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Not As Good As Pork Cracklins

misadventures in cooking

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bourbon Chocolate Mousse

After the cake problem on Monday, my rescue dessert was the Bourbon Chocolate Mousse on the back cover of Fine Cooking #85. I am not happy that they are putting recipes on the back cover now. I preferred when they profiled a artisanal food.

I weighed to see if I had enough chocolate left. 4 ounces, plus a little bit. Whew. I was completely out of cream though, so I had to use half & half. It didn't quite set up as well, but I couldn't afford to be picky at that point. The recipe comes together very quickly and easily. It isn't too bourbon-y, but we might like it better with some other liqueur. I garnished with a strawberry, however I can't take a picture because the strawberries are all gone now.

As it turns out, I did bring out the cake and it was well-received with laughter and enthusiasm. Probably more enthusiasm than the mousse.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ugly Mess

You know that lovely heart cake that I make for weddings, anniversaries, Valentine's day? Occasionally, I make the same cake in a round pan for special birthdays.

Today, I didn't let the ganache cool enough before I poured it on. While I was looking away, it melted the buttercream filling and both the filling and the ganache slid right off the cake. It's even worse than the photo. That's just one side of it. I laughed on the outside, but I cried on the inside.

I need to get busy making another dessert. I am NOT serving this tonight!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Garlicky Shrimp with Bread Crumbs

This is from Cook's Illustrated #85, and has been on my to-do list since I saw the gorgeous photo on Julia's site. I was on my way home from my long bike ride, when I realized I should stop and pick up some groceries. I called her, and she was kind enough to read the ingredient list to me. I dashed into Central Market, chatted with my favorite fish monger Mario for a minute and was quickly home with everything I needed to make dinner.

I thought the recipe was a little bit of a PITA, as I think many Cook's Illustrated recipes are. But it was quite good and we gobbled it up. I made a half recipe and served it with roasted asparagus and an inexpensive Chilean sauvignon blanc. YUM!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Gnocchi with Bacon, Onions & Peas

I thought we were going out for dinner, but we made a last minute decision to stay home. Unfortunately, I was very low on groceries and very low on motivation to run to the store. I racked my brain trying to think of something to make with the limited supply I had on hand, but I kept coming up empty. Finally, one of those "duh!" moments, it occurred to me to flip through the Quick and Delicious section of the most recent Fine Cooking magazine (#85).

Hmmm... Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Bacon, Onions & Peas... pan-fried gnocchi is one my stand-by meals. Usually I sauteed it in butter and sage from my lame herb garden. This might be a very nice variation. Quick ingredient scan: gnocchi? check. bacon? in freezer. check. yellow onion? well, just one, not two, but check. frozen peas? check. fresh thyme? check. parmigiano-reggiano? check. We're in business, amazingly enough.

Other than the one-onion-not-two problem, the only other thing I varied from the recipe is that I did not throw away the bacon fat. I poured some of it into a bowl and carmelized the onion in what remained in the pan. Then I added more back to the pan when it was time for the gnocchi. I know it's not a "good" fat like olive oil, but it was yummy.

Gary is not crazy about green peas. He was a good sport, but I had to trade a few of my gnocchi for a few of his peas. That's an ok swap, I think. We both liked the gnocchi, and it turned out to be great carbo-loading for my bike ride the next day. I was full of energy!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Easy Olive & Herb Bread

There is a recipe for Olive-Rosemary Bread in the March & April 2007 issue of Cook's Illustrated that looks fabulous. But it also looks very involved. And I want to make it with Julia. So when I happened to stumble across a much more simple recipe for similar bread on the website for Eating Well magazine, I decided to go for it.

I made a half recipe, which is one loaf. It's not as handsome as the NYT No Knead Bread. And I suspect it isn't as good as the Cook's Illustrated version of Olive-Rosemary Bread. But it's quick, it's easy, and it's quite nice with a glass of red wine.

Easy Olive & Herb Bread

Adapted from Nancy Baggett in Eating Well magazine
Yield: 1 loaf
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 1/4-4 1/2 hours (depending on rising times)

¾ T. (about 1 packet) active dry yeast or 1/2 T. quick-rising yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm (100-105°F) water
1 ¼ cups hot (110-115°F) water
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 T olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 ½ T sugar
¾ tsp dried herbs (herbs de provence) or 3 ½ T minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/8 tsp. salt
1 ½ cup plus 2 T. whole-wheat flour, plus a little more for dusting (I used cornmeal to dust)
1/3 cup well-drained, pitted and finely chopped black olives

  • In a 1-cup measure, sprinkle yeast over 1/3 cup lukewarm water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the yeast dissolves.

  • Place all-purpose flour, oil, sugar, herbs and salt in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the 1 ¼ cups hot water with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended and smooth. Slowly beat in the yeast mixture until evenly incorporated. Gradually raise the speed to medium (or almost to the point the mixture begins to splatter), and beat for 4 minutes if using a heavy-duty stand mixer or 5 minutes if using a hand mixer.

  • Stir whole-wheat flour and olives into the dough until evenly incorporated; the dough will be sticky and wet. Turn out the dough into a very large lightly oiled bowl. Lightly brush the top of the dough with olive oil until evenly covered. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot until the dough doubles in bulk, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Generously coat a round 1 1/2- to 2-quart (6- to 8-cup capacity) ovenproof casserole or soufflé dish with cooking spray. Coat your hand with cooking spray; press down the dough in the bowl, scrape it into the prepared baking dish. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top. With your fingertips, smooth out the dough and evenly brush it with the oil. Sprinkle with a spoonful of flour or cornmeal. Loosely cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm spot until the dough rises to the plastic wrap, 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours (depending on the temperature of your room).

  • Remove the plastic wrap; let the dough rise until it's 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the rim, 15 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.

  • Transfer to the middle of the oven. Bake until the top is nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Remove from the dish (run a table knife around the edge to loosen if necessary), place right side up on a baking sheet, and continue baking until well browned on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.