Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Lava Cake!

One of my FAVORITE desserts is to be had at the Denver Steak and Chop House. Anne Hall and I have shared several GORGEOUS dinners there, and today's recipe hearkens back to the lazy evenings after an Irish dancing competitions where we'd share a variation on this awesome dessert.

You'll Need:

1 cup butter (unsalted)
5 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 1/2 teaspoons flour
1 Tbsp orange brandy (optional, but I like it)
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (now you can play with variations on the chips. I'd like to try omitting the brandy and adding instead a few cinnamon flavored chocolate chips. I think it'd be pretty good)

Garnish: Strawberries (liquefy in the food processor with 1/3 cup sugar and then run through a strainer. Throw in the fridge for 2 hours)
Whipped cream
Sprig of Mint (I love mint in dessert, and if you set it up right, you can make the strawberry sauce look like molten lava and pretend that the whipped cream is an island refuge for you mint sprig in the midst of an erruption of flavor!)

What to do:

1. Preheat oven to 450-degrees F
2. In a double-boiler melt the chocolate and the butter over medium heat. When melted, remove from heat.
3. As the chocolate and butter combine, use an electric mixer to mix the eggs and sugar together. Add in the salt and the orange brandy.
4. Now slowly add the egg mixture to the cooled-off chocolate sauce.

The preparation time for this is really short, and cooking time is about 8-10 minutes. The original recipe (Pam Anderson, allrecipes.com) does not have provisions for high-altitude cooking, so it took me 12 minutes. If you're in my family, you're probably in the Great Lakes region and, therefore, in low country.

Get your muffin tins out - the big ones! - and line with paper cups. Spray butter-flavored Pam into the cups to coat them (the canola oil, non-flavored version doesn't enhance the dish, so use butter-flavored) and then fill the cups to the brim with the batter. Toss them into the oven and, after 8 minutes, begin to check on them.

Now, here's the rub: the cakes should puff up a good little bit and look pretty solid on the top, but they should have a little bit of a dip in the center. It's really important that they are pretty well cooked, otherwise it'll be a sloppy mess. I made two extra last night for dinner so that I had some room for error, and believe me, I had error. So, be careful!

Once you pull them from the oven, let them cool for a minute. Then, gingerly, remove them from the muffin tins, invert them onto the waiting plates, and remove the paper cup. Now, make a pool with the sauce and add your island.

Serve immediately.

The cool thing about this dish is that the center is molten, so when you break through the outer crust (or, in geological terms, the mantle) you will arrive at a liquid center (magma). Ever think you'd use the word "magma" in cooking?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Stewing in my juices

I dislike stew enormously. It reminds me of a dish eaten by dweeby people with horn-rimmed glasses held together by scotch tape. It also reminds me of obese people, for some reason.

Nonetheless, here's a recipe I've developed out here on the range. Instead of the usual bison, peacock, or moose meat I've used something called "beef." Instead of peyote or other fine, yet rare, herbs, I've made adjustments to allow for more pedestrian faire.

This recipe will feed about 8

2 lbs stew meat (or, as I did this evening, a nice London Broil works well. It was on sale, though)
Olive oil
4 cups beef stock (the organice stuff you buy for $3.49. If you love your family, you will use this low-sodium, all-natural stuff rather than bullion cubes something un-natural)
4 cups water
3 teaspoons fresh rosemary
3 teaspoons fresh thyme
3 teaspoons fresh parsley
3/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Do you notice a theme here? Fresh is ALWAYS better.
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 carrots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, cut into large chunks (I like onion hunks. Cut to suit, however)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Ok, here we go. Over medium heat, brown the beef cubes in enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. I used about 3.5 tablespoons, but it'll depend on the size of your pan. Throw a little salt and pepper in as you cook. Once the meat is browned, add the beef broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer.

Cut up your vegetables and run the parsley, thyme, and rosemary through the food processor. I've tried adding the ingredients without blending them, but I have found it to be better and more aromatic to give the herbs a few quick pulses in the food processor. Now add the spices, the bay leaves, and the vegetables to the simmering beef broth. Mix together and allow to "stew" or for about an hour.

After about an hour, mix together the cornstarch and water in a small dish and then add to the stew. This serves to thicken the mixture. You can now leave this to stew all day long, should you fancy. Just keep it on low heat (this can be done in a crockpot, of course) and if you want a really thick stew, take the lid off while cooking so as to allow the water to evaporate off.

So, there you have it. I let it cook for about 5 hours and it was really quite tender and tasted very good. I still don't like stew, but this isn't too bad. Besides, it's a great way to clean out the fridge.

As for dessert, I was in a crunch today so I pureed a pint of strawberries with about 1/3 cup of sugar. After the puree, I ran it through a sieve and then chilled it for two hours. Then I baked a Devil's Food Cake and used a nice vanilla icing on it. I drizzled enough puree to form a pool in the center of the plate and then placed a generous portion of the cake just to the side of pool. I then added a sprig of mint to the cake and sprinkled both cake and sauce with a bit of confectioner's sugar.

I suspect that this Sunday I'll try for a lava cake with fresh spiced whipped cream and a rasberry sauce. I'm also going for a new type of chocolate bread pudding made of croissants rather than French bread...should be good!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

First Post!

Well, here it is!

I'll try to post the recipes as I prepare them. Often enough, they bear a striking resemblance to whatever I find watching FoodTV or just surfing the net. Be assured, though, that I tweak them just enough to give them that distinctively "Ryan Flavor." This is in marked contrast to the distinctive "Ryan odor" which, at present, couples the musk of bison with a hint of peacock and but a trace of dirt.