Monday, February 22, 2010

A Tale of Cooking: In 3 Parts

Part 1. My Big Fat Southern Pigskin Super Bowl Party

Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon. ~Doug Larson

Superbowl Sunday. I don’t care much about the game, but an excuse to cook a meal centered completely on pork is a holiday in my book.

A pigskin theme party needs lots of bacon, so to start things off I made chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. I use this recipe from Cleveland Foodie, but I no longer make the sauce cuz I find that people don't use it and there is plenty of flavor in the appe's three ingredients. These are ALWAYS a hit and added bonus, they are shaped like little footballs with toothpicks stuck through them.

I wanted to keep the main course fairly simple. I used this recipe from the Splendid Table for the Ultimate Cheater Pulled Pork. The “cheating” is using liquid smoke to mimic the flavors of a smoke house. I bought my 5 pound pork butt from the Westside Market. You should try this recipe mostly cuz it is fun to say pork butt. The pork butt is chopped into chunks, placed in the crock pot, sprinkled with a rub and the secret ingredient - liquid smoke (surprisingly easy to find, right next to the BBQ sauce at Heinen's for $1.79), and set on low to cook overnight. Twelve hours later I woke to the sweet smells of smoky pork that had filled the house. So yeah, I’m kind of a big deal, I can cook while I sleep.

In the morning I took the pork chunks out and placed them on a baking sheet to cool. I poured the leftover juices from the crock pot into a cup and placed them in the fridge. Once the pork was cooled enough to handle, I began pulling it apart with my hands. Little know fact - food always tastes better when someone’s hands have been all over it. I threw out any fatty pieces, but mostly it was steaming pink shreds of yummy smokey goodness. Place it back in the crock pot and in the fridge until game time.

By the time we were close to kick-off, the leftover juices in the cup in the fridge had separated enough that I could skim the neon layer of orange fat off the top and throw it out. I took the pork out of the fridge and set the crock pot back to warm along with some of the now skimmed juices. The rest of the juice I mixed with some store bought BBQ sauce and warmed it up to serve with the pork on rolls. This pork is a crowd pleaser – if cheating is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

I couldn't leave bacon out of the dessert. Last year I saw an episode of Throw Down with Bobby Flay about bacon desserts. Bobby lost (Spoiler alert – Bobby always loses on Throw Down) to this recipe for bread pudding with a bacon creme anglaise (which I also really love saying) from Chef Jerome Chang of New York City's Dessert Truck.

Sidenote: I want to start this dessert truck phenom in Cleveland, we are missing out on convenient sugar!

Bread Pudding (before the Bacon Creme Anglaise)

Ok, so this recipe uses 10 egg yolks, 4 slices of bacon, 3 cups of heavy cream, and 2 cups of half & half, so it really should only be made once a year for the fattiest of feasts. But my goodness it is delicious. I made the creme anglaise on Saturday and the bread pudding on Sunday. The bacon flavor is very subtle and the final product was rich and chocolately and very decadent. And you get to say crème anglaise.

Keeping with the southern theme of the party I also served coleslaw and sweet tea vodka with lemonade. Friends pitched in with guacamole and lots of desserts. It was a wonderful Sunday night feast!! Oh and there was a football game, too, score!

Part II. Adventures in Ice Cream Making

My family came over after work on Friday night for dinner before heading over to JCU to see Seth Myers from SNL perform a comedy show. My whole fam is pretty into SNL and the show was hilarious. The funniest bits were his off the cuff audience interactions, asking couples how they met and the craziest thing they ever bought on e-Bay has never been so funny.

My house isn’t too far from JCU, so I offered to fix a quick dinner before the show. I made Turkey and Hominy Chili with Smoky Chipotle the night before so it could just be quickly re-heated after work. It was spicy and excellent with a dollop of sour cream to cool it, some shredded cheddar and a bit of fresh cilantro. I also made two quick side breads from mixes I had, but couldn’t help adding a little something more to each. The first, a sweet and spicy cornbread made with Jiffy Cornbread mix plus half a minced jalepeno and a few big glugs of local orange blossom honey. And the second, cheddar and chive biscuits made from Tastefully Simple’s Perfect Parmesan Biscuit Mix, subbing cheddar for parmesan and adding some fresh chives. My mom brought chips and guac and a salad to round out our dinner.

The grand finale was Goat Cheese Ice Cream and Blueberry Sauce from David Lebowitz’s The Perfect Scoop. Jenny was kind enough to let me borrow her ice cream maker and this was our third attempt with ice cream making.

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Warm Blueberry Sauce

My first attempt was a vanilla gelato that turned out tasting like snow ice cream. Are you familiar with snow ice cream or did we make this up? Growing up in Chardon meant a LOT of snow without a lot of snow days. The snow plows were just too used to it, so unless the timing was just right, we always had school. So to make the most of the snow we would mix it with milk, sugar and vanilla in a big bowl and eat it like a giant ice cream sundae. Until one time we made it too late in the season and Becky found a slug on her spoon. No one really ever had a craving for snow ice cream again after that. So the first attempt at gelato making was ok, but didn’t conjure the sweetest of memories.

Chris took a turn with the machine making rosemary and honey ice cream that came out with a soft serve consistency and a fantastic flavor. It was very sweet and the rosemary and honey were a lovely pairing. But Chris also decided to put little flakes of the chopped rosemary in the ice cream which I didn’t like and did my best to eat around.

The third time was a charm. Under David’s tutelage the goat cheese ice cream turned out beautifully and topped with the warm blueberry sauce tasted like a warm creamy cheese cake. I can’t wait to try more of his recipes.

Part III. Learning to cook with Eggs

Each batch of ice cream made with a custard base calls for 6 egg yolks. This leaves you with an abundance of egg whites. My first batch of custard for the goat cheese ice cream turned into a icky scrambled eggs mess due to many rookie mistakes I made: 1. used skim milk, 2. forgot to add the sugar, 3. did not temper the yolks properly, 4. let the mixture boil. Fail, fail, fail, fail.

I took my time the second time, following David’s instructions as closely as possible. I remembered to use whole milk and sugar, I tempered the yolks by ladling some of the steamy milk into the yolks very slowly, whisking the whole time, and I used a candy thermometer just to be sure I wasn’t coming close to a boil. Sometimes cooking reminds me of chemistry class (which I secretly loved). The results were perfect; a smooth custard. While the custard was still warm I strained it over the crumbled goat cheese and stirred until it was nice and smooth. Custard success!

On Sunday afternoon I met up with my S-3 work girlfriends for lunch and to see the movie Valentine’s Day. That movie has the cutest cast and worst script of all time. It was long and weird and hard to follow. But it was great to catch up with my friends. We also celebrated Jenny and Morgan’s birthdays and since I am always looking for an excuse to make cake, I volunteered to supply. My two batches of custard making left me with no eggs and 12 egg whites in the fridge. So I really only had one option – angel food cake – which is one of my favorites. I like Ina’s version, called Black and White cake, with a semi-sweet chocolate glaze drizzled over top. In fact, it is the very cake I made for my own birthday last year.

Black and White Cake

More fun with eggs, this time whipping the whites into a foam with high peaks. Last year I made rookie mistakes with this cake and it took me literally 45 minutes of holding my hand mixer over the bowl before the eggs were the right consistency. Not this time. The trick is to make sure the eggs are very fresh and at room temperature. Check and check – eggs from the farmers market and I let them sit out on the counter for an hour before I attempted the whipping. They were forming peaks within a few minutes. I may have even gone too far because when I went to fold in the flour, the eggs were almost the consistency of marshmallow and the flour wasn’t mixing in well. But it came together and baked up like a dream. A glorious chocolately dream.

And we all sang happy birthday and ate cake and lived happily ever after.

The End.
(for now)

4 comments:

Michelle said...

Glad you like the dates!

Allison M. said...

Holy hell - you did a lot of baking and cooking. I love those dates. Absolutely delicious.

mcm.hannah said...

I want the goat cheese ice cream for my birthday. Thank you.

B said...

Everything you made was AMAZING. Surprised how much I loved the dates, like loved them. Didn't think how cute they were as little footballs...bonus! Molly makes a mean pork butt too! So glad I was invited and went! Thank you again!