Tuesday, December 13, 2011

JOY 2012

Joy of 2012
So many of my friends and fellow bloggers have long-standing annual resolution traditions. Jedi Jasmin’s Jasmin 2012 is her latest iteration and she is a rare individual who crafts these ideas and finds it interesting to live by, in and around them throughout the year.
I can’t seem to do that.  Years seems so long, and yet so blindingly short.  I committed to GingerMan 10 years ago, but for some reason this seems without the bounds of the discussion, for two main reasons.

1) 2001 was CLEARLY only 5 minutes ago.

2) Marrying him didn’t so much seem a commitment or huge undertaking or...I don’t know what... any of the things people usually describe it as in books or essays and columns.  It was more just, ummmmm...uploading to The Cloud.  The Us Cloud.  Like it was always there and always would be and that was just sort of it.  I cannot remember a moment where I seriously had to consider if he was The One.  The Cake was No Lie. (It was three tier and deeleeeshus).
My life has always been about catching up, jumping in the middle, trying to get my bearings in a mess of crazy, and The Mindfulness Project this fall has been a breakthrough.  So no Fairy 2012, unless I find some truly unusual inspiration. And because it’s a Tuesday, and still a couple weeks out from Xmas, it's generally just in the middle of everything so I give you my gift of wisdom now:
ALWAYS lick the spoon




> Eat your dinner.  Feed yourself to love yourself.
> You may Resolve, Schedule and Organise, but Life may Smack You Upside the Head anyway.  Live in it, around it and through it because you will be stronger.  Love yourself for that.  
I do.
Now here’s some cake!
This is the Magic Persimmon Cake.  Because I used to make this with my grandparents at their house, which had a persimmon tree, which I had never seen before in my life, and persimmons are Magically Delicious.  This is The Only Fruitcake I Will Ever Love.  This recipe calls for the flat, jovial-looking Fuyu persimmons.
INGREDIENTS:
-3 Cups Persimmons:  Peeled, chopped small
-2 tsp Baking Soda
-1/2 Cup Butter (Zoh. Mah. Lawd.  This calls for Margarine. DON’T DO IT)
-1 2/3 Cup White Sugar (Actually, this could probably be very good with raw crystalized sugar, just not regular brown sugar--I tried once and it changed the flavor)
-2 Eggs
-2 tsp Lemon Juice
-2 tsp Vanilla
-2 Cups Unsifted All-Purpose Flour
-1 tsp Baking Powder
-1 tsp Salt
-1 tsp Ground Cloves
-1 tsp Ground Cinnamon 
-1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
-1/2 tsp Ground Star Anise (Optional-this is a life-long favorite and reminds me of Grandma’s kitchen.  Some people don’t like it’s licorice-y-ness)
--OPTIONAL ADD-INS:  3/4 Cup of Walnuts, Pecans, Raisins, Currants or Chocolate Chips.


INSTRUCTIONS:
*PREHEAT OVEN: 350 DEGREES FARENHEIT
*LUBE AND FLOUR A TUBE OR BUNDT PAN
*TIME:  55-60 MINUTES


1. Peel the fruit like an apple.  The green tops will often twist right off or cut out if you angle a paring knife at an angle right under it and turn THE FRUIT, not the knife, and it will pop off as there is really no stem going deep into the middle.  









2. Cut into quarters, lay the quarters onto one side, then make an angled cut to remove the center fibrous bit.  Again, there is really no big core with pips so there is little, if anything to remove.






3. Continue to chop the fruit into fairly small bits.  The point is you don’t want big chunks in the cake, so use your judgement.  When finished, add the 2 tsp Baking Soda and mix thoroughly.






4. PREP:  In a large separate bowl, blend together the  2 Cups Flour, 1 tsp Baking Powder, 1 tsp each of Salt, Cloves and Cinnamon and 1/2 tsp each of Nutmeg and Star Anise.  Set Aside.


5. At your mixer, you will employ The Creaming Method, i.e. whipping up the fat all fluffy-like, then adding in the sugar and whipping till it’s all light and airy.  So toss the Butter and Sugar into the bowl and beat on medium for a few minutes until creamy and light looking. 




5. Lower the speed all the way down to Add 2 Eggs, 2 tsp Lemon Juice and 2 tsp Vanilla to the bowl-- this prevents Eggy Armageddon--then raise the speed back to medium and keep keep beating till everything is fluffy.




6. Stop the mixer, add in the Persimmon Mixture, then mix on the lowest setting for *just* 2 minutes.








7. Employ the Muffin Method:  Pour the wet stuff into the large bowl of dry stuff and mix gingerly until it is all only just well-incorporated.  Don’t overdo it.



YUM-IN-POTENTIA



8. Pour into your waiting cake pan and place in oven for 55-60 minutes.  Use a skewer, toothpick or, in a pinch, a slim steak knife or paring knife to test the cake by poking into the middle of the cake- away from the sides.  When it comes out clean, or with just a few crumbs on it, your are DONE!




9. Set the finished cake, in the pan, on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.  Jiggle the pan  and watch the cake loosen from the sides.  If it seems a bit set, use a smooth-blade knife to gently loosen the sides.  Then place a wire rack face-down on top of the pan. 


 Hold the rim of the cake pan to the rack, turn the whole thing over, then jiggle a bit more and the cake should come to rest on the rack.
 


Place a plate on top of what will be the bottom of the cake, then flip that bad baby! VoilĂ !


Sauce:  Any kind of sauce or icing will do with this, as the cake is dense enough to take anything.  I do about 2 cups Sour Cream plus 1.5 Fat Tbs Powdered Sugar plus 1 Tbs Orange Juice, whisked together and served to spoon over as desired.
Happy Christmas!!!

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

HIGH ON POT (ROAST)

In the spirit of freezin’ mah arse off, I’ve continued my Winter Dinner Campaign, which, after conquering Roasted Tomato Soup and Roasted Squash Soup, I added Pot Roast and decided it was a formal endeavor. There will be points and a possible badge in the offing.
A few weeks ago, GingerMan’s favorite uncle passed away after a long term with prostate cancer, necessitating a quick trip to Belfast, NI.  I stayed behind due to work and the fact I can’t travel 5 time zones both ways in 4 days without losing my mind.  Jedi Jasmin invited me for dinner that Saturday night and served a meal theretofore forgotten to me and her hunky squeeze, the inimitable A.: Pot Roast. Paradise Reclaimed.
Two days later, having the day of Ginger’s return free, I reached for my Joy.  



What a lovely phrase.
Reach for your Joy.  No matter the circumstance, no matter the drastic event that has befallen you, for comfort, for sustenance, reach for your Joy.  No matter the depths this Seasonal Affective BS has dragged me to, cooking has somehow seemed my small triumph.  Food in the fridge, victory in the mental bank.  I picked the man up and we returned to a home redolent of comfort.
Our reading today comes from page 477 of the 2006 Joy of Cooking.  Actually, let’s back up the bus and refer to page 466,  where full discourse is given to different cuts suitable to Pot Roasting, Stewing and Braising Meat.  If you are Crock Pottin’ this sucker, time-travel to page 99 for recipe conversion information.  See?  Knowledge is Joy! Raaa-men.
Your next consideration after Procurement is obviously Soundtrack.  Today is 80’s Classic Hits, including Supertramp, Billy Joel, Duran Duran and Journey.  If you think "Don’t Stop Believin’" is an auto-tuned ditty sung by high-school be-boppers, stop here and hit iTunes right now. Search Journey.  Download "Don’t Stop", "Any Way You Want It", "Lights" (an ode to San Francisco) and "Separate Ways".  It’s Music for Red Meat.  And don’t forget the Scorpions. Rock your Chuck Roast like a Hurricane!
The recipe gives exact directions for pan/ dutch oven procedures. Follow those exactly, and if you have cast iron, this is the precise moment to employ it. I crock pot it.  If you haven’t given yourself this gift yet, DOOOO EEET!  I cannot express to you just how tender and gorgeous this formerly tough, chewy hunk of meat becomes after 8 hours on high--8 hours of cooking you do not have to be present for.  
Okay, start by reading through all the instructions.  Pull out all your aromatics.  I go for onion, garlic, carrot and leek. Pro Tip for onion cutting: do it last (duh), dump in a bowl and cover with a cold, wet paper towel.  This occurred to me as a naval recruit immediately after stepping out of the teargas chamber. As it was Illinois in February, we had had to wait days for this training exercise because cold wet air disperses the gas. 


Wage war on the bulb with Brawny.




Put them in bowls so they are handy when you have the hot pan going.  


 


This is called Mis-En-Place, basically meaning everything in place, ready to go. I mix kosher salt and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl ready for rubbing on the meat.  I also mix my spices.  This go-round I’m experimenting with Penzeys Spices Forward! seasoning.  It’s like their seasoned salt, but without the salt, so I can control the amount the overall dish has.  







As Usual, I'm Smokey, Hot and Saucy



It’s made up of black pepper, onion and garlic powder, celery extract, paprika and a good amount of tumeric. Lovely, earthy, and evah-so-slightly hot but not overly so.  I add smoked paprika to nearly everything in the universe and the recipe calls for the traditional bay leaves that grace every soup and stew.
Oh, the hot pan?  Yes, this is the secret to successful Crock Potting.  Building flavor with a quick trip to the stovetop.  So a little oil in the pan and the aromatics hop in till soft.  I like to leave the leeks and carrots in a tiny bit longer for a bit of color, so I do these as a second batch and they all go in the crock as a nest for the hunk o’ beast. 




I like to deglaze the pan with some red wine and pour that in, then re-oil the pan liberally for the main event.
A word about The Taming of the Beasties.  


Warm up yer meat.  Take it out of the fridge before cooking, and if frozen, defrost in the fridge first.  Why?  No-one likes hopping from the A/C to the hot, mean streets, my friends.  We don’t and neither does our dinner, so give it a fighting chance or it will tend to seize up in an interesting and unattractive way.  It will also cook very, very unevenly.  Think spa treatment and everyone will be happier. Salt and pepper, pat lightly on all sides, and let it relax for a while.


Place the meat in the hot, oiled pan, then just leave it alone.  Sear it for color.  Sear it for flavor.  You will not be searing it to “seal in the juices”, as this is a myth.  Science has shown that this is not true, that the same amount of fluid is lost from seared meat as from meat placed directly in the long-term cooking vessel.  


But hummm-daddy, that Maillard Reaction, the gorgeous browning that imparts the incomparable flavor to seared meat will add that lip-smackin’ somethin’ special to your final dish.  You will need to turn the beastie, 5 minute per flat side, then use your tongs to hold it on the two long sides for a few minutes per. 




Voooy-ola!  Now just lay it on the bed of aromatics, deglaze the pan again and pour it over the meat.  


Pour in the requisite amount of liquid (I mix red wine and beef stock), place the crock in the machine, program and LEAVE IT!
BWOOOOHAHAHAHA!!!!!  Serious cooking, 1/2 hour of prep!
And that’s how I do (crock) pot.
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