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Sunday, February 27, 2011

franks n beans

This is a recipe that I tried to have ready for Kaytie when she got home from the Coast. (She's been working weekends away from home. It's very lonely here, and I have no excuse not to study. It sucks.) I did not have it ready when she got home. It was ready an hour and a half after she arrived. But it was good.

So, two weeks later, after Kaytie's next weekend on the Coast, I made it again, with a few alterations. This confused Kaytie - "I'm not sure why you'd want to make the same thing twice in a month." Well, I was perfecting it. (By the way, it was not ready on time, either.)

Making this may make you feel like a French chef. Because instead of calling it a casserole, we can call it a cassoulet, which is a nice way of saying white bean stew. Now, traditionally, a cassoulet would use confit. This doesn't, which makes it easier. Anyway, here's a recipe for some fancy pork and beans. It's based on a recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

Pork & White Bean 'Cassoulet'

1 lb dried white beans
2 ribs of celery, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 inches of fresh rosemary
1 lb fresh bratwurst
6 oz salt pork
1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs tomato paste
1/2 c dry white wine
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
4 c chicken broth
1 c cornbread crumbs
1/2 c chopped parsley
salt & pepper
a Dutch oven
some cheesecloth

Stir 2 1/2 Tbs salt into 10 cups warm water in a large pot. Dump the white beans in. Bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Cover, and let the beans soak for an hour. Drain & rinse the beans.

Move your oven rack to the bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 300.

Make your bouquet garni: Wrap the celery, bay leaf, thyme, & rosemary in cheesecloth, and tie the bundle closed with string.

In a large saucepan, cover your sausages and salt pork with an inch of cold water. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and let the sausages cool for a minute or two. (Save the salt pork!) Slice the sausage into 1-inch pieces.

In a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, brown the sausage on all sides in about a Tbs of olive oil. Set the sausage aside.

Brown the pork chunks on all sides. This should take about 5 minutes.

Add the onions & carrots. Stir constantly until the onion is translucent. This will take about 2-3 minutes.

Add the garlic & tomato paste. Stir for about a minute.

Add the sausage, and stir everything together. Add the wine to deglaze the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape any crusty bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook for a minute to reduce the wine a little.

Stir in the tomatoes, bouquet garni, and salt pork. Add the white beans and chicken broth. If any of the beans are above the level of the liquid, add a little water.

Increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cover, and put it in the oven for an hour and a half.

Remove the bouquet garni and salt pork. Season the stew with salt and pepper.

Increase the oven temperature to 350, and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the cornbread crumbs and parlsey with a couple Tbs of olive oil. Season with a little salt & pepper.

Sprinkle about half a cup of the crumb mixture over the top of the cassoulet. Bake covered for 15 minutes.

Uncover, and bake for 15 more minutes.

Sprinkle the rest of the cumbs over the top, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the crumbs are a golden brown. (If you get impatient, or if your wife gets home earlier than you expected, you can turn on the broiler to brown the crumbs. Just keep an eye on it, so they don't burn.)

Let it rest for 15 minutes, and enjoy.

Friday, February 18, 2011


What's better than delicious chocolate cake?

A bigger chocolate cake! (Duh.)

So, here's the genesis of this post: Bon Appetit's Cocoa Layer Cake. A couple weeks ago, Kaytie said she wanted some cake, and since I suffer from a bona fide sugar addiction, I was happy to oblige her craving.

We'd just gotten our February Bon Appetit, and the cake on page 90 looked delicious. I followed the recipe, almost. And it was great. BUT, it was only about 3 inches tall. And because I'm a red-blooded American, I believe that bigger is better.

So, I doubled the recipe, moved some espresso powder around, and added some nuts. This is the best chocolate cake ever, and it looks like a cake that you could buy at a fancy bakery. Guaranteed to impress.

Chocolate Cake

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups warm water, divided
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups cake flour
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
scant 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
2 eggs, room temp & beaten slightly
1 cup toasted pecan pieces/chips

Note: You need 3 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides.

Position your oven racks so one is in the top third of your oven and the other is in the bottom third. Preheat the oven to 350.

Cut parchment paper rounds that fit into your cake pans. Butter (or spray with Pam) the pans. Press the parchment paper rounds into the pans, and grease the paper. Dust the sides of the pan with flour. (Tilt the pan, dump a pinch or two of flour on the side, and rotate the pan so the flour lightly covers the inside of the walls of the pan.) This will give the batter something to grab, and your cakes will rise evenly, instead of rising more in the middle.

Whisk the cocoa and espresso powder into 1 cup of water in a small bowl.

Whisk buttermilk and 1 cup of water together in another small bowl.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and both sugars in a large bowl for about 5 minutes.

With the mixer running, add the eggs, and beat about 15-30 seconds, until smooth.

Add the cocoa mixture. Beat to blend.

Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture and beating to blend with each addition.

Divide the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. (About 3 1/4 cups each)

Bake cakes about 20 minutes, reversing the pans about halfway through. The cakes will be done when a tester (or toothpick) inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes (in pans) completely on racks.


10 Tbs unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso powder
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Stir in the sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt.

Gradually stir in the cream. Keep stirring until the mixture just begins to simmer at the edges.

Reduce heat to low, and stir for about a minute.

Dump the mixture in a medium bowl, and stir in the vanilla.

Stick the icing in the fridge, and let it cool for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Then, let it stand at room temperature.

Now, it's time to assemble the cake. To get the cakes out of the pan, run a knife around the sides of the cake. Carefully, invert one cake onto a plate. (Please note, these cakes are fragile and very moist, almost sticky. Handle with care.) Peel off the paper, and spread about 1/2 cup of icing on top. Invert the second cake onto your palm, and carefully slide it onto the first layer. Peel off the parchment, and spread about 1/2 cup of icing on that layer. Repeat with the third layer. Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake.

And finally, it's time for fun. To get the nuts on the cake, I literally threw small handfuls of pecans at it. And they stick. (This is the dogs' favorite step, because some nuts inevitably end up on the floor, which means the dogs get to eat them.)