Wes Jackson specializes in cooking dishes probably best reserved for blind tastings.
"They don't look so hot when they go in the oven--or all that great when they come out, either," he says of the microwave desserts that have gained him some culinary note.
"But they taste absolutely wonderful."
So wonderful that two of his original recipes--the hot fudge pudding cake he shared with Guys & Galleys and an applesauce cake--were finalists in the annual cook-off sponsored by the Times-Picayune paper in New Orleans.
Jackson, 35 and a bachelor, lives in Laguna Niguel when he's not traveling the Western states in his role as an investigator for the security division of a nationwide women's specialty apparel company.
He says that while he enjoys cooking a great variety of dishes, invariably it's the desserts he's asked to bring to a potluck.
"I've done a lot of experimenting with microwave cooking since I got my first one in 1981 and discovered that the cookbooks that come with the ovens are generally awful," he says. "The hot fudge pudding cake came about when I was fooling with different combinations of brown sugar and cocoa."
And it's one dish that looks strange, indeed, when you pop it in the oven. After spreading in the basic ingredients, you sprinkle on the brown sugar and cocoa and pour hot water over the whole mixture--creating a murky substance floating on top.
Jackson suggests you look the other way and--like the cook-off judges--let your palate decide.
He got into cooking while attending the University of North Carolina, from which he earned a degree in business administration. "It was a simple matter of learning to cook or starving to death," he says. Since then, he has considerably honed his skills in most things except red-meat dishes ("I prefer chicken or fish and lots of vegetables").
"But for fun, I'm a dessert person."
Each week, Orange County Life features a man who enjoys cooking and a favorite recipe. Tell us about your candidate. Write to: Guys & Galleys, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.
WES JACKSON'S MICROWAVE HOT FUDGE PUDDING CAKE
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/4 cups hot water
Combine first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir in milk and butter. Pour mixture into a microwave ring mold or a round glass dish with an inverted drinking glass in middle. Sprinkle top with mixture of brown sugar and cocoa. Pour hot water over top (this may run over the side of the dish, so line the bottom of the oven with paper towels). Cook on high for 5 minutes, rotate dish and cook 5 more minutes on high. Let stand 5 to 7 minutes and serve warm.