(and the cost of the saffron!)
Bliss baked in filo.
B’stilla my heart!
Saucy chicken, nuts, 'n spice
recipe is here.
For this week's French Friday's with Dorie recipe, Dorie stick's Monsieur Michel Rostang's name on this lovely chocolate mousse cake. My mother unfortunately is not named but she should be as she makes a nearly identical treat evey Christmas Eve and has for decades. Her simple, elegant interpretation of Busche de Noël at Christmas Eve dinner is by far one of our best traditions. Essentially it is this dessert but baked in a sheet pan and rolled up with Chantilly Cream and dusted with powdered sugar. The chocolate flavor is quite intense and no further adornment by way of cute frosting molded to look like bark is necessary.
M. Rostang's innovation deserving of name-in-the-title recognition therefore has nothing to do with creating the flavors or ingredients here but rather suggesting the form factor. (If I served Dorie meatloaf in a round pan would it would become Sis Boom's Meatloaf Pie? I hope so!) I do have to hand it to Michel as those not in my family will be quite happy to enjoy this dish see any time of year as I will be serving it. I will not be serving this dish to actual members of my family. Traditions are traditions, right?
And since we are handing out credit today I will also have to give Dorie her due for over-complicating this one. Her recipe calls for pouring the moussey, chocolatey, cakebatter into a ring from spring-form pan resting on the baking sheet. WTF? I just knew this would be trouble the comments and complaints about batter seeping out of the ring from the Doristas bear this out. There is no reason why the full springform pan can't be used by buttering a round of parchment into the bottom with the cake pan resting directly on the oven rack while baking.
That's what Mom would do.
Cooking as a metaphor for life is certainly not a new idea by a long shot and I doubt very much that I could add to the already beleaguered concept . I will tell you, however, that any real metaphors are frequently lost if they are viewed through the blog lens. Blog optics are designed to emphasize the ‘perfect’ while filtering out the harsh “less than perfect” details. Less Than Perfects are rarely ever featured in a blog post. At least not here! (That is going to change tonight!) What’s more, unless the blogger’s photograph comes out stunning it might not even matter how good the actual dish might be, you know, on the inside. Get it?
By and large, most blog posts I read are full of “fantastic” or (worse) “amazing” and everything usually makes the house smell wonderful. Photographs are always beautiful and inspiring. Usually full of great props too. One pixel out of place and the keepers of food beauty will tell you “lighting issues - dull/unsharp”. (For the record, NO IT WASN’T! That photo was fantastic! Truly one of my best! Are you blind? Harumph.) The truth is, it is just not very self-satisfying or affirming to blog about the things that don’t really turn out the way you anticipate. The way they told you they would. You know, the way it is is supposed to be. But why not?
Away from the pressure of the blogging lens, cooking can be freer to suggest metaphorical similarities to the various and assorted meanderings of your life. I awake each morning and set my sites on achieving/cooking something special during my day, week, month, or year. I check my resources and enlist the support of those around me I will need to succeed, ask for guidance and feedback, then I create. And you know what? I win some and I lose some. You might as well see those now and then too, right? Some goals, er, um, cooking projects just need a little assistance from someone more knowledgeable than I or a slight tweaking of my own direction before their potential can be realized. Or, I will opt to just steer a course well around and avoid the rematch altogether. Stuff happens. Its not usually anyone’s fault. Or mine. The recipe is just bad and I’m not invested enough to make it more than once. Fool me once…
Sometimes that glossy, magazine cover first impression gives way to a shallow, sunken, squishy mess and I just don’t want to stick around any longer to see what becomes of him, um...it.
Enter Pumpkin Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake. PCPUDC came into my life full of hope and promise. PCPUDC wasn’t even something I had even thought about until a friend put it in my mind and suggested it was within my reach. It was to be the perfect date to a holiday evening I was invited to attend. But pumpkin? Again? How much of it am I to tolerate? Maybe this time it would ‘the one’? The recipe came from someone I trusted and he insisted I could do it. He had been dying to set me up with a winning recipe. His experience with it turned out fantastic so surely mine would too, right? (But pumpkin? Ack.) So, against my better judgment, and ignoring how I was already suffering from acute HPFD (Holiday Pumpkin Fatigue Disorder), I meekly agreed. Instinct was telling me to stay away but just LOOK AT IT! Sadly, it wasn’t the first time I would be swayed by beauty only to end up in misery and it probably will not be my last. All I can say when face to face with such beauty is, “bring me my cake pans! “
Our date seemed to go great but within 20 minutes of the cooling the cake began to give way under its lack of support and foundation. All my good intentions would not be enough to coaxe this project to success. I realized later I was a victim of a bad tweak somewhere in the recipe's checkered past. Cook’s Notes in the recipe had suggested a 9” round pan would be "more appropriate" for the dessert which I interpreted to mean a 9” round pan would work for the recipe as written. Nope. The note actually meant visually the pan would be better. Not volume-wise. Oh well. Seems I had unknowingly over filled the pan! Despite my testing for doneness with a toothpick, the cake would cave under its own weight and ambitions.
Its nearly February now and I never went back to tweak this cake and I was certainly never going to share it with you. I think it was that last glass of wine that gave me the courage. Don't feel too sorry for it. He made a very lovely prop at the dinner buffet but I had to beg the guests not to actually eat it. I instead guided them to the spare Sis Boom Bundt Cake I cranked out just quickly enough after seeing the handwriting on the wall with this dessert. It pays to always have a Plan B, don’t you think?
I present the recipe here as written. Tweak it yourself or just use a larger pan. Or bake it more. Something like that. Just don't fall into that mushy center!
Life’s Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
Melt the butter in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. In a medium bowl combine the cranberries and pecans. Place them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, and oil.
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.
Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool the cake for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate or platter on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together. Remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.
Soup is good food. Dorie’s Paris Mushroom Soup is certainly no exception. This exercise in soup making reminded me of just how easy good soups are to make as this one takes just minutes to make. Buy the pre sliced, packaged mushroom and shave even more time off the prep time. The fun presentation of pouring this one piping hot over a small pile of a ‘mushroom salad’ to as to slightly cook them in the broth was a nice touch as well.
Usually when I make a notation in my files to remake the recipe it is because I think my husband will enjoy it. Or perhaps I think it will lend itself well to one of our regular Sunday family buffet dinners – a way of eating I am still getting used to since I came from a small family. This time my note reminds me to make the soup next Spring when we are planning on repainting the living room. The soup makes an excellent paint chip reference! “I’d like a slightly lighter tone of this, please. Pass the bread.”
We’ve had this treat no less than three times this week and each night it has just gotten better – well served by the time it spent with its flavors ‘maturing’ and the seasoning ‘blooming’ while resting in the refrigerator. Soup does this y’know. (So does stew by the way, right?) I need to remember this more when I’m planning dinner parties and their menus.
Paris Mushroom Soup
This soup really takes me back in my memories. As a teenager I enjoyed a lovely Mushroom Ravioli at the famous Le Notre restaurant in London when I was there with my family. Later that evening I got to review the contents of my dinner after it was represented to me in the toilet bowl back at our flat. Food poisoning. The experience took mushrooms of my personal menu for years while I worked back the confidence to enjoy them once again. While I I fully support those in our group who preferred this soup chunky, I found the flashbacks just to unpleasant to revisit. I had to blend away the bad memories.
You can find the recipe here so I’m going to post it here this week. Crème fraiche is indicated as optional but completely unnecessary here.
This soup can be served over a small salad of raw mushrooms seasoned with salt, pepper, chopped chives and parsley. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to 2 months.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat. Add onions, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft, 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and remaining tablespoon of the butter. Raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to high; cook until almost all the liquid evaporates. Pour in the wine; let boil until almost evaporated.
Add the broth and herbs; heat to a boil. Lower the heat; cover the pot almost completely. Simmer 20 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprig.
Puree the soup in small batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Taste for salt and white pepper. Pour the soup back into the pot; heat over low heat until hot. Serve garnished with crème fraiche.
Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution that involves not eating sweets or baked goods? How’d that go for you? Yeah, me too. That is why I don’t do that one anymore. Nowadays my resolutions involving food tend to be much more doable. Last year I simply resolved not to buy salad dressing at the supermarket any more. Guess what? I succeeded! The year started off with the purchase of a few interesting vinegars and oils and moving a stash of Kerr jars from the garage to the kitchen so I could just mix up a small batch of various dressings as needed. (Just mix the dressings by shaking in a jar instead of using a whisk. How easy is that?) My Go To dressing was the classic French Vinaigrette and even it took on all sorts of new dimensions with just small changes to the oil or vinegar makeup. (Ms. Barrister gave me a jar of tarragon infused mustard that practically ruined all other mustards for me when it comes to this classic.) I even made up a quick Caesar Dressing that got my man on board for the year long challenge as well.
My culinary resolutions this year will have me targeting a few of the dishes that I have been wanting to make for some time but just never got to. Duck confit and cassoulet are at the top of this particular list. Christmas added quite a few amazing cookbooks to my collection (see photo below) and so I intend to explore these and the plethora of older cook books I have amassed so as to lay off the blogstalking a bit to make room for them here. (Given how inspiring I find cooking blogs I’ll probably fail at this last resolution but at least I’m going to try.) Lastly, I resolve to be a bit more forthcoming when I don’t like things or when my projects don’t go quite as I had planned. While total failures just don’t happen all that often I will not commit the sin of omission any longer. Everyday Explosions sometimes are a dud.
If you resolved to give up sweets and pastry this year then you should just skip past the rest of this post. You won’t want to contemplate these two or three bite wonders unless you have either 1) a lot of self control or 2) an office full of hungry workmates who will gladly eat these up so as to spare you see this one. I apologize in advance for posting these so soon after the New Year but its cold and rainy outside so I am stuck inside cleaning out closets, dresser drawers, the garage, and even my camera causing me to realize that I had forgotten to post this one . These pumpkin cinnamony things have a blog shelf life in as nobody will really want to see things like this once the holiday food aesthetic wears off. These come courtesy of Mary, The Food Librarian and I knew I had to make them and share at the office. (Since I don’t have self control…)
It was good advice she gave to make these into minis instead of the original full sized. More people at the office felt like they were able to indulge and the box quickly emptied out to become the stuff of office legend.
Make these. You can start your resolution next week…
Mini Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins
Adapted fromThe Food Librarian. from Everyday Food (November 2010) As told by Mary,