Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Classic Gingerbread Cake with Stout

When I saw Jenn's posting this morning (jenn's food journey) for chili with Guinness stout (and two kinds of beef) I knew I had to share this gingerbread with you. I'm calling it Stout Day. This is not an original recipe from me, it's adapted from “Cooks Illustrated” magazine. Peter made it last week for a dinner party we shared with friends. It is fabulous. I could see having a meal with chili as the main course and the cake for dessert. And, of course, beer (stout?) would be an excellent accompaniment. Add a salad (some stout in the dressing somehow) and you've got a “theme.”
Anyhow, Jenn's recipe is more than worth bookmarking for your own future use. And this cake is too.
Oh, one thing I need to share. Our dog, Scooper, ate part of the recipe page. I think I can reconstruct it.

Classic Gingerbread Cake with Stout
¾ cup Guinness stout
½ tsp baking soda
2/3 cup molasses
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
2 Tbs ground ginger
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp table salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbs finely grated fresh ginger
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch square baking pan.

Bring stout to a boil in saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam vigorously). When foaming subsides, stir in molasses, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until dissolved; set mixture aside. In a large bowl stir together flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pepper. Set aside. Place stout mixture in another large bowl. Whisk in eggs, oil, and grated ginger until combined. Whisk wet mixture into flour mixture in thirds, stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times. Bake until top of cake is just firm to touch and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool cake on wire rack, about 1 ½ hours. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Remember the Maine (course)

Brined (3 hours) and roasted Cornish hens were accompanied by some Israel couscous and the below braised radishes. That's right, you can braise radishes, greens and all. Who knew? This was the main attraction at my test dinner last weekend. I'm ready to have my dinner for eight auctioned off next week. I realize I will have to negotiate the final menu with the successful bidder, but the practice was invaluable.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Whoa, Trigger, Your Cooking is not Popular

No one seemed to express any interest in my first course for last Saturday's dinner. Well, it's your loss.

You endive, I say endive. That doesn't work well without a soundtrack. In any case, endive spears are a perfect delivery vehicle for all kinds of chopped up stuff. My choice was an olive tapenade. Three olives: castelvetrano, cerignola and some black ones out of a can. Add some garlic, some salt and pepper, some red wine vinegar, and you've got a killer appetizer.

Almost no one out there who might read this has ever made gravlax at home. Salmon and salt. Those are the only sine qua non  ingredients. Some cracked black pepper and some fresh dill are highly desirable. Look it up via Google. Don't just sit there, get busy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A magical mystery meal

Last Saturday I did a “practice” dinner for an event that is to be auctioned at a gala week after next. The celebration is the 25th anniversary of the opera company I founded, well, 25 years ago. I ran the company for its first 15 years and then went off to Denver. So the deal is that I will cook a four-course dinner for 8 using recipes from my recent book, “A Cook's Book for Cooks.” Actually I will cook three of the courses and the dessert chef will be my sweetie, Peter.

A great deal of thought went into this food and the results were quite successful. As is my wont, I do not intend to write up detailed recipes. Let's face it, we don't cook each others' stuff. We like seeing the photos and reading the lovely stories that go with the food. So I ask you to enjoy my stories and be inspired to make some amazing stuff for those you love (or those to whom you owe a dinner).

Today is (obviously) course number one: soup and breadsticks.

Egg blossom soup; breadsticks

Authentic dashi broth is make by boiling some kombu (seaweed) and then adding dried bonito flakes for a few minutes. Everything is then strained out and, voila, you have dashi broth. It is the preferred vehicle for egg drop soup and/or miso soup. I like to call mine egg blossom soup for my own esthetic reasons. Go figure. The trick to the soup is to beat up the eggs a bit and then stir your broth to create a sort of whirlpool. Then you drizzle the egg into the faster moving edge of the eddy through the tines of a fork. Sounds annoyingly complicated? It absolutely isn't. I like to decorate my soup with a tablespoon-full or so of peas. The addition of some lemon juice is nice also.

Puff pastry makes magnificent bread sticks. I brushed one puff sheet with a bit of sesame oil and then scattered sesame seeds and some salt over it – sliced it across into 9 strips and bent them around into a “U” shape. Baking takes about 14-15 minutes at the remp recommended on the package (which at the moment I do not remember).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Don't be chicken about livers

I know that chicken livers are not for everyone. But they are for me. We hadn't had any in quite a while until last night. I had to think and think how I was going to prepare them. In the end I went with a simple saute over quite high heat, so high in fact that the livers spat and hissed at me.

Chicken liver saute
10 oz chicken livers trimmed of all naughty bits, halved
milk (or buttermilk)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

I soaked the livers in milk for a couple of hours. That removes residual blood and softens their flavor.

Dry them off and sprinkle with salt and pepper, paprika, and flour.

Heat oil (enough to coat the bottom of your saute pan) and 1 1/2 Tbs butter over medium high until the butter's foam has dissipated. Carefully add the livers to the pan. Use a spatter screen if you have one. Cook about 3 minutes per side. We like ours with a trace of pink remaining in their centers.

We served ours with a side of homemade succotash (just limas, corn, butter, and salt and pepper)..

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hominy, honey

Or in the words of Ralph Kramden, “Hummina, hummina, hummina.” If you are not old enough to have enjoyed “The Honeymooners” in the 50's I am so sorry. Can you hear the voice of Art Carney saying, “Hey, Ralphie boy?” Anyhow, I have no idea when I ate hominy for the first time. I don't think it was anything my mother ever prepared. I may have become familiar with hominy when I got some exposure to Mexican foods while on concert tours throughout the country in the 60's and 70's.
The title above, “Hominy, honey” is not just an alliterative whim on my part, it is the basis for an adventurous combination of flavors. As I work out my conception I found that Greek food loomed large: spanakopita, moussaka, baklava, etc. In the end, though, I ended up with something simple.

This took some work. I thought about going in the direction of a hominy pie. But finally nixed that.

So, I am taking this in the direction of a vegetable stew, somewhat Mexican inspired. And I am giving it a unique name … wait for it
Harmony stew
15 oz can hominy (yellow or white)
1 large jalapeno, half seeded, half not, cut into slices lengthwise
1 can sliced potates, cut into ¼'s
2 pieces of nopales
2 tomatillos
1 green bell pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp honey

Grill the nopales (or saute them). Stew the tomatillos for 6-minutes along with the bell pepper and the jalapeno. Throw everything else into the pot and heat through. It will taste better the next day.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The evolution of a pot roast

When I found a 4.25 lb piece of chuck steak at half off last week I snatched it up and sped all the way home. Okay, I snatched it up, but I didn't speed. What was the rush, it had to roast for 3 hours? I didn't know it at the time, but this magnificent hunk of meat would evolve over the course of a week into chili con carne and ultimately fabulous chili dogs.

The initial roasting was a hybrid of 1950's-style and 21st century style. A can of Campbell's soup (it was a form of chicken noodle), a sliced onion, salt and pepper and broth. 3 hours in a 275 degree oven and it was fork tender. We ate two dinners from that roast and then I turned it into chili by incorporating some tomato, beans, some jalapeno. I also strained the broth and thickened it with some flour to make a gravy.
Finally I chopped the meat very fine and we ate chili dogs for two lunches. The dogs were wonderful German-style Johnsonville brats. Man, we love those things.

All in all we got huge value from that chuck steak. It doesn't hurt that we don't eat very large quantities of food anymore.

Tuesday Tag-Along

Tuesday Tag-Along

Foodie BlogRoll