When Harry Met Sally (1989) is what I watch every New Year’s Eve, without fail. And apparently, I’m not alone because when searching for the best films to watch as the ball drops, it’s on many top ten lists. Written by the brilliant late Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, this movie transcends the mere category of “rom-com” by offering us sharp insights about the nature of relationships between men and women–posing the question “Can men and women ever just be friends?” On the surface the film’s narrative plays out like a traditional romantic comedy, chronicling the relationship between the main characters Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) over the course of twelve years. Yet, its the perceptive, quick-witted exchanges between the characters that is reminiscent of (Rina would say pay homage to) another iconic film set in Manhattan–Woody Allen’s comic masterpiece Annie Hall (1977)–from the use of American standards (e.g. the Gershwins, Rogers and Hart, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington) on the soundtrack, to Harry’s style of self-deprecating humor.
As with Alvy and Annie, the dynamics between Harry and Sally is a case of opposites attract, though their relationship develops over friendship rather than romance, which allows the characters to not only get to appreciate each other’s idiosyncrasies, but to explore what they ultimately want out of their relationship…before sex enters the picture that is. Sally, for example, has already been schooled by Harry about his “dark side” (he always reads the last page of a new book so he’ll know the ending in case he dies before he can finish it). Harry is well acquainted with Sally’s “high maintenance” tendencies.
Since everything “on the side” is very big with Sally, I’ve come up with a couple of desserts that would satisfy even her particular demands. The first is my Coconut Pee-Can Pie Pop Tarts served with a rich chocolate dipping sauce on the side–a mash-up of Harry’s playful enunciation of “pee-can pie” (from the Met Egyptian hall scene) and their coconut wedding cake with chocolate sauce on the side. To make the pop tarts, I simply precook the coconut pecan pie filling on the stove, then chill it so that it becomes a thick caramelly paste-like consistency, perfect for spooning onto a pastry base.
Pate Brisee Dough (adapted from the Flour cookbook)
- 1 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Tbsp. Sugar
- 1 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
- 8 oz. Unsalted Butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces and chilled
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 3 Tbsp. Whole Milk
- 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract (optional)
Combine the dry ingredients in food processor, pulsing a few times blend. Add the butter pieces and pulse at 2-3 second intervals until the butter has been broken down into the size of popcorn kernels. Whisk together the wet ingredients then add it to the dry mixture. Continue pulsing until dough comes together in large clumps, then dump the entire mass onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a flat disk by folding the plastic wrap up over the dough and pushing down on it with the palm of your hands. Chill the dough for at least an hour before using. To form the pop tarts, cut the dough in half and roll it out to 1/8″ thick rectangle. Cut the dough into 2″x 3″ pieces.
Coconut Pecan Pie Filling
- 4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 3/4 cup Brown Sugar, packed
- 1/2 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
- 2 Eggs (Large)
- 1/3 cup Light Corn Syrup
- 2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
- 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 Tbsp. Bourbon or Coconut Rum
- 1 cup Chopped Pecans, toasted
- 1/2 cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
Whisk together the first 8 ingredients until smooth, then transfer into a heavy bottomed saucepan. On medium low heat gently whisk until the mixture begins to simmer and thicken. Continue cooking for about another minute, then remove from the heat and stir in the pecans and coconut. Transfer the filling into a shallow bowl and chill for about a hour or until very thick.
Rich Chocolate Sauce
- 2 cups Heavy Cream
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup Light Corn Syrup
- 1/4 tsp. Espresso Powder
- pinch of Sea or Kosher Salt
- 1/3 cup Dutch Processed Cocoa
- 4 oz. Semi or Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
Bring the cream and brown sugar to a simmer in a saucepan, then whisk in the corn syrup, espresso powder, salt and cocoa until smooth. Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl, then strain the hot mixture over the chocolate. Gently whisk the chocolate mixture until all the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the butter until smooth and shiny.
For the second variation on this theme of “dippable” pie, I’ve made Apple Pie “Fries” served with a bourbon salted caramel sauce and whipped cream on the side. Here, instead of filling and forming individual pockets, I roll out the pate brisee dough into a thin sheet, cut the sheet in half lengthwise, then spread a layer of caramel apple butter* (a homemade gift from my assistant) on one half, leaving a 1/4″ border. *You can always just mix a little caramel sauce with some store-bought jarred apple butter. Brush the border with a little eggwash or cream, then sandwich the other half sheet of dough on top, sealing the two sheets together at the seams. Place the whole thing onto a lined sheet pan and brush the surface with eggwash or cream and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then pop it into the freezer for about 15 mins. to firm up. Using a pizza cutter, cut the chilled dough into 1/2″ strips. Arrange the strips so that there’s about 1/2″ gap in between each one. Bake the “fries” at 400°F for about 13-15 mins. or until golden brown. Cool slightly, then dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1/4 cup Water
- 1 Tbsp. LIght Corn Syrup
- 1/4 tsp. Lemon Juice or Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
- 1/4 Vanilla Bean, scraped or 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
- 3 Tbsp. Bourbon
Combine the sugar, water, corn syrup, and lemon juice (or vinegar) in a heavy bottomed saucepan, cover with a lid and bring to a boil on medium heat. After a couple of minutes, remove the lid and continue cooking the sugar syrup until it becomes a medium dark amber. Turn off the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream, vanilla and salt. Return to the heat and whisk for a couple of more minutes until the mixture comes to boil and all the caramelized sugar is fully incorporated into the cream. Remove from the heat and whisk in the bourbon. Transfer the caramel sauce into a glass mason jar or heat proof container.
More memorable than “Sally’s ordering” scene, is the infamous “fake orgasm deli scene” which by now has achieved cinematic cult status, both for its over the top humor and its authenticity.
In honor Meg Ryan’s unforgettable performance, I give you the I’ll Have What She’s Having Sandwich–pastrami and roast turkey (because she’s having turkey and he’s having pastrami) topped with crisp applewood-smoked bacon and layered with Swiss gruyere cheese, between two slices of onion rye bread grilled in browned butter…of course served with Russian dressing and coleslaw on the side.
And finally to ring in the New Year, we must have a sparkling cocktail–this one I’m calling New Year’s Eve Kiss…because I’m a sucker for a happy ending.
New Year’s Eve Kiss
- 1 oz. Premium Vodka (Hangar One or Grey Goose)
- .75 oz St. Germain Liqueur
- .5 oz. Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
- .5 oz. Lemon Juice
- 2 dashes Orange Bitters
- 3 oz. Chilled Champagne or Sparkling Wine
- Fresh Raspberry for garnish
Place the vodka, liqueurs, lemon juice and bitters in a cocktail shaker with 3-4 ice cubes. Shake to blend, then strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top with chilled bubbly and garnish with a fresh raspberry.
Happy New Year!!