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Posts Tagged ‘heavy cream’

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Feeding people gives comfort to the feeder as well as to the fed.

—Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet Magazine, oft-lamented-on-this-site publication

So the world’s been a bit of a hullabaloo lately. Not in a good way, either. But Ruth’s quote above (written in the face of 9/11, when magazine staffers were too stunned to do anything but cook chili and lasagna for relief workers), is as true as ever. After the shock—multi-shocks—of 2016’s most recent events, I got into the kitchen as soon as possible.

Comfort food is in order when people are wounded. Physically, spiritually, doesn’t matter. I think it’s safe to say none of us are in the mood for anything tartare, or made with carob. I was heading to rehearsal for ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ so I made Elvis’s favorite pound cake. I still giggle at the breathtaking self-indulgence of any cake that calls for seven eggs, three cups of sugar, two sticks of butter, and a cup of heavy cream*. But darned if it doesn’t do the trick.

I brought it in and fed it to actors, who are not generally a picky bunch. But they really loved it, in particular, the actor who plays the reverend. He told me it was outstanding, and that he’s spent his life in the food business, so the statement wasn’t coming out of left field.

When a portly, older African-American gentleman who used to run a business making cakes and sweet-potato pies out of his church basement tells you your cake is outstanding, it’s probably the best compliment on that cake you’ll ever get.

That recipe is a pretty good one. We all felt a little better; good food does this. It warms and unites. And I was cheered further upon his promise that he’d bring in a sweet-potato pie for me to try.

*As a matter of fact, that’s almost the entire recipe.

 

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Not a lemon cake. Read on for the gripping truth!

I am not an Elvis fan. I mean, I’m not a mouth-foaming, sobbing-on-the-steps-of-Graceland Elvis fan. Seems to me there’s no other kind, and moreover it would require a Swiffer and a lot of Kleenex. I’m not lazy, but that’s a lot of work. His music is good. But his food is even better.

Whenever you see a muffin, crepe, milkshake, or anything named the ‘Elvis’, it usually contains chocolate and/or peanut butter and/or bananas.* And if it can be deep-fried, it will be.** I love it all. But I have a favorite, and while it smugly holds its own in the fattening department, it features none of the above attributes.

Years ago, back when there was a Gourmet Magazine, the editors interviewed Elvis’s personal cook. This lovely lady heaped them with the best kind of blessing: she gave them the recipe for Elvis’s favorite pound cake. The editors mince no words: it was the best pound cake any of them had ever eaten.

The cake looks like nothing; you’re already glancing askance at the pictures wondering why I’m suddenly trying to bore you. Maybe this will help: It contains two sticks of butter, seven eggs (which explains its yellowy-ness), three cups of sugar, and a cup of heavy cream.*** It also calls for cake flour—much more powdery soft than regular AP flour—and has you sift it three times for the ultimate in lightness.

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Those crumbs are so gracefully arranged, aren’t they? Within seconds they were disgracefully devoured.

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, Independence Day here in the States, and I was torn between two recipes to make for the pre-fireworks picnic I was going to with friends and family. I have always wanted to make this cake, but whined internally that I wasn’t feeling awake enough to handle it. Halfway to the store for ingredients to make cookies, I told myself to stop being ridiculous and bought cream and a pound of butter to make it.

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The snickerdoodles will have hold their snickering.

It came out of the oven about half an hour before I was supposed to bike out to Asbury Park. I sliced it up still warm, and it was like slicing through warm wax—the tenderest, squishiest texture, comparable only to the King’s own belly. (One begat the other, after all.) I wrapped the pieces one over the other in parchment. Then I put it all in a Ziploc, closed it only halfway so steam could escape, and loaded it into my backpack.

The friends and family and I ate Cuban sandwiches and caramelized plantains and then we ate cake. The best reaction came from young Charlie, whose eyes widened as he ate. The King must have been watching from up north, and if that didn’t put the sparkle in his sequins, I miss my guess. I sent the leftovers home with Charlie and his family. Elvis would have wanted that.

And the recipe was not lost to the ages; it’s on Epicurious now, making me happily reconsider my agnosticism.

I have three pound cake recipes. Two are Martha’s, and they are sensational. But I concur with the Gourmet crew: this is the best I have ever tasted.

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Cooling by an open window and toying with the neighbors.

*You will never come across an Elvis spinach salad or hummus platter.

**OH, somewhere someone has figured out a way to deep-fry a milkshake, don’t you think otherwise.

***Crap, I meant to suggest you swallow a Bayer before reading that.

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Comfort food #1: gingerbread-chocolate chunk cookies.

I recently finished Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s about a little boy’s surreal adventure with his neighbors (and monsters. We’re talking about Gaiman here). And in his characteristically masterful way, he drives home his plot without ever coming near a cliche.

To show the difference between the climate in the boy’s home (precarious) and the climate in his neighbors’ home (safe), Gaiman uses food. We learn the boy has grown up scared of it: his grandmother would tell him not to gobble as he ate. School food was to be eaten in tiny portions. And if he didn’t like something served at the dinner table, he’d be chastised for not finishing it. All of this sorely damaged his relationship with food.

Then we’re shown a stark contrast: the boy enjoys hearty portions and happy mouthfuls of shepherd’s pie and spotted dick* at his neighbors’ house. These folks care for him and protect him unconditionally. In the safety of their kitchen he feels comfortable and accepted, and for the first time in his life, he is able to eat, and eat well—without fear.

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Lemon curd, cooling and regrouping.

Having a safe place to eat is a fundamental, primal need. Where do you have to be to relax when eating?

Mind you…I don’t mean eating food that tastes best in certain places, as in eating crabs by the beach, or Brie and baguettes in Paris. That’s about charm and locale. I’m talking about eating in a place that’s peaceful and comfortable enough that you can have your fill and be satisfied.

I think of the squirrels outside my window, who will nibble a seed while sitting on the ground, but if they win the carb lottery with half a discarded bagel they will scoot up a tree to eat it. I think of my late and much-missed dog, who—much to the consternation of my mom—always ran into the dining room to eat on the silk Oriental rug. I think of my favorite hangout when I was home from college**, a place lit by ancient, battered candles, checkered tablecloths with cigarette burns in them, crappy, slanted paintings on the wall, the best thick-cut, toasted, buttered pound cake I have ever tasted, and Dutch coffee—a concoction that’s about 10% coffee and 90% heavy cream, whipped cream, and butter. The place was started by hippies and since I am a hippie, I sank into my chair like butter on that pound cake and was completely content. I was relaxed enough to taste—really taste—every single bite. Aside from my own dining room table today, that’s my place.

Where is it for you?

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Homemade Nutella (gianduja)–warm semisweet chocolate, toasted and ground hazelnuts, cream, butter and a little sugar.

*A classic UK pudding of cake studded with currants or raisins and served with custard. I saw it on the menu in a pub in a tiny Scottish village called Pool of Muckhart. It was a toss-up, but I had the jam roly-poly instead.

I love the UK.

**The Inkwell in West End, NJ, now and forever.

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You know I’m not usually one to make the fancy stuff, but the recipe for the above looked so good that it had to be done. And I just tried a search on Gourmet.com, successor of the late and much lamented magazine, so I could link you to it, but it’s not there.

Crapsky. I hope you like the picture.

Well…it’s choux (the eclair itself), which made my house smell like Christmas because my dad used to make puffs from the same batter every year at the holidays.

I bought the peaches from a local farmer yesterday. They’re peeled and sliced and tossed in a little bit of sugar.

The cream is heavy cream to which I added a little more sugar and a little bit of bourbon and whipped until thick.*

The sauce is completely out of control. It’s homemade caramel to which you add sweet butter and more bourbon. Right now the cold of the fridge has made all of that butter firm up, which is good because I’ve been trying to think of things I could stick in there to sop it up with and I don’t even drink.

Then you stack those puppies up and eat them with a fork. Unless you’re my brother-in-law, in which case you go at them like a meatball parm. Which I wholly respect.

Only one month left of summer…I say let peach juice run down your arms.

*I told my Facebook tribe this morning that I didn’t know until I bought this bottle that liquor can come in plastic bottles as well as glass. Useful when I’m on the lam and don’t want to be weighed down when I’m jumping from boxcar to boxcar. Those boys at Jim Beam are always thinkin.’

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this is a great time of year for cooks and appreciative eaters, late spring. a few teasing scallions, the first strawberries. you can feel the swell in the warming air. we’re on the verge of everything.

winter’s nice with its slow-cooked stews and cindy lou who roast beast. I even have a fruitcake recipe that doesn’t inspire comparisons to an anvil. but when I shed the winter sweaters and heavy socks, I want to shed the winter kitchen and heavy food, too.

bring on lemon anything, pale green anything. I don’t even want to cook it if I don’t have to. tonight for dinner I ate vanilla yogurt and raw, local, organic sugar snap peas that I washed and sprinkled with kosher salt. cold-weather food soothes; warm-weather food enlivens. you feel lighter and refreshed, ready to get back outside.

last week I spoke with the chef of tre amici in long branch, nj, a young guy who’s always itching to do something fresh and different. consequently, he either goes out of his way to get beautiful produce or he simply grows it himself. when fall comes, his climbing concord grape vine and little black mission fig tree will be loaded with fruit that he can use with roast game, desserts, whatever. talk about anticipation.

A still-green fig, waiting for its moment in the sun.

there is so much to look forward to. let’s get our feet wet with the best the season has now. like strawberries. the best way I can think of to enjoy them is in an old, old recipe, from a long-gone farmer’s wife, for strawberry shortcake. it’s not a vanilla layer cake with whipped cream and chilean strawberries that you get at perkins. it might have its own redeeming qualities, but it is not strawberry shortcake. this is.

wash, then hull, a big bunch of strawberries. please get them from a farmers’ market if you want them to have any flavor at all. get little ones, because as with most produce, bigger means the flavor is diluted with too much water. smaller is sweeter. dump them in a big bowl, add some granulated sugar, and mash them up with a potato masher or a fork. put the bowl in the fridge.

next, make some biscuits. hit your standard cookbook or google for a recipe. finding one will not be a problem. (note: the kind from the freezer section will taste of the chemicals they contain, and do you really want to insult your strawberries? have a heart. a biscuit batch takes ten minutes to mix up, and you probably have all of the ingredients in the house right now. no joke.) make sure the biscuit is hot out of the oven or, if you baked it earlier, that it’s thoroughly reheated through.

split that guy open and butter lavishly. close it back up and set it in the bottom of a bowl. plop a pile of your sugared macerated strawberries on top of it. now pour heavy cream on top of everything, and oh man, if you’re lucky enough to live near a farm that produces its own cream, use that. just don’t tell me about it or I’ll cry with envy. now grab a spoon and get down to it.

later you can dream about what else is to come. for now…this strawberry dream is as good as any.

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