September 27, 2009

And now for something completely different.

Remember the ham cake? I made another one, but in reverse. It's a ham shaped like a cake, instead of cake shaped like a ham, because Matt requested it for his birthday.

I bought a ham and baked it according to the package instructions, with a little Grade B maple syrup and water in the bottom of the baking dish.

Then I hacked it to bits.

I trimmed the biggest ham steaks into rectangles roughly the same size. There was some patchwork involved.

Behold, my tower of ham.

Potatoes were set to boil.

Glaze. Those pre-glazed spiral-sliced hams annoy me because the inside of the ham doesn't get glazed, just the outside. So I decided to do something about it by glazing the entire cut face of each layer of ham.

Contents of glaze: grade B maple syrup, ketchup, brown mustard, brown sugar, mushroom salt, balsamic vinegar, paprika, ginger, garlic granules, and possibly some other stuff.


Put under the broiler for a few minutes:

It turned out all runny and juicy. I was going more for a creme brulee type crust, so next time I will pat the meat dry and use a completely dry phase glaze mix. If there is ever a next time.

Mashed potatoes, made with heavy cream and cream cheese instead of milk and butter. I thought to myself, "how can I make the potatoes stiff enough to support ham slices, but still creamy?" This is how. We are all going to die of fattiness because of those potatoes.

Assembly was your standard stack-and-frost affair, which proceeded smoothly after an emergency run to the store to get MORE POTATOES. I got a can of French's fried onions to use as "nuts" on the sides of the cake (which worked well to disguise the rough frosting job on the sides). I used a sandwich bag with the corner cut off to write a message using the leftover ham glaze. I am pretty darn proud of my piping job.

Aaaand the money shot:

September 18, 2009

Pumpkin ravioli in sage browned butter

Still feeling pretty good from last night's hand-cut pasta dish, tonight I decided to use up half a can of pumpkin puree by making ravioli. After a quick googling for ravioli-assembling instructions, I was ready to go.

No eggs this time, just flour, water, a pinch of salt, and a bit of olive oil:

Really unphotogenic filling:

Contains: pumpkin puree, minced garlic, mixed dried mushrooms (crushed fine and rehydrated), grated really old parmesan, shredded cheddar&jack cheese mix, plain yogurt, a bit of brown sugar, and salt/pepper/herbes de provence/paprika/coriander. It tasted pretty flat in the beginning which is why yogurt and sugar and prepack cheese mix got in there. But afterward it was tasty! Go team improvisation.

After some finagling with rolling out and dolloping and cutting and sealing and boiling and tossing in sage browned butter and some simultaneous making of honey-lemon-ginger glazed carrots, I picked the prettiest ravioli and sage leaflets and put them on a plate to show you.

Pine nuts were added for textural contrast.

Go team pantry cleaning!

September 16, 2009

Pasta carbonara

They say adding constraints to a creative process will keep the creative spark alive, and apparently this principle totally applies to my relationship with food.
Tonight's dinner exists because we have no milk, no onions, no bread, no greens, and we are tired of bean soup (I made a very mediocre soup). What we did have were: really good farmer's market bacon, frozen green peas, two eggs, and pasta.

Or I thought we had pasta.

Since we didn't, I had to make some. By hand. Because kneading dough is a great way to blow off steam, and because by then I was set on having pasta carbonara for dinner.

My previous attempts at homemade pasta have been pretty poor. Learning to handle dough (thanks to bread-baking) made the outcome a whole lot better this time around. The real secret to getting lovely smooth fresh pasta dough is giving it multiple rests throughout the mixing, kneading, and rolling out processes. Five minutes after mixing for gluten formation and starch hydration, then a good 5+ minutes of kneading (it's a stiff dough), then a few 1-2 minute rests while rolling out to counteract the dough's inherent elasticity.

I started out with the Italian grandmother method: cracking an egg into a little well made in a mound of flour. I wound up adding another egg's worth of water to the dough to extend it, since one egg doesn't make for very much dough.

Rolled out, floured well, rolled up, and sliced like (rustic) fettucine:

I had to unroll the noodles and dust them with more flour immediately after cutting to keep the cut edges from sticking.

BACON. Bacon which we got from a charming meat and pork sausage vendor who said his family was Jewish.

Would have used onions. Instead you get minced garlic.

GREEN THINGS. And salt & black pepper were added at some point.

I prepared the remaining egg to use as the carbonara "sauce" by beating it with a pinch of salt and some water (so I wouldn't wind up with an accidental omelette)

Shortly after this point, I gave the noodles a quick tumble in boiling water too cook (they just need a minute) and added them to the pan. More salt to taste, a few grinds of black pepper once plated, and a generous grating of Parmesan followed:

I'm eager to try making fresh pasta again and possibly freezing little pasta nests for future use, because fresh pasta is fucking amazing.

September 2, 2009

I did a bad bad thing

I've had this idea kicking around in my head. It's one of those things you're not supposed to listen to lest you wind up committed or at least with some kind of mark on your person that warns other people "this person is not well".

So you know scotch eggs right? Take a hard boiled egg, coat it in sausage, deep fry it. It's fairly horrifying.

Well, why not make a dessert version of it.


balled up
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