chef’s ultimate grilled cheese sandwich

DSC04393 What’s your favorite foodie movie scene? My current favorite is Chef. I love the scene where Jon Favreau’s character Carl Caspar is making a grilled cheese sandwich to share with his son Percy. Watch the YouTube video here. Here is what I think he did.

First, he sprinkles olive oil on a countertop griddle. I believe the setting to be about medium to medium high, because any higher and the bread will toast too quickly. Then he butters two slices of farmer’s bread. He places the two slices buttered side down on the griddle with the oil. He  fries the bread on one side only, moving the slices around on the griddle, smearing butter and oil into an aromatic sauce that sizzles.

Then Favreau tops the un-fried bread sides with thin slices of cheese–looks like a fair amount of Cheddar and Gruyere topped with a couple of slivers of Parmegiano Reggiano. When the cheese looks a bit melty, he stacks the two halves, cheese sides together Finally, he spreads a bit of butter on the edges of the fried side of bread to make it evenly brown and crusty. Flips it over and butters the other side. When both sides are golden, when the cheese oozes out, it’s done. Slice. Share with Percy. Eat. Crunchy. Yummy.

After I watched Chef, I tried to replicate it myself–with some of my own touches. I used a much thicker slice of bread than was used in the movie. My cheese slices were thicker too. Gruyere is prohibitively expensive in Bangkok so I substituted Emmentaler. Instead of the Parmegiano, I added the red pepper cheese for a bit of bite. I ended up with a meal. It was filling, salty, gooey, tangy, and so delicious. The ultimate grilled cheese sandwich.

potstickers

Potstickers

We talked to Taranee on her birthday yesterday, and she said she was going to make Chinese dumplings. It’s so cold in the States right now, everyone craves comfort food. I thought about these potstickers and so I reblogged the recipe from my old blog dated  Sunday November 28, 2010.

 A potsticker is a Chinese dumpling appetizer–or a snack. I only made these because they were an America’s Test Kitchen recipe but I wasn’t sure if they had an authentic Chinese taste! Having eaten potstickers before, I made some adaptations to the recipe. Diana and AJ both said they were “delicate” in taste,  because I had used the lighter-tasting ground chicken instead of an “earthier” ground pork. This recipe makes more than 24 potstickers–I have leftover filling and dumpling dough.

Three cups napa cabbage
Napa cabbage chopped finely down to two and a half cups
Salted napa cabbage draining in a colander
Ground chicken, ginger, scallion, napa cabbage, egg whites, and seasoning
The filling
Ready to make potstickers
A scant tablespoon of filling
Mound the filling in a slightly oval shape
Wet the edges with a fingertip dipped in water
Fold the dumpling in half, pressing out any air pockets and sealing the edges
Only two potstickers left!
Yum!

For the potsticker filling
3 cups napa cabbage, chopped finely
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound ground pork or ground chicken
4 teaspoons soy sauce (recommend white soy sauce since it won’t color the meat)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 large egg white (original recipe: 2 egg whites)
4 medium scallions, chopped finely
1 large clove garlic (about 1 teaspoon), chopped finely

For the potsticker dumplings
1 package round gyoza or dumpling dough (See photo above)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup water

Make the filling. Combine napa cabbage and salt in a colander and set over a large bowl to drain. Salting the vegetable releases excess water. Let stand for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add the drained napa cabbage and combine lightly. The original recipe said to refrigerate 30 minutes or more until ready to fill dumplings, but I skipped this step.

Make the dumplings. Assemble dumplings as in the photographs above. Put each dumpling on a parchment lined baking tray. Be careful not to over lap the dumplings. The recipe said to make 24 but cook 12 at a time.  I froze the remaining 12 dumplings and refrigerated the leftover dumpling filling and dumpling dough. I will make more dumplings tomorrow.

Pan-fry the dumplings. Arrange 12 dumplings in a cold 12-inch skillet. Add oil and fry 2 minutes until the dumplings are browned on the bottom. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan by pouring it around the dumplings. It will sizzle, so be careful.  Cook, covered, until the water is absorbed, about 3 minutes. I found the water was not completely absorbed so I removed the cover and let the dumplings cook for another minute or so until the water cooked down to about a tablespoon. Serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce (recommend Kikkoman’s)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chili oil, optional
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 scallion, minced

I recommend, for an authentic Chinese taste, or just to spice things up, crumble a dried red chili in your fingers or chop up a fresh chili pepper and add to the dipping sauce. To make the sauce less spicy, remove the seeds and veins from the fresh chili, if preferred.  Put up any leftover sauce in the refrigerator. Caution: if you add dried or fresh chilies to the sauce it will marinate and become hotter!

P.S. I made 17 additional dumplings out of the leftovers!

Note: I reblogged this from my old blog dated  Sunday November 28, 2010.

beatty’s chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting

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This is the darkest chocolate cake I’ve ever baked. It’s also the least sweet. The crumb was moist and tender, and the chocolate frosting was complemented by the smooth taste of espresso. Chocolate and coffee. A marriage between equals.

One of the quirky things about this recipe is that it calls for extra large eggs. Not exactly what’s available in the fridge, though, and I had to go out and buy them specially to make this cake. I did not have 8 inch cake pans so I used one 9-inch springform cake pan and baked the cake 45-50 minutes. It’s best to bake it in 5 minute increments and test.

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake (from Ina Garten)

Prep: 30 minutes
Inactive: 30 minutes
Bake: 35-40 minutes

Equipment
2 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans OR
1 9-inch springform pan

Cake Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon flour for greasing pans
219g (1 3/4 cups) all purpose flour
400g (2 cups) superfine sugar
88g (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sour milk (1 tablespoon vinegar topped with milk to 1 cup mark)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
112g or 2 extra large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
170g (6 oz) semisweet baking chocolate (recommend Callebaut)
227g (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
19g (1) extra large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
156g (1 1/4 cups) sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons hot water

Pre-heat oven to 350˚F or 180˚C

Prepare the pans. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and whisk in the 1/2 tablespoon flour. Brush butter mixture inside 2 cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment.

Make the cake. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl.

In another large bowl, combine the sour milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly add the milk mixture to the flour mixture on low speed. Add coffee and stir, just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a silicone spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a wire rack until cool, about 30 minutes. Turn out cakes and cool completely. Remove the parchment paper.

Make butter cream frosting. Chop the chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating 3 more minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until smooth and creamy.

Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of hot water. On low speed add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Do not whip.

Cake Baker’s Note: If the frosting is too soft, firm it up in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes before spreading it on the cake.

Assemble the cake. The cake must be thoroughly cooled before frosting, about 2-3 hours. If using the springform cake pan, split the cake in half horizontally. Place the bottom cake layer cut-side up on a cake plate. Frost the top of the layer then place the second layer on top of the frosted bottom. Frost the top and sides of the cake.

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black and white cake

I reblogged this from November 14, 2010 from my (failed) early food blog. I was looking it over, sort of a nostalgia trip, and I saw this. I miss AJ!

***

Ever had those “senior moments” in the kitchen?  Hmm. Forgetting the sugar in the batter of a butter cake once taught me forcibly that baking is an exact science. Today was another one of those moments when I used soy sauce instead of hoisin sauce because the recipe said “Kikkoman’s” and I read no further. Nevertheless I remain optimistic in the kitchen, fool that I am, willing to experiment so long as I have willing souls brave enough to try my cooking; last week’s attempts at Haupia Cake, notwithstanding. John was very diplomatic to say he liked my first attempt, which he called a haupia “torte,” and Richard said that for my second attempt the haupia was exactly right. Well, some things do work sometimes!

This recipe was inspired by the Black and White Cake recipe in Diane Mott Davidson’s book Fatally Flaky a detective novel-cum-cookbook. As a genre I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work–should I read the book or put it down and cook?  I decided to cook. AJ requested an ice cream cake so I decided to give this one a try. It was originally supposed to be a chocolate layer cake with a vanilla ice cream filling; hence a black and white cake. However, AJ wanted a chocolate vanilla swirl filling instead. And I used a different chocolate cake recipe only because I happened to have all the ingredients for that cake in the Teeny Tiny Kitchen.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake (New York Times Cookbook)
Have at room temperature:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare for baking. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease two 9×1 1/2 inch layer cake pans, bottoms lined with parchment or waxed paper and greased. Flour pans. Set aside.

Mix all ingredients. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter, eggs, water, milk, and vanilla. Blend on low speed to moisten all the dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium and blend until just combined. Do not over mix.

Bake the cake. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Bake 25-30 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan 10 minutes on wire racks. Then invert the cakes and remove the pans and the parchment/waxed paper circles. Cool completely.

After this I followed the Davidson recipe for Black and White Cake.

Make the ice cream layer.
1 quart vanilla or vanilla swirl ice cream
1 9×1 1/2 inch layer cake pan, buttered

Soften the ice cream in the refrigerator about half an hour; 15 minutes on the kitchen counter. The consistency should be soft to the touch and spreadable. Spread the softened ice cream in the prepared pan and freeze until it is solid again.

Assemble the cake and ice cream layers
Remove the frozen ice cream layer from the freezer. Use  a thin spatula to separate the ice cream from the sides. An offset spatula will help to remove it from the pan. If it breaks apart, just push it back together. 

Put the bottom layer upside down on a serving plate. Place the ice cream layer on top and smooth it together. Put the second layer on top of the ice cream. Loosely cover with foil and freeze for at least 3 hours.

The next part is the fun part!

Making and pouring the chocolate glaze.
10 oz. (1 1/2 cups) bittersweet chocolate chips (easier than chopping up the chocolate, I find)
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons corn syrup

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and the butter. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and whisk in the corn syrup. Let cool to room temperature. I would say when the glaze feels warm when you dip your finger in it.

Set a wire rack over a baking tray. Take the frozen ice cream cake out of the freezer and using a large pancake turner, take it off the plate and put it on top of the wire rack. With a thin blade spatula, smooth the ice cream layer flush with the cake layers. Pour the glaze all over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. The frozen cake will solidify the liquid glaze into a thin coating of chocolate! Is it ever neat!

Refreeze the cake for about an hour to set the ice cream. To cut the cake, heat a serrated knife in hot water–I poured boiling water over the blade–and wipe dry. Slice the cake using a sawing motion–don’t press down.

The cake was cold, lightly sweet, and creamy–but the texture was holey like the last two cakes I made. Over mixed. This disappointing result is because my mixing bowl is too small. Time to get a bigger one!

Post script:
Wow. It’s been four years since I made this Black and White Cake, and I’ve learned _so much_ about baking cakes since then! The key thing to do, of course, is to weigh all the ingredients. And now that I know what I know, I just don’t know if I would try to make this cake in Bangkok. Too hot!