In which I deviate from the plan…

shrimp and grits.

So I made a very specific list the other day of things that I was going to make for dinner this week, so that I could go to the grocery store with the very specific list and very specific budget. I stuck to it, and got the things I needed for my meals, and then day two of the week I improvised and made something that wasn’t on the list at all, and that consisted of ingredients that, for the most part, I already had in the pantry…and by pantry I mean collection of cabinets and cold storage areas that comprise my kitchen. There is not actually a pantry, specifically. And once I got going, I did use some ingredients that I bought the other day, but this seems to be a recipe with many opportunities for improvising, so had I had a craving, and didn’t have my new ingredients, I think I could still have managed quite well.

I went running yesterday morning, which makes me hungry all day, so I was totally finished with preparing and eating dinner by 5:30. And also, just for kicks, I wrote down everything I ate yesterday, they say you are supposed to do that every once in awhile, so you can evaluate your eating habits and determine if there are things you should change. For your enjoyment, here is my list: for breakfast, a paratha roti with butter and jam, a banana and a cup of tea with honey; for a mid-morning snack, an apple and a chicken wing from the chicken I roasted the night before; for lunch, half a cuban sandwich left over from brunch on Sunday; for an appetizer, two tablespoons of hummus and ten pretzel chips, and a small handful of chocolate chips; and for dinner, shrimp and grits and a glass of red wine. And then I was craving sweets so I had a marshmallow peep that I received as part of a care package awhile back. It was either that or make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, which I considered ill-advised. Throughout the day I also consumed a liter of carbonated water. That is an eclectic mix. Perhaps I should send this to a nutritionist, I imagine they would have something to say.

just the beginning...

Shrimp and grits are easy, quick and adaptable, and I took some liberties, so Southerners, if this is an appalling bastardization of the original, I am okay with that. I cooked the grits in milk and water, with a rind of parmesan cheese stuck in there for fun, then I added cheddar at the end. The shrimp I did with bacon, butter, shallots (should have used more-I adjusted the recipe accordingly) tomato paste and scallions, and dinner was served. If I had an open bottle of white wine I would have used that, and I could have used onion instead of shallot, or diced or canned tomatoes instead of tomato paste, and I could have added red pepper for spice or smoked paprika for a little spanish kick…try it, be adventurous. Whatever you do, make this soon, because it is easy and delicious.

dinner.

Shrimp and Grits (serves 2)

For the grits:

1/2 cup coarse ground grits/cornmeal

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 cup grated cheddar cheese or cheese of your choice

parmesan rind (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

For the shrimp:

12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 slices thick cut bacon, cut in half inch pieces

1 tbl butter

2 shallots, halved and sliced thin

4 tsp tomato paste

2 scallions, white and green parts sliced thin, dark green parts reserved for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

For the grits:

Bring the water and milk to a boil in a sauce pan over high heat. Whisk in the grits and add the parmesan rind and a pinch of salt and pepper. Return to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low, and let simmer and thicken, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes. As the grits are cooking, prepare the shrimp.

For the shrimp:

Brown the bacon pieces over medium heat in a heavy frying pan. When browned, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Add the butter and shallots, and let shallots soften for about a minute. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine, you may want to add about a tbl of water or white wine to help create a sauce. Add the shrimp and cook for four or five minutes, turning once, until they are pink on both sides. Return the bacon to the pan and add the white and light green scallions and salt and pepper to taste. Stir for 30 seconds to combine. Plate over the grits and serve, garnishing with the dark green scallion tops.

Food Basics – Chicken Stock…

Oh my friends, I am HOME, itching from sunburn and lamenting the 40 degree temperatures, but mostly thrilled to be here. I missed my kitchen and my friends, but now I very much miss my Florida home and family.

I am working on getting unpacked and back and schedule, and trying to catch up with all the people I have been missing so terribly, but of course, the first thing I did was put a pot of chicken broth on the stove to restock the larder. Here is the recipe to hold you over until the real exciting cooking begins anew…(while I was down there I learned that I like CURRY!!! No kidding, there is some experimenting to come.)

You will see I like to add ginger and lemongrass to my stock if I have them in the house, even if I am not just using the stock for asian food. I like the extra pop of clean flavor that they add, but they are totally optional. When I buy lemongrass I trim both ends, peel the papery layers off and freeze them, they keep in the freezer beautifully. You may also choose not to salt the stock, in case you end up using it later with salty ingredients like sausage or soy sauce or the like.

humble beginnings...

Chicken Stock (makes 4-5 quarts)

6 lbs chicken wings

2 medium onions, peeled and quartered

3 carrots, peeled and chopped in 4-5 pieces

3 stalks celery, peeled and chopped in 4-5 pieces

4 large cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled

1 knob of ginger, about 2″ by 2″ peeled (optional)

1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and papery layers removed, chopped in 4-5 pieces (optional)

small handful black peppercorns

pinch of kosher salt

4 bay leaves

In a large stock pot (I use a 12 qt. pot) cover the chicken wings with water and bring to a boil. Drain the chicken wings and set aside while you wash the pot. This initial boil will remove a lot of the gunk that you would end up straining off at the end. A quick step that helps a lot in the long run. Add the wings and all the remaining ingredients to the clean pot and cover with 6 quarts of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for several hours-5 or 6 is my standard. You can’t really overdo it. Let it sit on the stove while you are doing whatever else you have to do that day. Remove the solids from the stock by pouring it into another large pot or bowl through a colander. Wash the original pot, place back on the stove and set a strainer lined with cheesecloth over the top. (If you don’t have cheesecloth a paper towel or a coffee filter will work.) Pour the stock back into the original pot through the strainer. At this point you have a lovely clear stock that is ready for freezing. I like to freeze mine in ziploc bags two cups at a time.

grand results...

In which I totally cheat…

I did, my friends, I did. I cheated.

I can be forgiven for succumbing to this, right?

Lenten sacrifices are no match for a request from a not-oft seen uncle for homemade pasta with Bolognese. Apparently it is his most favorite. How do you say no to that?

This is a very traditional Bolognese, it is really a meat sauce, rather than a tomato based sauce with meat in it. In fact, the only tomato ingredient is tomato paste, and the sauce contains milk and white wine. It also has a whole lot of carrot, celery and onion in it.

It is very easy to do. You soften onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a bit of butter and olive oil until it is soft.

soffrito

Then you add a combination of ground meats.

pancetta on the left, veal, pork and beef on the right

I use equal parts beef, pork and veal, and then a bit of pancetta as well. I made this a couple of months ago in my home kitchen, and I forgot to have the butcher grind the pancetta with the rest of the meat, and when I remembered, the volume wasn’t enough to run it through their big meat grinder, so I had to take it home and use this…

bad picture, fantastic attachment

It was glorious. I love my meat grinding attachment.

Anyway, they now go into the pot as well.

into the pot

Once the meat browns, you add the tomato paste.

tomato paste

Lastly the milk and the wine go in, and the sauce simmers for a couple of hours until it comes together in a meaty masterpiece.

bolognese

And with that, if you want to showcase this fantastic sauce, the best way to do it is with homemade pasta, which you can create while the sauce simmers.

And guess what I did? Because of the absence of a food processor, I made the pasta the old school way, with a well of flour, some eggs, a fork and some elbow grease.

the well

the fork

the elbow grease

the result

Ok, so clearly I should remove most of the expensive tools (or at the very least, the processor) from my kitchen, because I said it with the pate brisee, and now again with pasta. This dough was divine. It was a pleasure to knead and to roll out. It was smooth and pliable and felt light. I felt like I had control over it: how much flour to add, how much to knead, etc. And if you make the pasta in a large bowl, there is no egg wrangling if it escapes the well, though I feel like I could probably do that too, if I put my mind to it. This does make a ton of dough though, and that’s the weird part. I got the proportions from Mario Batali, and this apparently is supposed to make about a pound of pasta. I used close to four cups of flour and five eggs. (I don’t have a scale down here.) And the recipe I use in the processor? Two cups of flour, two eggs and a little bit of water. Also supposedly makes about a pound. I smell an experiment. I do know that my more recent attempt made more dough, and two batches made WAY more than needed for 8 adults.  It looked like a pasta bomb went off in the kitchen…

explosion

It was everywhere. But those granite countertops are a pretty awesome surface for pasta dough wrangling, so it worked out.

I rolled the dough out into sheets and then cut it myself, so I could do a wider pasta than the machine allowed for. It only took a minute or two to cook, I combined it with the sauce and dinner was served.

pappardelle with Bolognese

Fresh Pasta (makes enough for four adults)

Adapted from Mario Batali

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading if necessary

5 eggs

pinch of salt

Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour and the salt in a wide bowl or on a flat surface. Make a large pile of flour and then create a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well, making sure the well is large enough and has high enough sides to contain the eggs easily. With a fork, begin to scramble the eggs, pulling flour from the inside of the well walls. (I find pulling from the bottom of the walls help keeps the well intact.) The dough will start to come together, and will be too hard to mix with the fork. At this point start to use your hands to knead the flour into the dough. The dough will be fairly wet and shaggy. When it becomes more difficult to incorporate the flour in the bowl, remove the dough to a heavily floured surface and put the bowl aside. Knead the dough, adding more flour, until the dough is no longer sticky, this could take up to ten minutes. Do not add too much flour, the dough should remain light and easy to knead. When it is smooth, set it aside sprinkled lightly with flour, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 45 minutes to an hour, and then roll through a machine or by hand to the shape and width of your choice. Fresh pasta should only be cooked in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until al dente.

Ragu Bolognese (makes A LOT – enough for two batches of fresh pasta)

Adapted from Molto Mario

3 tbl unsalted butter

3 tbl olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 stalks celery, peeled and diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground pork

1 lb ground veal

1/3 – 1/2 lb pancetta, preferably ground, diced small if unable to find ground

9 oz tomato paste (a can and a half if you are using small grocery store cans)

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 sprigs fresh thyme

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter and oil together in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until the aromatics are soft. Turn the heat up to medium high and add all the meat. Cook until the meat browns, 8-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir the mixture to combine, and cook until the mixture is aromatic. Add in the milk, wine, thyme, salt and pepper and bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until sauce reduces and comes together. Serve over your favorite pasta (pappardelle is traditional) or use in lasagna.

Two awesome tarts: Alsatian Onion and Roasted Tomato and Ricotta…

yikes.

Oh man y’all, do you see what I am contending with down here? This terrifying beast sits perched in my adopted kitchen right in the most convenient, useful bit of counter space and blocking the most gorgeous square of natural light for photos. The things I have to deal with. But luckily, contrary to all appearances, he is not actually mean, and is quite light, so I just move him around and he hasn’t yet protested. I tread lightly though, I suspect he could get tired of me horning in on his space at any time.

The other day I was trying to come up with something to make for dinner for Jenn, the lovely cousin who has been putting me up all this time, and me, and I thought of that onion tart I mentioned a couple posts ago. I have made it twice at home, once for a girls night, and once for cousin Molly and I, and it is really really good. It came from Orangette. I suspect no one is surprised. It is pretty basic, savory pate brisee (Martha has an easy straightforward one that I like – as does Molly) some softened onions, an egg and some heavy cream. The result is a sweet, oniony custardy tart that is universally pleasing and easy to put together. There were a couple of hitches in my plan. One, no tart pan in these parts. I went looking for one to no avail. My friends, they have wine at the Wal-Marts, but they do not have tart pans. They make interesting choices around here.  The second is an absence of a food processor. I always make my pate brisee in the food processor, but I know back in those old timey days they did not, so I figured I would do without. I didn’t want to let a little thing like lack of proper appliances get in my way. A free form onion tart with a hand-made pate brisee was in order.

pate brisee...the early years.

As it turns out, this was a taller order than I thought. Those colonial ladies had it rough. There was not a pastry cutter to be found either, so I went about cutting the butter into the flour with two butter knives. It took about a year and may have caused carpal tunnel. Three days later my left wrist still hurts.

oh the pain...

This really was a pain in the neck, and I really wish I could say it wasn’t worth it, but that would be a lie. This crust was awesome. Flaky and buttery and really really good. I might have to take the time to make this by hand every time. It was perfect. And so much better than when the processor makes the butter pieces so small. There is almost no flake. I’m in trouble.

perfect.

Luckily the rest of the tart was a breeze…

onions, about a pound and a half.

sliced.

softened.

lightly browned and custardy...

It only takes 15 minutes or so to cook the onions, then the egg and a 1/2 cup of cream get stirred together, poured into the onions and then the mixture is poured into the crust.

free form.

The whole thing is baked for 25 minutes or so until the crust is brown and the onions are golden.

dinner.

We ate this with roasted asparagus and a lovely sauvignon blanc, and we were happy.

And bonus! This actually made enough for two tarts, and the second batch of dough was sitting in the fridge all forlorn, so yesterday I decided to do something about it.

roasted tomatoes.

Again, Orangette is involved. As I perused Molly Wizenberg’s blog, and read A Homemade Life, I came across the story and recipe for slow roasted tomatoes. I have had my eye on them forever, but since I have that pesky too hot oven problem at home, I have never been able to make them. Adopted kitchen saved the day! The recipe says to roast them for four to six hours on 200 degrees until they are sweet and delicious and awesome. I was trying to make the tart for dinner that night, and I didn’t get home from the store until 2 pm, so my roasted tomatoes were more inspired by Molly’s rather than exact replicas. I roasted them in a convection oven, which generally makes things move a little faster, with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper on 200 for two hours and then raised the heat to 300 for two more hours. Still temperatures too low for my oven…

This is how it began…

prep

And this is what transpired.

one hour

two hours

three hours

done

These were REALLY tasty, they get really sweet and the juice squirts out. Had I not given up pasta, I would be whipping up the leftovers into an awesome sauce right now, but alas…

Anyway, while my tomatoes were roasting, I made some ricotta, because I love it and haven’t made it in awhile. I missed it. As you do. It really is a piece of cake. My method came from Sassy Radish, who I believe in turn got it from Gourmet (RIP Gourmet, my dear friend) and it has been wildly successful every time. Whole milk, heavy cream, a pinch of salt and fresh lemon juice. I have also seen recipes that use whole milk and buttermilk. I have never tried that one, but might at some point.

The whole milk, heavy cream and salt get boiled over medium high heat while you stir occasionally to prevent scorching. When it boils, you add three tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, reduce the heat to low, and stir until the mixture curdles.

not a great picture, but hopefully you can see the curds.

You put the mixture through a cheesecloth lined sieve and let it drain.

draining, rooster looks on.

That’s it…ricotta cheese. When it is as drained as you would like it, dump it in to a bowl, and you’re done!

ricotta.

Then I put it together.

the start.

A layer of ricotta on the rolled out crust, salt and pepper and then the tomatoes.

the tart

I cooked this for half and hour until the crust was golden and flaky and delicious, then I sprinkled basil and olive oil over the top and served.

dinner

This was even better than I expected. Don’t leave the olive oil drizzle out, it adds a little something, and is really delicious. The leftovers have also been awesome. This is one I will make again for sure. And my roomie liked it too.

Two tarts, two dinners, lots of leftovers, possible permanent damage to my wrists, a new way to make tart crust, and two recipes that will be made over and over and over.

And now we’ll tackle these recipes in pieces. First up? Pate Brisee.

Savory Pate Brisee (makes two 9-10″ tarts)

Adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 lb (two sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled

1/4 – 1/2 cup ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a food processor) and stir (or pulse) to combine. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or two butter knives (or pulse for 10 seconds) until the butter is about the size of peas. (Really, try this by hand, the processor is definitely easier, but it is really hard not to over process, doing it by hand will be tiring and take a while, but really is worth it once its baked.) Add the water a tablespoon at a time, and continue to cut dough together with the pastry cutter or knives (or process, for no more than 30 seconds TOTAL in the processor.) The dough is ready when it holds together when pinched or squeezed between your fingers.

Separate the dough into two equal piles on two pieces of plastic wrap, and wrap tightly in disc shapes. Refrigerate for at least one hour. It will keep for a couple of days in the fridge or quite some time in the freezer.

Alsatian Onion Tart (serves 6-8)

Adapted from Orangette

Half recipe of Pate Brisee

1 tbl olive oil

1 tbl butter

1 1/2 lbs (approx.) yellow onions halved and sliced thin.

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 large egg

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough and line a tart pan, or for a free form tart, lay on a cookie sheet, and chill. Melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until onions are soft and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile whisk together the cream and egg. When onions are ready, remove from heat and add the cream and egg mixture. Stir to combine and pour into the shell. For a free form tart, leave about an inch boundary and fold over on top of the onions. Bake the tart for 25-30 minutes until the shell is golden and flaky, and the filling is golden.

Ricotta Cheese (makes about 1.5 lbs)

From Sassy Radish

8 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

generous pinch of kosher salt

3 tbls fresh lemon juice

Heat milk, cream and salt over medium high heat in a large heavy bottomed pot. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. When it boils, add the lemon juice and lower the heat stirring for two minutes or so until curds form and separate from the whey. Pour the cheese through a sieve lined with a cheese cloth and drain until the ricotta is as dry as you would like.

Roasted Tomatoes

Adapted from Orangette

3-4 lbs tomatoes, preferably Roma, halved

olive oil

kosher or coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Brush the cut sides of the tomatoes with olive oil (pastry brush is the easiest, fingers work just fine) and sprinkle with salt. Place the tomatoes cut side up on a cookie sheet and roast for 4-6 hours. This time about two hours in I turned up the heat to 300 degrees for the second two hours. The tomatoes will look like this when they are done.

roasted tomatoes

Roasted Tomato and Ricotta Cheese Tart (serves 8ish)

Half recipe of Pate Brisee

About a batch of fresh ricotta (or 1.5 lbs of store bought) – there will be a bit left over.

About a 3-4 lb batch of slow roasted tomatoes (You will need about 24 roasted tomato halves)

chiffonade of 4-5 large basil leaves

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for drizzling.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough into a 12″ circle and lay on a cookie sheet. Spoon the ricotta onto the dough and spread into about a 1/4 inch layer, leaving a 1-1.5 inch border around the edge of the dough clear. Sprinkle the cheese with salt and pepper. Lay the tomatoes on the ricotta close enough to touch, and sprinkle the tomatoes with half of the basil. Fold the edges of the crust up over the tomatoes, and roast the tart for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden. Remove the tart from the oven, sprinkle with the rest of the basil and drizzle the olive oil over the top. Serve and enjoy!

(As you can tell, this recipe is full of estimates and approximations. Just go with it….)

oh yum.

In which this one’s for Gram…

leftovers...

There is a particular brand of flotsam and jetsam leftover during the creation of angel food cake. Were I in my own kitchen, these sunny gorgeous egg yolks would be immediately put to use as the base for ice cream or lemon curd or some other such thing. When I made an angel food cake the day before I headed down here to sunny, freezing cold Florida I made chocolate ice cream which is sitting forlornly in my freezer awaiting my return. It had better still be in edible condition when I get there. I have been dreaming about it since I left. But this time, no such luck. I am in a kitchen with no ice cream maker and no need for lemon curd, and since I gave up pasta for Lent (blerg) I tried all day yesterday to come up with something else I could use them for to no avail. But they were pretty, so at least I got a good picture.

I have had angel food cake on the brain of late, since I received my grandmother’s old pan and a very cool angel food cake cutter for Christmas, and when I brought the leftovers from the first attempt with me on the flight to Florida, and found out angel food cake just happens to be my cousin and lovely hostess’ favorite dessert, I figured I would take another stab at it while I was down here. (No soy sauce, but this kitchen does come equipped with an angel food cake pan, so there you go.) I was especially excited to get some more pictures, since my pics from the first attempt weren’t all that.

nothing ruins the "healthy" factor of angel food cake like a chocolate glaze...

Since Molly was over for the first go round, I did a chocolate glaze, because for Molly, without chocolate there is not much point in dessert. She is very wise.

When I went hunting for recipes for the cake I went first to The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, and Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours, as you would. Martha had a recipe for angel food cake, Dorie did not. Martha’s recipe was assuredly delicious, but seemed to have a lot of steps, and if I recall, an ingredient or two that I didn’t have in the house, so I went a-hunting elsewhere, and ended up finding Alton Brown’s recipe on the interwebs. It looked straight forward, and contained only ingredients that I already had. My criteria are exacting and specific.

I separated the eggs and let them sit for awhile so they would not be so cold, because Alton told me to, and I believe him. Though I have to say, both Martha and Alton said I needed to have the eggs at room temperature or close to it but The Joy of Cooking said they absolutely needed to be cold. When I get home to my cooking library, I will have to see what Harold McGee says about the matter. Until then, I am going to suggest that it might not matter what temperature they are. Feel free to await a more definitive ruling.

This recipe is really very easy. The most intensive part is the excessive sifting. First you sift the cake flour by itself. Then you run the sugar through the food processor to make it superfine, then you sift half of it with the cake flour again.

sifted

Then you start beating the egg whites with some water and cream of tartar, and sift the rest of the sugar into that. And then you sift the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture. Lots of sifting.

folding

The thrice sifted dry ingredients get folded into the beaten egg whites, baked for 35 minutes, and voila, angel food cake.

a thing of beauty is a joy forever...or at least as long as angel food cake lasts.

I did run into a little issue in my adopted kitchen. One of the keys to angel food cake is having it cool upside down, I assume that is so it doesn’t settle and stays light and airy. The pan in this kitchen has a couple of features working against that goal, the center hole is not wide enough to fit over the neck of a bottle, which is a very convenient “standard” way of cooling it. It is also non-stick, which doesn’t help the cake stick to the pan enough to keep it in there when it is upside-down, and lastly, it was kind of heavy, and the cake wasn’t really able to hold the removable bottom in the pan. This makes it sound like it would be a total abject failure. It wasn’t. It was a little squished, but hardly a failure. Especially since I generally think angel food cakes are a little blah, but this recipe is a bit denser, and I think with the minor squishing it gained a little unfortunate texture on the top as well as some added denseness, which I happened to adore.

the dessert of angels.

This was GOOOOOOOD. I covered it with an orange glaze. Orange juice and confectioner’s sugar, until the sugar dissolves. This was a very thin glaze, it was clear and didn’t harden, which was not initially what I had in mind, but I think was actually the way to go, because it sunk in and was absorbed by the cake a little bit, and it was awesome. I really preferred the orange glazed version. The chocolate was good, the orange was out of this world.

Angel food cake, I underestimated you. Welcome to my repertoire.

new favorite...almost guilt free!

Angel Food Cake with Orange Glaze

Adapted from Alton Brown on foodtv.com

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup cake flour, sifted

12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)

1/3 cup warm water

zest of one orange

1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.

Combine egg whites, water, orange zest, and cream of tartar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix on low (or “stir”) speed until combined. After 2 minutes, increase the speed to medium. Slowly sift in the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.

Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).

Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.

Orange Glaze

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

zest of one orange

juice of two oranges

Mix the sugar, zest and juice together in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Spoon the glaze over the cake until it is covered to your liking. Enjoy!

pillow of goodness

In which I (sort of) cook for one…

the beginning of something wonderful...

So actually, I cooked for two, because I do that, but I could have made this for one. They were individual portions, so I count it. Potatoes Au Gratin were a mainstay in my house growing up, and I believe they still are, even in the absence of all of the kids hanging around there.

The ingredients are simple, the result way more than the sum of its parts.

oh dear...

I made this one night because I had everything required, and I had some chicken legs in the freezer to round out the meal. Everything required in this case, included potatoes, shallot, heavy cream, butter, thyme salt and pepper. Adjustments could have been made to include garlic, rosemary, onion, whatever you have on hand. The little yukon golds I had were the perfect size for my ramekin potatoes au gratin. These were small, and had I been eating with someone with a larger appetite, I might have used my larger ramekins, but for these, the 6 oz. size was perfect.

It starts with melted butter in the bottom of the dish.

butter.

Then I layered very thinly sliced (on the mandoline) potatoes some of the shallot, thyme, salt and pepper. Every second layer also got a tablespoon of cream.

first layer.

cream layer.

I filled each one to the top, five or six layers, making sure to finish off with cream.

ready.

I baked them for 20 minutes at 425 along with the chicken.

golden and bubbly.

These are such an easy quick addition to dinner, and they make a quick after work meal feel decadent and celebratory. The individual servings are fun and helpful for portion control, and if you have company, they make your company feel special. Plus the ingredients are ones that you could easily have on hand, and you don’t need much of them if you are just making one or two portions.

Individual Potatoes Au Gratin (serves 1)

1 tbl melted butter

3 (ish) small potatoes (yukon gold, baby red – baby purple would be gorgeous too.) Sliced 1/8″ thin with a sharp knife or with a mandoline

1 small shallot sliced thin and separated into individual rounds

3 tbl heavy cream

1-2 sprigs of thyme, chopped, plus an additional piece for garnish (optional)

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pour the butter into the bottom of a 6 oz ramekin. Line the ramekin with four to five slices of potatoes – enough to cover the bottom of the ramekin completely. Add a couple of rounds of shallot, sprinkle the layer with thyme, salt and pepper. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, then more shallots, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover this layer with 1 tablespoon of the cream. Continue layering the ingredients, and adding a tablespoon of cream every second layer. You will probably get five or six layers. Finish with the third tablespoon of cream, even if you only total five layers. Top with a decorative sprig of thyme if you choose, and bake for 20 minutes until the gratin is golden and bubbly, and the potatoes can easily be pierced with fork. Let rest for 2-3 minutes and serve.

creamy delight.

with some chicken.

In which the short ribs are successful once again…

short ribs

I made the short ribs again Friday night. Well, actually, I made them Thursday night and served them Friday night. They were once again, a success, even better than the first time, actually. I did not take any more pictures, which is a shame. My camera has been woefully underused of late. These short ribs are great, because the recipe is easy to adjust for the size of the crowd, they are not an excessive amount of work, and they are better when they are done ahead of time. The sauce was better this time because I skimmed it better, so it was not greasy at all, I was able to remove most of the fat. If they are prepared ahead of time, pull the ribs out of the pot and store them separately in the fridge. I didn’t do this last time, and I couldn’t skim the cooled fat very well. Dirty the extra pot, it’s well worth it.

OH! And I almost forgot, I figured out that if I didn’t brown the bone side of the meat, most of the bones stayed attached, which made for a lovely presentation. Consider my words eaten Fine Cooking, you are of superior cooking intellect…

Asian Style Beef Short Ribs with Frizzled Leeks (serves 6-this recipe is easily doubled.)

Adapted from Fine Cooking

1-1/3 cups drained canned whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup dry white wine, or dry vermouth

2 tbl brown sugar (I’ve used light or dark)

2 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder

6 to 6-1/2 lbs beef short ribs on the bone (each 3 to 4 inches long)

Freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 tbls vegetable oil; more as needed

6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1-inch piece fresh ginger (about 1 ounce), peeled and cut into 8 slices

6 large scallions (white and green parts), cut into 2-inch lengths

1 tbl unsalted butter

3 medium leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 2-inch-long julienne strips (2 to 2-1/2 cups), rinsed, and dried well

Kosher salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Put the tomatoes, 2/3 cup water, the soy sauce, sherry, and brown sugar in a bowl and stir. Add the five spice powder.

Pat the short ribs dry with paper towels and season them with pepper. In an ovenproof pot (I have gotten the best results from my dutch oven) that’s large enough to hold all the ribs in no more than two layers, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Put as many ribs in the pot as will fit without crowding and brown them on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter. Brown the rest of the ribs, adding more oil if needed, and transfer to the platter.

Pour off the fat from the pan, reduce the heat to low, and add the garlic, ginger, and scallions, stirring and pressing them against the pot, for 1 to 2 minutes to bring out their flavor. Return the ribs to the pot and pour the tomato and soy sauce mixture over them. Bring to a simmer and cover. Transfer the pot to the oven and braise the ribs, lifting and turning them about every half hour, until the meat is very tender and starts to fall off the bone when pulled with a fork, 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer the ribs to a serving platter (or if you’re working ahead, transfer them to a baking dish; refrigerate, covered, when cool). Pick out and discard the ginger and star anise from the pot and pour the remaining sauce into a large, clear measuring cup. When the fat rises to the surface, after about 5 minutes, spoon it off and discard. (Or, if you’re working ahead, cool the sauce in the pot, refrigerate it, and skim the solid fat off the top. When it’s time to reheat the ribs, return them to the pot and heat gently in the oven.)

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Reheat the sauce, season generously with pepper and more salt, if you like, and pour it over the ribs. Scatter the leeks over the top and serve.

For detailed pictures see here.