow and very thick, about 8 minutes. Be sure the egg doesn't cook around the edges. (With the brown sugar this might not really be pale yellow, more like pale brown. But it will change color from a translucent yellow/brown to an opaque  yellow/brown and become very thick) ..

Meanwhile put the cream in a sauce pan. If you are using 1/2  of a vanilla bean, cut it long ways and the run the back of your knife along the inside to scrape out most of the tiny seeds. Put the seeds and the bean in the cream. If you're not using the vanilla bean,  just plain vanilla, add 1 tsp of vanilla to the cream (don't do both). A great rule of thumb is 1 tsp of good vanilla is equal to 1/2  of a vanilla bean. (You can get both at Penzey's on Poplar). Bring the cream ALMOST to a boil, don't let it boil over or you'll have a mess. Then take it off the heat ….. let it cool for 30 seconds. Take out the vanilla bean …
In a slow stream slowly whisk the cream in to the egg yolk mixture. Do it slow or you'll curdle the eggs. (you don't have to do this real, real slow. Just don't dump all of the cream in to the eggs all at once)… Continue to cook over the simmering water while whisking until it coats the back of a spoon and won't drip off, about 25 to 30 minutes… (the easiest way to do this is with a candy thermometer that you can buy at the grocery for $1.50. This is true with all custard. Cook it until it gets to 160 degrees then take the bowl off the top of the water and continue to whisk to cool it off. The reason you do this is because at 170 degrees you start making scrambled eggs and you don't want to do that. 160 gets it to the thickest point before it starts to curdle )

Take the bowl off the top of the simmering water and whisk in the butter. If you have a fine mesh strainer, or really any strainer, you can strain this to get out any scrambled egg parts. If you don't have a strainer, don't worry about it … Cool and refrigerate till cold ..

If you used a vanilla bean, you can re-use it by making vanilla sugar. Just rinse of the bean and let it dry and add it to a jar of sugar. After a few days you'll have vanilla sugar that's great in coffee or on any dessert or pancakes or any breakfast food…

Preheat the broiler or get out your blow torch.

When the custard is cold,  put the apples back in a baking pan (use the same one we started with to cook the apples) and carefully over fill each apple with custard, rounding over the top. When your broiler is at full heat quickly sprinkle each custard top with sugar, covering the top, about 1 1/2  tsp per apple. Be quick, we don't want the sugar to start to start to liquefy before we get it in the oven… Put the apples under the boiler, always watching and turning the pan so that the sugar browns evenly. DON'T LEAVE IT!!! Once it starts to turn brown, get it out, don't burn it!!! It's better to just have raw sugar than to have burnt sugar.. If you have a blow torch do that instead of the broiler. Hold the torch at least 3 inches above the apple. Be careful!

To serve: Put each apple in a bowl and drizzle with maple syrup followed by a little cream… Be sure the sugar on top is cool before you eat it … This has Christmas all over it.

Standard rules apply. Be sure to make too many so you can get up early and have one for breakfast before anyone else gets it … Don't forget the cream and maple syrup … yummmmmmm



Posted by Mack Oates at 10:35 AM