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Dec 18, 2014
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By the Book

By the Book: Gina Homolka’s Shrimp and Grits

Saturday, December 13th, 2014



I hate winter, but I do love the holiday season. It’s a wonderful excuse to get together with your favorite people to eat and drink delicious things until you’re fit to burst. I did exactly that at my first Thanksgiving of the year (Yes, there was a first Thanksgiving. There was also a second Thanksgiving, and a third, too.), and I definitely gained five pounds after that one day.

I regret nothing, but I have unsuccessfully attempted to detox ever since. I limited myself to only whole-grain carbs; that lasted one day. I tried to sub a meal a day for green juice; that lasted two days. I even tried going vegan; that lasted one meal. So I hoped The Skinnytaste Cookbook by blogger Gina Homolka – with its light on calories, big on flavor claims – would help me stay on the straight and narrow.




Each recipe in the book includes the serving size, calorie count and nutritional information, which is helpful for the health-conscious. I also liked that the recipes don’t necessarily sound like diet food. Chicken enchiladas or Mongolian beef and broccoli don’t sound like diet dinners – they sound like something I want to eat. I had nearly everything I needed at home to make Homolka’s Kiss My (Shrimp and) Grits, and I was curious to see if her healthier version could stand up to a buttery favorite. Her recipe calls for ingredients with big flavors like Old Bay, bay leaf and a little bit of ham, all of which go in the sauce with the shrimp. The grits had a little added creaminess and saltiness from the single ounce of Harvati cheese.




Unsurprisingly, the limited use of fat and salt was restrictive. Only 1 teaspoon of oil to sear a whole pound of shrimp? It’s hard to get good color on them with so little fat. Also, the recipe uses ½ tablespoon of butter in for the entire four servings of grits… Let’s be honest, I use that much on a piece of toast. In the end, the dish lacked the richness one expects with shrimp and grits, but at only 311 calories per serving, it did help assuage my triple-Thanksgiving guilt.




Kiss My (Shrimp and) Grits
4 servings

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1¼ cups fat-free milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup quick-cooking grits (not instant)
½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 oz. Havarti cheese, shredded (1/3 cup)
1 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano cheese

24 (about 1 lb.) peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1½ tsp. olive oil
2 oz. lean smoked ham steak, finely chopped
¼ cup minced shallots
½ cup caned fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained (I recommend Muir Glen)
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon wedge
3 Tbsp. sliced scallions, for garnish

• For the grits: In a medium pot, combine ¼ cup water, the chicken broth, milk and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Slowly stir in the grits. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover with a fitted lid, and simmer, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent the grits from sticking to the bottom, adding more water if necessary, until smooth like cream of wheat, 28 to 30 minutes. Stir in the butter and cheeses, remove the pan from the heat, and keep warm.
• For the shrimp: Sprinkle the shrimp with Old Bay. Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and the shrimp and cook until browned, about 1 minute. Flip the shrimp and cook 1 more minute or until opaque. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.
• Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining ½ teaspoon oil and the ham. Cook until slightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the drained tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, and black pepper to taste. Increase the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens and reduces slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the shrimp and parsley, and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir well and discard the bay leaf.
• Divide the grits among 4 serving plates and spoon the shrimp and sauce over the top of each. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter Publishers

What healthy twists do you put on your favorite dishes to lighten them up at home? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook.

By the Book: Sean Brock’s Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder

Saturday, December 6th, 2014



I have a new celebrity chef crush. Ever since catching his episodes of The Mind of a Chef, Sean Brock has become my famous chef obsession. What joy, then, to have the opportunity to make a dish (four, actually) from his first cookbook, Heritage. Brock approaches heritage food and farm-to-table cooking with a sentimental, reverent curiosity and a dogged pursuit not only to cook the food of the South, but also to find the regional ingredients that give this cuisine its soul.




And what could be more soulful than a slow-roasted pork shoulder with tomato gravy and roasted Vidalia onions? And by slow-roasted, I mean slooooow-roasted. Brock required me to roast this porky goodness at 250 degrees for a whopping 14 hours. To make that happen, I painted the roast with Dijon mustard, sprinkled on his spice rub, popped it in the oven and went back to bed – but not before I took this picture to prove that, yes, I did put the roast in at 4 a.m. This is the view out my front window just after the roast went in the oven.




At about 3 p.m., I was afraid I would serve pork jerky for dinner. At 4 p.m., my oven actually shut itself off, as if to say, “Hello? I’ve been working for 12 hours, here. Why haven’t you managed to cook something in that amount of time?” I turned the tired oven back on and briefly celebrated the victory of man over machine.

To be honest, I did remove the roast an hour before I was supposed to, and I’m glad I did. It wasn’t jerky, but it hadn’t produced the pan drippings with which I was supposed to baste it. Still, the meat was moist and flavorful, but I’ve produced similar results without my oven going on strike.




I prepared the side dishes during the last few hours of cooking: roasted baby Vidalia onions, creamed corn and tomato gravy. The roasted onions are drop-dead simple – onions, oil, herbs are wrapped in foil and put in the oven. The tomato gravy was equally easy to prepare – cornmeal toasted in melted bacon fat, squished up whole tomatoes, seasoning. Boom and done.




The most amazing side by far was was the creamed corn. I’ve made creamed corn before by adding a bechamel sauce to the cooked corn, but Brock’s version calls for you to first saute half the kernals along with the shallot and garlic before adding heavy cream. Then the genius trick: that mixture is puréed in the blender and strained for a velvety smooth sauce to coat the rest of the corn. I will never make this dish the other way again. The texture and sweetness is exactly what you’d want from creamed corn. The lurid yellow may be a little off-putting to some, but trust me – it’s delicious.

Despite this marathon roasting session, I still love Sean Brock. Heritage is beautifully photographed and warmly written. The recipes are accessible for the most part and perfect for the times you want to share a bit of carefully prepared, responsibly sourced Southern food with soul.




Slow-Roasted Pork with Roasted Vidalia Onions and Tomato Gravy
12 servings

2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 bone-in pork shoulder (also called butt; about 6 lbs.), skin removed
½ cup Dijon mustard

6 baby Vidalia onions with greens attached (about 8 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves, lightly smashed and peeled
½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

Tomato Gravy
2 Tbsp. bacon fat
2 Tbsp. cornmeal, preferably Anson Mills Antebellum Fine White Cornmeal
3 cup home-canned tomatoes or canned San Marzano tomatoes
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper

For the pork: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place a rack in a roasting pan.
• Combine the brown sugar, salt, pepper and paprika in a small bowl and blend well. Using a brush, paint the top only of the pork with the mustard. Pat on the seasoning mixture. Place the pork on the rack in the pan and roast, uncovered for about 14 hours, until the meat is tender but not falling apart. Baste occasionally with the pan juices during the last hour to make glaze. Remove the pork from the oven, transfer it to a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes. Reserve the juices in the roasting pan, skimming off any fat from the top as the pork rests.
About 2 hours before the pork is done, prepare the onions: Remove the greens from the onions, slice the greens as thin as possible and reserve to use as garnish. Place the butter, thyme and garlic on a large piece of aluminum foil and top with the onions. Fold up the edges of the foil and seal to make a closed packet. Place the packet in a baking pan. Add the onions to the oven for the last 2 hours of the pork’s cooking time.
Meanwhile, for the tomato gravy: Heat the bacon fat in a large nonreactive saucepan over high heat. Stir in the cornmeal with a wooden spoon, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly until the cornmeal turns a light brown color, about 5 minutes.
• Using your hands, crush the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, then add the tomatoes and their juices to the pan and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium, bring the gravy to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is slightly thickened and the cornmeal is soft, about 10 minutes; be careful that it is not sticking or scorching. Add the salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat for up to 1 hour.
To complete: Remove the onions from the oven, carefully open the packed and cut the onions into quarters. Put the onions in a dish, baste with the liquid left inside the foil and season with the salt.
• Portion the pork by gently pulling it into large chunks with a pair of tongs. Serve with the onions, creamed corn and tomato gravy. Sprinkle the pork with the reserved onion greens.

Creamed Corn
4 servings

8 ears corn, husked
1½ Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups heavy cream
3 thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

• Cut the kernels from the corn; set aside. Using a box grater, scrape the “milk” from the cobs into a wide bowl; set aside.
• Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the corn kernels, the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots and garlic have softened considerably, about 7 minutes. Add the cream, bring to a simmer and cook stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
• Working in batches if necessary, transfer the corn mixture to a blender and blend on high until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a saucepan.
• Add the remaining corn kernels, the reserved “milk” from the cobs, the thyme and butter to the pan, bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until the creamed corn has thickened and the whole kernels are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the thyme, season with salt and white pepper and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan Publishing

Heritage celebrates traditional Southern cooking in all its glory. What was the best Southern meal you ever had and what made it so special? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Heritage.



By the Book: Jody Williams’ Omelets

Saturday, November 29th, 2014



This one time, on the Internet, I watched Jacques Pépin demonstrate the proper creation of a French omelet. It was a five-minute video tutorial, narrated by his dulcet Gallic tones, and yielded a two-egg, tri-fold beauty that all but shimmered on the plate.

I’ve been trying to replicate it ever since, with marginal success. This is partly due to Pépin‘s rigid omelet wisdom: The omelet must be cooked in butter, the eggs mixed with water, and only certain herbs used. The inside must be slightly runny. It must not betray a single streak of browning on its exterior. The times I got it all right were, suffice it to say, scarce. There’s a reason the French omelet is considered a mettle-test of any chef’s hand.

In Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, Jody Williams will guide you through preparing a French omelet on the stovetop, but she also proposes a different solution: use the oven. In her recipes and work as chef-owner of two restaurants in New York and Paris, also named Buvette, Williams excels at these kind of subtle workarounds. In fact, that subtlety in the face of the staid rigors of French cooking is likely what makes her such an interesting chef. (Meet Williams in person at the next Sauce Celebrity Chef Series event Dec. 8 at The Restaurant at The Cheshire. Details here.)

While thumbing through the cookbook, expect clean layouts and concise recipes, sometimes so intuitively written as to be confusing. But Williams’ voice shines through most every few pages in the form of small pullouts, offering deft solutions for washing basil, making crème fraiche or figuring out what to do with squeezed lemon halves (spoiler: use the remaining juice as hand sanitizer). I tested her French omelet method against Pépin’s, and though I prefer a fluffier texture than Williams’ recipe prescribes, the results were and delicious and easy to pull together.





Omelets are best made by spreading your ingredients on a cutting board beforehand so that you might add pinches or fistfuls as needed. While the oven preheated, I chopped dill, tarragon and chives and whisked eggs.






After buttering the skillet and adding the eggs, I placed it all in the oven. (If your skillet has a plastic handle, be sure to wrap it in foil several times to protect it.) Allow the egg to set about 2 minutes (shake the skillet to be sure), and add any desired extras; I used Virginia ham and Grand Cru cheese. Return to the oven for the remaining cook time.





Plating the omelet requires a slight bit of finesse (see above for my best effort), but it should slide from the skillet and fold neatly. Press down gently with a fork to keep the omelet from springing open. Williams recommends a glass of wine to go with, but on a Saturday morning, a stout shot-and-a-half of espresso works just fine, too.


Makes 1 omelets

2 large eggs
Coarse salt
3 Tbsp. chopped mixed leafy herbs (I like a mix of chives, chervil and tarragon, but use whatever you like and is fresh)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Crack the eggs into a bowl and add a large pinch of salt. Vigorously whisk together and stir in two-thirds of the herb mixture. Set the egg mixture aside.
• In a small, 6-inch diameter saute pan set over medium heat, melt the butter. (If your pan is not well seasoned you may need more butter.)
• As the butter melts, tilt the pan to make sure the butter evenly coats the pan. Pour in the whisked eggs and continue cooking over medium heat until the eggs begin to set, but are not cooked through, roughly 3 minutes, keeping in mind that the eggs will continue cooking off the heat. This is the point where you can add Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter, ham and Gruyere, or goat cheese and leeks if you wish. A good omelet will have a creamy texture and remain bright yellow.
• Season with salt and pepper, and then begin to fold the omelets.
• To remove the omelets, tilt the pan toward the serving plate and gently free it with a spatula until it slides halfway onto the plate. Now fold it over onto itself to form a half-moon. Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1tablespoon herbs and an additional pinch of salt.
• Recipe Note: If you are making omelets for more than one, I suggest using your oven as I do at Buvette. It is a fast and easy way to make a beautiful omelet. Begin by melting the butter in a small pan on the stovetop as above, but when you add the eggs, transfer the pan to a 400 degree oven to continue cooking, about 5 minutes. If you wish to fill your omelet with spinach or leeks, etc., do so as soon as it sets and then return it to the oven to finish cooking. Remove and follow the instructions for plating above.


Excluding ham, cheese and peppers, what goes in your perfect omelet? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Buvette!

By the Book: Ben Towill and Phil Winser’s Leek & Peekytoe Crab Gratin

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014



Full disclosure: cooking intimidates me. My culinary skills pale when compared to my family’s kitchen queens, my mother and aunts. There’s nothing better to this starving college student than visiting a relative’s house, where there are sure to be tasty, homemade dishes waiting. It’s a nice alternative to my fallback, the $6.51 large pizza around the corner. My large Italian family gathers monthly to swap stories, celebrate birthdays and cook and consume substantial amounts of food. My “honorary Nana,” Pat, has dubbed my family’s perennial favorites “that effin’ crab dip,” as in, “Why do we always have to bring that effin’ crab dip to the party?”

Even family favorites can use an update now and then; that’s why I was excited to see a new variation on this staple in The Fat Radish: Kitchen Diaries. Co-authors and chefs Ben Towill and Phil Winser showcase recipes featured at the NYC restaurant, The Fat Radish. While meat dishes do make appearances, vegetables and seafood steal the show in this new cookbook.




The recipe was simple enough for even a hesitant college cook like me. If I could simmer leeks in a pan, I could handle this. I did find the dip a bit dry for my liking, so I added more liquid to smooth everything out. I am also a huge fan of cheese, so a few extra shreds of sharp white cheddar may have found their way into the pan. After all, when has extra cream and cheese ever been a bad thing?




Overall, this dish was impeccable. The delicate crab and leeks were aromatic, and the dip was warm and filling. A drizzle of oil olive on top and a pinch of lemon were the perfect garnish – though an extra crack of black pepper on top wouldn’t hurt, either.




Nana Pat may moan when she sees I brought yet another crab dip to our next family get together, but after one bite, I think she’ll be talking about that “effin’ good crab dip” for a long time.




Leek & Peekytoe Crab Gratin
8 servings

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and finely diced
½ cup sherry
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. cleaned crab meat (use whatever type you like)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup coarsely grated sharp white cheddar cheese
Pinch grated nutmeg
Pinch red chili flakes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Lemon wedges for serving
Toast for serving

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• Place the butter in an ovenproof skillet set over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring now and then, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the sherry, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook until the sherry is nearly evaporated, 5 minutes. Add the cream to the pan, turn the heat to low and simmer until the cream is slightly reduced, 5 minutes. Allow the cream mixture to cool. Stir the crab into the cooled cream mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
• Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, cheese, nutmeg and chili flakes. Cover the crab mixture evenly with the breadcrumb mixture and drizzle with olive oil. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the sides are bubbling, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot with lemon wedges alongside and plenty of toast.

Have you put a twist on one of your family’s classic recipes? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Fat Radish: Kitchen Diaries.

By the Book: Michael Ruhlman’s Thanksgiving Turkey

Saturday, November 15th, 2014



I’m no stranger to roasting: leg of lamb, whole chickens, pot roasts, pork loins. But the one roast I’ve yet to tackle is arguably the one most Americans have made: the Thanksgiving turkey. That bird is my mom’s domain; she even has a separate roasting oven that makes an appearance once a year just for the task. So when I picked up a copy of Michael Ruhlman’s new book How to Roast, I immediately knew the recipe I was going to try. (And I hoped that, should questions arise, I could always ask Ruhlman in person at the next installment of the Sauce Celebrity Chef Series Nov. 19.)

Whereas his last cookbook, Egg, was dedicated to a single ingredient, How to Roast focuses on the versatility of a technique. He goes into great detail about what happens to different proteins while roasting at high, medium and low temperatures and explores specialty techniques like pan-roasting and spit-roasting. Compared to most cookbooks, How to Roast contains only a modest 20 recipes. However, once you’ve mastered the technique with dishes like the iconic roast chicken, rack of lamb or roasted root vegetables, you can apply it to an infinite number of proteins, veggies or even fruit.




Ruhlman’s turkey recipe largely follows that of his roast chicken. Stuff the cavity with aromatics, truss the bird, coat the skin in butter and salt and roast to burnished perfection. However, a larger bird means the breast often dries out before the legs are finished cooking, relegating white meat fans (allegedly they exist) to dry, flavorless morsels. Ruhlman aims to solve this annual Thanksgiving conundrum with an unusual solution: break down the turkey halfway through cooking. He removes the legs and returns them to the roasting pan to continue roasting while the breast rests. This, he says, prevents the breast from overcooking while the legs finish. Then, the meat is carved and returned to the roasting pan to rest in a pool of hot stock, thereby ensuring juicy turkey for all.




Of course, the recipe entails trussing and breaking down a 12-pound bird; thankfully, detailed illustrations show how to tackle both actions step by step. Except for one slightly mangled thigh, I kept both legs intact and returned them to the roasting pan to cook, noting how hilarious a partially carved turkey carcass looks.




While the legs rested, the roasting pan took a trip to the stovetop – not for making traditional gravy but a rich stock, almost like a turkey jus. I sliced up the meat and returned it all to the pan, where Ruhlman says it can remain in a warm oven up to four hours. By this time the smell of roast turkey had filled the house, and no one was going to wait that long.

As promised, the recipe delivered juicy, succulent white meat, though the skin lacked that tasty brown crispness that develops with more time in the oven. Meanwhile, the gorgeous-looking legs seemed a tad dry, possibly from carving them from the bird without letting it rest longer than a few minutes. Still, the turkey jus added moisture and there was plenty leftover to make a fine gravy, which will be my contribution to our real Thanksgiving meal. After all, Mom has already prepped her turkey oven.




Michael Ruhlman’s Thanksgiving Turkey
10 servings

1 (10- to 12-lb./4.5- to 5.5-kg.) turkey
Kosher salt
2 celery ribs, cut into large chunks
½ Spanish onion, quartered
½ lemon, halved again
1 bunch thyme (optional)
1 bunch sage (optional)
½ cup (110 g.) butter, melted
1 cup (240 ml.) dry white wine
2 cups (480 ml.) turkey or chicken stock, preferably homemade

• About 4 hours before you plan to start roasting, remove the turkey from the refrigerator, rinse it, pat it dry and let it sit at room temperature.
• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, or 400 degrees if you have convection.
• Liberally salt the interior and jam the celery, onion, lemon and herbs (if using) into the cavity of the bird. Truss the bird as you would a chicken. Rain salt evenly all over the bird. Put the bird in a low-sided pan (or elevated on a rack in a roasting pan; you want plenty of circulation around the bird) and put it in the oven.
• Roast at that high temperature for 20 minutes. Pour the melted butter evenly over the bird and lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees, or 350 degrees for convection. Continue to roast until the breast reaches 155 degrees, 60 to 90 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of the bird, basting as you wish.
• Remove the pan from the oven. Show off the bird to your guests. Bring it back to the kitchen. Slice through the skin between the legs and breast. The breast should still be pink, but if it looks cold and raw you can return the entire bird to the oven for 10 more minutes. Put the bird on a large cutting board (preferably with a channel or a depression to hold the bird). Remove each leg at the joint connecting it to the carcass. I reserve the wings for stock the following day rather than serving them, as they’re tough and not terribly meaty.
• Pour off the fat and juices from the roasting pan (I reserve the fat to make a roux to thicken stock for gravy, and I add the juice to the gravy or stock). Return the legs to the pan and return them to the oven. Roast the legs for at least an additional 45 to 60 minutes; if you intend to leave the legs for longer than an hour, turn the oven down to 200°F (95°C) (without convection). The legs will only get better with time and can be left in the over for up to 4 additional hours; don’t worry about the breast, as it will reheat in the stock at the end.
• Remove the legs from the roasting pan. Put the pan over high heat on the stovetop. Add the wine and bring it to a simmer, scraping up the stuck-on skin and browned juices. Add the broth and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low.
• Carve the dark meat from the drumstick and thighs and put it in the hot stock in the roasting pan. Remove each breast half from the turkey (be careful not to tear the skin.) Don’t worry if the breast is a little pink; this means it will be juicy as it finishes cooking in the hot stock. Cut the breast crosswise into ¼ to ½ inch (6 to 12 millimeter) slices. Transfer the pieces to the roasting pan with the stock. Turn the burner to high and bring the stock to a simmer. Simmer for a minute or two to ensure that everything is hot and then serve.

The finer points

Gravy, a critical part of the Thanksgiving meal, is nothing more than rich turkey stock thickened with flour. To make turkey stock, follow the instruction for Brown Veal Stock (recipe follows), using turkey wings and necks instead of veal bones. Make the stock ahead of time – several days or even a month in advance – and store it in the freezer. To make gravy, simply saute a diced onion in butter, add flour – 1½ tablespoon per cup stock, and cook the flour till it smells like pie crust. Whisk in the cold stock until it has thickened and begins to simmer.

I make a turkey dressing, in effect a savory bread pudding, using plenty of turkey stock for flavor. I call it dressing rather than a stuffing because I cook it separately from the turkey. But if you want to go classical, by all means do so. My recommendation is to roast the stuffed turkey as described above (it will take an additional 30 to 60 minutes), remove the stuffing to the roasting pan with the legs and finish cooking it along with the dark meat until it’s piping hot in the center.

When all have been served
Relax and enjoy this most special of American holidays.

And be sure to save the carcass for making more stock the next day. Just follow the steps for Brown Veal Stock, only there’s no need to roast the bones, as you’ve already done it. Simply break up the carcass, cover with water, heat gently for many hours (adding the vegetables and aromatics at the very end), and then strain.

Brown Veal Stock
1 4-lb./1.8-kg. veal breast or 4-lb./1.8-kg. meaty, cartilaginous veal bones
3 large carrots, cut into large dice
1 large Spanish onion, cut into large dice (if the papery brown skin is clean, include this as well)
5 to 10 garlic cloves
¼ cup/60 g. tomato paste
2 tsp. black peppercorns, lightly crushed in a mortar or beneath a saute pan
3 bay leaves

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (use convection if you have it).
• Cut the veal breast into 2-by-3-inch/5-by-7.5-centimeter pieces. On a baking sheet, arrange the pieces so that there’s plenty of space between them to allow for good circulation. Roast them until they are golden brown and look like they’d be delicious to eat (and they would be), 30 to 45 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees (without convection).
• Choose a pot that will hold the meat and bones snugly in two layers and cover with about 4 inches/10 centimeters of water. Place the pot, uncovered, in the oven for 10 to 12 hours. If possible, check the water level midway through the cooking to ensure that the bones are covered. If they aren’t, add more water.
• Remove the pot from the oven. Add more water to cover the bones by a couple of inches if it has cooked down. Add the carrots, onion and garlic (saute the vegetables until caramelized first, if you wish, adding the tomato paste toward the end and cooking that as well), along with the remaining ingredients. Add more water as necessary. Bring the pot just to a simmer over high heat, reduce the heat to low (the pot should be too hot to touch but the water should not be bubbling) and cook for 1 hour.
• Strain the stock through a colander, basket strainer or chinois. (If you intend to make a remouillage, discard the vegetables and put the bone back in the pot, cover them with water and cook them again in a 200-degree oven or over low heat on top of the stove for 6 hours and add this to your stock. Strain the stock again through cloth.)
• Chill the veal stock completely and lift the fat off the surface. The stock will keep refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen up to 3 months.

Reprinted with permission from Little Brown Publishing

What’s your worst Thanksgiving disaster story? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a (signed!) copy of Michael Ruhlman’s How to Roast.

By the Book: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Sprouting Broccoli with Sweet Tahini

Saturday, November 8th, 2014



I am always on the hunt for a good salad – preferably one that’s inventive and full of vegetables, because there’s nothing that leaves me hungrier than a bowlful of lettuce. So I made Yotam Ottolenghi’s Sprouting Broccoli with Sweet Tahini from his newest book, Plenty More. Make no mistake: this salad is delicious, a hearty combination of broccolini, haricot vert and snow peas with a dressing of tahini, honey, garlic and soy. There’s a heaping 1½ cups of cilantro too, which Ottolenghi says is one of his favorite ingredients (sorry, cilantro haters). The dish – especially the dressing – offers a multitude of flavors, from sweet to salty to spicy, the last thanks to raw garlic.

What I love about this book, though, is that it’s composed of vegetarian dishes for any audience. There’s something for everyone, from his tagliatelle with walnuts and lemon – an updated version of your fettuccine alfredo – to his fried upma with poached egg, a dressed-up version of the South Indian breakfast staple. (I’ll be making that next!)






Sprouting Broccoli with Sweet Tahini
Serves 4

10½ oz./300 g. purple sprouting broccoli or 9 oz./250 g. broccolini
4 oz./120 g. haricot vert, trimmed
6½ oz./180 g. snow peas, trimmed
1 Tbsp. peanut oil
1½ cups/20 g. cilantro leaves
2½ Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp. nigella seeds

For the sauce:
About 3½ Tbsp./50 g. tahini paste
About 2 Tbsp. water
1 small clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp. tamari soy sauce
1½ tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce along with the salt. You want the consistency to be smooth and thick but pourable, a bit like honey; add a tiny bit of extra water or tahini paste if needed and whisk well.

Trim off the broccoli leaves. If the stems are thick, cut them lengthwise in half or in quarters so you are left with long, thinner stems, similar in proportion to the haricot vert.

Bring a pot filled with plenty of unsalted water to a boil. Blanch the haricot vert for about 4 minutes, until just cooked but still retaining a bite. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the haricot vert to a colander, run under plenty of cold water, and then dry well with a tea towel. In the same water, blanch the snow peas for 2 minutes. Use the slotted spoon to remove them from the water, then refresh and dry as before. Repeat the same process with the broccoli, blanching it for 2 to 3 minutes.

Once all the vegetables are cooked and dry, mix them together in a bowl with the oil. You can now serve the salad in two ways. Mix most of the cilantro and seeds with the vegetables and pile up on a serving dish. Pour the sauce on top and finish with the remaining cilantro and seeds. Alternatively, pile the vegetables on a serving plate, dotting them with cilantro leaves and sprinkling with seeds as you go, and serve the sauce in a bowl on the side.

What’s your most creative vegetarian dish? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Plenty More. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

By the Book: Gabrielle Hamilton’s Cod in Saffron Broth with Leeks, Potatoes and Savoy Cabbage

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014



In her memoir Blood, Bones & Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton revealed her voice as a writer: authoritative and without apology. The book became a New York Times best-seller and garnered her a James Beard Foundation award in writing and literature. Hamilton’s voice is just as decisive in her new cookbook, Prune, but this time she might as well be your boss, and you, a line cook in her acclaimed NYC restaurant by the same name.

There is no prologue in this book. No intro, no mushy thank-yous to all those individuals who inspired the book, turned a vision into reality… There is no time for that, people. You’ve got mouths to feed!

Even before I turned on a burner, I felt like I was under fire. Hamilton was judging me, and I was coming up short. The dilemma: selecting a recipe. What dish in this book was quintessential Hamilton? All of them. Which recipes called for ingredients I could easily find? She’s persnickety, you see. If you’re going to make her Deep-fried Shrimp Toasts with Sesame Seeds, you better purchase Pepperidge Farm original white sandwich bread “even if you have to walk to three different grocery stores” because “none of the other supermarket white bread hold their structure in the fryer.”

I settled on Cod in Saffron Broth with Leeks, Potatoes and Savoy Cabbage because Bob’s Seafood could supply me with cod exactly like chef wanted it: filleted, skin-on and butchered to 5 ounces.




This cod dish, like most of the recipes in Prune, is straightforward. Just follow the instructions – exactly. To start, get that pot of water boiling, and be sure to salt it well. Salt is the only seasoning that the potatoes, cabbage and leeks will get, apart from a broth that is ladled upon plating.




Hamilton calls for seasoning the cod with berberé, an Ethiopian spice blend. I didn’t have a jar of prepared berberé, but I did have every spice she calls for. (I wouldn’t dare ask if I get points for having a well-stocked pantry.) If you do, too, it’s well worth the effort to make berberé instead of buying a jar. Toasting spices and seeds until fragrant makes your house smell amazing long after dinner is done. The amount of berberé needed to season the cod is not specified. Rather, Hamilton calls on you to pay attention. “It wants to be bold and have a point of view, but not aggressive or unbalanced.”




The last component is a saffron broth. You need every ingredient: shallots (not onions), saffron (not turmeric), fresh thyme, a cinnamon stick, fish stock. They make a difference and you will notice the minute you taste it. My dinner guests ate every last morsel of this dish. The bowls were so clean I could’ve just put them back in the cupboard.

More than aspire you to cook like a chef, the book makes you want to be a decent cook: to get it right, to keep a clean walk-in cooler (or fridge), to respect ingredients, to use everything. The techniques are not difficult, only exacting. If you can do it like Hamilton, you might survive a night on the line at Prune.




Cod in Saffron Broth with Leeks, Potatoes and Savoy Cabbage
4 servings

2 lbs. cod, filleted, skin on and butchered to 5 ounces
2 Tbsp. Berberé Spice Mixture (recipe follows)
1 cup fish stock (recipe follows)
1 medium shallot, finely diced
3 small pinches saffron
3 to 4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter
Clarified butter
2 medium leeks, sliced to ½-inch disks as far up into green as viable, completely free of sand
Generous ½ lb. savoy cabbage, cut into attractive wide ribbons
1 dozen Yukon gold baby potatoes, scrubbed, skin on, sliced into ½-inch disks
1 cinnamon stick
2 thyme branches, long and thin, not the bushy, woody ones

For the vegetables:
• Bring 8 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a large pot. Have a baker’s rack set inside a sheet pan ready at your station.
• Add potatoes to boiling water and cook until nearly done, keeping in mind they will carry over residual heat while they drain. Gently remove with a spider and lay out on a baker’s rack to cool.
• Repeat with the leeks.
• And then the cabbage.
• When vegetables are cool, pack separately.

For the pickup:
• Bring fish stock, minced shallot, thyme, saffron threads and cinnamon stick to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Let it slightly reduce and come together while you cook the fish.
• Heat moderate ladle of clarified butter in flat-bottomed saute pan over medium-high heat. Weed out the warped and buckled pans before service or they will kill your game all night long.
• Season portioned codfish on both sided with the Berberé spice rub. Take care with your seasoning – it wants to be bold and have a point of view, but not aggressive or unbalanced.
• Sear codfish, skin side down, in the hot pan with clari and take it all the way on the stove top, flipping once. Get good, crisp, golden brown skin, with opaque flesh. You want the natural flake line to start to open, but don’t take it so far that you lose all that milky enzyme as it weeps into the pan.

To finish the broth:
• Look at what you have in your saucepot – further reduce or build back up slightly with more fish stock, depending on what you see. You want fragrant, full-bodied, slightly viscous saffron broth that can still receive a few nuts of cold mounted butter and is still hot and brothy enough to be able to warm through a few ribbons of juicy cabbage, several coins of watery leeks and a few waxy potato slices without totally thinning out into body-less liquid.
• Spoon the finished broth and all the veg into the wide bowl; leave nothing in the pan. Center cod, flesh side up.
• Fish out the cinnamon stick and the thyme branch and make sure they are visible in the bowl, like a garnish.

Berberé Spice Mixture
1 quart plus 1 pint

1/3 cup coriander seeds
1 1/3 cups cumin seeds
¼ cup cloves
2/3 cup cardamom pods
1/3 cup black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. allspice berries
2/3 cup fennel seeds
1 ounce dried chilies de arbol, remove stem, seeds are fine
¼ cup fenugreek
1/3 cup ginger powder
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. turmeric powder
2/3 cup kosher salt

•In a very large sauteuse, dry toast the first 9 above ingredients together until fragrant. Stir and shake during the toasting.
• As soon as you get strong pleasant aroma – don’t allow it to get acrid and burnt – turn out onto a full sheet of parchment to cool.
• When thoroughly cool, lift edges of parchment to neatly funnel seeds into spice grinder, in manageable batches.
• Grind all to fine, mix well with the final 3 ingredients above. Store in pint containers; label and date.

Fish Stock
4 quarts

3 lbs. white fish bones
3 cups white wine
3 bulbs fennel, cut into quarters
3 stalks celery, cleaned up and cut for mirepoix
1 yellow onion, peeled, cut into sixths
1 tsp. salt
Bay leaves
Black peppercorns, a few

• Rinse bones of blood, in salt water if necessary. Remove gills as needed and break spines in two. Rinse again if snapping spines reveals more blood.
• In a stainless steel pot, add bones, lay vegetables on top and add wine. Be sure you have not grabbed a crappy aluminum pot in haste.
• Add cold water to cover by 2 inches
• Add bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of salt and a few black peppercorns.
• Bring to a boil and reduce to a bare simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let settle and partially cool. Strain through several layers clean, damp cheesecloth set inside a fine mesh chinois. Give it the time it needs to drip clear. If clarifying: Beat egg whites to tight and foamy. (Like shaving cream.) Then pour/spoon into simmering stock to form the raft. Let it go 15 minutes. Spoon off the dirty, scummy raft BEFORE straining. Repeat if necessary.

Reprinted with permission from Random House Publishing

If you could spend one night working the line at at St. Louis restaurant, which would it be and why? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Prune!

By the Book: Cynthia Graubart’s Pork Stew with Gremolata and Island Pork Chili

Friday, October 24th, 2014



I admit, it is possible that I unjustly conflated the slow cooker with the universes of Mad Men and John Cheever’s short fiction, dismissing it out of turn. But I had a good reason – at least I think. After all, my mother is prone to finger wagging about the slow cooker’s dead usefulness in a way that makes me nod vigorously and then instantly forget the advice.

Or it could be because, by chance, I own the same vintage, seafoam-colored Rival Crock-Pot Southern Living columnist Cynthia Graubart reminisces about in her new book, Slow Cooker: Double Dinners for Two. Seeing it as a kind of culinary anachronism, I often left mine to collect dust on a shelf.

However, it’s safe to say Graubart’s undemanding slow cooking tome helps breathe new life into this bloodless style of mid-century cooking. The lushly varied recipes tap fruit flavors and invoke the colorful traditions of Thailand, France, the American Southwest and others.

Most notable is the book’s conceit. Advertising “double dinners for two,” the two-serving recipes are paired together throughout the book with the idea that they can be made simultaneously in the same slow cooker, using separate plastic liners. Each recipe is labeled A or B, with individual preparation instructions followed by simultaneous cooking instructions. The methodology behind the recipe pairings is never fully explained (one of several glaring editing quirks in the book), but it’s a damn good idea, and a good way to prepare several days’ worth of meals without fuss.

I’m a pork lover and went with a (handsomely photographed) recipe for Island Chili, using pork tenderloin and a succotash-esque mix of black beans, tomatoes, corn and mango. Since I had extra ingredients, I doubled the recipe rather than making the Pork Stew with Gremolata recipe that’s paired with it.

The preparation, as with most of the recipes in Slow Cooker, is a cinch. Dice the mango and pork tenderloin (trimming away fat and silverskin), and mix the other ingredients in a bowl with a quick stir.




Add the pork to the bottom of the slow-cooker liner, seasoning it generously with salt and pepper. Then, simply pour the other ingredients on top, cover and set the slow cooker to low.




Six hours later, it was time to tango with my equatorially inspired chili. The pork itself was cooked remarkably well, considering the minimal amount of seasoning required (the beauty of using an inherently flavorful meat). But the other ingredients felt diminished in flavor, even after extensive salting – much like the gauzy, repressed feel of 1960s suburbia itself. For starters, canned beans and tomatoes and out-of-season mangoes don’t have the zing of fresh ones, and Slow Cooker’s reliance on preserved or processed ingredients undercuts its stripped-down ingenuity. You’re better off throwing fresh produce into the pot, along with some of the “jazz-up” ingredients enumerated in the book’s introduction like soy sauce, tomato paste, Parmesan, or any other umami-boosting ingredient. Remember: slow cooking can be as improvisational as it is easy.




Cynthia Graubart’s Pork Stew with Gremolata and Island Pork Chili
2 servings each

For the Pork Stew with Gremolata:
½ lb. pork tenderloin (½ of small tenderloin), cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small onion, diced
10 baby carrots, chopped
1 14½-oz. can diced tomatoes
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup beef broth
1 clove garlic, minced or ½ tsp. bottled minced garlic
3 to 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1 tsp. bottled minced garlic

For the Island Pork Chili:
½ lb. pork tenderloin (½ of small tenderloin), cut into ½-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 14½-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
¼ cup frozen corn kernels
½ cup black beans, rinsed and drained
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
1 mango, diced, divided
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

Pork Stew with Gremolata
• Insert liner into the slow cooker, fully opening the bag and draping the excess over the sides.
• Add pork to the bottom of the liner. Season with salt and pepper.
• Top pork with onions and carrots.
• Stir together tomatoes, white wine, broth and garlic in a medium bowl. Pour over pork and vegetables.
• Top pork with rosemary sprigs.
• Reserve parsley, lemon zest and garlic to top finished dish for serving.
• Fold the top of the bag over to one side and push ingredients at bottom of liner over to create room for the second bag.
• Follow directions for the second recipe.

Island Pork Chili:
• Insert liner into the remaining space in the slow cooker, fully opening the bag and draping the excess over the sides.
• Add pork to the bottom of the liner. Season with salt and pepper.
• Stir together tomatoes, corn, black beans, cumin and chili powder in a medium bowl. Pour over pork.
• Top with half the mango.
• Fold the top of the bag over to the opposite side of the first bag and nestle the ingredients of both bags so they are sharing the space evenly.
• Reserve second half of mango and cilantro to top finished dish before serving.

To complete the recipes:
• Each closed liner should be draping away from the other, extending over the sides of the slow cooker.
• Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
• Move two shallow serving dishes or bowls next to the slow cooker. Remove cover and using pot holders or oven mitts, carefully open each liner to and remove the solids with a slotted spoon or tongs to its own serving bowl. Still using a potholder, gather the top of the first liner, carefully lift the bag from the slow cooker and move over its serving bowl. Cut a corner off the bottom of the bag, large enough to allow the remaining contents of the bag to be released into the second bowl. Discard the liner. Repeat with the second liner.
• Allow the recipe being served to cool, and package in a resealable plastic freezer bag or freezer container. Label and freeze up to 3 months.
• Before serving, taste and season again with salt and pepper. Top Pork Stew with Gremolata with the reserved parsley, lemon zest and garlic before serving. Top Island Pork Stew with mango and cilantro before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Gibbs Smith Publishing 

What’s your go-to slow-cooker meat (or non-meat), and the three most important items to throw in with it? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Slow Cooker: Double Dinners for Two

By the Book: Michael Ruhlman’s Poached-in-a-Bag Egg Sandwich with Caramelized Onion and Roasted Red Pepper

Saturday, October 18th, 2014



I love eggs. In my opinion, few things can’t be improved with the addition of a golden runny yolk, no matter how tired the trend may be. It’s my go-to protein for breakfast (and often for dinner, too), yet Michael Ruhlman’s love for eggs makes mine look like pure indifference. In fact, the prolific culinary writer (who will visit St. Louis for a Celebrity Chef Series dinner Nov. 20) penned a cookbook entirely dedicated to this essential ingredient: Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient.

Enter the egg flowchart. To better document all the ways an egg could be used, Ruhlman created a massive diagram that breaks down its seemingly infinite preparations. Is it cooked whole or separated? In the shell or out? Are you making a batter or a dough? Whipping a meringue or binding meatballs? The flowchart is so large, it can’t even fit on a two-page spread of Egg. Instead, it comes as a 5-foot poster folded neatly in the back of the book. It’s so comprehensive (and beautiful), I wanted to frame and hang it in my kitchen for inspiration. With all the options presented in this book – from seafood roulade to marshmallows to an ale and rum flip – I chose one of my favorite egg presentations: a poached egg sandwich.

I know, egg sandwiches are not exactly earth-shattering. After all, nearly every fast-food joint around has some form of egg-sausage-cheese combo for breakfast. But few recipes highlight the natural flavor of an egg better than breakfast dishes, and the technique Ruhlman used to poach the eggs intrigued me.




Perhaps 25 percent of my poaching attempts succeed. Somehow, I manage to keep the whites tight, not puncture the yolk and transfer it to a plate with a semi-cooked center. Then, my next egg fails miserably. Ruhlman covers the traditional poaching technique, but he also shared a second, far simpler, method. Just pop the egg in a zip-close bag and let it poach without actually touching the simmering water. Though I’d heard of this method before, temperature and times varied wildly and I’d never actually attempted it. But if anyone could help me get it right, it’s Michael Ruhlman.




The process is simple enough. While the water comes to boil, add a few drops of olive oil to a sandwich-sized zip-top bag and smush the plastic to spread it around, making sure to get the oil into the corners. Then, crack the egg into a small bowl and gently slide it into the bag, working it into a corner so it looks like a mini pastry bag. Twist it closed and seal with a zip-tie (or if you happen to cook at the Sauce office, a paper clip). Plop the eggs into the simmering water, set your timer for 4 minutes and be patient. I found that occasionally turning the bags to rotate the eggs helped them poach more evenly.




When the timer rang, the eggs slipped out of the plastic and came to rest gently on top of my English muffin. Granted, they weren’t as pretty as you’d find at brunch around town – the whites were a hilarious conical shape, like my sandwich wore a hat. Still, I’ll take perfectly cooked (if awkwardly shaped) over my pot of over-boiled egg whites any day. Bring on the Benedicts!




As for the rest of the sandwich, it’s a classic but perfect combination. Always use an English muffin over toast (“… the holey crumb helps catches the yolk when you bite into it,” Ruhlman said) and add a splash of white wine vinegar to make the caramelized onions and peppers sing. Forget the sausage, cheese and bacon. When you have a perfectly oozing golden yolk and sweet caramelized onions and peppers, you don’t need anything else.




Poached-in-a-Bag Egg Sandwich with Caramelized Onion and Roasted Red Pepper
4 servings

4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 eggs
1 tsp. butter, plus more for the English muffins
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, charred black over a glam or under a broiler, then peeled and diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. red or white wine vinegar
4 English muffins

• If you wish to cook your eggs ahead of time, bring a medium pot of water to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat so that water is gently simmering; prepare an ice bath (half ice, half water). Put 1 teaspoon olive oil into each of 4 small plastic bags, then crack an egg into each bag. Twist each bag closed and secure it with a twist-tie. Lower the bags into the simmering water and cook 4 minutes. Transfer the bags to the ice bath and put the whole thing in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. At that point, return the bags to simmering water for 90 seconds to reheat before serving.
• When you’re ready to prepare the sandwiches, heat the butter over medium heat and saute the onion gently till nicely browned and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the red bell pepper to reheat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and then add the vinegar.
• Toast and butter the English muffins.
• If you haven’t made the eggs ahead of time, cook them now as described above. Divide the onion-pepper mixture among the four muffin bottoms. Place a cooked egg on each – they will slip easily out of their oiled bags. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and top with the muffin tops. Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from Little Brown and Company

What’s your favorite way to use an egg and why? Whole and fried? Separated and baked or whipped into a meringue? Scrambled into an omelet? Tell us in the comment section below for a chance to win a copy of Egg.

By the Book: Julie Richardson’s Double-Dip Caramel Cake

Saturday, October 11th, 2014



Caramel cake is one dish I’ve never successfully made. I always test new recipes since it’s my husband’s favorite dessert, but they never turn out quite right. It is my great white whale (or buffalo) of desserts. However, this cool, fall weather renewed my hope for making the perfect caramel cake, and I decided to test a version from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson (though it almost lost out to her Old Vermont burnt sugar cake with maple-cream cheese frosting.)




The cake recipe was very different than other cake recipes I’ve seen. Normally, the first step is to cream the fat and the sugar together and then incorporate flour. In this recipe, Richardson adds the fat directly to the dry ingredients (a whopping three cups of flour to two cups of sugar!) and warns this will take coaxing and a lot of scraping. This process did take a long time, which may account for the cake’s density. It’s not an airy-fairy crumb cake. It’s pretty substantial, almost like pound cake, which isn’t a bad thing.




The double-dip element of this caramel cake is thanks to the caramel and caramel frosting on each layer. But surprisingly, it didn’t have a strong caramel taste. I wish the frosting itself had more than one cup of caramel for more intense flavor.




To be fair, the recipe does say to slice each cake layer in half to make a six-layer cake with a thin layer of caramel and frosting in between each layer. I didn’t halve them, not out of laziness, but because every time I’ve attempted this, I ruin the round. Maybe the caramel flavor would be more intense, but I doubt it.




Overall, I really liked this cake but it isn’t exactly what I’m looking for in a caramel cake. I guess my quest will just have to continue.




Julie Richardson’s Double-Dip Caramel Cake
12 to 16 servings

For the Caramel Sauce:
¼ cup water
1½ cups (10½ oz.) sugar
1½ cups heavy cream
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. fine sea salt

For the Cake:
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1½ cups (13½ oz.) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups (12 oz.) sifted cake flour
2 cups (14 oz.) sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. fine sea salt
¾ cup (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes

For the Frosting:
6 cups (1½ lbs.) sifted confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups (12 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup heavy cream

• Center an oven rack and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
• To make the caramel sauce, gently stir together the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, being careful not to splash the sides of the pot. Stop stirring and allow the sugar to boil until it is a rich amber color. To check the true color of the caramel (because it will appear much darker than it actually is), simply tilt the pot to see a thin layer of the liquid – resist the urge to stir or stick an implement into the caramel, as it may cause the caramel to crystalize. Remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly pour in ¾ cup of cream and place the saucepan back on the stove over medium heat, stirring until combined. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Reserve 1 cup of the caramel for your frosting; the rest will be used to assemble the cake. Place all of the caramel in the refrigerator to cool while the cake bakes.
• To make the cake, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, ½ cup of the sour cream, and the vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt for 1 minute at low speed. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of sour cream and blend on low speed until the batter comes together. This will take some coaxing – you will need to stop the mixer often to scrape the batter from the paddle and the bottom of the bowl. Once the mixture has come together, mix on medium-high speed for an additional 90 seconds. The batter will be thick. Add the egg mixture in thirds, mixing each third into the batter until just combined and scraping the bowl as necessary.
• Divide the batter equally among the three prepared pans (there will be approximately 1 pound 2 ounces per pan) and smooth the tops. Bake in the middle of the oven until the centers spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out just barely moist, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Flip the cakes out and lay them on a wire rack, top side up, to cool to room temperature. Leave the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake.
• Because the frosting is at its best when fresh, make it just before assembling the cake. In the bowl of a stand mixed fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the confectioners’ sugar and butter on high speed until the mixture is thick, fluffy, and light in color, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the reserved cooled cup of caramel and mix on medium speed until combined. Switch to the whisk attachment and, with the mixer running on low speed, drizzle in the ¼ cup of cream. Turn up the mixer to high speed for 1 to 2 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy.
• To assemble the cake, first give the caramel sauce a good stir. If any of the cake layers are domed, slice off the domes. (They are great to nibble on while you’re building the cake!) Remove the parchment paper circles. Cut each cake layer in half to yield six thin layers. Build this cake using the three bottom layers first, so that the three top layers constitute the top half of the cake. Place one of the bottom layers cut side up on a serving plate. Using a metal spatula, spread a very thin layer of the caramel (2 to 3 tablespoons) over the cake, then spread a thin layer (½ cup) of the frosting over the caramel. Don’t worry if some of the caramel blends into the frosting, as this just makes it all yummier. Repeat these steps with the two remaining bottom layers, followed by two top layers (all top side up), spreading each layer with caramel first, and then with frosting. Place the very top layer top side down on the cake. Apply a thin layer of frosting all over the cake to make a “crumb coat.” Place the cake in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up. Take it out and frost with the remaining frosting.
• The cake will stay fresh for up to 4 days under a cake dome at room temperature – if it lasts that long!

Reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press

What is your white whale dish, the one recipe you’ve yet to master? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Vintage Cakes.

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