Adjustable pans

I use this adjustable cake pan as much as any thing in my kitchen. I cannot remember where I got it or even when I got it. but it is really handy. It’s a square pan with a small lip all around it. The sides have slots and slide into each other. The inner pieces determine the dimensions of whatever you’re baking.

The best for me is the 4 small, square cake layers which I use to make 2 cakes but I have made 2 long layers and that becomes a long layer cake. That looks nice and is unusual but I don’t really have a cake plate that works for it.

In general, I like square cakes. They make nicer pieces than round cakes. Though I made key lime pie which Loralyn refuses to call pie because it is not round. She calls them bars. In my mind “bars” reek of northern Wisconsin and “aina hey.”

Chocolate Malt Cake

I made this cake last weekend. It is a box cake. I mean out of a box, although it is box shaped as well. I get 2 smaller cakes out of one box. The baked cake layers refrigerate very well and it’s very handy when you have frequent dinners and parties.

This one is a devil’s food cake to which I added an extra egg, a quarter cup of yogurt (plain, full fat), vanilla, malt powder and a pinch of salt. After I poured it into the pan I put “malt crumb” a recipe from the Milk Cookbook, onto the top of each layer.

For the frosting I used one part butter to one part cream cheese, about a quarter cup of cream into which I put about 3 tablespoons of malt. Gotta use Ovaltine actually, nothing else dissolves as well. And then I melted about 4 oz of chocolate, bittersweet I think. Anything will work, pinch of salt and a drop of vanilla. And whipped it all up.

 I used an adjustable pan (more on this remarkable contribution to the culinary world later) to make 4 smaller layers and use only 2 of them to make one cake. They’re littler cakes but people eat less these days it seems and I hate having leftover cake. I will eat it.

Purple potato salad

You cannot see it well in these pictures but these potatoes are purple. Like PURPLE inside. And not a nurturing purple like beets, a purple-y purple like Mickey Mouse chose the color. I made a french potato salad with my favorite vinaigrette with shallots and capers. I put the dressing on when the potatoes were still hot and they soaked it up. I later added sliced red onions (too bad Peggy) and celery and right before I served it cut parsley onto the top of it. It was lovely. Well, and pretty, in an oddly chromatically challenging, nearly inedible way.

But it was edible. very much so, my picky friend John had seconds. No matter the disturbing color.

Mess, continued

The product of this messy kitchen was a chocolate malt cake. It was brilliant. My friend John who ranks quite high on the picky eater scale (who in the world doesn’t like pickles??) willingly ate it again the next day. I neglected to take a picture of it. But I have enough for another so that can be another posting. 

Chips and dip

This is the finest chip dip man has ever known. EVERYONE I know except my lame sister Peggy who is afraid of onions loves this stuff. It’s easy, keeps for days, and tastes greater than the sum of its pieces. What you will need is a block of cream cheese, a small container of heavy cream, mayonnaise and the fortitude to buy Miracle Whip, as well as 4 green onions. You will also need potato chips and there is no substitute for Jays Kettle Cooked chips. You can use others of course, but none of them will have the deliciousness quotient of Jays.

Whip the cream into the cream cheese, it helps if the cream cheese is room temp. Add about 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and another 1/4 cup of Miracle Whip. Finely slice the onions and fold them in. Open the chips and instant party.

It can be done no other way. Don’t use half and half, don’t exclude the Miracle Whip, don’t use regular onions. If you do, don’t come crying to me.

There is one exception to these hard and fast rules: caramelized onions. The chip dip police will not find you and incarcerate you. You will need about 1/4 cup of them. And you’re dip will be just as delicious.

Jerk Chicken

I did not use my own recipe which is loosely based on the recipe from the cook book from a restaurant I LOVED called Sugar Reef (still have their matches, see below). My friend Gail introduced me to it and it was like I went to a party in the Caribbean and everyone loved me. Steel drums, oil cloth, great service and great food. I liked their jerk, though it was not what I recalled of the jerk in Jamaica. 

The marinade in Cook’s Illustrated turned out to be more like a paste than the liquid-y Sugar Reef marinade. It seemed complicated but it wasn’t. I blended it all in the my processor and used all thighs, letting them sit for 12 hours. I made a packet of wood and spices as they suggested in Cook’s Illustrated to create smoke in the grill and make a smoky flavor but it never caught fire nor smoked.

Nonetheless, the stuff was ROCKIN’ and with the red pepper relish I made (I could eat that every day) it was the star meal of my last month. I served it with purple potato salad (not what I think of as Caribbean but I had them from my CSA), cole slaw and a chocolate malt cake. Next time I’ll break out the oil cloth.

Jerk Chicken Recipe

All of these amounts are approximate and if your spices are old,

 shame on you, but just use more of it. I did not use a measure.

Into a processor bowl put 

1.5 TB coriander

1 TB allspice    

1 TB Thyme

1 TB ginger (dried powder)

2 TB brown sugar    

1 TB pepper (gotta be freshly ground, just gotta)

8 green onions cut into sections

3 TB vegetable oil

2 TB soy sauce

1 TB worcestershire sauce

2 TB lime zest

2 TB yellow mustard

2 tsp basil (I used fresh)

2 tsp rosemary (fresh)

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Process this all into a paste and slather it on your thighs. 

I mean chicken thighs. It’ll work for like 12 to 20 of them. 

It needs a few hours to overnight to marinate (in the refrigerator).

Mush them around occasionally.

Heat your grill, bring the thighs to room temp and be sure to salt both sides generously.

Once I slap them on the grill, I like to get them charred, and then move them to a place 

where they stay hot and can still cook but won’t burn anymore (not over a flame). 

After they are charred, the finish grilling should take 30 minutes. 

You’re on your own with grilling. 

Everyone has his or her own method and of course it depends on your 

relationship with your grill. My grills have very different personalities,

each difficult in its own way. Difficult, demanding and ready to take 

advantage of any lapse in judgement or momentary distraction, 

sort of like a teenager.

First tomatoes

I don’t know how this farmer does it. This is way early for tomatoes. They were typical first-tomato kind of produce, green shoulders, slightly wrinkly, janky cores. It’s like the first pancake. They never turn out right either. 

This farmer is near my cottage, I don’t know how he makes a living. He seems hostile (You should have seen the look he gave Ashish the first time he saw him, I’m sure his mind was screaming terrorist. But he got used to him). He has all sorts of gun related bumper stickers on his trucks. Weirdly, it’s really very safe out there. I’m not sure what the need for the gun freedoms might be. He also has some Christian ones that work nicely with the gun theme.

Despite his, what I imagine are, loathsome politics he has nice produce and partly because he’s a farmer and I like the idea of the small farm, I visit often. Last year I bought about 50 pounds of tomatoes and made sauce. I doubt I will do that again but who knows, I have a knack for making messes in my kitchen and undertaking enormous projects. 

Grilled peppers

I am making jerk chicken this weekend and when I have jerk anything I remember the stuff I had at a little shack on the other end of Montego Bay (I have no idea what end it was, just that it was the other end coming from Reading). That jerk, which was heaven, was served with red pepper relish. I capably recreated it with roasted red peppers, a little onion and garlic, oil and a healthy dose of hot sauce, (Franks only, please).

When I grill peppers I cut them up and grill them flat. This requires getting them to lie flat. I used my handy Sur La Table grill pan for this. Most recipes call for putting the peppers, once they are charred, into a paper bag to steam. I prefer to put them in a large bowl and put a plate on top of it. I catch the smoky juices that way and add them to whatever I am making.

I hate the scraping off the skins part.

Grilled turkey thigh

Oh my God. This is so easy and beyond good. It’ll work with a breast too. Oil, salt and pepperize a turkey thigh and slap it directly onto a hot grill and let it char. I didn’t really let it get brown enough, but no matter. 

Once it’s browned on both sides wrap it in foil with a sliced onion and a can of mild green chiles. You could put some cumin in there too but that might be gilding the lily. Put that on the indirect heat side of the grill and get it to low. Let it roast for a good 2 hours. 

It should be a shredding point. I ate this just like this (diet food, no carbs—good news at the weigh in today) but you can eat it on tortillas with all sorts of crap on it. Salsa, sour cream, beans, cheese, the list is endless.

Braise, third time

Last night my sister Patty was in town and she has an interest in local, sustainable and organic. She had interviewed the owner of Braise for an article. We ate at the kitchen bar. It was less interesting than you might think. You are really not watching the kitchen, just the expediter and another chef who is manning a station the purpose of which I was unclear. He had an oven he was working and, it seemed, making salads. As I said, it wasn’t that interesting and the bar didn’t extend enough over my lap to be eating comfortably but the service was better, though not great, than it had been the last time.

The small plates, though, were good. The dessert which came out looking vaguely phallic wasn’t. Two small olive oil cakes that were dry, and seemed stale, with a dog-dick pink quenelle of gelato wedged between them. We ate them anyway, well, most of them.