November 18, 2011

Truffled Mushroom Tagliatelle

mixed mushroom truffled fricassee

I had a birthday.  Another birthday.  My 27th one to be exact.  I don't feel near as old as I actually am.  Sometimes I think I'm still 22, that is until the monthly bills start rolling in or perhaps when I glance in the mirror and see the early signs of aging starting to appear on my once youthful face.  Despite facing yet another birthday, inching me ever closer to that dreaded 3-0, I like to take this time of year to pamper myself a little bit.

enokitake, chanterelle and oyster mushrooms

Instead of using the birthday money I get from relatives to put towards bills (which is exactly what I should be doing), I allow myself to buy a little something just for me.  I mean, I deserve it right?  I also let myself truly indulge the week of my birthday.  Cake, red meat, an extra margarita or two.  So when it came time to decide what I was going to whip up for this blog last week, I thought it should include one of my absolute favorite things: truffles.

pricey yet delicious chanterelles

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to use actual truffles (I can't afford such luxuries at the moment), but I did use plenty of truffle oil and a beautiful blend of earthy, unctuous mushrooms.  I had found a delicious looking recipe for a mushroom fricassee in September's Bon Appétit.  I had been looking for a good excuse to make it and my birthday seemed as good as any. (Side note: a fricassee by definition is a dish of pieces of meat or vegetables stewed in stock and served in a white sauce).

white truffle oil

Bon Appétit's version of mushroom fricassee called for using only chanterelle mushrooms.  However, when I got to Whole Foods and realized that chanterelle mushrooms were $29.99 a pound, I decided I'd better take a different route.  I went with a mixture of chanterelles, oyster mushrooms and the adorable looking enokitake mushrooms.  Not only did I save myself roughly $15, but I thought the mixture of mushrooms would make for an interesting looking dish.

stewed mushrooms

OK, enough about mushrooms, let's talk more about my birthday.  Jon's gift to me was something I've always wanted.  I got this same gift for my 13th birthday, but for some very odd reasons, the gift fell through.  Jon made it happen for me though.

almost ready for take off

that fire was so hot!

He got me the hot air balloon ride that I've been waiting to take for 14 years.  Despite the 5:30 AM wake up time and the very unexpected hangover, the ride was magical and the view beautiful.

how about that view

my hero ;-)

It was everything I thought it would be and even more, because now I got to share the experience with the man I love.  Thank you, Jon, for making one of my dreams come true.

mixed mushroom tagliatelle

Mixed Mushroom Fricassee with Tagliatelle
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit, September 2011

6 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 oz chanterelle mushrooms
4 oz oyster mushrooms
4 oz enokitake mushrooms
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped, plus more for garnish
fresh lemon juice
1/4 lb tagliatelle pasta, cooked al dente
white truffle oil 

1. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly golden, 4-5 minutes.

2. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add wine, stir to mix and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.  Add remaining 3 tablespoons of butter, remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are lightly golden, about 5 minutes. 

3. Add cream and nutmeg and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in 1 teaspoon thyme and season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.  Add cooked pasta and toss until evenly coated.  Drizzle with truffle oil to taste (I like to add 2-3 teaspoons).  Garnish with more thyme and serve.

Makes 4 servings

November 7, 2011

Wildly Wonderful Whiskey Cake

good ol' fashioned Whiskey Cake

It has been just over thirteen weeks since I have unloaded my things (more than I think Jon was expecting) into my new home in Tempe.  It would be a lie to say that I haven't felt the least bit homesick.  Don't get me wrong, Jon is great company- we have so much fun together- but every now and then, I feel that slight pang in my chest; the longing to see my friends, go to lunch or run errands with my mom or even to eat at one of the restaurants that I had grown so fond of.  Living in the Dallas area for over 16 years gave me ample time to grow deep and meaningful relationships with several restaurants.  There are many that became permanent fixtures in my dining out routine, none more so than Mi Cocina (what I would give for a Mambo Taxi...), but Whiskey Cake, quite possibly my new all time favorite restaurant, has been on my mind more often than I would like.

fold that date puree

My constant day dreaming of the food at Whiskey Cake is starting to become a problem.  One day it's thoughts of the Mesquite Grilled Redfish, the next it's their "3 Little Pigs" pulled pork sliders.  But most often, I dream of having a large slice of their namesake dessert placed in front of me, their Whiskey Cake.

bourbon sauce ;-)

It is unlike any other dessert I have ever tasted- rich, sticky, stinking of good whiskey and sinfully delicious.  The mere thought of sliding my fork down the edge of that cake into a pool of bourbon sauce is almost enough to get me to book a flight back to Dallas.  Almost.

on it's way...

The thing is, why would I fly all the way back to Texas when I could have Whiskey Cake right here, in the comfort of my new home?  Well, to put it simply, I wouldn't.  Not only does Whiskey Cake serve up fresh, local and seasonal ingredients (a restaurant trend that I hold in the highest regard ), but this restaurant has won me over in another big way.  You can request any recipe for any dish off their menu. Now, in my experience, most restaurants who provide recipes or publish cookbooks supposedly filled with said recipes, will subsequently tweak an ingredient here or leave out an ingredient there, thus resulting in a failed attempt to remake your favorite restaurant dish at home.  My thoughts on this matter: If you don't wan't to give out the real recipe for a dish off your menu, then don't give out the recipe at all.

drizzle that toffee sauce

I can't tell you how many times I have bought a cookbook from a bakery or restaurant only to fully regret that purchase days later after my pursuit to mimic a particular dish ends in complete misery.  My desire for a slice of Whiskey Cake was too strong to let this deter me, however.  I figured I should give this particular recipe a fair shot, although I will admit I was skeptical of it from the get go.  But with doubts and fears aside, I completed all 5 components needed to make the Whiskey Cake what it is: an absolute masterpiece.  Did I tweak the recipe to make it somewhat my own?  Perhaps...  I may or may not have tripled the amount of whiskey originally called for...  I'll let you be the judge of that.

Whiskey Cake with a little extra whiskey

Whiskey Cake
Recipe slightly adapted and interpreted from Whiskey Cake, in Plano, Texas

Date Cake (see recipe below)
Bourbon Sauce (see recipe below)
Toffee Sauce (see recipe below)
Spiced Pecans (see recipe below)
Whipped Cream (see recipe below)

* I know this recipe looks like a lot of work, what with there being 5 separate components, but in order to make it a little easier on yourself, make 3 components one day and 2 the next.  Each component really doesn't require that much time and I promise the effort will be well worth it!

1. Cut the Date Cake into 12 equal pieces.  Poke several holes in the top of each piece using a wooden skewer or chopstick.  Arrange the cake pieces on a baking sheet covered with nonstick foil.

2. Heat the oven to 500º.  Pour 1/4 cup of Toffee Sauce over each piece of Date Cake.  Place toffee soaked cake pieces in the oven for about 4-5 minutes, until the Toffee Sauce is bubbling and the cake is warmed throughout.

3. Spoon 1/4 cup of Bourbon Sauce onto 12 individual plates or bowls.  Place each piece of warmed cake in the middle of each pool of Bourbon Sauce.  Finish each piece with a large dollop of Whipped Cream and a sprinkling of Spiced Pecans.  Enjoy!

Makes 12 servings

Date Cake

1, 8 oz package of dried pitted dates, chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cup boiling water
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 jumbo eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup self rising flour (*see note below to make your own)
3 tbsp Sugar in the Raw (turbinado sugar)

1. Heat the oven to 350º.  Place dates, baking soda and boiling water in a medium sized bowl.  Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes until the dates are softened.  Place the date mixture in a food processor for 2 minutes to form a paste.

2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute.  Add the sugar and continue to cream for 3 minutes longer.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in between to fully incorporate each egg.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  With the mixer running on low, add the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, and mix just until the flour is no longer visible.

3. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer.  Add the date paste and gently fold in using a rubber spatula.

4. Spray an 8"x14" cake pan with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle the turbinado sugar into the cake pan and move the pan around until the sugar coats the bottom and all sides.   Pour in the cake batter and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. Allow the cake to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Flip the cake out onto a parchment paper lined tray.  Leave at room temperature to cool completely.  Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature until ready to use.

*To make Self-Rising Flour:  mix together 3 cups of all purpose flour, 2 tsp of iodized salt and 1 tablespoon of baking powder in a medium sized bowl.  Use immediately or store in an airtight container.

Bourbon Sauce

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1vanilla bean, split
4 jumbo egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp good bourbon (I used Maker's Mark)

1. Bring heavy cream, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla bean to a simmer in a small to medium sized sauce pot.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and other 1/4 cup sugar together until frothy.

3. While stirring, slowly add about 1/2 of the heavy cream mixture to the eggs.  Stir together gently.  Pour the egg mixture into the pot of remaining heavy cream.  Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spatula or spoon.

4. Stir in the vanilla extract and bourbon and remove from heat.  Pour the mixture through a strainer into a container.  Place the container of bourbon sauce in an ice bath until cool.

5. Either use the sauce immediately, or store in the fridge until ready to use.  If stored in the fridge before use, re-heat in the microwave at 10 second intervals on 50% power until thinned and slightly luke warm.

Toffee Sauce

1 stick unsalted butter
1 lb light brown sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp good bourbon
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Place butter in a heavy bottom sauce pot over medium heat.  Once melted, add brown sugar and continue to cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add heavy cream and allow to cook for another 6-7 minutes, still stirring occasionally.

3. Remove pan from heat and stir in bourbon and vanilla. Use sauce immediately or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.  Reheat before using.

Spiced Pecans

1 lb pecan halves
2 tsp water
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1.  Heat oven to 350º.  Mix water, syrup, salt, and both peppers together in a small bowl.  Place pecans in a medium sized bowl.  Pour maple syrup mixture over pecans and mix until all are evenly coated.

2. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet covered with foil.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.

3. As soon as the pecans come out of the oven, scrape the pecans off the pan and break up pecan clumps to prevent from sticking together.  Let cool completely.  Store in an airtight plastic container at room temperature.

(At this point, I chopped up about half of the pecans to sprinkle on top of the cake.  I left the other portion of pecans whole to use for other purposes, like as a salad topping).

Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla to the bowl.  Beginning at low speed and slowly increasing the speed to high, whip the mixture together until slightly stiff peaks form.

2. Use immediately or store in the fridge until ready to use.