RRC #11: Classic Club Sandwich

ymsk

In this edition of the Retro Recipe Challenge, the theme was “Your Mother Should Know”, and we were asked to find recipes that were popular before our mother was born. Mine was born in 1952, which made finding a cookbook from before then kind of difficult (I think the oldest one I have personally was published in 1970). So I decided to stay with the same theme, but first did some research online to find out what food was popular in the 30′s and 40′s, and then sought to find a modern day source for a classic recipe. According to this site, club sandwiches have been around in documented literature since the end of the 19th century, but they reached their peak of popularity in the 1940′s, when they went from single decker to a triple decker.

clubsandwich

I found a recipe for a Classic Club Sandwich on the Food Network site, making sure it included all of the customary components: white bread, turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and mayo. It turned out all kinds of awesome, probably due to the great ingredients. I have no doubt it will be even better in summer with in-season tomatoes. A few notes on the ingredients and prep. First, I used Pepperidge Farm white bread, which is perfectly square and nice and thin (don’t use their very thin bread, which wouldn’t hold up to these ingredients) – it’s the perfect bread to use because it’s just the right amount of bread – with regular white bread, it’s too spongy and/or thick, and when you’re dealing with three pieces of bread in a single sandwich, would easily overwhelm the whole thing. It also cuts down on the height issue. If you have a Pepperidge Farm outlet store in town like we do, even better. Second, the turkey is the sliced turkey from Trader Joe’s, and was the perfect thing to use – nice thick slices of perfectly moist, perfectly seasoned roasted turkey. I can’t see this having worked as well with deli turkey, although I’m sure it will do in a pinch. It’s just not the same, though. The tomatoes? Were Camparis, which are the closest thing to real tomatoes this time of year. The lettuce? Romaine, but I trimmed out the tough veins of the leaves, which made a difference (a nice difference) in the texture of the sandwich overall. We used ready bacon, which didn’t make a real difference in overall results and is super-convenient. And make sure you’re generous with both the mayo and the salt and pepper. It’s important to use plenty of both for the sandwich to be really good. And for goodness sakes, break out the Hellmann’s and leave the Miracle Whip on the grocery shelf where it belongs. ;) We scaled the recipe in half so we’d make 2 sandwiches instead of 4 (since there *are* just two of us, after all), but I’ll leave the original recipe intact below.

Classic Club Sandwich
recipe courtesy Food Network Kitchens

12 slices white bread
3/4 cup mayonnaise
8 romaine lettuce leaves
16 slices vine-ripened tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 slices crispy cooked bacon
16 ounces sliced roasted turkey
16 frill picks, or plastic cocktail swords

Serving suggestions:
Potato chips
Sweet Pickles

Toast the bread in a toaster, or under a broiler on both sides. Cut the lettuce leaves in half crosswise and form into 8 neat stacks.

To make a double-decker club: On a clean work surface, arrange 3 bread slices in a row. Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise over 1 side of each bread slice. Place a lettuce stack on top of the first bread slice, top with 2 tomato slices, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place 2 slices bacon over the tomatoes (broken to fit neatly if necessary) and top with 1/8 of the turkey (without letting any hang over the sides). Season the turkey with salt and pepper, to taste. Repeat with the second bread slice. Carefully place the second layered bread slice on top of the first layered bread, turkey side-up. Cover with the third bread slice, mayonnaise side-down.

Pin the sandwich’s layers together by piercing them with 4 frill picks or cocktail swords through the top bread slice, in 4 places in a diamond-like pattern, all the way to the bottom bread slice. Repeat entire process with the remaining ingredients to form 3 more sandwiches.

Using a serrated knife cut each sandwich, diagonally, into 4 triangular pieces (each piece should be secured in the center with a pick or sword). Serve with potato chips and pickles.

MBP: Anelletti Pasta with Sausage and Greens

This is my first time participating in the Monthly Blog Patrol food blogging event, and one that was prompted after visiting Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen and laying eyes on Faith’s Anelletti Pasta with Sausage and Greens. I had a couple bag of these rings laying around (I think we both shop at the same Trader Joe’s, hee) and had been playing with the idea of making a grown up version of Spaghetti-O’s with them. But who could resist the idea of sausage, pasta, and greens, a combination that I find enticing? And it fit in perfectly with this month’s theme of One Pot Wonders.

anelletti

I basically left her recipe intact, but for the fact I added a full pound of sausage, because of my increased dietary requirements for protein. On reheating, we added an 8 oz. container of Pastaria’s Tomato Alfredo sauce, which made a great dish even better. If you’d like to try it yourself, here’s her recipe (with my adaptations in italics).

Anelletti Pasta with Sausage and Greens
recipe by Faith Hopler

1 lb. anelleti pasta from Trader Joe’s
Olive oil
1/4 lb. Italian or spicy sausage, crumbled (I used a full pound)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Four big handfuls of seasonal greens like baby spinach or arugula
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in salted water. It should cook for just 12-13 minutes (mine went a few minutes longer, maybe 15 or 16) Drain and set aside.

In the same big pot you cooked the pasta in, heat a little olive oil and add the sausage and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the sausage is cooked through.

Add the greens and cook until barely wilted, then add the pasta and cheese and stir until all is combined and gooey, about 2 minutes. Serve with extra cheese.

Noodle Kugel

A little bit over a week ago, not even realizing that we were coming up on Passover (since I’m not Jewish, religious holidays are barely on my radar except when other food bloggers talk about them), I had a hankering for traditionally Jewish food.

I can count the delis in town that make anything remotely traditionally Jewish on one hand, and most of them are in Bexley. Not wanting to pay an arm and a leg to get my favorites at Katzinger’s, I decided to try my hand at making stuff at home. Over the next few entries, I’m going to chronicle my attempts. Bear in mind, although these recipes are inspired by Jewish dishes, they definitely aren’t kosher. I’m sure that some Orthodox types may have kittens a bit later when they see milk and meat (and cloven hooved meat at that) on the same plate when it comes to the main course. Just bear in mind that I’m a Gentile who digs the flavor of Jewish food without following any of the dietary laws. With that in mind, here’s the first course, which I’m submitting as my entry to this week’s Presto Pasta Night event. It’s a bit different from my usual, since it’s not savory, but was quite delicious, especially with the addition of some dried cherries from Trader Joe’s. This recipe is absolutely foolproof, as evidenced by the delicous results.

kugel

Noodle Kugel
recipe adapted from Recipezaar

8 oz. wide egg noodles
1 c. dried cherries
5 large eggs
1 c. sour cream
1 stick melted butter, cooled
1/3 c. sugar
4 c. whole milk
3 c. corn flakes, coarsely crushed
1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13x9x2″ glass baking dish. Place uncooked noodles in pan and spread evenly over bottom. Sprinkle with the cherries. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream, sugar and butter. Add the milk, whisking until smooth.

Pour the mixture evenly over the noodles and let stand for 5 minutes. Combine the cornflake crumbs and brown sugar. Sprinkle evenly over the noodles. Bake about 1 hour or until set in the center. Cut into squares and serve either warm or room temperature.

TWD: Bill’s Big Carrot Cake

Well, here I come bringing up the rear again. I had fully intended to make these this weekend, but you know how it is when real life gets in the way. And we grilled out yesterday, which meant that our fridge was filled with tons of leftovers, so I didn’t get around to making these until just a few minutes ago.

carrotcupcake

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Bill’s Big Carrot Cake, was chosen by Amanda of slow like honey. I have to admit, I deviated a little bit this week. There was no way I wanted to have to eat my way through a huge three-layer carrot cake, so I halved the recipe for the cake and made six jumbo cupcakes instead of a layer cake. I did, however, keep the frosting recipe as a full batch, so I could pipe nice fluffy tops onto the cupcakes. I finished them with a little bit of toasted coconut. It took roughly 35 minutes of baking for them to be done.

The frosting came together easily, and since I wasn’t sure how the combination of lemon and carrot cake would taste, I used half of the lemon juice as called for in the recipe. I haven’t tasted the finished product yet (I’m still waiting for the icing to set), but the individual components taste great so I’m sure the combination of the two are divine.

Bill’s Big Carrot Cake
recipe from “Baking: From My Home to Yours” courtesy Dorie Greenspan

For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.

If you’d like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

To assemble the cake:
Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

Serving:
This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it’s good plain, it’s even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.

Storing:
The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it’s firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Review: Brunch at ZenCha Tea Salon

I was first introduced to ZenCha last April, when I met Rosie and Lisa, two fellow local food bloggers, there for brunch. I had totally forgotten about the place (and their weekend brunch) until a couple of weeks ago, when my husband, mother, and I, after heading to the Worthington Farmer’s Market one fine Saturday morning, wanted to go to Northstar Short North for breakfast. But alas, the line was so friggin’ long that when I suggested, “hey, why not go across the street? they have brunch!”, both of them were more than game.

On that first visit, a couple of weeks ago, I played it fairly safe, and got the Masala tea waffles ($9.95). I did like them very much – they were sweet but not too sweet, slightly spicy, and way more than I could eat in a sitting. But this is what my husband got:

zenchaokonomiyaki

I kind of raised my eyebrow a bit, because judging by the description, I didn’t know if it would be good or not. So he offered me a taste. And when he did, I had instant Masala waffle regret and a severe case of Okonomiyaki envy. Yes, they were that good. Great texture contrast between the still a bit crunchy cabbage, the soft batter of the pancake, and the chicken. The sauces (which after some internet research, I’ve found out are a special fermented sauce and also Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise) are what makes the dish. So needless to say, I’ve been having major “Japanese Pizza” (as it is often referred to) lust, and have been waiting for the weekends to roll around to get my fix. Lucky for me, they’re fairly easy to prepare so I may try my hand at a batch of them here at home soon, after a trip to Tensuke to get the ingredients I need.

But I digress – it is a TEA salon, after all. And I, the non-tea drinker, got some tea. I don’t remember the name offhand (it’s the Spring Blend under the Fresh Fruit Medley section of the menu), but I got it over ice, made with green tea, and it was mild, fruity, and paired extremely well with the Okonomiyaki.

zenchafruittea

My husband opted for the black bubble milk tea. I love bubble tea, but wanted to mix it up a bit this time. I wonder if one can get one of the fruit medley teas with bubbles? If you’ve never had bubble tea before, they are tapioca balls that you suck up through the big straw – they are kind of like gummi bears in texture, with no real flavor.

zenchamilktea

They serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday only, from 10am to 2pm. As you can see, they have lots of choices on their brunch menu, if a savory dish isn’t your thing.

zenchamenu

I honestly think it’s one of the best weekend brunch options in Columbus. As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to start making okonomiyaki at ZenCha one of my Saturday morning routines come market season. :)

If you’d like to go: ZenCha Tea Salon, 982 N. High Street, Columbus (Short North), 614.421.2140

Zencha Tea Salon on Urbanspoon

Classic Beef Stew

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of pressure cooking, of being able to put something in a pot and having it cook in a fraction of the time it normally would. What has always scared me away from it is hearing horror stories about exploding pressure cookers. Even though I had a pressure cooker, I never used it.

Anyway, more recently, I acquired an Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker with tons of safety features (double locking mechanism that doesn’t allow you to open the unit until the pressure drops to zero, etc.) And this pressure cooker truly is idiot-proof. You can brown in it, saute veggies, simmer, pressure cook, you name it. It’s so very simple. It’s just a matter of not filling it too high, making sure there’s a little liquid in there (3/4 cup will do for most things), and setting the timer for whatever you’re trying to make. It does everything else for you – brings it up to pressure, and then when the time is up you can either do a quick release of pressure (stand back, that steam is hot!) or let it depressurize naturally, during which it still continues to cook.

For our inagural use, we adapted slightly a recipe from the book that came with the unit. It was hands down the most tender, tastiest beef stew I’ve had in ages. And the smell when we opened it up? Divine. While the recipe directions are specifically for use with an electric pressure cooker, I’m sure the recipe can be further adapted to work with any pressure cooker. Also, the recipe calls for a buerre manie (butter-flour paste) to thicken the stew, but this did not work for us – we ended up using a traditional flour/water slurry and that did the trick. I’ll leave the original instructions intact for that part just in case it works better for you.

Pressure Cooker Beef Stew

Classic Beef Stew
recipe adapted from Cuisinart CPC-600 Series Recipe Booklet

3 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
Penzey’s Beef Roast Seasoning
2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 c. dry red wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
3/4 c. beef broth
2 c. baby-cut carrots
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour

Season pieces of chuck roast with salt and pepper and beef roast seasoning and reserve. Place the olive oil in the cooking pot of the Cuisinart Electric Pressure cooker. Select Browning. When oil begins to sizzle, add pieces of chuck in a single layer – do not crowd. Continue browning meat in batches until all meat is browned. As meat is browned transfer to a plate. Select Saute. Stir the chopped onions into the pot. With a wooden spoon, scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan that have accumulated while meat was browning. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes, until onions start to soften and are translucent. Stir in the chopped carrots and celery. Saute vegetables for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chopped garlic and saute an additional minute.

Once vegetables are soft, stir in red wine, again scraping any brown bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pot. Cook until red wine has reduced itself by half, then stir in the tomato paste.

Add the reserved beef, bay leaf, garlic cloves, and beef broth to the pot. Select High Pressure. Set timer for 10 minutes. When audible beep sounds use Quick Pressure Release to release pressure. When float valve drops, remove lid carefully, tilting away from you to allow steam to disperse. Add carrots to the pot and select High Pressure. Set timer for 6 minutes. When audible beep sounds use Natural Pressure Release to relese pressure. When float valve drops, remove lid carefully, tilting away from you to allow steam to disperse.

To thicken stew, strain the solids from the stew liquid, reserving both. Remove and discard bay leaf. Blend softened butter and flour to make a paste (buerre manie). Return liquid to pot and bring it to a boil by selecting Brown. Once liquid comes to a boil whisk in the butter/flour mixture. Select Simmer. Once liquid thickens, stir the meat and carrots back into the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper accordingly.

Easy peasy. And the leftovers? The next day, I mixed them with some wagon wheel pasta which soaked up that delicious gravy beautifully, and will be my offering for this weeks Presto Pasta Night blogging event:

Beef Stew with Wagon Wheels

So if the only thing that’s holding you back from pressure cooking is the fear of explosion, never fear – today’s pressure cookers (even the non-electric ones) have safety features that make it much less risky than in days of yore. And the time savings? Amazing. I can’t wait to do other things with it as well.

TWD: Marshmallows

My apologies for flaking out on last week’s Tuesdays with Dorie challenge, the lemon tart – I had all the ingredients and was ready to make it at the last minute on Tuesday night, then when looking at the directions, realized I didn’t have an instant read thermometer and to be honest, didn’t have any desire to go out and look for one after 10pm (my only choices at that point would have been a grocery store, I think).

However, we’re back with guns ablazing for this challenge – my husband did all the work on this one (I’m more comfortable with baking, while he’s perfectly content to work with liquid napalm – i.e. hot corn syrup). They did come out nice if I do say so myself. And as for how they taste? Marshmallowy. Will this replace buying them at the grocery store already made for me? No way. But it was nice for us to go through the process of making it at least once.

marshmallows

Marshmallows
recipe courtesy “Baking: From My Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan

Including marshmallows as a spoon dessert may seem like cheating — after all, they’re eaten with fingers (or, by campers, from sticks picked up in the forest) — but making them at home is too much fun to miss. And in fact this dessert is related to others in this chapter: the base is meringue — sweetened and strengthened by a cooked sugar syrup and fortified by gelatin.

There’s nothing difficult about making the marshmallows, but the meringue does need a long beating. While you can use a hand mixer, a stand mixer makes the job easier.

I’m giving you the recipe for a basic vanilla marshmallow. See Playing Around (below) for raspberry, chocolate, cappuccino and pumpkin marshmallows.

Makes about 1 pound marshmallows

About 1 cup potato starch (found in the kosher foods section of supermarkets) or cornstarch
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

GETTING READY: Line a rimmed baking sheet — choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high — with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup — without stirring — until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)

Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy — don’t overbeat them and have them go dull.

As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.

Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won’t fill the pan. Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).

Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They’ll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.

Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you’ll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you’d like — into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they’re cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you’ve got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.

SERVING: Put the marshmallows out and let everyone nibble as they wish. Sometimes I fill a tall glass vase with the marshmallows and put it in the center of the table — it never fails to make friends smile. You can also top hot chocolate or cold sundaes with the marshmallows.

STORING: Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place; don’t cover them closely. Stored in this way, they will keep for about 1 week — they might develop a little crust on the outside or they might get a little firmer on the inside, but they’ll still be very good.

Playing Around

RASPBERRY MARSHMALLOWS: Fruit purees are excellent for flavoring these candies.For raspberry marshmallows, you’ll need a generous 1/3 cup of puree; reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon. After the batter is mixed, gently fold in the puree with a rubber spatula. You can use the same measurements and technique for other purees, such as strawberry, mango and passion fruit.

CAPPUCCINO MARSHMALLOWS: Sift 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon together into a small bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and mix until smooth. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/2 teaspoon, and add it to the espresso mix. After you add the sugar syrup and gelatin to the meringue, beat in the espresso mixture and continue.

LIGHT CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOWS: Melt 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon, and after the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the chocolate mixture with a large rubber spatula.

PUMPKIN SPICE MARSHMALLOWS: Whisk together 1/2 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of ground allspice. After the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the spiced pumpkin with a large rubber spatula.

All Apologies

It’s come to my attention that I’ve been a really bad blogger, pretty much flaking on everything blog related for the past week or so, in lieu of food taking a back seat to pretty much everything else going on right now. I apologize profusely.

However, my absence doesn’t mean I didn’t eat or cook – I certainly did, and do have so much to talk about. So in the next few days, keep your eyes peeled for:

  • my Tuesdays with Dorie assignment this week, making marshmallows! (Actually, I’ll be posting this in a couple of minutes)
  • my Jewish inspired meal from this weekend
  • my trip report (unfortunately, no pics – I forgot the camera) of my trip to G&R Tavern in Waldo for fried bologna
  • my (almost) local German meal that I made here at home
  • an update on my progress with the Kitchn’ Cure 2008 – I’m combining the first few weeks together, and am getting there slowly but surely
  • and the results of my first attempt at using a pressure cooker!

Thanks for checking up on me, I’m AOK. :)

First Friday at the Refectory

Over the last year, we’ve gone to the Refectory for the bistro menu (best value in Columbus!) quite a few times. We kept on saying that we’d eventually go during the weekend for the regular menu, but we’ve never got around to it.

I’ve been aware that they conduct a First Friday dinner to honor a famous French cook every month, but until this month, I didn’t see a menu that appealed to me enough to consider it. But when I saw that this month’s menu to salute Cyprien Ragueneau had a Gateau St. Honore on it, I knew that we’d have to go.

For those not familiar with the First Fridays concept, for a price of $50, one gets four courses, and can opt for wine pairings for an additional $35. I did opt for the pairings, but unfortunately didn’t write any of them down. I can honestly say (and this coming from a non-wine drinker) that they were matched beautifully. I finally “get” wine. I see now how a good wine brings out flavor notes in the food, and vice versa. Lucky for me, The Refectory’s sommelier is skilled at his job.

After some of their wonderful bread and butter, we were presented with the first course – a lobster and black truffle quiche with fried leek and ‘Creme Gauloise” Veloute. The mingling of different flavor notes was balanced brilliantly – the creamy texture of the quiche acting as a backdrop to large chunks of mild sweet lobster, shiitake mushrooms, and the delicate earthy flavor of black truffles. The paired wine brought the truffle flavor to the forefront, and enhanced the earthiness of the dish. The Veloute sauce added more to the mouth feel than to the flavor, but would have been sorely missed if it hadn’t been there.

refectory_course1

The next course I hadn’t been too sure about before we went, because it contained offal. But (and excuse the pun) the offal wasn’t awful at all. Set down in front of us was the second course – an asparagus and veal sweetbread feuillete with a morel wine sauce. Sweetbreads, for those who aren’t familiar with them, are (in this case) the thymus glands of an animal. From what I’ve read, far too often the reason people don’t like them is because they are overcooked and tough – that definitely wasn’t the case here. Two small slices of sweetbreads were presented between squares of puff pastry, and surrounded by tender asparagus and a heady morel wine sauce. The texture of the sweetbreads reminded me of nothing else than a mushroom or sous vide chicken, tender, almost buttery. Rather than having a strong flavor of its own, it picked up the flavors of what was around it – in this case, the sauce. I think offal is all about the preparation; in skilled hands, it can be amazing, as this was.

refectory_course2

For our main course, we were served a duet of beef tenderloin and duck magret with cardamom and cassis sauces, and a celery root flan. The protein was cooked to perfection (medium rare), and the sauce was what made this dish. That’s another conclusion we came to last night – that a good sauce makes any dish better, and elevates something that’s already good to something sublime. With this course, the food brought out the tannins in the wine, a suprising revelation to me, who always thought it worked the other way around. The celery root flan reminded me of the flavor of cream of celery soup, but thicker. It all worked beautifully together.

refectory_course3

Now, for the course I came for – dessert. The Gateau St. Honore looked like a miniature version of the one I made last year. Having done it before myself, I have a great appreciation for the work that goes into one of these. I’ve been craving it like crazy for almost a year now, but no one – and I mean no one – around here makes them. Their version is so delicate, so perfectly classic, that I had an instantaneous foodgasm on the first forkful, which went on continously until my plate was clean. I gave my compliments to the pastry chef, and suggested that this become a regular menu item. I don’t know if she’ll consider my suggestion, but a girl can hope, right? :)

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All in all, it was easily, hands down, the best dinner I’ve had since I’ve moved to Columbus, quite possibly the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. Add into that the incredible customer service that The Refectory is famous for (who else makes follow up phone calls to make sure you enjoyed your meal?), and First Fridays at the Refectory is not something to be missed. I can’t wait to find out what’s on board for next month. In the meantime, I think I’m going to make reservations for their RMS Titanic Dinner. And don’t forget, during most of this month, they’re offering their Tax Relief Menu – 3 great courses for $35 on Mondays through Thursdays. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

If you’d like to go: The Refectory Restaurant and Bistro, 1092 Bethel Rd, Columbus, 614.451.9774.

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TWD: Gooey Chocolate Cakes

I love chocolate. I really do. So much so, that I was really looking forward to this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Gooey Chocolate Cakes. But there is such a thing as TOO chocolately, I found out. :)

Because a lot of others were having a few problems with the recipe (like it not being gooey at all), I made 4 cakes in jumbo muffin pans rather than 6 in regular muffin pans. And I cut the cooking time down to 10 minutes. And they were indeed molten in the middle, I can assure you. Quite delicious paired with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream, but far too rich for me to finish.

gooeychocolatecake

Gooey Chocolate Cake
recipe from “Baking: From My Home to Yours” courtesy Dorie Greenspan

Makes 6 (mine made 4)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate with
4 ounces coarsely chopped
1 ounce very finely chopped
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons of sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. butter (or spray – it’s easier) 6 cups of a regular-size (I used 4 jumbo sized cups muffin pan, preferably a disposable aluminum foil pan, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess (I used baking spray, much easier and worked well). Put the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in the bowl and stir occasionally over the simmering water just until they are melted – you don’t want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until homogenous. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and, still using the whisk, stir (don’t beat) them into the eggs. Little by little, and using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over the batter.

Bake the cakes for 13 minutes (I baked mine for 10 minutes). Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a rack to cool for 3 minutes. (There is no way to test that these cakes are properly baked, because the inside remains liquid.)

Line a cutting board with a silicone baking mat or parchment or wax paper, and, after the 3-minute rest, unmold the cakes onto the board. Use a wide metal spatula to lift the cakes onto dessert plates.