You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? --Ratatouille (Pixar, 2007)

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Plethora of Polenta

Over the recent winter holidays, I was a part of many "secret santa" celebrations in school. Being the lazy, not creative bum that I am, I baked here and there for my recipients. However, much more interesting were the gifts I received. In one secret santa party, I got a cookbook! My classmates know me too well...
While peeling through the book, entitled, "500 Main Courses," I found a recipe for something I always wanted to experiment with--Polenta. An old Italian peasant's dish, Polenta is a cornmeal driven side dish that can be served in a mashed potato like state, or cooled, cut, and fried. When deciding to make it--the choice was clear.
I mean really, who would opt to NOT fry?
Anyway, The recipe is simple (because beyond growing your own corn, what are you going to do?), and is as follows.

2 and 1/4 Cups Polenta
1/4 Cup Butter
4 Cups Water
A pinch (ish) of Salt

Line an 11x7 Baking Tin with parchment paper.
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, and add a pinch or so of salt. When it boils, turn the heat down to about 1/3 power, pour in the polenta, and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Spoon all the polenta into the parchment lined tin and put it in the fridge to cool. Like below!

Once it's cool, pull the dish out and turn the polenta out of the parchment and dish and onto a cutting board like below.
You'll want to cut off any awkward ends made by the dish, and then cut your polenta into strips. If there's any advice I can give you after my first trial, it's that polenta isn't good thick. You won't cook it correctly in very tall pieces, so try to cut your pieces of polenta as thin as possible. If they get too thick it'll be an unpleasant eat, as your teeth will be fully submerged in weird, dense cornmeal. Cut them even thinner than mine are shown whilst frying below:

The last piece of advice I can give you, is that you'll never over-season or over dress your polenta. The extent of my seasoning was to throw spices on the polenta while it was frying. If that is what you do, just be heavy. Cake the spices on.
Because polenta tastes like nothing. It was known as the beggar's side dish because it consists of nothing. There are no high priced ingredients inside, it requires no "black truffle oil," or "chipotles and adobo!" It's just polenta.

Thus, the last ingredient yet to be used in my list is *FUN*. This fun is to be used now! Once your polenta is fried, put something on it! Many people like to put tomato sauce and cheese on their polenta. Others (like myself) like a good batch of fried onions and mushrooms on theirs. It doesn't matter what it is, my friends, just please--put SOMETHING on your polenta.

Credits to 500 Main Courses a compilation by Jenni Fleetwood.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

RECIPE--Red Velvet Cake w/ Cream Cheese Icing

"Did someone say...CAKE?" (Paste into search bar, Blogspot is a natural link-killer)

As the youtube clip above of my favorite children's cartoon shows, everyone, (including the grumpy teacher Mr. Ratburn)loves a good piece of cake.
The other day, a good friend of mine was approaching a very important birthday--her 16th. In order to make it special, I asked her if she could have any flavor birthday cake she wanted, which would it be? She said "red velvet" and thus, I went to the internet to look for a red velvet cake recipe.
I came across the following recipe courtesy of "Cake Man Raven," world renowned southern baker and confectionery king. I made small amends/additions to the recipe, changing parts of the process that I thought weren't quite right, but overall, I was pleased with the recipe, and as you'll see by the pictures below, the cake turned out great.

Vegetable oil for the pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (BUT I used around 2 and 3/4, 3 cups of Cake flour, it makes the cake lighter and more moist.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder (I used around 2 teaspoons, 1 gives nearly no chocolate flavor in the end)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)(really just enough to turn it red, don't let a recipe tell you how much you need, put in a little, mix, and evaluate.)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Below, the greatest food coloring set ever. Gels>liquid drops.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour 3 (9 by 1 1/2-inch round) cake pans.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.

Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.

Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans.

Place the pans in the oven evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer in a large bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Then, add the sugar, mixing for anywhere from 3-6 minutes on high, scraping the bowl down occasionally, in order to make it smooth.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla, raise the speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy (scrape down the bowl occasionally).
Yield: enough to frost a 3 layer (9-inch) cake

FINAL CAKE: (garnished with red sugar and a classy red "happy birthday.")