Friday, December 20, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Some blank slates are meant to be written upon. Some are meant to be left pristine, looking like the glint off a sharp blade sounds in cartoons. This is relevant because today's quick perusal of Tastespotting yielded, among others, the following bread pudding variants:

  • "chai spiced maple pumpkin"
  • "crockpot (????) tiramisu"
  • "goat milk with mapled rhubarb" (the goat milk actually sounds good, but when did maple become a verb?)
  • "apple pie pumpkin spice" (FALL WORDS, EVERYBODY!)

Sorry, kids, get off my lawn. All I want in my bread pudding, aside from bread, is sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, maybe raisins, and maybe cinnamon, plus a sauce containing alcohol. Talk About Good and Talk About Good II have unsullied Louisiana recipes for bread pudding as it should be.

Bread pudding, adapted from Talk About Good II
1 loaf French bread, preferably a day old
1 quart milk
4 eggs (5 if you like an eggier pudding)
1/3 c white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
Butter for pan, plus extra for top (1-2 tbsp)
Optional: 1/2 c raisins
Optional: 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat an oven to 350 and butter a shallow baking dish. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Tear the bread into small chunks and stir it in, along with the cinnamon and raisins if you're going there. Allow to sit until the bread has swollen and absorbed some of the liquid. Dump everything into the buttered baking dish. Slice the remaining butter and distribute over the surface; you can also sprinkle on more cinnamon if you wish. Bake 30-40 minutes or until the pudding is just set and the top is crispy.

Whiskey (or rum) sauce
1 packed cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
5 tbsp butter
pinch salt
3 tbsp whiskey or bourbon, or 1 1/2 tsp rum extract
Optional: 1/2 tbsp orange zest

Whisk together all ingredients over medium-low heat until combined. Raise heat slightly and bring to a low boil. Cook 5 minutes or until thickened to desired consistency. Serve warm over warm pudding.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bad pictures of tasty things

Not to be redundant, but: interviewing is a very filling process. So why, every time I'm home for 12 to 24 hours*, do I make something complicated rather than abstemiously nibble on field greens? This time around, my excuse is that Andy surprised me with a new metal spatula, zester, and sifter when I got home. A friend of ours also came by with a nifty little blender as a thank-you for caring for her cat**. The upshot is that I had all sorts of fun new toys to play with.

Without a doubt, I can say that this is one of the most delicious things I've ever made. It's shrimp poached in a lemon butter sauce, served over a potato cake and topped with a homemade spicy relish of sorts.

With the exception of the shrimp (which, to be fair, were fancy low-bycatch shrimp), the ingredients are inexpensive and accessible, given a decent olive bar at your local grocery store. The size of the dish, as composed, is also small; this may work better as a substantial appetizer or tapas-type dish than as a true main. In fact, I kind of want to do this as a one-bite appetizer, using a much smaller ring mold to shape the potato cake (and perhaps only one shrimp per).

And now, the award for worst presentation goes to...

Molten chocolate cake is awesome, though. I misunderstood Andy when he said he wanted something that was "the opposite of a big pool of chocolate" and made him, basically, a big pool of chocolate***.

Butter-poached shrimp on potato cake

3-4 baby red potatoes
1/2 lb shrimp, cleaned and shelled with tails left on
4 tbsp butter, divided
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
dash white wine
1 lemon
1-2 tbsp capers
3-4 large Cerignola red olives, chopped
1 large artichoke, chopped either a good jarred variety or from an olive bar, grilled/roasted preferable
chopped parsley
salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 F. With a mandoline or very sharp knife, thinly slice the potatoes. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and paprika over a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Using a ring mold for shape, if you have one, layer potato rounds in concentric circles until you have rounds of 3-4 potato layers. Generously spray the tops of the rounds with olive oil and salt, pepper, and paprika them again. Bake until the top layer is crispy and browned; the edges may be a little charred, which I think is nice.

If you want to make a fancy sauce, start by clarifying the butter: In a small pan, melt 3 of the 4 tbsp butter. Set aside until the milk solids settle out, then skim off the clear butter floating at the top; this is what you will use. In a fresh pan, add the butter, diced shallot, juice of 1/2 lemon, dash of white wine, and garlic. Cook, whisking, until the shallot is soft, then remove from the heat and whisk in the final tablespoon of butter. If you want to skip the clarifying step, just use all 4 tablespoons and cook everything together.

When the shallots have softened and the sauce is done, cook the shrimp in it until they are just pink on either side. Meanwhile, to make the relish, mix the chopped artichoke, chopped olives, capers, a bit of the butter along with some of the shallots and garlic, and zest from the whole lemon. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and additional chopped garlic to taste.

To assemble: lay a potato round on a plate and top with a couple shrimp. Grind some pepper and salt on the shrimp (I found I did not need much salt because of the relish and potatoes). On top of that goes some relish with additional butter sauce, lemon juice, or lemon zest as desired. Liberally sprinkle with parsley.

*Yup. Home from Boston, immediately turn around and leave for Philly.
**Which, if you're reading this, is totally unnecessary because he's the best cat in the world and I would spend all day with him if I could. Gratis.
***"I feel so guilty! I wish I'd done a caramel bread pudding like you'd mentioned."
" feel guilty for making lavish desserts because they're not precisely to my specifications?"
"I'm a terrible feminist. Deal with it."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Greasing the wheel

Despite the typical Thanksgiving excesses, I couldn't let Chanukah pass without some sort of culinary salute. Plus, I feel guilty that I'm about to go to Boston and Philly for 10 days straight, leaving poor Andy to fend for himself. Maybe if I distract him with enough fried food, he won't notice I'm gone.

These are sweet potato spinach latkes. Unfortunately, they ended up somewhat oil-logged thanks to the fact that my favorite kitchen utensil ever*, my slotted metal spatula, has gone missing. But you can't beat a great taste and some quality BCBs**.

The batter.
That's a nice, tangy cheese on top, although if I had sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, that would have been even better. Applesauce... not so much. The sweet potatoes were, well, plenty sweet.

If you need me for the next five hours, I'll be in the gym.

Sweet potato spinach latkes
2 lb sweet potatoes
3 sm onions
1 lb frozen spinach, defrosted
1/2 c flour or semolina or matzo meal
3 eggs
1.5 tsp baking soda
paprika, pepper, salt, cayenne to taste

Grate the potatoes and onions into a very large bowl or pot. Salt the potato mixture, let sit for 10-15 minutes, and then squeeze as much moisture as possible out of it. Defrost and demoisture the spinach as well; no need to salt it. Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. In the meantime, in a deep cast-iron or regular skillet, heat about 1.5 inches of oil until it shimmers and spits furiously when you dribble in some cold water. Form the batter into patties and fry until deep brown on both sides. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and eat warm with sour cream or Greek yogurt. Some chives might be nice, too.

*Absence could be making the heart grow fonder.
**Burnt crunchy bits, term courtesy of Terry Pratchett.