Multi-award winning author Heather Haven writes humorous, noir, historical, and romantic mysteries, short stories, and plays. She and her husband of thirty-five years are allowed to live in the foothills of San Jose with their two adorable but demanding cats. Learn more about Heather and her books at her website.
Lee Alvarez Shares Her Uncle’s
I don’t mean to brag, but as the central character of the humorous Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, I get to eat a lot of terrific food. That’s because my Tío is the retired executive chef of the world famous Las Mananita’s Restaurant in San Jose, California. During his illustrious career, his recipes were often written up in gourmet food magazines. They’d throw in a few snaps of him, too, because Tío is one classy uncle. I have all the articles and pictures in a scrapbook I started in my early teens. That was before my PI days. I don’t have time to make scrapbooks anymore – I don’t have time for squat anymore -- but I always seem to find time to sit down at the dinner table and scarf down one of his culinary masterpieces!
Tío’s desserts undo me. While he’s creating a recipe, he makes it again and again until it reaches his idea of perfection. Meanwhile, lucky me gets to gobble up every version as he strives for the ultimate. When Tío was working on his homemade mango and red plum ice cream garnished with fresh spearmint leaves, I must have gained six pounds.
Fortunately, I spend a lot of time chasing bad guys over Bay Area rooftops, so I tend to lose the weight as fast as I gain it. I’ll tell you, though, my new favorite is his version of Arkansan possum pie, Mexican style. And just for the record, there is NO real possum to be found in it. Just a lot of chocolate hidden under mounds of whipped cream.
Tio’s Possum Pie
First Layer (crust)
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup of Dutch cocoa
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground chilis (optional)
Salt, a pinch
3 tablespoon corn starch
3 large egg yolks
2 cups whole or 2% milk
1 teaspoons vanilla (or 2 teaspoons of vanilla if you don’t use Kalúha below)
1 teaspoon Kalúha, a coffee flavored liquor from Mexico (optional)
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Chocolate shavings (optional)
Place all pecans needed for recipe in a skillet on medium heat and sauté until they just begin to turn fragrant and brown, about 3 to 5 minutes (watch closely so they don’t burn). Remove from heat and let cool. Divide into four piles, one for each layer and top then set aside. Spray a 9-inch.
For the first layer (crust): finely chop the share of pecans being used in the crust. Combine melted butter, flour and pecans. Spread the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan, pressing down with your fingers. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until the dough just begins to brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
Forget the second layer for the moment, but move on to the third layer: While the first layer (crust) bakes, in a medium saucepan, add the sugar, cocoa powder, flour, salt, cinnamon (optional), chilis (optional), and corn starch. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks until broken up, then milk. On medium heat, add milk mixture to dry ingredients, whisking constantly until pudding begins to boil and thicken, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Add Kalúha (optional), but remember to only put in 1 teaspoon of vanilla, not 2, if you’re adding Kalúha. Let cool about 5 minutes. Pour pudding in a shallow bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface so a skin does not form. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
For second layer: In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk. Beat with electric mixture for 2-3 minutes or combined.
For the fourth layer: Place mixer bowl and whisk in freezer for at least 20 minutes to chill. Pour heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 1 minute. Do not overbeat.
To assemble pie: Spread cream cheese mixture over the dough base. Remove pudding from fridge. Carefully spread pudding over the cream cheese layer. Top with whipped cream, toasted pecans and chocolate shavings if desired. Refrigerate or serve, cut into small pieces.
The Culinary Art of Murder
An Alvarez Family Murder Mystery, Book 6
Lee’s Uncle Tío is smitten with the guest chef at a Silicon Valley culinary arts institute. When the woman is arrested for the murder of a fellow chef, a reluctant Lee agrees to help prove Tío’s lady love innocent. But Lee suspects the ambitious, southern belle of a cook might just be guilty. Undercover work at the institute proves to have more pitfalls than whipping up a chocolate soufflé. The killer isn’t done and tries to get Lee out of the way permanently. But just who is the murderer? The accused? One of her two sons? Another inmate from a cooking school with more to hide than dirty dishes? With secrets as plentiful as sauces, the nagging question remains, if Lee proves the lady chef guilty, will Tío ever forgive her for sending his new love to jail?