Sunday, March 20, 2005

Food Notes

As lovers of food and tradition, Jeff and I had corned beef and cabbage on St. Patricks Day, along with Irish soda bread and Guiness. We discussed how funny it is when people talk about how their corned beef and cabbage might be good, but could never compare to Mom's. I've eaten corned beef and cabbage at least once a year every since I can remember, and can never remember one meal that was any better or any worse than any other. Ever. Anyway, last year we got our beef from the butcher and I was persuaded to buy way more that I needed. I therefore got creative with leftovers and discovered the Reuben-inspired quesadilla. This is a whole wheat tortilla filled with Swiss cheese, saurcraut, dressing (ketchup and relish mix, sans mayo), corned beef, and caraway seeds. This year I bought a normal portion of beef at Safeway, and barely had enough to make one quesadilla. We ate it today, however, and it was fantastic. Worth, perhaps, buying an extra corned beef that might be on sale this week.

I haven't been able to shake the memory of that white cake with buttercream frosting that I got from Larry's a couple of weeks ago. It seemed a little over the top to order a cake just for me, and I had a little time and creative energy on my hands, so I decided to bake one. I used to bake a lot in my teens and twenties, and have made bread, cookies, pies, pound cakes, coffee cakes, sweet rolls, and more from scratch. I have never, however, baked a layer cake without using a mix, and as an avid watcher of the Food Network, I know that I need to control the ingredients I use in my cooking if I care about my family and friends. (I think I heard that twice this week, once from Rachel Ray as she made mac 'n cheese and once from Tyler Florence as he made cupcakes).

Buttercream was essential, as that was one of the things I enjoyed the most in my Larry's cake. Through my recipe searches, however, I found out that making buttercream is not a simple mix of butter and sugar, but rather a complex process akin to making candy. So I searched until I found a recipe that did not involve thermometers and decided upon white chocolate cake with honey buttercream. The recipe wasn't too hard, although I was a bit appalled at the quantities of eggs, butter, and sugar required. The cakes came out beautifully golden and fragrant, and the buttercream was rich and creamy and plentiful. No worries about a skimpily frosted cake here. The end result, however, was a bit disappointing. The cake wasn't moist. It wasn't dry, and wasn't overcooked, but it was more like angel food like in texture than the moist puddin' in the mix-like texture I would have liked, most likely due to the quantity of egg whites. The flavor was lovely, but if the white chocolate was only contributing to flavor and not making a rich, moist cake, then I'd rather save the trans-fatty acids for something decadent. The buttercream was very tasty, but there was too much of it. And having made it, I couldn't lie to myself about how much butter and sugar was really on my plate. I ate a second slice today covered with macerated fresh strawberries, and that is what is going to save those leftovers. The strawberries cut the sweetness of the buttercream, and the juices moisten the cake up nicely. I'm freezing 3 quarters of the cake, one of which will be the perfect Easter dessert, with lots and lots of fresh berries, of course.

Final food note: we had fresh river caught king salmon last night and it was amazing. Spendy, but with Jeff's tasty rub and perfect grilling, omega threes never tasted as good. (Except, perhaps, for last summer's Coho. Mmm.....)


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