Monthly Archive for November 2010
Here are the things I should be doing right now: making the two rounds of pie crust that I resolved to make last weekend; packing my suitcase; practicing my bowling game (as I will be ushering myself into my 30s on Saturday with a bowling birthday party, because, apparently, 30 is the new 8); cleaning out my DVR (What? You don’t consider that a pre-vacation must?); tying up a million loose ends at work; getting my nails done (only to have them destroyed in the flurry of celery-chopping, onion-peeling, pie crust-crimping, and dish-scrubbing that will soon ensue); doing a few sit-ups in a futile attempt to ward off the feasts that are about to unfold.
And the list goes on. I’m sure you all have pre-Thanksgiving lists of your own. But, for a few minutes, at least, I need to set aside my to do’s and I’m really hoping you’ll do the same. It’s about cake. Priorities, people.
We had friends for dinner on Saturday night and, for once, I did the sensible thing and cobbled together a menu full of tried and true recipes. We had these nuts, before dinner. We had a beef tenderloin recipe I’ve made a dozen times and which has quickly become one of my favorite dishes. We had a pile of garlic-y, spicy, braised Swiss chard. And we had oven fries, an evolution of an old recipe. I did make a new cake (which I wasn’t crazy about — serves me right), but it was capped with this frosting, which I’ve made over and over again.
Perhaps spurred on by this trip down culinary memory lane, I spent Sunday giving this site’s Recipe Index an overhaul. I had originally intended only to update the thing (which had fallen hopeless out-of-date), but I ended up giving it some reorganization and cosmetic changes, too. It’s incredible to look back on all that’s been cooked and baked in that kitchen of mine, and a few favorites—such as those that made an appearance on Saturday night—really stood out.
A pecan pie is this: a thick, gooey band of sweet filling that tastes faintly of molasses, nestled into a flaky pie crust and topped with a ridged mosaic of pecan halves. I’ve never made one and, despite Kevin’s request that I do so for this year’s Thanksgiving, I worried that it would not fit on the menu. Not that I have a problem capping off a lavish Thanksgiving buffet with a truly gluttonous variety of pies. Oh no, to the contrary. But, this year, I was afraid that my appetites and my time do not quite match up.
Kevin and I fly into Minneapolis on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, arriving well after dark. On a normal Wednesday, I’d be heading to bed around the time we’ll get to my parents’ house. My plan for that evening—barring travel woes, which seem to befall us every. single. holiday.—is to proceed directly to the kitchen. I will not pass go (though I will accept a glass of wine) and I will immediately get to work on the pies, a category of the meal I’ve agreed to spearhead.
It’s the time of year when my thoughts are monopolized by Thanksgiving. I dig out old November issues from my food magazine archives (which are getting out of hand, despite the fact that my Gourmet pile has stopped growing). I flip through photos of Thanksgivings-past. I compile a recipe index for this site. I stock the spice cupboard with cinnamon and nutmeg and allspice. I fill the freezer with to-be-rolled-out pie dough. I select a dress for the day and make a mental note to pack yoga pants for the cozy, post-dinner portion of the day. I read up on turkey varieties and new techniques for preparing the bird.
And, of course, I start to test out recipes. This year is no different, even though I’m not hosting this year (unlike last year), but rather pitching in in my parents’ kitchen.
I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line, I developed sort of a thing for flourless (or nearly flourless) chocolate cakes. And, of course, they’re not all that hard to love. They’re lovably easy (the most complicated recipes call for a double boiler, which I consider a small price to pay). They’re lovably decadent—dark, fudgy, dense and rich. And, best of all, I think, they’re lovably ugly. They puff up in the oven and exhale as they cool, resulting in a rather undulating, mottled cake. If you’re concerned that guests will pass up such a homely specimen, a sprinkling of powdered sugar—a little bit like lipstick on a pig—will do just the trick.
As far as these cakes go, I’m quite partial to Molly’s Winning Hearts and Minds Cake—a nearly flourless choccolate cake that is, I assure you, aptly named. I’ve made it for holidays and parties and for a winter Saturday night in. It’s equally at home in each of these occasions and that’s another thing I love about it. Most recently, I served it at a going away party for our friends Matt and Maggie. It was still summer, then, so I served the slices with fresh berries and a spoonful of just-sweetened sour cream (don’t knock it ’till you try it!).