Gourmet, Unbound: April

Posted: March 31, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

I’m not typically good with cakes. My cakes taste fine, of course. But they never look quite right. My layer cakes stick, or I end up trying to patch them together with frosting. My everyday cakes are nice enough, but they never come out quite light enough for me. In general, my cakes are competent, but not complete.

This cake….. is different. This cake is light. Airy. Full of lemon flavor. This cake didn’t stick to the pan. It didn’t fall apart, it wasn’t overly sweet. This cake has no baking powder in it. It has some negative comments, where people say that the cake is too savory, too olive-oily, too eggy. Some commenters mention their cakes falling, or slumping, their guests being confused, or finding it unpleasant.

They are all wrong. Incorrect. Fully, totally entirely wrong.

Gourmet April 2006′s Lemon Olive-Oil Cake is light. Lemony. Moist. It’s one of those situations where you mix together seemingly innocent ingredients — lemon zest and juice, flour, salt, sugar, egg yolks. I added some chopped thyme, because lemon and thyme are a match made in heaven. Egg whites are whipped to soft peaks, combined with more sugar, and folded in. The whole cake is baked in an oiled springform pan, which means that the sides don’t stick. It also means that even if you don’t have any parchment paper in your house, as long as you oil the bottom of your springform, the cake’s high olive oil content means it won’t stick. In fact, the egg whites make it the lightest cake I’ve ever made.

I topped this cake with a quick glaze made of lemon juice and powdered sugar, and if I had to make the cake again, I would absolutely use the juice of a full half of the lemon, to punch it up a little. Otherwise, the glaze makes it just citrusy enough, so I would suggest making a lot of it.

This cake may have changed my cake fate. At the very least, it has encouraged me to try adding beaten egg whites to all the cakes that I make from now on. So thanks again, Gourmet, for giving me a little more faith in my cake-baking skills.


Gourmet, Unbound: March

Posted: March 1, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Gourmet Unbound, Johanna | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

February and I never got along very well. In fact, most years, I spend the entire month crossing out days on my mental calendar, and willing myself through: Only 26 more days…. Only 18 more days… 12 Days left, that’s less than two weeks, we’ve almost made it! It is, of course, about that time I start realizing I am slowly slipping into madness. BUT, I’m not alone — a huge majority of the people I know also hate February, although of course there was that one adorable and pink little bright spot last week. However, for many years the month was divided into the days leading up to my friend Erin’s birthday (the 14th), and the days following it. Not very promising, I tell you.


But for all the years I’ve spent hoping that February would just be over faster, that it would just end painlessly, or best yet, that it would be cancelled due to lack of interest, this year was a rarity. Packed with runs, races, birthday parties, and a cake undertaking, not to mention mailing cookies all over creation and accidently getting quite drunk a few times, February flew by! And all of a sudden, on Thursday evening, I realized with a start that February was almost over, and I hadn’t  even THOUGHT about what I was planning to make for Gourmet Unbound!
It appears that Gourmet didn’t much like writing in February, since the majority of the recipes I found on Epicurious appeared to be variations on things I’ve done recently, or involve seafood (which is risky-at-best when purchasing it at my neighborhood grocery store). The one recipe that caught my attention in a big way was a Cheddar Jalapeno Bread from the March 2007 issue. After taking a mental inventory of the contents of my cupboards and fridge, I decided I could throw this together after the USA-Canada Gold Medal hockey game, and have bread for Monday’s dinner.


Turns out, I had far fewer canned pickled jalapenos left than I thought. LUCKILY, I save leftovers of everything , so when I made cranberry-chipotle relish back in November, I saved the last 2 chipotles and their adobo in a tupperware in the fridge. So when I realized I only had 1 pickled jalapeno left, I did what a resourceful cook does, and I diced up 2 chipotles and added them to the dough along with a teaspoon or so of the adobo.
I also used pre-shredded cheese. I hang my head in shame. But it was tasty and easy.
I did my best to follow this recipe exactly, despite all the urges I as a bread baker had to add more flour when I saw how wet the dough was. It’s apparently supposed to be very wet. The bread comes out of the pan after baking with a nice, somewhat airy crumb, no huge air holes but not dense like a brick, either. It’s pleasantly spicy, not overly cheesy, and quite tasty when sliced, broiled and smeared with butter.


Not, ahem, that I’d know anything about that….
In summation, this is a good recipe, although I think that some tinkering could definitely be done with it. I’ll probably mess with it more in later posts, trying to find my own perfect iteration of Cheesy-Jalapeno bread. But for now? This was a great way to end February and say What up to March.


Gourmet, Unbound: February

Posted: January 30, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Gourmet Unbound, Johanna | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

My friends, I am back with another recipe for Gourmet, Unbound. IN case you can’t remember, a few food bloggers started a project where bloggers from around the world would cook and write about a recipe from Gourmet’s illustrious back catalogue, once per month. I missed out on the January submissions because hey, the holidays happened, and my life went crazy for 2 weeks. But I’m back with a February Submission that screamed out “COOK ME” as soon as I came across it on Epicurious.

Roast Chicken with Mashed Potato Stuffing and Roasted VegetablesGourmet February 1994.

When this issue of Gourmet ran, I was 9 years old. I was working my way through the 4th grade, and I was blissfully unaware of what would someday become my passion. Well, sort of. My favorite passages in the Little House on the Prairie books were the ones where Laura Ingalls Wilder described the food they would cook and serve. I would grudgingly endure back-to-back episodes of This Old House and New Yankee Workshop in order to get to The Frugal Gourmet on PBS on Sunday evenings. I knew there was something about food that was enthralling to me, but I had no idea that its actual creation would one day have so much meaning and importance to me. The most I did at 9 in the kitchen was set the table, and occasionally flip the French Toast. I was just reaching the “terrifyingly clumsy” stage of my life, where letting me crack an egg was bound to be a mess, I bruised my hip on every doorknob in the house, and I knocked over everything in my path.* So cooking, and reading Gourmet, were not on my radar, so much.

A few notes about this recipe:
#1 – I believe that the supreme being of the universe created potatoes SOLELY so they could be turned into mashed potatoes. I would rather eat a potato mashed than any other way there is, including in latke form and  in soup. There is one supreme mashed potato in my life, and that is my mom’s mashed potatoes. All the rest are a distant second best, and I just need to take one more chance to shout out how great they are, and thank her for making them for me when I’m home. I love you Mom, AND your tatoes.
#2 – I love roast chicken and very rarely follow a “recipe” when I make it. I’m more of a “method” kind of gal. But whenever you are stuffing the cavity of a bird with something you intend to eat, it is very very important to follow all guidelines for cooking times and temperatures, and also to make sure that your bird is fully defrosted before you stuff it.
#3 – My grocery store doesn’t carry parsnips, or celery root. So I roasted my chicken on top of my 12 shallots, and 2 heads of garlic, along with 4 cut up carrots, 3 or 4 cut up celery stalks, and some turnips. And it was great. I’m going to use the leftovers to enrich some stock that I’m making later today. I also didn’t have a shallow roasting pan with a rack. So I just sat the chicken in the pan for the first 30 minutes, breast down. Then I sat the chicken on top of the veggies for the rest of the cooking time, and it all went fine.
#4 – This is not your go-to weeknight roast chicken. That chicken is the one you rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stuff some butter and herbs under the skin, shove a lemon and half an onion and some rosemary into the cavity, and roast breast down in a hot pan for 20 minutes, breast up in a hot pan for 20 minutes, breast down again for 10, and then until it reaches temperature breast up.
This chicken takes time. You have to make garlic mashed potatoes by boiling garlic and potatoes together and then smashing them with milk and butter and herbs and yum. And then you have to stuff them into the chicken’s cavity, and roast the chicken breast down in a cold pan, and then add some root veggies and sit the chicken on top of them  and roast until the thigh makes your probe thermometer beep at 180.

And then, you get to eat the chicken, and the chickeny garlicky mashed potatoes. And the veggies. And everything else. And it. is. goood.

*Somewhere along the line over the last 16 years, I grew up and mostly out of the clumsy stage. And I would love the chance to head back to where my clumsy dropsy skinny 9-year-old self sat, and tell  her not to worry, sweetheart. You’ll figure it all out. And you’ll find something you love, that truly fulfills you. Just hang on. And don’t worry about the bruised hipbones. That stops too.



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.