who's the ECL?

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm not BAD evil, more like devil's food cake evil.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

FFWD: Caramel Topped Semolina Cake

This month's French Fridays with Dorie selections have all been quick and easy to prepare, and in most cases delicious. It is always wonderful to have such memorable food in the arsenal for weeknight dinners, or when having over friends. This week's selection, the Caramel Topped Semolina Cake, was no exception.

caramel topped semolina cake

When I hear semolina I think about pasta, but in this case the cake is made from farina, which most Americans know as Cream of Wheat. It is kind of a flan-type cake, a little custardy with a thin caramel top, and also a bit rustic and simple and comforting. As written the cake is very simple and plain in looks and taste, and a snap to prepare.

caramel topped semolina cake caramel topped semolina cake

It starts with making a batch of Cream of Wheat, using whole milk instead of water for a richer, thicker cereal. While that cools, the caramel is made and poured into the cake pan. Dorie has this great trick of warming the pan in the preheating oven so that the caramel will spread and cover the bottom of the pan evenly.

caramel topped semolina cake caramel topped semolina cake

The recipe calls for plump golden raisins, but I am not much of a raisin fan. I fired them and used plump dried sour cherries--a wonderful substitution regardless of how you feel about raisins. I plumped up the cherries by simmering them in a bit of water for a couple of mniutes, then letting them steam dry in a colander while I made the rest of the cake.

caramel topped semolina cake

So to the cooked and cooled farina, a couple of eggs are stirred in as well as some vanilla and the sour cherries. No spices are called for, but next time I would want to add a little fresh nutmeg or cardamom. Cinnamon would be an obvious add-in, but I think something a little more aromatic would offset all that creaminess really nicely.

caramel topped semolina cake

The farina custard is poured into the pan atop the caramel, and baked for about 20 minutes. The cake is unmolded right away and left to cool. I overbaked my cake a tad, as the edges looked a little too set compared to the middle.

caramel topped semolina cake

This was a delicious cake, and a wonderful springboard to what could be even more interesting with the addition of some spices. This was so simple, and so comforting that it would be a perfect weekend treat in front of the fire with friends.

caramel topped semolina cake

Friday, November 19, 2010

FFwD: Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans

And so, French Fridays with Dorie continues with the free-ish month, where we can choose to post in any order the four recipes chosen this month. This week I chose the Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans.

I used to be afraid of moldy cheese, of which gorgonzola is one, but now I love it. To confess most of the time I buy Rogue Creamery's Oregonzola which is a bit milder than other gorgonzolas out there. Plus, it's local! Go Oregon!

Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flan

My friend Cookie and I were pretty excited about these flans, mainly because we fell in love with Dorie's stuffed pumpkin as posted on her blog in 2008 (a more complete version of the recipe is in AMFT). We stuffed the pumpkin with a good deal of gorgonzola and it was AMAZING. Pumpkin and blue cheese go together like salt and caramel.

Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flan

So this flan was eagerly anticipated, and like everything else we've cooked so far, simple to make. Canned pumpkin, cream, eggs are blended together in the food processor (or blender--I wished my immersion blender wasn't broken because it would have been perfect). Dorie advises to season at this point, and I would like to emphasize that you really should season sort of aggressively, as pumpkin on its own is fairly bland. I didn't season enough.

The custard is then split between ramekins, topped with crumbled gorgonzola and lightly toasted and chopped walnuts, and baked in a water bath.

Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Fan

I gotta say, these weren't as delicious as I had expected. I think more (or a stronger) gorgonzola, no walnuts, and more salt would have helped. I am SO SAD I don't like these, and like the Barefoot Kitchen Witch I am DETERMINED to like this flan. It's gotta be good--I WILL MAKE IT GOOD.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Beginning of the End

Can you guys feel it?  It is almost here, and thus it is almost over.  The world of pop culture is buzzing madly as if struck by lightning.

Harry Potter time!

I am almost envious of the kids who grew up with the Harry Potter books and movies.  I didn't read the first book until right before the first movie was released in the fall of 2001 (I was 27, and just graduated from acupuncture school).  I devoured Sorcerer's Stone overnight and read as quickly as I could up to Goblet of Fire, when I had to wait with the rest of the world until Order of the Phoenix was published. (In the meantime, I started listening to the audiobooks. Jim Dale, you are my hero.) The last ten years of my life, Harry Potter has been a part of it.

It was wonderful and bittersweet to read Deathly Hallows, and now here it comes, the first part of the last movie.  I am not seeing it until Saturday morning, so I am on complete media blackout until then.  I don't want to read or hear any reviews, or opinions, or thoughts on the movie until I have some of my own.  I don't want to see any more trailers, behind the scenes exclusives, or anything else that will ruin my experience of the movie.  It won't be nearly anywhere as good as the book, and I will probably spend my time viewing the movie with the same commentary running through my head as it has done with every other movie in the franchise: "that's not how it goes in the book, why did they have to change it!"  But I am committed to seeing it and hopefully finding it satisfactory.

In the meantime, EW.com has been running some fun look-backs at each of the previous movies.  Plus, they linked to this very funny junket with the cast learning how to speak American (sorry about the damn ad):

Pretty funny, huh.  That Tom Felton is unusually tan, and good at the improv!  Go Tom!

Read EW's look back at:
The Sorcerer's Stone
Chamber of Secrets
Prisoner of Azkaban
Goblet of Fire
Order of the Phoenix
Half Blood Prince

And don't talk to me about the movie until it is Saturday evening, Pacific Standard Time. Thanks in advance!

Friday, November 12, 2010

FFwD: Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux

There is nothing not good about this chicken, from the simplicity of the recipe to the head of roasted garlic, the juicy chicken and of course THE BREAD. I wish I had got a photo of the bread but the light was bad and in any case I was too busy eating it. I felt like my cat Violet when she steals a bone from the counter and joyfully sneaks off to chew on her treasure. I pried my bread from the bottom of my Le Creuset and joyfully ran off to enjoy my treat. I left the chicken in the kitchen, and didn't come back for it for a couple of hours; I swear I almost forgot about it the bread was so good. And yet, when I did go back, the chicken was juicy with a crisp skin and a lovely herby note. I loved this chicken, and the roasted garlic made for a nice breakfast on toast with gryuere and a runny egg. Le Paresseux means "the lazy people," and I will choose the lazy method/delicious bird any day of the week.

roast chicken for les paresseaux
from this...

roast chicken for les paresseaux
...to this.  Hello, lovely bird.

Friday, November 05, 2010

FFwD: Potato Gratin

This month, the French Fridays with Dorie group is a little more free-flowing than usual. Because of Thanksgiving, we can post any one of four dishes each Friday of the month. That's pretty cool, but it did make it hard to decide what to cook and post first.

Potato Gratin with Broccoli Rabe

I decided to go with the delicious potato gratin, which is a casserole of thinly sliced potatoes baked in heavy cream and garlic, and topped with gruyere that turns golden and lovely.

Potato Gratin with Broccoli Rabe

Then I spotted Dorie's Bonne Idee off to the side, where she mentions adding a little steamed chopped spinach to the mix. I had a bunch of broccoli rabe and decided to layer it in. I steamed and chopped the greens, but I failed to press out the extra liquid. In hindsight that would have been nice, as the gratin didn't have a lovely creamy sauce but a watery sauce. Alas.

Potato Gratin with Broccoli Rabe

Despite the lack of the creamy sauce, the gratin is delicious; garlicky, a little bitter, and soft. You gotta love bitter greens to love this particular gratin (which I do), but as it is so easy to make, a gratin re-do may happen as soon as this weekend!

Potato Gratin with Broccoli Rabe