Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Nutty (literally) Birthday Party

My mother-in-law's birthday party is over. It's another dinner under my belt.

The news you have all been waiting for - the cake. How did it turn out? Not so great unfortunately. I'm glad I tried it, but I don't think I will do it again.

First there was the cake baking part. The cake had crispy edges and then refused to come out of the pan. I had some cake chunks stuck. That meant when it came time to split the layers, I had some difficulty cutting through. True to form, my layers were far from cut evenly. The top layer was very delicate due to the holes where the cake stuck to the pan.

I have learned you can't do meringue in a Kitchen Aid. I could have sworn I have done it before, but I put my eggs in the bowl and began whipping away and after many long minutes, they remained flat. I wondered if there was some fat in the eggs somewhere. I thought I had done a good job separating them. I decided to chuck them and rewash the bowl and the whip and start fresh with new eggs. Still no dice. Have I mentioned I don't currently own a hand mixer? Deciding that the Kitchen Aid might be the problem, I stuck the whip attachment onto my stick blender and whipped away. I had meringue within seconds. Nonetheless, my meringue was quite flat when it was baked. I hope Sue will forgive me for baking it on a sheet of parchment.

Once it was time for assemblage, I tried cutting the edges off the cake, but they weren't terribly even. I also didnt seem to have enough of the ganache to cover the whole thing. I served the cake rather sneakily. I did the kids' birthday trick of lighting candles and turning off the lights. Once MIL blew out the candles, I quickly took the cake back to the kitchen to cut it and serve it.

The cake tasted pretty good after all of that. A pound of Callebut chocolate mixed with cream can make anything taste great and the crispy stuff and the peanut butter were a nice mix. Still, I'm not making this cake again any time soon.

The rest of the menu was pretty decent though.

We started with Cabernet Risotto. I've been using more of Michael Chiarello's recipes lately. I always had the same problem with him that I had with Ina Garten - too high class and wealthy. I also don't like his lack of safety headgear when he rides a horse. He does infuse wine into his recipes in all sorts of interesting ways though.

I did some ebellishment onto the recipe though. I fried the onion in partial butter and partial olive oil. Then I made a topping for the risotto.

1 pound slice cremini mushrooms
1 onion
2 T butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbp (roughly) chopped fresh thyme.

I sauteed the onions in the butter until soft and added the 'shrooms. When they began to brown I sprinkled on some salt and pepper and added the wine and thyme and let it cook down. That got served on top of the risotto.

The main couse was Pecan Chicken Breasts

I pounded out:

9 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

and marinated them in a plastic bag or a few hours in:

2 cups buttermilk

When the chicken was ready to be cooked, I put into the food processor:

1 Cup plain bread crumbs
1 Cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Few grinds black pepper

This was a purely experimental combination. This was a new recipe for me. Why do I tend to experiment like this when I have company? It's sort of risky.

Anyway, I processed this mixture into crumbs and coated my chicken with it. I baked the chicken for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

It could have used a little more flavor. I would up the paprika content the next time, or maybe try an extra spice or two. Cayenne possibly?

For a vegetable I made Roasted Asparagus.

I wasn't fond of asparagus for most of my life until I was told that roasting it makes all of the difference in the world. It's the best vegetable advice ever.

I took:

2 bunches skinny asparagus

...and sprayed them with cooking spray and placed them on a baking sheet. They went into the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

When they came out, I tossed them with

2 Tablespoons hazelnut oil
Salt and pepper

It was a little less food than I usually make, but no one went home hungry. I guess Ina taught me well on that subject. I don't need to make a ton of food for a good dinner party. I think there are worse ways to turn 83.


Emiline said...

That Michael is so unsafe on his horse.

Geez, this cake sounds like a lot of trouble. I don't blame you for not making it again. I think this was probably a bad recipe.
I'm sure it did taste good.

The dinner sounds nice, also. I love puh-cahn encrusted chicken.
I like asparagus, but I like it steamed, then shocked in ice water, and serve chilled. I like the texture better. How many times did I just say LIKE?

Sue said...

You've become a regular a cooking machine lately. Everything sounds so good. I love love love hazelnut oil. Did I mention I LOVE hazelnut oil?

You never said (did you?) how you prepared your pan. IF you had greased it then lined it with that horrid parchment or waxed paper and then greased and floured THAT, there should have been no drama. Fess up, what did you do?

I'm mystified by the KitchenAid. Was your bowl wet? Was it hot? Was your whisk wet?

A homemade cake is good no matter what secrets the cook knows about its manufacture and assemblage.

I have so much to catch on - peppers and Valentine's Day. Comments about those later.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

What did I do? Umm....none of the above. The meringue, although flat, wasn't the big problem as much as the cake part was though. The meringue was flat, but at least it was intact.

I think the problem with the Kitchen Aid was that I had only two egg whites in it and the whip just couldn't make contact with them. If there had been more whites, I think the problem would have been solved. I think I want to use my stick blender for egg whites all of the time now though. It whipped up those egg white seriously fast!