Thursday, July 19, 2012

spicy coca-cola float cake

You may be familiar with Coca-Cola Cake, a spiral-bound church lady staple reflecting a very southern pantry - one stocked with Coca-Cola, buttermilk, and self-rising flour.

You may be familiar with tres leches cake, a cake soaked in a syrup made of three milks - evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream. Essentially the milk syrup uses a little bit of whipped cream to freshen up the canned milks which are a staple of tropical climates.

You may be familiar with desserts that combine chocolate and chile, a tradition older than, well, older than chocolate desserts - chocolate and chile have gone together since long before Europeans added sugar to chocolate, and chile continued to be a frequent ingredient in chocolate sweets until it collided with fragile Anglo tastebuds.

You may have heard of "Secret Breakfast" ice cream, a combination of corn flakes and bourbon, at Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco.

It'd be kind of funny if I wasn't going anywhere with this.

For Marx Foods' Fire On Ice contest, they sent me a bunch of dried chiles, with the requirement to do something refrigerated with them. I was lucky enough that Tepin chiles, aka chiltepin, were included in the assortment. Not only do they sort of kind of sound like my name, but they're the only wild chile native to the United States, and have a terrific flavor - though also a lot of heat.

So. What I wound up with is a Coca-Cola cake, spiked with cinnamon and chile, prepared like a tres leches cake instead of with the usual chocolate frosting, and served with cornflake-bourbon whipped cream. (Why cornflake and bourbon? Bourbon goes great with Coca-Cola, cinnamon, and chocolate; the cereal milk flavor of the whipped cream is great both with the chile and for offsetting the richness of the cake.)

Coke Float cake

Combine in a pan:
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup mini-marshmallows

Heat until melted.

Combine in a bowl:
1 cup self-rising flour
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
4 crushed Tepin chiles

Add hot ingredients from pan to bowl and stir to combine.

Pour into a buttered cake pan and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely.

Combine to make milk syrup:
1/2 can evaporated milk
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

Pour some of the milk syrup over the cake slowly, letting it be absorbed. You won't need to use all of it.

Refrigerate the cake! Keeping it cold makes for a dense cake that won't fall apart in the syrup.

Combine to make cornflake-and-bourbon-infused whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup cornflakes
1/4 cup bourbon

Let sit for an hour, strain in mesh strainer (pressing against solids), and whip with sugar to taste - probably about a quarter cup.

To plate:
Pour a little of the reserved milk syrup around a piece of cake; top with cornflake-bourbon whipped cream and a little cinnamon.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fried chicken sandwiches this weekend:

Fried chicken sandwich

Garlic and herb fried chicken: boneless skin-on chicken thigh marinated two days in buttermilk blended with garlic cloves and herbs (basil, rau ram, tarragon), dredged in self-rising flour, and deep-fried 12 minutes; bread-and-butter pickled summer squash diced with raw green tomato and misozuke ramps; smoked Dorset cheese; slices of supermarket tomato; and raw Tuscan kale rubbed with garlic vinaigrette (rubbing raw kale helps break it down and make it tender, per Ruth Reichl).

Summer usually means a lot of fried chicken sandwiches - I have more chicken thighs marinating in buttermilk, chiles, and cumin - as well as a lot of fresh herbs to use up. This year I'm also trying to eat a lot of squash - it's nutritious, it's local, it's cheap (or free when I can get it from my mother), I'm just so picky about it.  Pickled squash works well! About one part water, one part sugar, two parts vinegar, with various seasonings.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

farm stands 7/7/12

When I lived in Indiana, I was pretty diligent about jotting down what I had picked up at the farmer's market every week - it was handy to look back on and see what's in season when. I should do that for the farm stands here.

Kimball Fruit Farm:

All local -

Baby beets (mix of red and gold) with greens
Dinosaur kale (interestingly, a ruffled kale, not the long thick dark kale I think of as dinosaur kale)


Non-local figs

All local -

Red kale
Garlic scapes
Kohlrabi (75 cents each and enormous)
Purple beans
Sugar snap peas
Green oak lettuce
Green crisp lettuce
Several varieties of summer squash

blood noodles

This is a good time of year for me to use up odds and ends, partly because gardening produces a lot of odds and ends - a bit of herbs, a handful of greens that isn't enough for a full serving - and partly because it clears space from the freezer which will later be filled with corn, okra, shell beans, and tomato puree.

From the garden: bloody dock (a sorrel-like green that's a little sour), basil, rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), tarragon, culantro.

From the pantry: Thai rice vermicelli, star anise, cinnamon, soy sauce.

From the fridge: lamb stock, leftover duck confit, sriracha, ginger, turmeric.

From the freezer: pork blood, galangal.

Thus: blood noodle soup.

This is inspired by Thai boat noodles, a pho-like dish with rice noodles and meat in a spicy broth thickened with blood. But I didn't have many of the things you would traditionally serve with that, nor the beef broth you would ordinarily use, so I just made do.

Blood noodles
The lamb stock was simmered with sriracha, soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, galangal, and turmeric until it was good and fragrant, and then strained. The rice vermicelli was dropped in boiling water for about a minute, and then I combined everything in a bowl: cooked noodles, chopped herbs, leftover duck, and pork blood, with boiling stock poured over it to cook the blood, which thickened everything up a bit as I stirred it up.

The blood thickens it and makes it richer - most of what you taste is the herbs and the spice.

Monday, July 2, 2012

avocado chicken and dumplings

Avocado chicken and dumplings
I've mentioned before that I love chicken and dumplings, and that for some reason I make northern-style chicken and dumplings, with drop biscuit dumplings instead of flat noodle dumplings. I don't think I have pointed out this variation, though: sometimes, in order to keep the biscuits from spreading like Mason jar gummi bears into the chicken stock, I sear them in the pan before adding everything else.

The whole thing is still very basic -

Start with a good strong chicken stock (it should be strong enough to gel in the fridge) and add the vegetables of your choice - typically onion, carrot, and celery for me - and some chicken (it's a good way to use up leftover roast chicken). Simmer until everything is cooked through and then add a pureed avocado. Okay, so that's the weird part, I guess - you can skip it, I just had an avocado to use up. Now salt it. Mine is also seasoned with tarragon - I'm using a lot of tarragon lately simply because I have a lot in my garden.

You can make as much of that chicken stew as you like and then reheat it to order, adding the dumplings to the reheated portion (dumpling dough will keep in the fridge) rather than cooking a bunch of dumplings up front and having them sit in the fridge soaking up all the stock.

The dumplings are a basic biscuit dough - add chicken fat (reserved from making the stock) to self-rising flour until it clumps up into pea-sized clumps, add enough buttermilk for it to hold together, season as you like (tarragon and celery leaves for me).

Now, instead of dropping the dumplings into simmering stock, melt a little butter in a pan and brown the dumplings - spoonful-sized drops, the size of Tollhouse cookies - on both sides. Takes a couple minutes. Add a serving of chicken stew, cover, and simmer for ten minutes.

The sriracha is just cause I was in the mood.

Meanwhile, I also played around with some of my cheeses from Wegmans, adding quadrello di bufala and Humboldt Fog to a pepperoni pizza (with basil - again, the garden - under the cheese):

Pepperoni, Humboldt Fog, Quadrello di bufala pizza
Good, good stuff, though I wouldn't use up too much of the quadrello this way - it blends in too much for the flavor to really stand out as much as it deserves.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

the emblem of the land I love

What says Fourth of July weekend more than hamburgers, right? Or Canada Day, I guess. Whatever lights your Roman candle.

There's this trick with eggs. Sometimes I think a major purpose of this blog is to tell you interesting things about eggs. Separate the egg, put the yolk in a clean container, and freeze it. Don't just get it cold - you want it all the way froze. Thaw it.

Thickened egg yolk
The yolk is now thickened. It's hard to demonstrate this in a still photograph, I suppose. This only took a few hours for me - I have a new refrigerator and I keep the freezer fairly cold. Plan for overnight, to be safe.

Thickened egg yolk, crispy pepperoni
This demonstrates the texture a bit better. That may look like Kraft macaroni and cheese sauce, but it's just egg yolk thickened by freezing and thawing. On the other slice of bread I have some pepperoni cooked to a crisp.

Add a little ketchup, a little sriracha, a Pat La Frieda burger, and some Kool Aid watermelon rind pickles ...

Burger, Kool Aid watermelon rind pickles

yes, the fennel looks like clem

Fennel is one of my favorite summer flavors. Give me greens with fennel and cucumber and that's all I need for salad. Your grocery store might sell it as anise, though the anise used for anise seed and other anise flavorings is a separate member of the Apiaceae family (which also includes carrots and parsnips and Queen Anne's lace, celery, parsley and cilantro, cumin, dill... - it's a busy family!) It's a fresh, bright flavor, a "green" flavor but not the way iron- and chlorophyll-rich foods like spinach are. Despite the fact that people who don't like it think of licorice as a strong flavor, fennel is no stronger than a mild cucumber.

You want to discard the outer layer, the stalks, and the core at the base of the bulb, though both are good for the stock pot. Fennel has a celery-like texture, though it's tougher than supermarket celery, and a faint anise/licorice flavor. It's great with onions, celery, sausage, tomato, eggs, and damn near any herb.

Raw fennel in salad:

Salad with fennel
With cucumber slices, escarole, casatica di bufala cheese, leftover roast chicken, and the fennel fronds (which I don't always use). The dressing is essentially simple: I had taken both "green" garlic (young baby garlic) and black garlic (garlic aged until it turns black and soft) and pickled them in vinegar. Blended some of the pickled bulbs and some of the vinegar with olive oil and salt. The end.

Caramelized fennel in eggs scrambled with Maplebrook Farms ricotta, Humboldt Fog goat cheese (always worth a plug, my favorite goat cheese on the planet), and tarragon (with a bit of country ham):

Country ham, eggs with caramelized fennel/tarragon/ricotta
You "caramelize" fennel just like you would onions: chop it, put it in a pan, and cook it slowly until it's thoroughly browned. When sauteed, fennel is more reluctant than onion to wilt and soften, so add a spoonful of water and cover the pan until it's done so, to make it easier on yourself.