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April 2012 COTM: Melissa Clark Month, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite: Chapters 9, 10. 11. and 12

Please use this thread to discuss Chapters 9, 10, 11, and 12 from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite: Holiday Food; My Sweet Tooth and Me; There's Always Room for Pie; Lessons in Imbibing, pages 297 - 430.

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  1. Moist and Boozy fruitcake (page 341)
    I had attempted (and failed) to follow the inspiration for this recipe (Colwin's Black Cake recipe) years ago. After seeing that it can be done, I'm going to give this a final, expensive 'try'. I'm off to buy all the dried fruit and other ingredients - and wondering if anyone else has attempted either recipe? If so, I'd appreciate any words of advice. It takes at least two weeks to macerate the fruit, so I'll follow up then.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Blythe spirit

      Blythe spirit -- what happened with the Laurie Colwin cake? Her recipe (in "Home Cooking") for Black Cake has always interested me, a fruitcake fan.
      The only fruitcake I've made is Alton Brown's, his "Free Range Fruitcake". It came out nicely, but the Colwin cake sounds *so* crazy good.

      1. re: blue room

        Blue Room ,
        I was about 20 and living in my first apartment when I got Colwin's book as a gift. I bought all the ingredients and began macerating the fruit in a gigantic salad bowl. It began to take on an ominous look and smell; I lost faith and threw the whole thing out - fearing I had done something wrong. Her directions did not specify whether this brew needed to be refrigerated or not and I was an inexperienced and unconfident cook. Since then I've seen a couple reports of others having great success with her Black cake recipe - I think here on Chowhound.

    2. Honey-Glazed Pear Upside-Down Cake p. 368

      I've made the Dorie Greenspan Swedish Visiting Cake a couple times and it's very nice. Simple, tasty, good with whatever you feel like serving it with. I diced the pears and they took a long time to caramelize, but once I thought they were ready I poured the batter over and put it in the oven. I really like almond extract, so I used the amounts the original recipe called for. In the end, this was a bit disappointing. It might be partly because when I brought it out everyone thought it was pineapple upside down cake. Even when you keep reminding yourself it's not pineapple, there was still a disconnect with every bite. There may have been tears from my 4 year old who doesn't like pears :) I did use Bartlett pears, so maybe that was a problem, and I used regular honey, which could also have left the flavor less intense than I was looking for. I just know I will continue making the Dorie original, which is especially good with the frozen strawberries we pick ourselves that I always have in the freezer.

      1. Individual French Honey-Apple Tarts, page 401.

        Like many dishes that utilize ready-made puff pastry, this one is easy, and presents impressively. I had one leftover sheet of puff pastry in the freezer, so a half recipe was perfect to use it up. The pastry is cut into rectangles (mine are not in the prescribed shape, I just cut the sheet into four pieces), and brushed with warmed honey. Peeled apples (I used granny smith, honeycrisp, and braeburn) are thinly sliced and placed atop the pastry. Each tart is brushed with a melted blend of butter, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla bean. They are brushed again every 20 minutes while baking. Brushed isn't exactly the right word, as the mixture is thick, I would say dabbed is more accurate. The recipe calls for cooking them about 60 minutes; mine were clearly done, and surrounded by burnt sugar, at 40 minutes. Very, very good. I heard mmmms at the table. We had company for dinner, so I served them with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Just in case anyone didn't have enough sweet richness on their plate.

        4 Replies
        1. re: L.Nightshade

          Those are gorgeous, LN, and look and sound scrumptious!

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Thank you Caitlin! I'm going to keep this idea in my pocket for something easy that still looks nice enough for guests. May try it with pears and sliced almonds too!

            1. re: L.Nightshade

              This looks beautiful and sounds pretty simple. Love the pear and almond idea too.

          2. re: L.Nightshade

            Individual French Honey-Apple Tarts (p. 401)

            Just made these for a simple Easter dessert for just 3 of us. They were wonderful – delicious, great texture, and nice and light.

            I brushed the pastry with maple syrup instead of honey – went very nicely with the apples. And vanilla extract worked fine in the glaze instead of the bean. Like L.Nightshade, we had some vanilla ice cream on top, and it was a wonderful combo!

            One note: I didn't bother peeling the apples (I hate peeling), but even though the slices were very thin the peels were still noticeable in not a nice way. Next time I make these (which I certainly will), I will definitely peel the apples.

          3. My Mother’s Lemon Pot Roast – p. 317 (also a bonus recipe in CTN – p. 380)

            Odd as this may seem, I’ve never cooked a brisket so when I saw that MC suggests the use of a brisket for this dish, I couldn’t resist the urge to jump in and give it a try. My butcher cut my meat to order yesterday and prep is very simple. Last night I rubbed the (salt & peppered) brisket w a paste of garlic, lemon zest and salt. The zest was my own addition since MC has you incorporate 3 lemons in this dish but only the zest of 2 lemons is required in the braise so, hating to waste perfectly good zest, I threw caution to the wind and added some to my paste. I marinated the brisket overnight, covered tightly in plastic wrap.

            Today I seared it off, browning on all sides in some hot olive oil and let me say, even at this early stage, the brisket smelled incredible! Lemon juice and water are added to the pan and once the liquid comes to a boil, the pot is covered and placed in a 325° oven for 75 mins at which point MC has you turn the meat, add in 5 crushed cloves of garlic and cook for an additional 60 – 75 mins or, until the meat shreds easily.

            Instead of simmering in the oven, I opted to braise mine in the slow cooker. Since we were in no hurry to eat, mine simmered for about 3 hours in total. MC suggests that you slice and serve the meat w pan juices.

            Such a lovely aroma wafts through the house as this dish simmers away. mr bc could barely contain his excitement to sink his teeth into this dish. Though I’m not near the meat-lover he is, I had to admit that the dish did smell pretty enticing.

            I really didn’t know what to expect from this dish but it really was special. Though the meat was tender and super-flavourful, for me it was the broth that was the star of the show. Seriously, I could bathe in that broth. I’m salivating just thinking about the super-lemony yet somehow rich tasting broth that stole my heart. mr bc loved everything about the dish and must have eaten half the roast himself. (I’ll be sure to send the photos to his GP!!).

            Atop the beef, I served some fingerling potatoes that I’d roasted off after a good toss in some evoo, lemon zest, chopped garlic, S&P.


            3 Replies
            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              Your pictures always make my mouth water, and I had a great dinner tonight!

              1. re: smtucker

                Thanks LN, likewise w your photos. Glad you had a great meal, you most definitely deserve it w those nominations!! What surprised me most was how few participants there were...23! Wow. I wonder how many folks participate in the COTM on average. It feels like a village!

              2. re: Breadcrumbs

                My Mother's Lemon Pot Roast

                I've never made brisket before, but I'm a big pot roast fan, so I decided I try this. I also marinated overnight and cooked it in the slow cooker, though in my case I left it in there all day. I was afraid of adding as much water as she says because so often the meat puts off so much liquid in the slow cooker, but in this case it needed it and I added some extra halfway through. It really was delicious, though the flavor combination was really unusual, or at least it was to me. At first I wasn't sure if I would make this again, because I do love my usual pot roast, but I could see craving the brightness of the lemon in the spring or summer. I would consider making it ahead of time and refrigerating it to take off the fat, in order to enjoy the delicious broth with total abandon!

              3. Whole Wheat Demerara Shortbread p.331

                This could not have been easier - whizz a-p flour, whole wheat flour, butter and small amount of sugar in processor. Press into pan, sprinkle some more demerara on top and bake. Although I didn't love this as much as my Grandmother's Scottish shortbread, this is healthier (less sugar and more fiber in ww flour) and for a very fast and easy cookie it was pretty good.

                1. Sesame Halvah Toffee, p. 332

                  This recipe was made possible by Breadcrumbs's correspondence with Melissa Clark, which she posted in this month's master thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8418... ), in which Clark corrected a couple of errata, including the omission of 1/3 cup brown sugar from this recipe, which also appears as a bonus in CTN.

                  The "toffee" in the title is a tad misleading, as this is much more a cookie than a confection, consisting of sesame shortbread plus optional chocolate plus optional halvah; I included both the chocolate (how could I not?) and the halvah.

                  I'm not sure I'd eaten halvah since I was a kid, when my father used to buy slabs of it (usually the marble type) and we'd have slices for dessert. I know that the local Middle Eastern store I go to has a big shelf of halvahs, various brands and flavors (plain, vanilla, with pistachios, etc.), but only in tubs of a pound or more. Luckily, my regular market had smaller cut and wrapped pieces for sale in the cheese section. The fact that it was the marble flavor called up those childhood memories.

                  The shortbread comes together easily in the food processor, from flour, brown sugar, salt, sesame seeds, tahini, a healthy shot of vanilla, and butter. It's pressed into the pan and baked (and she suggests sprinkling on more sesame seeds and demerara sugar if you're forgoing the chocolate). When it's done, chopped chocolate is strewn over and the pan is returned to the turned-off oven for a couple of minutes to get the chocolate melty enough to spread with a spatula. Crumbled halvah is sprinkled over the chocolate, which is allowed to set before the shortbread is cut.

                  Verdict: It is quite delicious. It never would have occurred to me to use tahini in anything but a savory dish, but after all, it's made from nothing but sesame seeds and salt and it very effectively distributes the sesame flavor through the buttery shortbread. The shortbread itself is not overly sweet, which means it's set off well by the bittersweet chocolate (mine was 70%). I definitely recommend this to sesame lovers; it's a high return for low effort, and frankly I think it would be just as good without the halvah (but with the chocolate!) if you can't get or don't care for it.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    Wow, Caitlin, this sounds really interesting. halvah shortbread! I definitely will try this. I've been taking a vacation from Chowhound posting for a few months and this seems like a good time to jump back onto the home-cooking express. Thanks for the post.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      You've been missed. Happy to see you back.

                      1. re: oakjoan

                        oakjoan, I hope you enjoy it! Just make a note that there should be 1/3 cup brown sugar in the shortbread (it is missing from the recipe in the book). And FYI, you can sometimes find halvah in the cheese section at Berkeley Bowl.

                    2. Braised Flanken with Pomegranate – p. 316

                      Like others have mentioned, I’ve never seen flanken at my butcher’s or, the supermarket and truth be told, I’d never heard of it until I read this book. Luckily, I was able to locate some at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and when I did, I knew I had to try this dish! (For those who haven’t found it yet, it may be labeled as short ribs because this is from the same cut of beef but the meat is cut across the top so you have a strip of meat punctuated with coin-like rib bones …if that makes any sense!!)

                      Prep is straightforward. Meat is seasoned w S&P then seared until dark golden before setting it aside to sauté leeks, celery, carrots, garlic & shallots until they have caramelized slightly. Pomegranate juice & wine are then added to deglaze the pot. The mixture is simmered until most has evaporated then chicken stock is added along w rosemary, thyme, a bay leaf, cloves, S&P. MC then has you partially cover the pot and transfer to the oven for 2 hours. She suggests you should turn the meat every 30 mins however I only managed to turn once.

                      MC notes that if you have time, you can refrigerate the dish at this point which ultimately makes it easier to remove the fat from the surface. I did have time so this is exactly what I did. However, when I re-visited the dish tonight there was little fat to be removed. I warmed the dish in a 300° oven while I roasted some potatoes to serve alongside.

                      Plating was straightforward. Though MC suggests you stir in some pomegranate syrup, I had very little liquid left in my Dutch oven so once I’d plated the meat & chopped veggies, I simply drizzled each dish with some syrup and sprinkled w some pomegranate seeds and basil.

                      This is a very, very special dish. We loved it. I do believe mr bc could have devoured the entire pot! If you make this, I’d highly recommend using the pomegranate seeds and basil as their freshness was the perfect foil for the richness of all the beefy-goodness. Outstanding!

                      1. Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake (p. 356)

                        A really beautiful cake – moist, delicious, exactly what I think all cakes should be! Plus, with olive oil, plain yogurt, and oranges it's practically healthy! (That's what I tell myself, we all have our harmless delusions, right?)

                        I used regular (I think they were Cara Cara?) oranges because I couldn't justify the expense of blood oranges for a non-special occasion, and it still turned out wonderfully!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: GardenFresh

                          Oh I so have to try this GF and I loved your "practically healthy"....now I have an excuse! Thanks for the great review!

                          1. re: GardenFresh

                            GardenFresh, Cara Cara oranges ARE red inside. Well, at least they are at Berkeley Bowl. Their citrus and apple sections sometimes overwhelm me. They must have 10 different kinds of tangerines/mandarins, oranges and about 15 different kinds of apples. Arghhhhhh!

                          2. Kate's Impossibly Fudgy Brownies with Chile and Sea Salt p. 378

                            These were pretty great. Yes, they were fudgy (not cakey!) and the chile and sea salt were great additions. I'm always a sucker for chile and chocolate together (I may have used a very generous 1/8 tsp of chile...). Really loved the Maldon on top. Highly recommended.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: moreace01

                              moreace01: What kind of chilies did you use? Were they fresh or dried? I'm DYING to try this recipe. It sounds fabuloso.

                              1. re: oakjoan

                                Hi - I used cayenne powder - which is specified in the recipe. I would thik you could grind up a dried chile and use that too - anything you like the flavor of. Or even like 5-spice powder - that might be fun too. I love adding different spices to chocolate.

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  I also used cayenne pepper. My report is here. This brownie was a huge hit until I brought the coconut brownies to book group.


                              2. Whiskey-soaked Dark chocolate Bundt Cake page 371
                                So I made this with dark rum, because that is what I had on hand.
                                I made it in two 8 inch loaf pans - and with my oven, they were done in 45 min. The taste is chocolaty and not too sweet, which I like. I think in future, I'd add a smidgen more salt. The alcohol gives a complexity without an obvious alcohol taste. I sprinkled additional rum on the cakes after they cooled - and I'll be curious to see how the flavor develops over the next day or so. This is a delicious chocolate cake. I'd like to try it with whiskey next time. As I said, I had rum on hand from the prep of another recipe in the book, ( moist and boozy fruitcake - to be baked and reported on
                                soon :-) )

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Blythe spirit

                                  Whiskey-soaked Dark chocolate Bundt Cake page 371

                                  I made this and it was fantabulous. I used bourbon and made it in a bundt cake pan. I buttered it well but forgot to flour it. No matter, the cake just slide right out. I did brush a couple of tablespoons of bourbon to make it a bit more boozy but the cake was still incredibly balanced. This was moist and flavorful and book group swooned.

                                  I'm going to make this again for a weekend brunch. I'm going to add some chocolate chips to send it over the top.

                                2. Update on chocolate cake - on my second slice, I could actually discern the taste of Rum - which melds beautifully with the chocolate - Yum!

                                  1. Lemon Curd Squares with Rosemary, p. 334

                                    I have made cakes and shortbread with rosemary, and even lemon-rosemary shortbread so I know rosemary is an herb that works well in sweets and I loved the idea of using it in the crust for lemon bars but I'm sad to say this recipe did not live up to my hopes. At all. The crust-to-topping ratio is way off. The shortbread layer is thick and rich (naturally, given it has 3 sticks of butter!) but the lemon layer is almost nonexistent, only about 1/8" thick (atop 1/3" of shortbread), despite using 6 eggs and 2/3 cup lemon juice. And when I was cutting them, the lemon layer wanted to separate from the shortbread. I'm sure they'll be eaten at the meeting where they'll serve as refreshments, but I'm calling them lemon shortbread so as not to disappoint anyone's expectation of what a lemon bar is.

                                    I still love the idea of fresh rosemary and lemon zest in the shortbread layer, but I'm just going to keep them in mind as additions to another, better lemon bar recipe in the future.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                      Sorry to hear that this one didn't work out. I made rosemary shortbread once and thought it was wonderful. My mother and brother, however, sort of hemmed and hawed about it. Sillies.

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        Caitlin, I had the same reaction to this recipe. I liked the flavor of the shortbread with the rosemary, and the lemon curd had a bracing flavor, but there seemed to be too much of the former and not enough of the latter! Clark did warn her readers that the shortbread crust would be thicker than usual, and it was. I served mine at a church coffee hour, and I did find that the sturdiness of the crust meant that people didn't have to deal with the usual collapsing nature of a typical lemon bar--not so many sticky fingers! But "lemon shortbread" is a good name.

                                      2. I am LOVING the fact that we are still talking about Melissa Clark Recipes in June. :)

                                        1. Triple Chocolate Trifle with Rasperries (pg. 373)

                                          This recipe was fairly involved since there were so many darn steps. But, it was well worth the effort. I spread the baking and cooking over a couple of days so I only had to assemble it before I brought it over for thanksgiving dinner.

                                          BTW, I decided that pudding is my nemesis. This is the second recipe that I've made where the pudding didn't pud. I have to compare the two recipes (Clark and Medrich) and see where I went wrong.

                                          Brownie recipe - it seemed like it was really sweet with too much butter. But, I followed it and it worked wonderfully with the rest of the dessert. She has you cut it up into 1 inch squares, which I thought was ridiculous. But, I followed it since I've had great success with Clark's recipes and desserts. When we ate the trifle, the one inch squares were perfect bite size pieces to go with the whipped cream and berries. I didn't use the optional bourbon brush on since there were toddlers at the table. It would be fabulous with a touch of bourbon.

                                          Chocolate pudding - a fail for me since it didn't pud. But, it was delicious. During assembly, I just poured the liquid over the brownies. And, for leftovers, I poured it over vanilla ice cream.

                                          Chocolate whipped cream - heavy cream with confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder. Um, why didn't I think of this earlier?

                                          Berries - I didn't use raspberries bc I don't like them. Instead, I used a combination of sliced strawberries and blueberries. I loved this combo with all of the above.

                                          Assembly - this thing is quite huge. I don't have a trifle bowl and I didn't want to use a regular bowl bc I wanted to see the layers. So, I used a large vase and a small vase and still had a lot of stuff left over. The order was brownies, liquid pudding, chocolate whipped cream, chopped chocolate, berries and repeat.

                                          I thought this would be too sweet but it wasn't. I loved the chocolate whipped cream with the berries and brownies. I suspect mine was less sweet because I had a lot of brownie bits left over. No matter, I put those to good use, post turkey day. I gave the smaller vase to a friend and she and her bf went nuts over it. It was pretty funny since she had whipped cream in her hair (from bringing the vase up to drink the leftover chocolatey juices).