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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Did I Pack My Toothbrush? Oh, and Clementines Pt. 2

Alright so I still need to wash my clothes so I can pack them, get all my cooking supplies organized, find my passport (I'm pretty sure I know where it is), and do just a hundred other things. But I need to share this recipe with you. Clemetine Olive Oil Cake. I got the idea from this great 24 hour cuban diner, Coppelia. They have a steamed olive oil cake with a salted brulee crust. That sounds digustingly good, right? It is. It is also six bucks for a tiny slice, which of course meant I seriously needed to find a recipe that at least came close to this cake. And I did! The secret: you bake the cake in a similar fashion as a cheesecake, in a water bath. It comes out creamy, dense, almost pudding-like.

Enjoy. I'll be back in three weeks with stories. One might involve me murdering a chicken.

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
5-6 little clementines (or 3 normal oranges)
1 cup (200 grams or 7 ounces) sugar

Scant 1/2 cup (118 ml) buttermilk or plain yogurt

2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (156 ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 3/4 cups (219 grams or 7 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch cake pan and place a circle of parchment paper on the bottom. Grate zest from the clementines and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers or a fork, rub/mix ingredients together until orange zest is evenly distributed in sugar. 
Squeeze juice from about 4 clementines into a bowl; you’ll have a scant 1/3 cup. Add buttermilk or yogurt to juice until you have 2/3-3/4 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.
In another bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Pour batter into prepared pan. Take a roasting pan and place cake pan inside. Then fill the roasting pan with enough hot water to go about half an inch up the side of the cake pan. 
Bake cake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

There's Just Nothing Like Friends....Hot Pot and Key Lime Pie

I don't care what you say (I know I can't hear you just go with it), there's nothing better than having a homemade meal with a bunch of old friends. Nothing. Tonight was exactly what I needed before heading off to 'Nam, and boy was this an AMAZING dinner. One of my good friends, who is Thai, made us a huge hot pot to all partake in. It was my first hot pot experience, and I cannot believe I've gone 25 years without enjoying this food of the Asian gods.

A huge pot of delicious broth teeming with fresh cabbage, spinach, tofu, noodles, parsnips and beef bones. Then you fill these adorable little baskets with shavings of raw meat, shrimp, fish balls or dumplings, let them cook in the broth, and gobble them up with all the veggies and broth. I ate past the point of being full. I ate past the point of pain. I ate till I physically had to stand up and walk away so I would simple stop eating. But then...there was pie.

Now I know I am pretty proud of most of my recipes on this blog, but I have to admit: I make a darn good key lime pie. And it was kinda the best ending to this meal. I think I'm going to float the suggestion that we do a monthly "Hot Pot and Pie" deal. Perhaps weekly. Perhaps we do it again on Tuesday. Whatever.

So about this pie. It's all about the balance of tart and sweet. And forget those who say you absolutely need key limes to make this pie. That's bull. But fresh lime zest and juice is essential. Don't you dare put one of those little plastic lime containers of juice anywhere near this pie. I'll slap you.

Key Lime Pie (adapted from Joe’s Stone Crab)
Note: while adding the lime juice, start tasting the mixture. You might need less lime juice than 2/3 cup, or if you’re a big tart fan you might need more. Make sure the pie filling is to your taste.

N’other Note: don’t worry about using Key limes for this pie. Regular ones work just fine. You might just need a bit less juice.

1/3 of a 1-pound box graham crackers
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Dash of salt
1 cup heavy or whipping cream chilled
Splash of vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Break up the graham crackers and place in a food processor and process to crumbs. If you don't have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag, seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and side of a pie pan, forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.
In an electric mixer beat the egg yolks, lime zest and salt at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
For the topping, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until nearly stiff. Cut the pie into wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Arm Should Probably Not Tingle Like This....Clementines Pt. 1

Sour Cream Cornbread w/ paprika, thyme, and cheddar.
So, after about four shoots of working my butt off chopping, stirring, kneading, etc. my body is finally catching up with me. At first my right hand was just a bit tingly more often than normal. But then I started waking up and realized I could slam my hand in a car door and not feel it, it was that numb. Typical me I just ignored it for a while, thinking "eh, my body'll figure itself out". But then I told my mom (a physician), who said "Um, yeah. You're getting carpal tunnel." Well ain't that a hoot.

Homemade Granola w/ pumpkin and sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. Along with mixed fruit, yogurt, and coconut custard (that bowl of bright yellow stuff at the top).
So now I'm wearing this nifty brace, which makes me look all kinds of cool. Of course I was worried about what would happen when I headed to Vietnam this coming Wednesday, but the director and producer were nice enough to not give me just one assistant, but two! So I'm the supervisor, organizing my cooks and focusing on creating dishes rather than grunt work. Sweet. I seriously can't wait for this trip. My love of travel is on hyperdrive this year. First two months in Spain/France, now three weeks in Vietnam. Life is super, crazy good at the moment.
I call this "The Hot Mess". Dessert in 5 minutes. Caramel and vanilla ice cream topped with crushed mint oreos, and chocolate ganache poured all over. A six-year-old's wet dream.
But I have to admit, that awesomeness is paired with back-breaking crazyness. This catering gig has taken up a huge portion of my time. Along with writing and some rudimentary semblance of social life, I'm lucky to get four hours of sleep in a night. But for some reason everyone says I look well rested. Go figure. However, I think this is how I like my life. A mess of things to do and accomplish. Probably a big reason of why I'm a filmmaker. Speaking of which, my writing group was pretty impressed with my latest draft of the script! Success! Of course I still have loads to change and make better, but hey it's a step forward.

Oh wait, but I need to talk about the food! Alright, really quick: clementines are so in right now. I mean seasonally. I think. At least, Trader Joe's is selling them by the bushel, so I picked up a sack and then I had no idea what to do with them. I realize "eat them" is an option, but why do that when there's so many other fun things to do? So Clementine Cinnamon Bread Pudding it is. And guys, let me tell you. Oh MAN is this good bread pudding. I made this for the last shoot I worked and I almost didn't give it away. I was seriously contemplating just tossing them a pack of Oreos and keeping this Pudding o' the Gods all to myself. But I was generous, and I was right. The crew went ape over it. So go! Make this right now! Before clementines are "so last season"!

The base for dal makhani. Onions with garlic, ginger, my mom's gharam masala, all floating in an absurd amount of butter. This is why I think God might exist. 

Clementine Cinnamon Bread Pudding (based on America’s Test Kitchen)
Apologies for not having a picture of this glorious dessert! My next clementine-inspired dessert has a great beauty shot, I swear. 

Note: I used the Texas Toast loaf from Trader Joe’s for this dish and it was perfect. Challah would also be great, of course.

 ‘Nother Note: I actually am not sure how much sugar I used to make this. I’d say when making the custard start with a generous half cup and see if you need more after making the custard.

tablespoons light brown sugar
½-3/4cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 loaf thick white breadbread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
7large egg yolks
3teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4teaspoon table salt
3 clementines (zested and juiced)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4cups heavy cream
2 1/4cups milk
tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Adjust oven racks to middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine brown sugar and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in small bowl; set aside.
Spread bread cubes in single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, tossing occasionally, until just dry, about 15 minutes. Cool bread cubes about 15 minutes; set aside about a cup and a half.
Whisk yolks, remaining sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, clementine zest and juice, and salt together in large bowl. Add melted butter and mix. Whisk in cream and milk until combined. Add remaining 8 cups cooled bread cubes and toss to coat. Transfer mixture to a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and let stand, occasionally pressing bread cubes into custard, until cubes are thoroughly saturated, about 30 minutes.
Spread reserved bread cubes evenly over top of soaked bread mixture and gently press into custard. Sprinkle brown-sugar mixture evenly over top. Place bread pudding on rimmed baking sheet and bake on middle rack until custard has just set, and pressing center of pudding with finger reveals no runny liquid, 45 to 50 minutes. (Instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pudding should read 170 degrees.) Transfer to wire rack and cool until pudding is set and just warm, about 45 minutes. Serve.