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Paterno's shortrib stew was perfection

I had the great pleasure of attending last week's "Friends of Food" dinner at Paterno's at the Park, an initiative of the Farm2U Collaborative celebrating local foods, farms and producers.

Everything on the menu that night was nice.

An amazing spread of antipasto. A shaved Brussels sprout salad with lemon vinaigrette. Pumpkin soup topped with brown butter crab. (Although all at our table agreed the brown butter crab should have been the star of that last dish, with a drizzle of the pumpkin soup to complement it.)

But the runaway hit of the night was Paterno chef Michael Aiello's phenomenal shortrib stew served with house-made gnocchi, braised cipolini onions and baby carrots.

It was a quintessential fall dish - a combination of flavors blended with incredible finesse - and the bold red wine served with it was a perfect pairing. We simply couldn't get enough of either, and Lord knows we tried.

But lucky for us, there's more where that came from.

When we stalked Chef Aiello afterward to praise him for a job well down, he gave us a heads-up that the dish will debut on the Paterno's menu soon. When it does, race on down to sink your teeth into something truly special.

I've been a fan of Chef Aiello's cooking talents all along, but the dude is now officially a culinary rock god in my eyes.

***

Monday was National Chocolate Day, and I sure hope you lived it up.

Because according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, chocoholics may soon have to shell out a lot more dough to get their fix.

The report predicts the cost of one kilogram of chocolate purchased in the United States is expected to hit a record high of $12.25 this year, a 45 percent increase from 2007.

The increase is largely due to - are you sitting down? - an international shortage of cocoa beans, the special ingredient that gives chocolate its melt-in-your-mouth texture. Those beans are in increasingly short supply because consumers are gobbling up chocolate in higher and higher quantities, particularly the darker varieties that take more cocoa beans to make.

Expensive chocolate? Or maybe none at all someday?

Boo. Hiss.

We need a presidential task force or Nobel commission to figure this crisis out.

***

Speaking of chocolate ...

Thursday night is Trick-or-Treat, a fun night for sure, but one met with two distinctly different reactions in the Keith household.

For three young boys, it's scoring the mother lode of all jackpots. They'd give up a Powerball win for a bag full of treats.

But for the two parents who will groan at the sight of these massive mounds of sugar, it's the start of a rough few weeks as unpopular Treat Police. We'll ration it, hide it, give some away, sneak some of the better stuff ourselves - all to a chorus of inevitable jeers.

So I'm already thinking of some creative ways to use their bounty up.

A handful of candy corn alone is not my idea of "good eats." But this week's recipe for White Chocolate Candy Corn Blondies?

Yeah, I can do that.

Contact writer Steven Keith at dailymailfoodguy@aol.com or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy.

 

White Chocolate Candy Corn Blondies

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup white chocolate baking chips

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

4 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

3/4 cup candy corn

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan and line with parchment, going up the sides of the pan. Do not butter the parchment.

2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and white chocolate chips in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring vigorously in between to promote melting. Be sure the mixture is fully melted. (It will separate, but that's OK.) Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, mix together sugars, vanilla and eggs with a spoon or spatula. Add melted butter and white chocolate mixture, stirring until fully incorporated and lightened slightly in color slightly. Add flour and salt and stir until just combined. Stir in candy corn.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 32-37 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Cool completely in pan before cutting into bars and serving.

Recipe courtesy Safest Choice Eggs


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