Cooking Food and Stuff – January through March 2015

Winter is just the worst, guys. It’s dark all the time. It’s cold. Sometimes you wake up and you look outside and there’s snow all over your car and the road and everyone’s like OMG SNOW DAY and you’re like “no, no, I have a huge project at work and need to leave the house.”

And then you make food for dinner and there is no soul in it, just necessity. And even if you do make something exciting the pictures look so bad because of The Darkness. I am definitely not a photographer at the best of times, and winter food pictures are…unpleasant.

BUT it appears to be spring now. There is sunshine! I can go outside without four sweaters! I am pleased. My cooking magazines have piled up and are full of dog-eared pages. Things will be made from them!

Since I have actually cooked a bit this winter, some of it from my news year’s resolutions, this post will be a bit of a roundup.

Basketweave covers a multitude of lopsided layers

Basketweave covers a multitude of lopsided layers

Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Icing and Raspberry Filling

We had an extremely well-coordinated surprise party for my friend Krystal, who was quite surprised that her friends had shown up in her house and decorated it and brought food. We only had 15 balloons and two things of mismatched crepe paper for decorations because apparently none of us are on pinterest, but we had a giant cheese plate with heart shaped brie, so.

I made a cake! Per her husband’s request, it was a chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream. I layered it with raspberry filling to balance the sweetness of the chocolate. The decorations were sugar/gum paste flowers I made the week prior.

  • The cake base was this fantastic one-bowl chocolate cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart, same recipe split into two 9-inch cake pans. It is not as sturdy for layering as the butter cake I usually use, so I may keep hunting for a sturdy chocolate cake recipe. This one is quite delicious though. One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
  • The chocolate buttercream was Wilton’s recipe. I made it with cocoa powder and did the extra fudgy version. I doubled the recipe and also added two tablespoons of meringue powder so it would ice better. It was VERY thick so I thinned it slowly with extra water until I could pipe it easily. Chocolate Buttercream Icing  
  • This raspberry filling recipe is amazing. I use it all the time. The only thing I do differently is just get regular frozen raspberries instead of sugar-packed ones. I let them defrost all the way on the counter and then microwave them to get the maximum raspberry juice through the strainer. Raspberry Filling

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers – New Year’s Resolution #1

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

Action shot seconds before they disappeared

OH YES these happened. I made them for a faux-superbowl party and they were glorious. If you haven’t made them, you must. They are not too spicy for the fearful among you, once you remove the seeds and membrane from inside the pepper. Then you fill it with cheese and wrap it in bacon. I followed this recipe by Pioneer Woman, which has you brush a little bit of barbecue sauce on the bacon before cooking. You must absolutely do this. It makes the bacon taste like candied bacon. They were gone almost instantly at the party.

 Lasagna – New Year’s Resolution #2

If I had not promised myself to make this for New Year’s and wanted to point out that it had been accomplished, I would not be posting about it. This was sort of a disaster. I tried making my own ricotta, but didn’t have heavy cream and the low-fat milk just curdled and it was horrid. There was a foot of snow outside and we risked life and limb to drive to the store to get MORE ricotta and somehow, when everyone was frantically buying milk and bread for the 12 hours of being housebound, they bought all the Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles. So I used Trader Joe’s brand, which is NOT the preferred brand of Italians everywhere. They were very gummy and I do not recommend them. My mother, who held my hand via the phone throughout the process, almost disowned me for frying up ground beef and sausage for the meat layer instead of making small meatballs, per our family’s tradition. However, the spaghetti sauce did turn out perfectly and I will post that recipe at some point very soon.

The lasagna itself was not photographed, because there was a group of hungry snow refugees at my house and I do not usually take pictures of hot food if there are hungry people waiting for it. Everyone said it tasted very good, so I will remake it with the correct ingredients that one can usually find if they are not trapped by accursed snow.

Advertisements

Smashed Fingerling Potatoes with Jalapeños- Bon Appétit, July 2014

Fingerling potatoes with jalapenos

“FOR OUTDOOR USE” declared the July issue of Bon Appétit. I thought that was terrific, and pictured myself standing over the grill, Bon Appétit in one hand, fork in the other, tasty meat charring before me. Possibly while wearing  a jaunty chef’s hat.

Of course the first recipe I made from this issue was not outdoors during the glory days of summer, but indoors at the end of August. If I was an issue of Bon Appétit magazine, my cover would read “FOR INDOOR USE ONLY.” The outdoors is just a terrible place, guys. Mosquitoes. Dirt. Bugs. Non-controlled climate.

If you somehow are still grilling into the final days of summer, this is a very nice potato dish to make indoors and then eat with your outdoor food. Or you could cook your entire meal indoors and congratulate yourself on your passive dominance over nature.

Usually when someone says “Potato Salad,” one pictures a bowl of mayonnaise with a few sad potatoes floating around. This recipe is a million times better. Small fingerling potatoes are drizzled in olive oil and oven-roasted, then tossed with a delicious whole-grain mustard vinaigrette, fresh parsley, and jalapeños while warm. The jalapeños provide the perfect kick.

These potatoes pairs well with any summer-ish meat main – burgers, steak, barbecue chicken.

Smashed Fingerlings with Jalapenos 

(Bon Appétit, July 2014, recipe by Lou Lambert and Larry McGuire)

My Notes: 

  • Smashing the potatoes is fun. Give them about five minutes to cool then gently press on them with a wooden spoon until they pop.
  • I used red-wine vinegar.
  • I didn’t think my potatoes were overly large but halved most of them anyway to make them more bite-sized.
  • I was bringing this to a Labor Day party, so I removed the core and seeds from the jalapeños before slicing in case others did not share in my adoration for spice.
  • I thought this was better warm, so make it as close to meal time as you can. I made mine about five hours before serving it, and it was definitely tastier in the first hour than it was in the last.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved crosswise if large
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed if desired
  • ¼ cup (lightly packed) torn flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Toss potatoes with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until golden brown and tender, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then lightly flatten.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar and mustard in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining ¼ cup oil until emulsified; season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes, jalapeño, and parsley and toss; season with salt and pepper.