Sunday, April 13, 2008

You Bird Brain!

Photo: Via: Sweet and Sour Spectator

I guess that is isn't a surprise to disclose that I love the Food Network. Yes, my secret love, Alton Brown is the host and he displays his geeky cuteness and geeky knowledge all together. Sigh.

But today's episode really did take the cake.

It was the challenge between Mario Batali and challenger, Chris Cosentino.

Now, the thing is that I will eat just about anything. I think you may have seen pictures of me and know that is the truth. But escargot ran through a meat slicer? Ok, I get that it made it easier to slice, but I saw it! It looked nasty. The sauce that it was mixed with looked tasty and I love home made pasta. But still. ew.

And then? The squab. I love squab. I know that they are different from the nasty rats with wings that you get in any major city. And I know that there WERE no pigeons or squab in North America until they were introduced by some (likely) homesick Brit, who expected to eat the food of his childhood. That being said, taking the feet, wings and skulls of the little fuckers and then eating them is kind of nasty. Particulary when the little deep fried claw is holding a garlic clove (our secret ingredient) and that you are supposed to suck the brains of the squab out of it's little head. Ok. Not face to face, but rather from the back of the skull, but does that REALLY make it much better?

I say NO!

Thank god, Mario Batali won this challenge!


Friday, April 04, 2008

Birthday cake

I know most people have visions of buttercream dancing in their heads when they think of birthday cakes.

In my family, we dream of ice cream, chocolate crunches and plastic roses.

Yep, We are Carvel people.

Oh, my sister and I and even my brother... How we fought over those plastic roses.

They don't make them that way anymore. And that is ok. Eventually we outgrew the need to have an ice cream cake for our birthday every year.

But my Dad? Not so, much.

He still loves an ice cream cake. So that is what I try to find for his birthday every year. The pickings are slim here in Chicago. Although the Jewel does have a cooler with Carvel cakes in it, it just isn't the same. So this year, I decided to try my own hand at making one.

I bought four pints of gelato from Whole Foods in three different flavors and came home to get cracking.

Not having the chocolate sprinkles I used graham cracker crumbs. I would take softened gelato and spread it in a lined cake pan. (I lined my with tin foil, which I wouldn't do again, but I didn't have enough cling film). The order of was chocolate, cherry, chocolate and almond cappacino. Each layer was separated by the graham cracker crumbs and each layer was allowed to freeze before the next was added.

oh! And as the extra added surprise, I decided to make a cherry compote. Frozen cherries and sugar, cooked until jammy. Except, there was a distraction. Haha... yeah. I know. Who would have guessed. Family dinner coming up, who'd guessed I was distracted. Well the compote over-cooked. How much? Let's just say instead of a nice simmer, it went to hard ball stage. So... now instead of cherry compote, I now have created cherry crunch. Not what I wanted originally, but yummy.

Afterward I removed the cake from the pan and peeled back the foil. The cakes of my childhood were always frosted in some way. So I considered a coating of whipped cream. In the end I went with a richer option. Ganache.

Poor Imelda and MonAnge. They panicked as they watched me spreading still slightly warm chocolate (it has to be... or it just won't spread!) over slowly melting ice cream. MonAnge wanted to help... but as time was of the essence, I didn't feel this was a moment for a cooking lesson. We will practice ganache spreading with a cake that stays solid at room temperature.

The cake oozed a bit as I was frosting the sides and the chocolate began to harden quickly. I got everything covered and popped it back into the freezer to save the day. It solidified nicely and kinda pretty too, if I think so myself.

And what did Dad think? Well, he seemed touched that I would MAKE an ice cream cake. It was certainly more rich and luxurious than the ice cream cakes of old. And best of all? Not hard to make.

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fishy Fools

Image: Chocolate Trading Co.
What kind of fool believes in April Fish?

Well, the French do. And they may have been the originators of the April Fools jokes that are so common on April First.

It turns out that King Charles IX (yes, Fun Daddy, Charles VIII is dead.... Damn you, Monty Python and your Flying Circuses!) decided in 1564 to change the date of the new year from April 1 to January 1. The Catholic Church eventually changed the New Year's date officially in 1582 when it adopted the Gregorian calendar. Those people who didn't learn of or recognize the French government's change were the April Fools.

But the fish? Where did they come in?

Well no one really quite sure.

It is possible that the fish is a reference to leaving the zodiacal sign of Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20). Maybe because for most years, the time after April 1st was part of lent, a time of fasting, or eating fish instead of flesh or fowl. Either way, the French tradition included putting a dead fish on the back of the fool. Stinky? Oh, yes. And hopefully quickly discovered.

Today French children are more likely to use paper fish or stickers and eat fish shaped treats.