Friday, July 18, 2014

Cherry Cobbler - Just For Us!

How do you define a cobbler?

I usually think of a cobbler as a fruit dessert topped with a crust, but it isn't a pie because a pie has a bottom crust. 

But what kind of a crust?

If it's a crumb or streusel type of topping, what makes it a cobbler and not a crisp?

If the fruit is cooked in a batter such as this type of cobbler recipe that somewhat negates my definition of a cobbler as a reverse fruit pie, doesn't it?

Wait.  A cobbler isn't always about fruit is it? (Although when I make a similar recipe to a chocolate cobbler, I call it brownie pudding.)

Anyway, a cobbler doesn't have to even be dessert.  I realized that my chicken pot pie isn't really a pot pie since it is just chicken and vegetable filling topped with biscuit dough.  I now call it Chicken Broccoli Cobbler.   Marc agrees with me.

I don't know.  The more I think about it I start to think dessert shouldn't be about asking questions.  Dessert just needs to taste good.

Every summer I try to make cherry pie.  It's my favorite type of fruit pie (well, maybe blueberry is, but life is too short to waste making silly choices like that).  I love making it when cherry season is in full swing. I often like to make an almond-studded version as I love the way the flavor of  cherries and almonds complement each other.

This summer I wanted to try something different.  Maybe the idea was just born of not feeling like rolling out pie crusts.  I won't say.  I just thought it would be fun to swap out the pie for an interesting cobbler.  I decided on a cherry-almond cobbler where a little amaretto would flavor my cherries and almonds would flavor my crust. 

Once I had my idea for my filling, how would I do the crust?  Would the crust be crumbs, biscuits, or something more like a piecrust?

I decided to go with biscuits.  I would make a regular sweet biscuit dough and spread it over the top.  
I made it gluten free by mixing the almond flour with King Arthur gluten-free all-purpose flour.  I learned the hard way that that almond flour and rice flour make very cake-like biscuits, but they still taste good and it would make an interesting crust for my cobbler. 

I just put the butter, flours, sugar, salt and baking powder in the food processor.  I tossed in the almonds and then gently stirred into the milk until I had a thick batter that I could pour over the cherries.

Cherries were macerated (I said MACERATED) with amaretto and sugar for an hour..  Before they went into the pan I stirred in some cornstarch.  I put them in a baking dish and covered them with biscuit dough and baked it until it was golden.

Eat this quickly or the top will become soggy. 

I found that the grainy texture of rice flour is still pretty prevalent in the topping, even with the almond flour mixed in.   I would like to try this with regular flour and see how that changes the consistency of the dough.  I might be able to create more of a crumble texture this way.  I will definitely try a non-gluten-free version in the future.  My recipe has an all-purpose flour option.

I had really wanted to make this for a crowd.  Remember how I said in my last post that I wanted to make it for the 4th of July party?  Since that idea was shot down I worried that I wasn't going to have a chance to make my wonderful cobbler idea.

Dejected I turned to Sir Pickypants and moaned that I we hadn't been invited to any parties where I could take this wonderful cherry cobbler recipe I had in my head.

"You can make it for me," he said.

Funny how rarely I do that anymore.  When was the last time I baked a dessert just for us?  In my efforts to keep my weight down, dessert goes out of the house as soon as it comes in.  Good for my waistline, but not happy for my poor husband who only takes a bite before it's whisked away.

Cherry Almond Cobbler

  • 4 cups cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup amaretto
  • 2 Tbl corn starch
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (gluten-free if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 Tbl baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter cut into pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Place cherries,  1 cup of the sugar, and amaretto in a bowl.  Place in refrigerator for about an hour.  Right before using, stir in the cornstarch.  Pour into the bottom of a baking dish.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.  Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse in the butter until it looks like crumbs.

Place the flour mixture in a bowl and toss in the sliced almonds. and gently stir in the buttermilk.  You want to keep that crumbly texture and not quite incorporate it into a smooth dough.  Scatter this evenly over the cherries in the dish.

Place in oven and bake about 15 minutes or until crust is golden.

Butter Me Up!

I know I say I like bad puns, and that bad puns are a mainstay of TERP, but I think I just brought this blog to a new low.  The pun in this title is painful, which kind of disrespects a good restaurant.

I'm kind of over celebrity chefs.  I am just not starstruck by Food Network personalities anymore. I hardly even watch the Food Network.  I am extremely cautious about eating at restaurants owned by celebrity chefs.  I worry that they get by too much on the chef's name rather than the quality of the food.  If a chef owns multiple restaurants, I wonder what the quality control is like. Once upon a time I would have died to eat at Paula Deen's Lady and Sons.  Now I'm sure I could probably find a dozen better restaurants should I ever make it to Savannah.  I have no interest in ever trying that hot mess Guy Fieri opened in Times Square.   On the other hand, I have eaten at two of Mario Batali's restaurants and enjoyed them. It's not that I think all celebrity chef owned restaurants won't be good.  I am just a bit skeptical.  I think the one point to consider when eating at a celebrity restaurant is whether or not the chef in question is better known for his or her personality rather or for the food he or she prepares.

It was definitely the food and not the chef that has made me want to eat at Butter all of these years.  Although she is rather dismissive and biting when she judges Food Network competition shows, Alex Guarneschelli is my kind of cook.  I first discovered her on her old show The Cooking Loft and then eventually watched of some of her show Alex's Day Off.  I always loved the food she cooked.  She pays close attention not just to taste, but to texture and emotions.  Her cooking isn't just about flavor, but it's also about feeling.  I imagined that the food at her restaurant would be extremely satisfying both emotionally and physically.

For years I never tried to go to Butter because it was just too far downtown.  It's a little out of the way of my job and my husband's job to bother with travel.  Then she opened Butter Midtown just this year.  It's just a short walk from my office and Grand Central Terminal.  I can walk over there for dinner after work and then walk back to the train and go home as soon as dinner is over.  I knew I had to eat there for my recent birthday. 

It is located at the bottom floor of a hotel with a street-level entrance.

Here is a shot of the lounge in the restaurant's entryway.  The decor is very warm and inviting although not really my taste.  The restaurant has no windows, but the ceilings are open and there are murals of forest scenes around the walls at the top.  Everything is paneled in wood.  I'm not a fan of dark wood paneling and this place almost reminded me a bit of a basement rec room or the country cabin of a very wealthy hunter.

Our menu awaited us at our table.

I started with a cocktail.  This had watermelon, vodka, lime, and mint.  I could have drunk three of them.  It wasn't too sweet and the flavors were all perfectly balanced.  I'm wondering if I can replicate it at home.
Bread was very special.  These rolls were like a combination of brioche and croissant.  We had plain butter and herb butter to spread on them.  Not shown is a small dish of course sea salt should one prefer simple salted butter for the bread.

 It was my birthday, so I had to go all out and have as many courses as I could stuff into eager little face.  My appetizer was burrata and tomatoes.  Burrata can be disappointing for me because often I will order it and find that the outside is rubbery and the inside is watery whey.  This was nice and soft on the outside and the inside was very creamy.

Kevin didn't like his appetizer as much.  He ordered chicken liver mousse with schmaltz vinaigrette.  There were also these little onion bits scattered on it.  The whole thing was served on a sheet of matzoh.  I tasted it and found that it was a bit salty.  The pate tasted kind of sausage-like. 

We both did well with our main course.  I had a delicious pork chop with braised collard greens and bits of ham hocks and a mustard glaze.  It was a bit salty, but the flavors they used on the pork chops was perfect. 
Kevin opted for chicken with sauteed lambs quarter.  I thought the greens were very well handled.

They had a special side dish that night of fried zucchini blossoms.  These were amazing.  They were deep fried heaven. The coating was light and crispy.  They were topped with a tartar sauce and served over sauteed leeks.  I want another plate of these after just looking at the photo.
I was so stuffed at this point that I couldn't stomach my own dessert.  We decided to share.  I was very torn between the raspberry beignets with vanilla dipping sauce or the chocolate dobosch torte.  I opted for the latter.  The layers of yellow cake and creamy milk chocolate buttercream were lightly encased in a shell of hard caramel.

The service was perfectly timed and everyone was relentlessly cheery.  It was a pleasant experience overall.

I would definitely come back here for an occasion even if I didn't know who the chef was.  Well done, Butter.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July - Can I Make Cole Slaw More Interesting?

I really wanted to make dessert.

I always want to make dessert.  That's pretty typical.  When I was invited to my brother's 4th of July barbecue this summer, I especially wanted to make dessert.  I have a fantastic cherry cobbler recipe in development and this was the perfect place to try it out on my family.

I couldn't believe how quickly my sister-in-law put the kibosh on it.  "Can you make a salad?" she kept asking.  Salad?  Really?  Salads are boring.  Salads take way more brainpower than I want to use on a hot summer day to not be boring.  Really, I can make such a good dessert.  Everyone in the family knows that.

Sister-in-law was persistent.  "You make such good salads."  I do?  I don't think it's going to be on my epitaph that I was a maker of superb salads.  I'm not sure it's how I want to be remembered anyway.  I guess she really liked the salad I made for Father's Day dinner.  My mother was making the potato salad (more specifically, she was making my recipe for sweet potato and black bean salad), so how about I make the coleslaw?

*Yawn* Did I hear someone ask for cole slaw?

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but while cole slaw is always appreciated at a picnic, I just don't find it interesting.  I mean, I do always eat it when it's offered to me, but it's not what I most want to make for a picnic.  When I do make it, I try to jazz it up, but my usual way of jazzing it up is my tropical cole slaw and I'm bored with that recipe.  I'm not inclined to make the classic version because I don't really like mayonnaise.

I floated some ideas around my head and looked up some recipe variations online.  What could I do to add some different flavors and textures to ordinary coleslaw?  Now that it's summer, the ingredient I think of most is corn.  I envisioned coleslaw with corn, roasted peppers, and two different colors of cabbage.  That would give a few colors and flavors.  Such a coleslaw  would need a light dressing that would be a bit sweet, a bit acidic, and maybe even have a little spice to it.  Vinegar, honey, and mustard would do that tick nicely.

I really went all out for this.  I cut up my own cabbage.  I wasn't even planning to do that.  The store just didn't have any bags of pre-shredded coleslaw mix.  I did use frozen corn though.  It may be summer, but it's not quite fresh corn season yet.

I also made biscuits because I love biscuits and can never make enough of them.  I mixed some parmesan and black pepper into my classic recipe (the one I use for this crust, but with another half cup of flour) for a new spin on flavor.

Salting cabbage overnight to get the excess liquid out ahead of time makes for less soupy cole slaw.  Thank you Cooks Country for teaching me that trick.

The resulting cole slaw is almost red, white, and blue!

Of course we had other food like ribs, fried chicken, two kinds of sausage, and the aforementioned sweet potato salad along with some cold ratatouille, red potatoes, and corn on the cob.

The family was very into the soccer game as you can see.  Too bad Colombia lost to Brazil.

Colorful Picnic Cole Slaw

  • 1 head green cabbage, cored and cut into strips
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, cored and cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 10 oz package frozen corn, thawed (NOT IN THE MICROWAVE - it shrivels up and dries out)
  • 1 6 oz jar roasted red peppers cut into small dice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 Tbl dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
 The night before making the salad, toss the cabbages with 1/4 cup salt and place in a colander set over a bowl.  Allow to stand in the refrigerator and let the liquid drain off.  Right before making the coleslaw, rinse well and dry. 

Toss cabbages with corn and peppers in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk the vinegar, honey, and mustard together until well blended.  Slowly whisk in the oil until it is blended and emulsified.  Toss the dressing with the vegetables and allow to sit and let flavors blend before serving.