WND – Caveats

December 9, 2010

My standard rule is that you can ask for anything you like (within reason) for your Birthday Dinner. It has become clear that I need to amend this to anything you like within reason that adheres to some form of nutritional balance. By within reason I mean I won’t make wild boar in port sauce on the grounds that (a) where would I get wild boar in suburban Massachusetts, and (b) I’m probably going to balk at spending the money to buy the amount of port you’d need to do that right. Now, if we relocated Dinner to the South of France where every Christmas my parents’ gardener gives us a pot of wild boar stew made from the meat of a boar he and his brothers went out and hunted (you occasionally come across bits of pellets), and my mother can buy wild boar in her local (granted upscale) charcuterie it might be another story.

Equally, I’m probably (definitely) not going to be willing to make the all starch dinner of corn pudding, macaroni & cheese and biscuits on the grounds that that’s a lot of yellow food on a plate. Actually apparently while I’m perfectly willing to make corn pudding, I’m pickier about what I serve it with as became clear in last week’s Birthday Dinner debates when possible protein options for a Dinner with corn pudding kept being met with a wrinkled nose and dubious frown from me. Mind you, in my defense, the options being presented made corn pudding either somewhat redundant and/or excessive (lasagna) or combined for a very odd flavor profile (chicken tagine with apricots). Technically I probably could have served corn pudding with the hoisin pulled pork without striking a particularly discordant note, but I think the sweet potato fries work better without losing that Asian riff on a southern dinner vibe that you get from the hoisin pulled pork.

Hoisin Pulled Pork
Crunchy Peanut Slaw
Sweet Potato Fries
Massaged Kale Salad

Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake

Hoisin Pulled Pork
Roasting pork and simmering chicken stock did battle in my house on Sunday afternoon for most enticing aroma. I think chicken stock won out in the end, but only because it was on the stove for longer.

Recipe previously given:  Dinner with a side of Schadenfreude

Crunchy Peanut Slaw

Recipe previously given:  Dinner with a side of Schadenfreude

Sweet Potatoes Fries

Recipe previously given:  In which it all went kind of wrong, but was still tasty

I have discovered that if you roast the sweet potatoes for 20 minutes on parchment paper and then remove the parchment paper when you toss them and allow them to cook for another 10-15 minutes you end up with crispy fries, but without having them stuck to the pan.

Massaged Kale Salad

Recipe previously given:   Introducing Fancy Molasses (and her Cousin Blackstrap)

I roasted a pineapple on Sunday afternoon while I was prepping the pork to go into the oven and cut that up to use as the fruit in the salad. Using a pear is definitely faster, but the roasted pineapple was very tasty with the kale.

Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake
Dessert was a practical application of science in action. Or, put another way, if you try and pour hot caramel into a cold pan, the pan will crack. In retrospect this seems terribly obvious, but at 7:30 on Monday night when I was making dessert it was startling. It also means I’m now out a 9×9 baking pan, and had to stare at my cupboards for a long time to figure out what I had that was approximately the right size that I could substitute for a 9×9 pan, which in and of itself was already a substitute for a 10” pie pan which is a thing I don’t own. My springform pan is a 10” pan, but springform + caramel seemed like a recipe for burned sugar all over the bottom of my oven. I ended up baking the cake in a deep 9” pie dish which worked fine, although I didn’t have room for all the apples and ended up having to leave out some of the cake batter because it just wouldn’t fit (and believe me I tried). In the end, however, it baked up lovely and browned and (surprisingly) unmolded beautifully onto a platter.

4 Tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing pan
½ cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 apples (about 1 ¾ lb), peeled, cored and cut into ¼ -inch wedges

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-inch cake pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, four minutes*, then swirl in salt. Remove from heat and pour into the bottom of your cake pan. Make circles of overlapping apple slices on top of the caramel. Chop any remaining slices and place them in the gaps.

* I hate instructions like this because I have no idea what it is that I’m waiting for the sugar and butter to achieve in those 4 minutes, so I don’t know if I haven’t gotten there yet or whether I’m getting there faster than anticipated. I cooked my caramel until the butter/sugar mixture was combined and foamy which took about 3 minutes. I’m still not sure if that’s what I was supposed to achieve, but it seemed fine when we ate the cake.

½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk
2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

Using a mixer, blend butter and the sugar on medium-low speed. Increase the speed to high and cream until light and fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, molasses, honey and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

Alternate mixing the flour and molasses mixtures into the butter mixture, adding the next once the last has been incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake at least 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes*, then turn out onto a platter (one that will catch spills).

Serve warm or cool with very softly whipped cream.

* I needed my oven to make sweet potato fries on Tuesday night, so I made the cake on Monday night and then covered it with tin foil once it had cooled and left it out on the counter until Tuesday night. On Tuesday after Dinner I rewarmed it for 10 minutes in a 350 oven (covered with tin foil) to remelt the caramel and then turned it out onto a platter. This, somewhat unexpectedly, worked perfectly.


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