Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Oatmeal Cake

Remember when you were a little kid, and you went to elementary school for the first time? The building looked tremendously huge, the halls as wide as a football field, the teachers freakishly tall. And then, when you got older and revisited that school it looked rather small and underwhelming. I'm having similar feelings about this cake.

I found the recipe on the wonderful
Chef-in-Training blog, and was immediately transported back to my youth and my mother baking an oatmeal cake. I would watch that coconut-and-pecan-laden top bubble up and brown under the broiler, and could not wait for it to cool off enough for me to pop a small bit into my mouth. Crunchy and chewy, and warm from the oven, it was 6-year-old bliss. But times change, tastes change, buildings crumble, teachers get smaller, and cakes don't seem quite as luscious as they once did. Don't get me wrong, this is a good cake. It is moist and dense, and topped with a delicious, chewy, coconut and pecan topping that I could easily eat all by itself. In fact, the next time I make it (and I will), I may just double this topping. The recipe called for a 9x 13 pan, but I used a 10 x 10 as I always do in such cases; the cake would have been way too thin, the topping far too sparse for this to be as good as it was. But it didn't quite transport me back to my youth as I had hoped it would. Personally, I think this cake is just dynamite with a cup of coffee at breakfast. It is not exceptionally sweet, so makes the perfect breakfast treat. As for dessert after dinner, well, I'm still searching for that one. Oh, how I miss my momma!

Oatmeal Cake

1¼ cups water
½ cup butter
1 cup quick oats
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1½ teaspoon cinnamon

6 Tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan (or a 10x10-inch, as I did) with cooking spray and set aside.

In small saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Once boiling is reached, carefully pour mixture into a large mixing bowl; add oats and let cool for 3 minutes. Into the partially cooled mixture, beat in sugar, brown sugar, and eggs until well blended. Add flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and mix until combined. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.

While baking, make the topping. Cream butter and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl. Add evaporated milk, vanilla, coconut, and nuts, and mix until well combined. After cake has baked, spread topping quickly, but carefully over the top of the hot cake, spreading to the edges and into the corners. Place under a broiler for about 2-3* minutes until golden brown. Watch constantly so as not to burn.

*This took me closer to 4-5 minutes.  It really all depends upon just how close the cake is to the source of heat, so do watch it carefully, but do not underbroil.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Potatoes au Gratin with Chanterelles

I'm not sure just how often you get excited about potatoes, but that is about to change. These potatoes are going to excite you, your family, and your friends in a major way. This past week we had our baseball bud, Lennie, over for dinner. We see Len about three times a month, or more, during the baseball season.

I was in the mood to cook the day he was scheduled to come (fortunate for us both, I think), and began at ten thirty that morning. Instead of trying my usual one new recipe, as I do when he joins us, I was trying four. The main dish was a tried-and-true good one,
Marinated Pork Tenderloin, so I was safe there, and I knew that garden peas with sauteed mushrooms was a winner as well. To accompany this I tried Cannellini Bean Dip for a snack, Marinated Cucumber Salad (good, but still needs some tweaking), Oatmeal Cake for dessert, and a recipe that I had been thinking about at night before I fell asleep (I do that sometimes. Most times. Okay, ALL of the time, if you must know.), au gratin potatoes to which hydrated dried wild mushrooms have been added.

I'll tell you what, when you create something that makes people moan, you know that you have a success on your hands. Lennie said the entire meal was delicious, but that the potatoes were outstanding. My dad, to whom I delivered this same meal the following day, called it exceptional, citing the potatoes in particular. The potatoes! Have you ever had anyone fuss so much about potatoes? You will now.

This recipe is not difficult, but really demands the use of a mandolin. The slices need to be very thin in order to get the proper potato-to-mushroom ratio. Elegant enough for company with its earthy flavor from the chanterelles, and nuttiness from the Gruyere, this is the dish that people will be talking about the next day. Yes, it is that good!

Potatoes au Gratin with Chanterelles

1 .5-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s dried Chanterelles, hydrated, drained, and rough chopped
¾ teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyere

To hydrate mushrooms: Empty packet of dried mushrooms into a deep bowl and cover with 1 cup of warm water. Allow to soak for 20-30 minutes until hydrated. Drain mushrooms through a fine mesh sieve 2-3 times in order to remove all grit.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350

Peel potatoes and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices (preferably with an adjustable-blade slicer). Bring potatoes, cream, milk, salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and garlic to a boil in a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot, stirring occasionally; remove from heat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer half of potatoes to a buttered 1-1/2 quart gratin dish, spreading evenly. Spread mushrooms evenly over potatoes, top with remaining potatoes. Pour cooking liquid over potatoes and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake gratin until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender, 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
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