Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Little Taste of Home

I claim Little Rock and New Orleans as home. Technically, Little Rock is my true home. New Orleans has an equal place in my heart too. I lived there for three years and like most people do, I adopted it!

There are many foods I have to eat when I go to New Orleans, but there are only three restaurants I must visit. I can't remember a place that ever gave me shrimp or gumbo that weren't good, but not everyone makes certain dishes: Cafe du Monde for beignets (you can get those elsewhere, but they don't taste the same), Louisiana Pizza Kitchen for the Greek Pizza and Palace Cafe for Shrimp Tcheufuncte.

This post is about Shrimp Tchefuncte. (I'm so proud I can spell that without looking it up.) I almost died when I saw the Palace Cafe Cookbook at the airport bookstore last year. At long last, I could make this at home! (I never even thought to ask the restaurant for the recipe and I didn't see this book during my French Quarter cookbook trek.)

These are more pictures I found on the memory card in the old camera. I remember that I didn't make the dish perfectly, but it was close enogh to give me some of the flavors. Hence a "little" taste of home.

 Well a shrimp dish starts with shrimp, so here we go. Peel 'em and clean 'em.

Don't you dare throw those shells away! You'll need them for seafood gumbo. I think I see a shrimp peeking through the shells.

Now let's work the Creole meuniere sauce. You'll need lemons, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, heavy cream and butter. Here is where I messed up the recipe. I was trying to make a half recipe. I rememembered to do this for everything but the lemon!

I can't really say if there is a difference among hot sauce brands. In New Orleans there are three, Crystal, Original Louisiana (or Red Dot) and Tobasco. Red Dot is the #1 brand in Little Rock. Tobasco is in a different league compared to the other two in terms of heat. You'll want to use a regular hot sauce for this. Add Tobasco to taste later. I can't speak to Frank's or Texas Pete -- I refuse to buy them!

Now, let's move on to the shrimp. Saute chopped garlic in butter.

Cook until the garlic is golden brown. Add the shrimp, sliced button mushrooms and Creole seasoning (Tony Chachere's, please). When the shrimp are almost done, stir in the meunier sauce and chopped green onions.

Cook the shimp all the way through and serve with rice.

Tools of the Trade:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another One In the Arsenal?

While I was visiting my aunt in New Orleans, I spent my days watching cooking shows and leafing through her cookbooks and magazines. She has a nice selection of the Cook's Illustrated special publications. In one of these, I found a recipe for a Cold Oven Pound Cake. Me being the lazy person I am decided not to copy the recipe then. I have a CI online membership. Surely, I'd look it up when I got home. So, um yeah, it's not on the website. It's a Cook's Country recipe.

Wouldn't you know it? I had a copy of the recipe anyway. It's in my America's Best Lost Recipes. Silly me. This book takes a slight departure from the regular CI formula. As the recipes are submitted by readers, there isn't the usual lengthy preamble for each recipe. This is the first time I've used a recipe from this book. I'm writing as it bakes, so we'll see how well it does.

I'm slightly worried because I had to violate a specific note in the book. You're supposed to use skim or 1% milk for this. For once, I only had 2% and whole. Oh well.

Let's get started, shall we?

The batter has four parts: wet, dry, fats and leavening. The dry is flour and salt. Wet is milk vanilla and egg yolks. Fats are butter and shortening (these are creamed with sugar). The leavening is egg whites! In a pound cake??! You'll see.

Whisk your flour and salt.

Cream the butter, sugar and shortening.

Whisk the egg yolks, milk and vanilla.

Now, beat the egg whites until you get soft peaks. This is where having two mixing bowls for Old Faithful really pay off. Make sure your bowl and whisk attachment are impeccably clean. I wipe mine down with a little vinegar just to be sure.

Alternate adding the flour and liquid to the fat. Start and end with the flour. Mix each addition just until incorporated.

Here's the batter after the last addition. See the dry flour? Don't let the mixer run until it's fully incorporated. You run the danger of over mixing and creating a tough cake with tunnels in the crumb.

 Finish up by hand. Isn't that pretty?

Gently fold in your egg whites. The first batch I fold in are sacrificial; they get stirred into the batter. They are used to lighten the batter so that folding in the rest will be easier. The rest are folded. Here's the finished batter.

Move on to your prepared cake pan.

Move on to your cold oven.

Bake for 45 minutes at 300 degrees. Increase temp to 325 and bake 45 more minutes. Nothing left to do now but wait (and clean up the kitchen).

The cake is done. I am disappointed in the crust, but I take 100% of the blame. I didn't use the right type of milk and I lowered the oven temperature by 15 degrees because my Bundt pan tends to cook quicker than the average pan. I'll go strictly by the book next time and update the post.

Here's the cake - cut into and enjoyed by some What's Cookin' Chicago Meetup members. The flavor was excellent. Just gotta nail the crust.

Tools of the Trade

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I've Been Holding Out

Although the camera had been broken for months, I just threw it away a couple of weeks ago. I was smart enough to take the memory card out of the camera before tossing it. (My brilliance comes in spurts.) On the card, I found pics from the best thing I've ever made in my life - sticky buns. No joke. After I pulled them out of the oven Easter morning, I had fleeting thoughts of not going to church. These quickly passed after I realized I could eat another one in the car.

The recipe is from Baking Illustrated. The recipe was time-consuming and tedious, but I promise it was worth every caramel-oozing bite. ... I just had to pause and gather myself.

Again this recipe is long. Apparently I didn't capture all of the steps. I'm going with brevity here so I can get to the finished product. Start by mixing the dough. The dough is a combination of milk, butter, water, yeast, sugar, eggs and flour.

I know this doesn't look attractive, but keep reading.

The above needs a two-hour rise. While the yeast are doing their thing, move on to the caramel sauce. It looks like I made a recipe detour here. These pics are not the makings of the carmel sauce as directed in the recipe. I was also experimenting with caramel cakes around this time, so I must've found a recipe I liked better. I wonder where that is now ... I digress.

 Happy! Happy! Joy ! Joy!! Pour all that lusciousness into a greased 9x13 baking dish.

 I know that's a really bad shot. Remember, I do have a new camera now. Anyhoo, why don't we just cover all the caramel with some toasted and roughly-chopped pecans. This is getting better.

I was so tempted to stand over that pan with a spoon and work it out. Back to the dough. I managed to contain myself and roll the dough out into a rectangle.

Well, that's sort of a rectangle. Now, slather the wonderful butter, sugar, cardamom (yep cardamom) and cinnamon filling all over the dough.

 Roll it and cut it. Unflavored dental floss was the cutting tool.

 Get your cute little buns ;-) into the pan.

 I parked these in the refrigerator overnight. I let them do the final rise Easter morning.

  Thirty minutes of hot oven time later, you get this:

Now, that might not look all that spectacular to you, but just you wait. Honey, flip that pan and you get this!

Break them apart and you get this!

I heard angels sing ...

 Tools of the Trade

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fooling Around

I'm trying to figure out all the possibilities with my new camera. I had to laugh at myself after trying to figure out how to change the aperture and shutter speed. (Those functions aren't available on this camera. Guess that will have to wait until I hit the lottery and get a Sony DSLR.) Hmmm, I suppose you have to actually play the lottery to win.
Anyhoo, I made a cake over the weekend. I started to write the post, but it required too much thinking. I'm out of blogging practice! I made blueberry scones for breakfast this morning and I tried to get better acquainted with the camera. I think I'm getting the hang of it. I'll get a real post up sometime this week.
Check out the random shots.
Experimenting with the flash and white balance.
I chose this camera because it had the best macro capabilities in it's class.
I'm struggling a bit with super macro.
Had I gotten the focus right, this would have been my favorite:
I am going to go out on a limb and say this may be one of my last posts in Blogger. This just isn't working for posts with a lot of pictures. Each picture is inserted at the top of the post and screws up the paragraph spacing. Now that I'm trying to maintain two pic-driven blogs, I'm looking for ease of use. I'm testing out Wordpress for the sewing blog and it's great for pics. You can't use third-party widgets, so there is a trade-off. I still need to try Movable Type & TypePad. I'm looking for software that will allow me to host multiple blogs on the same page. I guess I want a website on the cheap.