Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Birthday Dinner with Gordon Ramsay and a New Cake Recipe

I admit I have a weakness for Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.  I suppose part of my interest in the show is simply the "train wreck" aspect, but I also like seeing businesses turn themselves around.  I actually find Ramsay's help with the menu and critiques of the food to be useful for my own cooking.  The changes in decor are also fun.

I have mixed feelings about Ramsay himself.  I think he is genuine the way he throws himself into the fixing of the restaurant, and he does seem to be sincere in his effort to help, but let's face it, his personality leaves much to be desired.  I wouldn't want someone shouting and cursing in my kitchen like that.  I know he is a world-class, Michelin-starred chef, but he comes off as an obnoxious know-it-all.

Then one day a friend posted a YouTube link on Facebook to a cooking series that Ramsay hosted called Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course: 100 Recipes to Stake Your Life On.  As soon as I watched the first show I was hooked. 

Ramsay tones down the tough guy act in the show.  If I hadn't seen him in any other TV shows, I would have thought he was a very nice guy.  He comes across as down to earth and likeable.  The recipes he presented were delicious.  I couldn't wait to try some of them.   Unlike Rachael Ray and other FN personalities, he doesn't just teach how to make a recipe out of 20 random ingredients.  He teaches you how to cook by explaining the techniques behind them.  He even gives specific cooking tips in each show.  

Each show features a few short recipes that take only 10 or 15 minutes to make (take that Rachael Ray!) and one big, show-stopping, dinner-party-type recipe.  When I saw his chicken stuffed with chorizo and white beans, I knew I had to make it at my next dinner party.  (I found a printed version of the recipe online so you don't have to sit through the episode. )  Dad's birthday was this past weekend, so I had my chance.  

The chicken, so simply roasted with olive oil and paprika on the outside was moist and flavorful.  The stuffing was a meal in itself.  I'm sorry that dinner was nearly over before I remembered to take a photo of them.

I started the meal with my own version of Pappa Al Pomodoro - Tomato and bread soup (or literally "mush").  I added some roasted carrots and fennel to my version.  It was my chance to make sure I took advantage of the last tomatoes of the season at the farmers' market.

I ended the meal with a new cake recipe.  I adapted my favorite pound cake to include bourbon, apples, and sour cream.  I served it with caramel cinnamon ice cream.

I think Dad was happy with his birthday dinner.

Pappa Al Pomodoro

  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes
  • Olive Oil for brushing and sauteeing
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced.
  • 5 slices good quality bread
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
Heat over to 400 degrees.  Cut the carrots and fennel into roughly equal pieces.  Brush with olive oil and roast 20 minutes, or until you can stick a fork into them.  Set aside.

Score an X into the skin of each tomato with a small sharp knife and drop into boiling water.  When the skins start to pull away, remove and plunge them into cold water.  Remove the skins.  Gently squeeze the seeds out over a strainer into a bowl to catch the juice.  Coarsely crush or chop the tomatoes. 

Blend together all vegetables in a food processor.  Process until smooth. 

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Add onion and cook until soft.  Add garlic and cook another minute or two until fragrant.  Add the vegetable puree to the pot.  Crumble in the bread and add the stock.  Cook for another 30 minutes.  Stir in the salt and vinegar and serve.

 Bourbon Apple Pound Cake

  • 1/2 cup bourbon divided
  • 2 Golden delicious apples, chopped
  • 4 Tbl brown sugar, divided
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 sticks of room temperature butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, whisked to combine
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tespoon salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan or spray with baking spray.

Mix together apples, 1/4 cup bourbon, and 1 Tbl  brown sugar.  Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer, cream butter until soft. Stream in the sugar and continue beating on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs just a little (about a tablespoon) at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Mix at medium speed until all eggs are mixed in and mixture is pale and gaining more volume.

Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately, ending with the flour. When it is thoroughly combined, gently stir in vanilla. Then gently fold in the apples.

Pour mixture into pan and bake for 55-65 minutes. Use the toothpick test to test for doneness. When baked cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.
Boil remaining bourbon, brown sugar, and lemon juice until combined and dissolved.  Make slits in the cooled cake with a knife and pour bourbon mixture over it.