Friday, July 29, 2011

Corn and tomato relish (p. 949)

Tart corn relish (p. 949) is perfect for people with a lot of fresh garden veggies. I blanched three ears of corn in boiling water and cut off the kernels (nothing is better than fresh Iowa sweet corn). I mixed the corn with tomatoes, red onion, sweet pickles, cider vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, salt and pepper:



Dad took one bite and proclaimed it the worst thing he had ever eaten.

I don't know how to describe the flavor--I didn't think it was nearly as bad as he did--but the sweet corn, tangy vinegar, acidic tomato, and sugar did mix in an odd way. Way too many flavors were competing for the spotlight.

Dad and I were splitting everything we made--he was keeping half and I was taking half back to mom's house (and, ultimately, all the way back to Colorado). As I was driving home he called me and pointed out that I had forgotten to take the hated corn relish (a point I thought was hilarious) which had been forgotten because it was in the fridge. Apparently the flavor mellowed, because dad said that the next day it was actually really good (why he kept eating something he hated is a mystery). So I recommend giving the flavors a day or two to meld.

This recipe is vegan, too, so it would be a good vegan side dish if you needed one.

Short post! So a question--what do you think of when you hear the word "relish"?

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German chocolate cake (p. 719) and Coconut pecan filling (p. 759)

Fans, I know a lot of you are a bit hard-hearted and particularly like stories of TJOTJOC related disaster. You will be in for a real treat with this post.

I went to my father's house with the express intent of learning how to can and to do some canning, since that is a portion of the book in which I'm spectacularly behind. Dad took the day off of work for this endeavor, since my puppy was used to being left alone for that time, my mom wouldn't have to watch him, and he wouldn't be hassling us or causing destruction in dad's house. Unfortunately, he had to pick up my stepmother around 5 pm, so we started the day with a deadline.

And dad surprised me with a request. Since it was my brother's birthday, we should make him a cake! Of course, the cake had to be made with stuff that he either had on hand or could be easily bought in the tiny grocery store of his town. We settled (rather hilariously without asking the birthday boy) on German chocolate cake (p. 719). The decision to make a cake stressed me out because it limited our timeline even more. I was trying to fly through making the cake.

Of course, the little store didn't have cake flour (mistake 1 or M1) so we just used all-purpose flour (which he refused to sift [M2]), which was combined with baking soda and salt. In another bowl, baking chocolate was finely chopped (chop it VERY finely since you aren't heating it) and mixed with boiling water, with vanilla added once the chocolate was melted. In a third bowl, dad was supposed to beat butter until creamy and slowly add in sugar and egg yolks, which were added one at a time:



As you can see, buttermilk was being held in a measuring cup, as TJOC specified. On low speed, the chocolate was added to the sugar/egg mixture until incorporated. The flour mixture was added in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, which was added in two parts (so it went flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour):



The batter was actually looking pretty good at this point.

In another bowl, with clean beaters, Dad beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until they were stiff.



A third of the egg whites were folded in to the batter:



And when that was incorporated, the rest of the egg whites were folded in:


He totally forgot to add sugar (M3), which was supposed to be mixed in to the egg whites. It had to be folded in at this point (which I don't think really worked).

Dad poured the batter into pans before I noticed what he was doing. Instead of using three pans, he used two (M4). I knew that was going to be a problem, because when the pans are the wrong size, the batter tends not to cook correctly:




Because the cakes were baked in the wrong size pan, they had a number of problems. By the time the middle was cooked, the edges were overcooked. They overflowed the pan, which caused a layering problem. And they didn't come neatly out of the pan:



I had made the frosting earlier. Obviously, we chose Coconut pecan filling (p. 759), the traditional filling of German chocolate cake.

I combined sugar, heavy cream, egg yolks, and butter in a saucepan:



I cooked it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture was thickened:



I then mixed in coconut and chopped pecans. Dad didn't have enough pecans, so like is so common in my family, we used a mixture of pecans and walnuts (M5).



The frosting actually looked good and tasted delicious. It had the perfect combination of caramelized sugar, coconut, and pecan flavors...perfection. I will use this recipe again. Of course, it was here another problem occurred (M6). I left the pot on a burner since it was finished but not needed yet. While heating up some water, dad flipped on the wrong burner. Guess which burner got flipped on? Of course, it was the burner with the frosting. We figured it out once the overwhelming stench of burning sugar came wafting through the air. Thankfully, just the bottom was burned and the rest of the frosting was salvageable (there wasn't enough coconut for another batch).

Honestly, tell me this isn't the ugliest cake you've ever seen?



I decided not to embarrass my brother by taking a picture of him with this monstrosity.

Apparently, the sides of German chocolate cake are supposed to be left unfrosted. Believe it or not, it was actually pretty good! The cake was dry (to be expected by the mishandling of the ingredients and the cake pan problem) but had a nice flavor and the frosting was actually pretty tasty (miraculously, not burnt tasting). Frankly, if the cake could make it through all those mistakes and not be absolutely terrible, I recommend the recipe, because if you make it correctly it should be awesome! My brother was a good sport about the whole thing.

Even the candles were sad:



They melted wax all over the cake so you had to pick around the wax while eating (final mistake). You can see how crumbly it was--that's from overbaking the cake due to the wrong pan size.

I hope some of you can add stories of cakes gone wrong.

Random facts:
German chocolate cake has absolutely nothing to do with Germany. Apparently Sam German, who was an American, worked for Baker's Chocolate and developed a type of dark baking chocolate. Baker's named their sweet chocolate after him. So it was Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate. A baker developed the cake in the 50's, calling it German's Chocolate Cake. Somewhere along the line the possessive got dropped (Wikipedia). So German chocolate cake has nothing to do with Germany. A new fact for you to share at your next dinner party!


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sauteed milkweed pods (p. 279)

Every now and then TJOC surprises me (usually in a bad way). Sometimes it's a weird ingredient, sometimes it's a bizarre cooking method, sometimes it's an strange piece of equipment. I honestly didn't know how I was ever going to make Sauteed milkweed pods (p. 279). I don't think milkweed pods are available in any grocery store (even the most esoteric of them) and the only recipes for them online appeared to be on survivalist websites. My main experience with milkweed pods was walking around with my childhood bestie Jennifer, pulling them off of our elementary school fence, and opening the pods so they spewed out their milky guts (I think we are probably responsible for a giant milkweed problem on our elementary school fence lines).

Rachel had taken it as her personal mission to help me figure this recipe out. She had spotted milkweeds while biking to work one day so she knew it was "milkweed season". When I got to Iowa, she "harvested" some milkweed pods off of random fences (sorry if we stole your milkweeds, Ames residents!). While reading up on milkweeds, I noticed that they are apparently jam packed with latex, to which I'm seriously allergic, so it's a really good thing I read the Wikipedia page and abstained!

The young milkweeds (they look like alien vegetables):



I boiled the pods for about five minutes (they made strange noises, so if they do that for you, don't be concerned)(what kind of weird noise? Sort of like a tire deflating).

In a skillet I heated some olive oil and added minced garlic, cooking until fragrant.



I added the milkweed pods, used a little salt and pepper, and cooked it all for a few more minutes. I added grated Parmesan:



Nobody really wanted to try this recipe but I kept pointing out that most things are good when cooking in olive oil and then seasoned with garlic and Parmesan, so the recipe was giving the milkweed pods the best chance they could have.

Rachel said that they were surprisingly good! She said they sort of tasted like zucchini and she would eat them again. My mom, who was seriously skeptical, even said the one she ate was good. So if you have milkweeds climbing up your fences, eat them! But make sure they are still young and tender.

Now I just have to find the rest of the strange stuff I need...

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bacon sundae from Denny's

While looking through my pictures, I was absolutely shocked I had forgotten to post about something as monumental as the bacon sundae at Denny's! The bacon sundae was the pinnacle (in my opinion) of Denny's awesome Baconalia (very possibly the best name ever). I went with the intrepid Kristin. While not as secret as the Mc1035, it was definitely as bizarre.



Of course, I loved it. Bacon+maple syrup+ice cream=dreamy bliss for Jessica. The maple complimented both the ice cream and the bacon perfectly, the creaminess of the vanilla ice cream was a great foil for the crunchiness of the bacon, I thought it was amazing. I would make it for myself at home. I love bacon. I LOVE BACON! If you love bacon, eat a bacon sundae.

Would you eat a bacon sundae?

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hot chicken salad (p. 106)

I made some chicken stock for my mom and hoped to find a recipe to use the poached chicken. Hot chicken salad (p. 106) looked perfect! I really love chicken salad--I make a terrific curried chicken salad--but I'd never had a hot version.

I mixed cream of chicken soup with a few tablespoons of milk:



I combined that with cooked chicken, celery, mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, tarragon, and salt:



And it got popped in the oven for fifteen minutes:



The dish came out looking essentially the same as it looked going in. It was surprisingly good! The crunch of the celery contrasted nicely with the creaminess of the rest of the dish and it was good both spread on bread and on crackers. It was also super easy and used leftover chicken, which is always nice. I think this would be a terrific dish for football party or any sort of appetizer party.

On that note, I've been noticing that I mention often that certain dishes would be good for certain parties. Would anyone be interested if I put together a few menus? Like a menu for a Superbowl party or for a Mad Men party? Let me know!

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pop's deviled eggs (p. 195) and Melon and prosciutto I (p. 230)

I decided to make a couple of food items to bring to a pre-4th of July party I was attending. As I said before, everyone seems to like deviled eggs, so I thought I would make Pop's deviled eggs (p. 195).

I always pipe everything using a plastic bag, so I just mix it in there, too. Helps eliminate the mess! I added mayonnaise, chili sauce, black pepper, celery salt, and dry mustard straight to the bag:



I smooshed (yes, that is the technical term) it all together:



And piped it in to the egg whites:



The eggs:



Frankly, I think they looked a little...gross. I mean, the chili sauce turned the yolks almost a brown color, which wasn't very appetizing. And the celery salt flavor came through loud and clear in the flavor--a little too loud and clear in my opinion. I don't think I would bother with this recipe in the future. I really hate the color.

I never liked melon, so the fact that I'm now allergic to it doesn't concern me much. I particularly don't like the combination of Melon and prosciutto (p. 230) which was a typical appetizer in my Italian-American family.

I cut up the melon. Big slices (each side cut into 6 slices):



The recipe says to just "drape" the ham over the melon:



My mom thought that was ridiculous. So she wrapped the melon:



Wrapping the melon did look a lot better. This was not a popular appetizer at the barbecue and really doesn't hold well at all. I know people like the combination of the salty ham and the sweet melon but I've never quite "gotten" the combo.

So, readers, do you like prosciutto and melon?

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Mediterranean boneless chicken breasts baked in foil (p. 439)

Mom told me that she had boneless, skinless chicken breasts and asked if there was something that I could make out of them. We agreed that Mediterranean boneless chicken breasts baked in foil (p. 439) looked good (and, more importantly, mom had most of the ingredients).

I combined finely chopped brine cured black olives, oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and basil (super fresh basil, straight off mom's plant):



I placed a chicken breast on a piece of oiled foil (poetry!) and spooned some of the olive mixture on the top.



I wrapped each one of the chicken breasts up nice and tight in the foil:



And into the oven they went.

When the foil packets were opened up, the chicken was certainly colorful and attractive:



...and surprisingly bland. I don't know how it was bland because it had so many strong flavors (olives, sundried tomatoes, basil) but it was very boring. It was also oddly tough, which surprised me, because I thought that the foil method would protect against overcooking.

If I was to make this recipe again (which is doubtful) I would season it a LOT more. I would add garlic, at the very minimum.

Does anyone use the pouch method regularly? It seems like extra work with no payoff to me.

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