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Showing posts with label New Year's Eve. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Year's Eve. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Classic Flourless Chocolate Cake Gets a Flavor Twist

New Year's Eve is fast approaching. Super Bowl Sunday isn't that far off. Perfect for both or any celebration, a flourless chocolate cake proves the maxim, a little taste goes a long way. Because the dense cake has so much flavor, a thin slice topped with freshly made whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is more than enough to end a meal or celebrate a memorable occasion.

Many years ago I read my first flourless chocolate cake recipe in Esquire magazine. As created by Jean Banchet, the celebrated French chef, the basics were straight forward. A good quality dark chocolate is melted together with sweet (unsalted) butter. In a separate bowl egg yolks are sweetened with sugar. Egg whites are whipped into peaks. Then, the three are mixed into one bowl.

Like a souffle, a flourless chocolate cake is a delicate confection. Jostled or treated carelessly, the egg whites so carefully aerated will collapse.

My contribution to this classic was a few flavorful ingredients. Instead of a liqueur which is often used to enliven the density of the chocolate, I like to add orange zest and a handful of finely chopped roasted almonds.

The recipe will make 1-2 large cakes or 8-10 smaller ones.

This is purely a matter of taste, but I prefer thin cakes, 1"-2" tall. The taller the cake, the longer the bake. The times listed below are estimates. Ultimately the test of whether the cake is done is to insert a pairing knife into the middle. When withdrawn, the knife should have a small amount of chocolate on the blade. Be careful not to dry out the cake.

After a dusting of confectionary sugar, the cake must always be served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

A few special kitchen tools are essential. Non-stick parchment paper. Springform pans. And a power mixer.

The cake is best served warm, heated for ten minutes in a 250F oven.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Zest and Roasted Almonds

Only use good quality chocolate without additives. The same is true of the heavy cream used to make whipped cream for the topping. In Los Angeles where I live, Trader Joe's has two products which I always use. The One Pound chocolate bars (56-70% cacao) and the heavy cream are both made without additives. I highly recommend them for this and other desserts.

When filling the springform pans, leave room 1" at the top because the batter will rise.

Serves 12

Makes (1-2) 6"-9" cakes or (8-10) 3" cakes

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Time to bake: 30 minutes - 3 hours depending on diameter and height of cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 sticks + 2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoon white flour
14 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into quarter sized pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup raw almonds, roasted in 250F oven 5 minutes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 cups heavy cream or 1 pint good quality vanilla or vanilla bean ice cream

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 250F.

2. Remove the bottom(s) of the springform pan(s) and place on parchment paper on a flat surface. Use a pencil to trace the outline of the bottom(s) onto the paper. Use sharp scissors to cut out the paper round(s). Lay the parchment paper round(s) inside the springform pan(s). Set aside.

3. Use a double boiler or place a sauce pan on top of another pan. Add water in the lower pot to fill halfway. Place on stove top on a medium flame so the water simmers.

4. Melt butter in double boiler. Use pastry brush to paint the top of the parchment paper and inside the springform pan(s) with melted butter. Dust with flour. Set aside.

5. Add chocolate to melted butter. Stir and melt but do not boil. Once chocolate and butter are combined, stir in roasted chopped almonds, set aside for five minutes.

6. Place egg yolks, sugar minus 2 tablespoons, vanilla extract and orange zest into a mixing bowl. Mix well. Set aside.

7. In the bowl of an electric mixing, place the egg whites and lemon juice. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat two minutes and sprinkle in 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue mixing until peaked but no more. Set aside.

8. Using a rubber spatula, carefully combine the egg yolk and chocolate mixtures. Set aside.

9. Transfer the chocolate mixture into egg whites being careful to incorporate all the egg whites.

10. Place the springform pan(s) on a flat baking sheet. Using the spatula, transfer the batter into the pan(s), leaving room 1" at the top.

11. Place springform pan(s) into the oven. Check every 30 minutes and rotate baking sheet to prevent the cake(s) being uneven because your stove is not level.

12. To make whipped cream, place heavy cream in electric mixer with wire whisk. With machine on high, sprinkle in confectioner's sugar. Continue whisking until the cream is fluffy. Be careful not to over whisk. The result will be butter milk. Refrigerate whipped cream in an airtight container until needed, as much a day before.

13. Insert pairing knife into center of cake(s). When blade has a small amount of chocolate, remove cake(s) from oven and allow to rest on cake rack 15 minutes. Cake(s) will contract making removal from the springform pan easy. Lift cake(s) off the bottom and parchment paper. Place on a decorative plate.

14. Serve cake(s) warm with a sharp knife and a large bowl of freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2 Great Cookies for New Year's Eve or Any Fun Time

Planning New Year's Eve with friends, the big question is: celebrate a one of our homes or go out. The question was answered quickly.

None of us wanted to go out to a restaurant or go to a club. So the plan is we'll have a pot luck dinner. We'll hang out. Watch movies. Cook together. Try some new cocktails and a good wine (I was on a press trip to Napa last month and brought back a delicious bottle of Luna Vineyards' Pinot Grigio).
Right now we're putting together a pot luck menu that includes a hard boiled eggs with anchovies, grilled side of salmon, a chicken dumpling dish with lots of shiitake mushrooms and fresh vegetables, a cole slaw recipe I've been working on, assorted salads, maybe a thick cut steak to char on a carbon steel pan and assorted desserts including home made hot fudge sauce and caramelized almond slivers to make hot fudge sundaes.

I'm definitely bringing plates of the cookies I made when I wrote two recipes for Zester Daily. The "magic" of the two recipes is one uses egg yolks, the other egg whites. They are completely different. The pound cake cookies are crispy and light-as-air, perfect for dipping in coffee or tea. the financier cookies are adapted from a French cake recipe. They are chewy and filled with nutty flavors from the hazelnut and sweet from the orange simple syrup.

Making The Most Out of Yolks and Egg Whites

So, Happy New Year to everyone. All my best wishes for a healthy and happy 2015.




 

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Year's Eve Treats: Salmon with Crispy Skin and Buckaroo Cookies

Where does time go? Last I looked, it was almost Thanksgiving. Now it's almost New Year's Eve. 2013 was a good year. Wishing everyone a great 2014.

On New Year's Eve we're having friends over for a late dinner and an evening of movie watching. We've seen most of the movies in Oscar contention and we have our favorites (HerNebraska Philomena and Fruitvale Station). But we have more to watch so we'll enjoy the evening with food and films.

Two of the treats I'll make include holiday cookies and salmon filet with crispy skin.  A few months ago for my oldest son's birthday party, we had a dinner at Napa Valley Grille in Westwood. Franklin likes farm fresh food, simply prepared, not fussy. We sampled the menu and the food was delicious. The chef stopped by to see if everyone was happy. A friendly, nice guy, chef Taylor Boudreaux sent out a pasta dish with truffles as a gift to the table. What a nice thing to do.
One of the dishes we had at the dinner was  a salmon filet with crispy skin. It's a simple dish but I've never been able to get the skin right at home. Chef Boudreaux agreed to do a video demonstration.
The interview and video are on Zester Daily. He makes it look so easy. He shared the magic. I tried it at home. It worked! So cool.

Chef's Secret To Crispy Skin For Pan-Seared Salmon Filets

Alana Vague, a friend of a friend, was baking cookies as holiday gifts. She put them in little brown paper bags, nicely tied with a ribbon.  They are delicious and Alana says they're easy to make, a recipe from her great-grandmother. They'll be perfect to snack on while we're watching movies.

Alana's Great-Grandmother's Buckaroo Cookies
Yield: a lot

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups quick oats
1 cup butterscotch chips
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Cream butter and sugars
Add eggs and vanilla
Add dry ingredients
Stir in oats and chips
Drop by tablespoon on cookie sheet
Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes
(I bake them for 7ish then let them rest on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes or so)

Monday, December 31, 2012

For New Year's Eve: A Favorite Cocktail

The holidays are a great time to break the work routine, slow down the daily tempo, and hang out with friends and family.

Cold weather makes the outdoors less hospitable. A warm kitchen invites like no other room in the house.  Pulling together appetizers, a salad, main dish, and a couple of desserts, is a lot of work but also great fun. 

With New Year's Eve tonight, I'm turning to an old favorite, a drink that evokes the sweetness and excitement of the tropics.

Because there are edible pieces of fruit at the bottom, include a spoon so the cocktail can be enjoyed as a drink and an appetizer all in one.

Tropical Rum Cocktail

Yield: 4

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rum
2 Fuyu persimmons, ripe, slightly soft, finely chopped
1 cup fresh orange juice, sweet
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
16 ice cubes

Method

Pour the white rum into a pitcher, add the powdered sugar, and stir well to dissolve. Add the finely chopped persimmons, orange and lime juice, and stir well to combine.

Put 4 ice cubes and a spoon into each glass, pour in the drink, making certain that the persimmon pieces are divided equally and serve.

Variations

Top with a fresh sprig of mint

Adjust the proportion of orange and lime juice, to taste

Substitute finely chopped mango, strawberries, kiwi, or fresh passion fruit for persimmons

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sexy, Seared Scallops Help Say Goodbye to 2012 and Hello to 2013

Cooking long hours is fun on Thanksgiving but on New Year's Eve nobody wants to be in the kitchen except to pass through on the way to the freezer to refill the ice bucket.
The perfect at-home meal on New Year's Eve is one that has pazazz, great flavor and doesn't take long to prepare.

With expectations high, everything about a New Year's Eve party needs to be special
Take-out deli sandwiches are fine to watch the weekly football game. Pizza and beer works for a Netflix festival of Tarantino movies. But for the night when you say goodbye to a whole year's experience and celebrate what's-hoped-for in the coming 365 days, it isn't enough to simply put food on the table.

If you're having a small gathering of friends and loved ones, easy-to-make scallops are an elegantly delicious way to tell everyone how much you love sharing this end-of-the-year evening with them.

Experimenting with samples of Alaskan seafood sent to me by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, I have been happily trying out different techniques with their halibut, cod, king crab legs and salmon.

The Alaskan scallops, caught off the Kodiak coast, were beautifully plump and firm. The size of fifty cent coins, since they were thick, they could hold up to the high heat of searing.
Scallops play well with others
Because scallops have a delicate flavor, they work well with buttery, sautéed spinach and earthy shiitake mushrooms. They are also good sliced and sautéd before being tossed with pasta in a sauce of roasted tomato sauce and garlic.

With dense flesh, scallops mimic the hearty flavor of steak so they can be seared whole with thick cut onion rings.
Scallops go well with a crisp, chilled white wine, an icy cold beer or, my favorite,  a perfect Manhattan. Whatever beverage accompanies your scallops, you can toast all that was good about 2012 and all that you hope for in 2013.

Seared Scallops on a Bed of Sautéed Spinach and Shiitake Mushrooms

As with any seared dish, obtaining the best quality ingredients is an essential starting point. Whether you are searing fish, shellfish, poultry or meat, high heat creates a blush of caramelized sweetness on the outside. After that, the dish is all about what's on the inside.
Key to searing is using a pan that can tolerate high heat. Stainless steel pans should not be used because too much work is required to clean them.

A cast iron pan or one designed specially for high heat cooking is preferred and can be found in restaurant supply stores like Surfas in Culver City. To prepare this dish, I used the French de Buyer carbon steel frying pan which is designed to be used at very high heat with only a small amount of oil.

Serves 4

Ingredients

16 large scallops, washed, pat dried
1 bunch spinach, root ends removed, washed in clean water, dried
4 shallots, ends and outer skin removed, cut into rings
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, root ends trimmed of any dirt, thin sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Cut off the spinach stems, finely chop and sauté  in a frying pan with 1 tablespoon olive, the shallots, garlic and mushrooms until lightly browned. Roughly chop the spinach leaves and add to the sauté. Cook until wilted and set aside. The vegetable sauté can be prepared ahead.

In a bowl, season 1 tablespoon olive oil with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne (optional). Add scallops. Toss well to coat. Set aside.

Place a cast iron or carbon steel frying pan on high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the scallops in the hot pan. Do not crowd the scallops. If they are too close together, they will steam rather than sear.

Using tongs, turn the scallops so all sides are lightly browned. When each scallop is cooked, place on paper towels to absorb excess fat.

Reheat the sautéed spinach and place on a serving platter. Arrange the scallops on top.

Serve hot with a cold beverage.

Friday, December 16, 2011

10 Delicious Holiday Recipes

I'm happy to say I published my first cookbook, 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes.
I wanted to create a cookbook with ten easy-to-make recipes perfect for the holidays.
I'd like to hear what you think about the recipes and I would certainly like it if you would buy the book. For $2.99 you get a great collection of cocktails, appetizers, salads, sides, entrees and a couple of dynamite desserts.

I used Amazon and Kindle, but if you don't own a Kindle, no problem. You can download the Kindle App that works for your smart phone, computer or iPad. It's free and downloads easily.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you.  Have a great holiday!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For New Year's Eve: A Favorite Cocktail

The holidays are a great time to break the work routine, slow down the daily tempo, and hang out with friends and family.

Cold weather makes the outdoors less hospitable. A warm kitchen invites like no other room in the house.  Pulling together appetizers, a salad, main dish, and a couple of desserts, is a lot of work but also great fun. 

With New Year's Eve fast approaching, the search is on to plan a festive meal. What better way to begin the celebration than with a drink that evokes the sweetness of the tropics.

Because there are edible pieces of fruit at the bottom, include a spoon so the cocktail can be enjoyed as a drink and an appetizer all in one.

Tropical Rum Cocktail

Yield: 4

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rum
2 Fuyu persimmons, ripe, slightly soft, finely chopped
1 cup fresh orange juice, sweet
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
16 ice cubes

Method

Pour the white rum into a pitcher, add the powdered sugar, and stir well to dissolve. Add the finely chopped persimmons, orange and lime juice, and stir well to combine.

Put 4 ice cubes and a spoon into each glass, pour in the drink, making certain that the persimmon pieces are divided equally and serve.

Variations

Top with a fresh sprig of mint

Adjust the proportion of orange and lime juice, to taste

Substitute finely chopped mango, strawberries, kiwi, or fresh passion fruit for persimmons

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A New Year's Eve Cocktail and Appetizer All-in-One

I enjoy spending hours cooking in the kitchen. Doing the prep work soothes my frazzled nerves. Watching a dish slowly come together as the various ingredients combine their flavors calms me down.

Being in the kitchen is a great escape from a contentious world. Pulling together appetizers, a salad, main dish, and a couple of desserts, gives me a lot of pleasure. Good food promotes good conversation and well-prepared dishes tell our friends that we care about them.

I like to have the meal completed before everyone arrives, but sometimes, like this New Year's Eve, I know I'll still be cooking. The best solution is a colorful cocktail that refreshes and entertains while I'm finishing dinner.

Because there are edible pieces of fruit at the bottom, including a spoon means the cocktail is a drink and an appetizer all in one.

Tropical Rum Cocktail

Cocktails, like pets, need to be named. I'd appreciate any and all suggestions.

Yield: 4

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rum
2 Fuyu persimmons, ripe, slightly soft, finely chopped
1 cup fresh orange juice, sweet
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
16 ice cubes

Method

Pour the white rum into a pitcher, add the powdered sugar, and stir well to dissolve. Add the finely chopped persimmons, orange and lime juice, and stir well to combine.

Put 4 ice cubes and a spoon into each glass, pour in the drink, making certain that the persimmon pieces are divided equally and serve.

Variations

Top with a fresh sprig of mint

Adjust the proportion of orange and lime juice, to taste

Substitute finely chopped mango, strawberries, kiwi, or fresh passion fruit for persimmons