Saturday, August 25, 2012

November party post 9: Liquor-soaked pound cake (p. 716) and Gingerbread (p. 724)

Final party post!  My final thoughts on this party--I cooked sooooo much!  It was really fun, I had a great time, and it was a great last (and only) party in Fort Collins.  The best part is that I knocked out probably a solid 25 recipes!  I'll try to get the opinions of the people who were at the party--if they remember what the food tasted like, considering it was 9 months ago!  

Go through all the past posts and comment!  

Even though the guests were warned that the whole point of this particular party was to make a bunch of the strange TJOC recipes and get them knocked out, I wanted to make a couple desserts that I was confident would turn out well and reward them for showing up.  I know I make a great pound cake, so I decided to make Liquor-soaked pound cake (p. 716).

The recipe was simple.  First, I made pound cake and poured the batter into loaf pans and cooked it like that.  I combined sugar, water, and corn syrup over heat until the sugar was dissolved.  Once that had occurred, I added some good quality brandy (although you could use almost any type of liquor):

I used a skewer and poked holes in the pound cakes:

The sugar mixture was poured over the cake:

The liquid slowly soaked in to the pound cake.  Believe it or not, over a few hours, all of it soaked in.  This pound cake was DELICIOUS.  The extra liquid meant that the pound cake was ultra-moist and lasted forever--it essentially didn't stale.  And, remember, the alcohol doesn't cook out in recipes like this, careful!  And use good quality alcohol--the flavor is really important.  

I also decided to make Gingerbread (p. 724).  Everybody thinks they like gingerbread, even though most people have never actually eaten it.  Or am I wrong about that?  

I mixed melted butter, egg, and sugar:

I whisked together flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon:

In a third container I whisked hot water, molasses, and honey together:

Eventually, added the dry and liquid ingredients alternately to the butter mixture and poured it in to a pan:

 Sadly, I have no final picture of this one either but it looked like gingerbread, nice and dark.  It was delicious.  Moist, spicy, delicious.  And the absolute perfect dessert for a holiday party.  If you haven't made gingerbread before, do it.

And with that, I will tell one of my favorite stories about my father.  One year, my dad decided that we would make gingerbread houses together.  I was probably 7 years old or so.  He made a bunch of gingerbread.  We cut it into pieces and tried building a house.  After about an hour of no progress at all no matter how hard we tried, we gave up and just ate the gingerbread.  Turns out, you make gingerbread houses with a totally different type of gingerbread--not this type, a more cardboardy type.  But nobody got mad that it was failing and it was so much fun.  It was one of my first lessons in the concept that sometimes even if your plan turns in to a disaster, it can still be a fun amazing memory.

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November party post 8: Ricotta cheesecake (p. 745)

Almost done with these November party posts!  Wow, I really did cook a ton for that party!

I made the pat in the pan crust, which I've made a million times in the past--it's my favorite crust recipe because it's really easy and I don't have to roll it out (my least favorite part).  I don't know if you all own pie weights but they really are nice for keeping crusts from bubbling--I know you can just use rice but the weights are easy to wash and it seems less wasteful.

Pie weights

I decided to make Ricotta cheesecake (p. 745) for some reason.  I can't really explain why that recipe jumped out at me.

I mixed toasted pine nuts, chopped almonds, chocolate chips, and flour:

I thought that was a promising start, I really like all those ingredients.  In another bowl I beat egg with sugar and vanilla for a couple minutes, finally stirring in ricotta cheese:

The crust pre-cooking:

The nut mixture was mixed into the egg mixture:

The crust post-cooking:

The cheesecake mixture was poured into the baked crust:

And it was baked.  You will have to imagine the "after", I didn't get a picture of this one either, but it looked pretty much exactly the same.  I didn't like this recipe.  I don't like savory cheesecakes.  The pesto cheesecake that I made a couple New Year's Eves ago was much better than this recipe and this one was actually in the "cakes and cupcakes" section.  I love ricotta, I don't have a sweet tooth, and this recipe wasn't sweet enough for even me.  It wasn't popular.  

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November party post 7: Party piroshki (p. 89)

Every now and then I have to make something that is totally mysterious to me.  Party piroshki (p. 89) was one of these items.  I had no idea what a piroshki even was and what made it "party"?  Confetti and balloons?  I was hopeful.

I sauteed onion in oil and added beef and salt.  After the meat started to brown, I added beef brother, pepper, sugar, and rice.  That was covered and allowed to cook:

I rolled out puff pastry (even TJOC says not to bother making your own puff pastry--just buy it.  And it's a bazillion times easier to work with than phyllo, so don't be scared).  I dumped the filling in the middle (actually, the recipe makes two, so the filling was halved):

The dough was rolled in to a pocked:

They were brushed with an egg wash:

And popped in the oven:

The rolls were then sliced:

These were great for a party!  They were the perfect size for an easy appetizer.  That being said, the piroshki were bland.  Which isn't a surprise because spices weren't added at all other than salt and pepper, which isn't enough for me.  I think it need at least garlic--at the very minimum.  Any other ideas?  I've never had a piroshki so I'm not sure if the recipe was accurate or not.  The pictures on Wikipedia are pretty similar to what I made--anyone had one before?  I imagine they were "party" because they were big, sadly, there were no balloons or banners involved.

Friday, August 24, 2012

November party post 6: Crisp spicy pecans (p. 70), bagel chips (p. 93), and Anchovy toasts (p. 87)

I am still blogging my way through the November party!  It's truly amazing I cooked so much for it!  Start with Post 1.  I honestly think that 3 more posts should finish this out.  

I'd been meaning to make Crisp spicy pecans (p. 70) for a long time.  Honestly, they have been on my list to make at least 25 times and I've never gotten around to making them for some reason (probably because I needed to whip egg whites and I balk at doing that most of the time).  So I whipped an egg white with salt until foamy.  I added sugar and beat until the soft peaks formed:

I mixed melted butter, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and ground red pepper together:

I folded the butter mixture into the egg mixture along with the nuts:

And they were baked for about a half hour.  They went from this:

To this:

It's hard to explain these strange little nuts.  They were really good and amazingly addictive.  Totally savory.  The paprika and hot pepper gave them a surprisingly little kick and the egg helped the spice mixture stick to the nuts.  I noticed myself going back for more and more of these.

Another recipe I had meant to make FOREVER were bagel chips (p. 93).  I don't have a full complement of pictures for this one, which shouldn't surprise you, because I made SO MANY things for this party.  Frankly, it's amazing I kept up on the pictures as well as I did!

I sliced a bagel (and it was sliced, which I don't think helped!).  I brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled salt and garlic powder over them:

I only have a before picture, no after, but imagine all the bagel chips you've ever seen and that's what they were like.  They were good!  They were pretty much like all other bagel chips, which I consider a good thing.  This is a perfect recipe to make if you have too many bagels and you know you aren't going to get through them all before they start to stale.  They are also popular for a group because almost everybody likes them.  Plus they were cheap and easy and you could customize them easily by switching toppings.

I was concerned about making Anchovy toasts (p. 87) for a party.  Almost everyone out there lists anchovies at the top of the list of foods they hate and I didn't think the group coming to my party was any different.  Regardless, I had warned the group that I would be making strange foods so they were prepared.

I soaked the anchovies in cold water for ten minutes:

I toasted some baguette slices (you don't have a picture of that because it wasn't very interesting).  I minced the anchovies and combined the fish with olive oil, red wine vinegar, parsley, garlic cloves, and pepper.  The toast was spread with the fish mixture and broiled until warm.

I was actually really, really proud of myself with the night of cooking.  I managed to get every single thing done within ten minutes of the last guest showing up, so I wasn't in the kitchen cooking almost at all.  I pulled these out and served them right away.  They were actually a really big hit!  The anchovies were salty and the garlic and vinegar cut through the fishy flavor.  I honestly think almost everybody ate one and was pleasantly surprised!

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November party post 5: Miniature quiches (p. 90), Cream cheese dough (p. 666), Miniature tartlet shells or turnovers (p. 90), and Miniature turnovers with caramelized onions and blue cheese (p. 91)

I recommend starting with my November party post 1.  Essentially, I had a big party, cooked a ton of stuff, and need to get the posting on the party finished (especially considering it's nine months later!).  

What's better for a party than Miniature quiches (p. 90) made with Miniature tartlet shells or turnovers (p. 90)?  The dough was really easy to make.  I prepared the Cream cheese dough (p. 666).  I whisked together flour and salt and then added butter and cream cheese.  

It went from this:

To this:

I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and left it overnight.  This is one of those recipes that you need to think about the night before since the dough takes a night to cure:

The next day I formed some of the dough into little balls (they look like cookies!):

I didn't have a mini muffin pan (I do now but I didn't back then) so these quiches had to be muffin sized (which is still pretty small).  I spread the dough into the cup, which was much more difficult than it seems like it would be:

I baked the shells (as you can see, they got a little overcooked):

I filled the shells with a mixture of eggs, heavy cream, Parmesan, shallot, salt, pepper, and ham.  My thinking was that ham is one of those things that almost everyone likes so it would be a good choice.  I think ham and broccoli would have been even better!

The quiches were popped in the oven:

These were absolutely delicious!  They were also surprisingly filling.  I think these would be a great item to make and eat for breakfast on the go, too.  Even so, with a lighter hand, these could be interesting and elegant and perfect for any appetizer meal.

I used that same dough to make Miniature turnovers with caramelized onions and blue cheese (p. 91).  I love blue cheese but I hate caramelized onions so I thought this would be a good choice to make when I had other people to feed.  I sauteed onion, olive oil, and salt in a skillet, and then added it to blue cheese, walnuts, and rosemary:

I rolled out the dough and cut it in to circles.  I filled each circle with some of the filling and folded them in half.

After they went through the oven, they looked like this:

These were a HUGE hit.  There is something very fancy about the combination of rosemary, caramelized onions, and blue cheese and the sweetness of the onions cut through the strength of the blue cheese.  These turnovers were actually really easy to make--I really recommend making them.

The dough was tasty, too!  The cream cheese gave the dough a little acidic kick that I really liked and the dough came together much easier than the dough made with only butter.  Has anyone else made both these doughs?  What did you think?

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Scallion and mushroom soup (p. 145)

Again, catching up on those super, super old posts that I should have written a year ago!   Scallion and mushroom soup (p. 145) is one of the ones that is difficult to write about now because it wasn't very interesting.

To start I beat butter until it was fluffy and then added scallions:

Seemed like a strange step
 I added salt and pepper and cooked it all for about ten minutes (so, really, just cooking the scallions in a ton of butter):

I removed the pot from the heat and added flour and chicken stock:

It was simmered for about ten minutes:

I added thinly sliced mushrooms:

I used the immersion blender and blended the whole thing (sooooo much easier than using the sieve that TJOC recommends).  I also added some cream (making it a "cream of" soup).  The soup was not an attractive color:

I added some more of the thinly sliced mushrooms:

It was okay.  It required a TON of salt to bring out the flavors, and, even then, was pretty bland.  I like cream of mushroom soup quite a bit but button mushrooms are not the most delicious and scallions don't really add that much.  Maybe with more black pepper and salt and a ton of garlic, the soup could be improved.  Then again, it's possible that not everybody is as obsessive as I am about soup.  Has anyone else made this recipe?  How do you feel about cream soups?

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