“Grilling, broiling, barbecuing – whatever you want to call it – is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach.”
~ James Beard
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!”
~ Johnson, Moll, & King, the “Ice Cream” song, 1927
We’re having a birthday BBQ for our cousin Sarena, and while I was asking her what kind of cake and ice cream she liked, I thought it might be cool to combine them and make her an ice cream cake! She likes chocolate cake, and she said mocha almond fudge was a favorite ice cream of hers. I just happened to have a box of chocolate fudge cake mix, too (next year I’ll make you the cake part from scratch, Sarena!). Perfect! I whipped up the cake batter.
The “recipe” I found online (it was really just instructions, but they were helpful!) for ice cream cake had just one layer of cake and one layer of ice cream (like how they apparently do at Baskin-Robbins – I can’t remember), but I thought it would be cool to have the ice cream in the middle of two cake layers, like a regular cake would have, so I divided the batter into two tins, one having just a little more than the other (the thicker one would be the base layer).
After the cakes were cool, I wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. The recipe I was using called for ice cream in “a rectangular carton”, but I couldn’t find mocha almond fudge in those. The closest I could find was coffee ice cream from Breyer’s, which was in a somewhat rectangular container. I like Breyer’s anyway (they don’t have a bunch of crap in their ice cream like some others), so I figured it was the closest we’d be able to get. When the cakes had been in the freezer for a while, I decided it was time to put the “ice cream” in our “ice cream cake” – ha ha ha! I inverted the container and cut away at the carton. The ice cream was softer than I thought it would be, so it was a little messy. I used a piece of floss to cut the block in half, then put the slices side by side on the silicone mat.
I put the thicker layer of cake on top of the ice cream (like my Giant manicure?). The cake and ice cream went back into the freezer for a bit to firm up again – the ice cream was really melty!
After some time in the freezer, I got another cookie sheet ready, and flipped the cake and ice cream over onto it. I smoothed out the ice cream – it wasn’t too bad that the ice cream was a bit soft – I got to spread it out onto the cake pretty easily. I just had to work fast.
On went the second layer of cake, and the whole thing went back into the freezer again.
One of the commenters on the recipe I was using said a great frosting to use was actually MORE ice cream, and I thought, “Why not?” After the whole cake got to chill a bit more, I started frosting the cake with vanilla ice cream.
Here’s the “frosted” cake!
Now, I was actually supposed to cover this with crushed Butterfinger candy bars, since they’re Sarena’s favorite, but with everything going on with the BBQ, I completely forgot (I bought four of them, too!). When it was originally served, it was plain like this, but later I added the candy bars (sorry, Sarena! I’ll make it up to you!). Here’s a shot of the original (and a nice shot of the layers), and then a shot of how it was intended to be (they were both delicious):
This was really yummy, and not that complicated to make. I would just suggest allowing PLENTY of time to make this cake though, so you can let it sit in the freezer for a few hours between steps (that will definitely make the process less messy). Also, don’t forget time to let the cake(s) cool before freezing (to firm), and remember to have everything you’ll need for the current step on hand so you’re not running around like crazy while the ice cream melts all over the place!
If you have a special event coming up, and you (or the guest of honor) likes ice cream and cake (who doesn’t?), I’d totally recommend making your own ice cream cake for the occasion. You’re limited only by your imagination as far as the fun combinations you can come up with!
“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”
~ Calvin Trillin
Nick loves corned beef hash. It’s one of his favorite, go-to breakfast orders. I never touch the stuff. Well, that’s not true – just not the stuff that comes out of a can. I have had restaurant corned beef hash before, but it was the kind that was freshly made in-house. YUM. What could be better than meat, potatoes an onions, all chopped up and mixed together for you? No cutting involved at all!
Unfortunately, the restaurants that serve this kind of delight are extremely few, and far between – so I hardly ever eat corned beef hash. Since we’ve cooked several corned beef briskets in honor of St. Patrick’s Day (two ready-brined briskets for our Tuesday night dinner, and two briskets I brined on my own), I thought I might be able to save a few slices and make some corned beef hash tonight. I found this recipe online (I had to alter it a bit since I already had cooked potatoes and most recipes call for raw ones) and it looked good – not too fussy or complicated, it focused mainly on beefy, potatoey goodness (there was one I saw that called for adding cream – I wasn’t too sure about that one).
I started by chopping an onion, and cutting the potatoes and corned beef into cubes.
I sautéed the onion in some ghee (clarified butter). YUM.
Time to add more deliciousness!
I sautéed it all together for a bit, then added the last of the cooking broth I had, plus a bit more beef broth, covered it and let it simmer.
After a few minutes, the mixture was bound together a bit more, but we didn’t want to break up the meat and potato chunks too much, so I didn’t cook it all to a mushy mess. I seasoned it a bit more and ground some pepper over it. I could not wait to taste it.
But I was making this meal specially for Nick, so I had to cook him an egg first. Sunny-side up is the way he likes his eggs, especially with corned beef hash – so you can break the yolk over the whole thing and let it create a rich, velvety sauce (Hey! Just like in the dish I had at the Dinner Tales event! Good food is good food, no matter how simple or fancy). Here’s Nick’s finished plate:
This was delicious. Like I said, I’ve never had corned beef out of a can before (gross!), and although most of the people I know love it, I’d much rather have this version (although I’m sure they’d all agree too). My only regret is that we didn’t have as much corned beef leftovers as I’d have liked from St. Patrick’s Day to make this scrummy hash with. Next time, I’ll have to brine even more briskets!
Purity Farm Organic Ghee, Clarified Butter, 13-Ounce
Well, the corned beef I brined is cooking away in the crock pots, and it smells heavenly in the house. The only thing that even comes close to some delicious corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day is a nice pint of Guinness. Today, I wanted to make a drink with Guinness (last year, Nick made me a “Shakin’ Jesse”), so I thought of a “Black & Tan”, but realized that’s not an Irish concoction, but a British one. In Ireland, they combine Smithwick’s Dark Ale and Guinness to produce an “Irish Blacksmith” – sounded delicious, so I made one tonight.
You start with half a pint glass of the Smithwick’s, then slowly pour the Guinness in, over a spoon (I used a rice paddle) to layer. Since the Smithwick’s is a dark ale, the result is darker than a “Black & Tan” so it might be hard to see the color difference there – it’s pretty subtle – but the taste is rich and delicious.
In doing the research for drinks with Guinness, I found that there’s also a “Black & Blue” which is Guinness with Pabst Blue Ribbon. I thought the combination (basically for the sake of the name) was pretty funny, and the Pabst reminds me of our friend Christy, so I had to make this one for her, too. It’s made the same way, just starting with the Pabst. This one of course shows the layers better:
I also had a third themed beverage that I’d never had before – Irish Pear Cider. The neat and different thing about this one is that it’s not an apple cider flavored with pear (which is more common), this cider is made completely with pears. Really cool. And it was delicious. Crisp and refreshing – and it came in a green bottle. How perfect could it get?
All of these drinks were very tasty, and perfect pours for St. Patrick’s Day – speaking of which, I’ll end this post with an Irish toast:
“May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint!”
Thomas Keller is the owner and head chef several restaurants in California, Nevada, and New York, his most famous being The French Laundry – a small place in Yountville, California that has a three-star Michelin rating, and that some call the finest restaurant in America. He has won multiple James Beard Awards including “Best Chef in America” in 1997.
Though his most famous restaurant is noted as the epitome of gourmet cuisine, Chef Keller is simply in love with food, whether it be French Laundry style, or “homestyle”. In 2005, he opened a restaurant near The French Laundry called “Ad Hoc” that focused on more simple, family-style, comfort food meals. Ad Hoc was was supposed to be a temporary offering in the space while he planned his dream restaurant – one that serves hamburgers and wine – but due to its popularity, it was decided that Ad Hoc should be made a permanent fixture. Chef Keller also released a book called “Ad Hoc at Home” and included over 200 recipes from dishes served at the restaurant, as well as ones inspired by the meals he grew up on. These recipes were also meant to be more accessible to the home cook who may not have the time or the skills yet to recreate some of the other, more elaborate dishes featured in Chef Keller’s previous cookbook offerings.
I have not yet had the pleasure of going to one of Chef Keller’s restaurants, although I have “The French Laundry Cookbook” (and Nick bought “Ad Hoc at Home”). Nick likes to cook, but this year he’s specifically making me a special dinner each month (lucky me!), and this month he decided to take a page (or several) from “Ad Hoc at Home” with a fun, picnic-type, “surf n’ turf” meal:
Maine Lobster Rolls with homemade pickled red onions,
Brined Pork Tenderloin roasted with fresh rosemary, thyme, and lemon,
and some absolutely fabulous corn on the cob with freshly homemade lime salt.
The full plate:
This meal was one of the best Nick has made, and one of the best that I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy. The lobster salad was light and fresh, with the lobster being the star instead of the dressing being an overpowering blanket of mayo, and the crisp butter lettuce, celery slivers, and pickled onion gave a wonderful crispness and extra kick of flavor. The tenderloin was juicy and delicious – Chef Keller does not have the cook roast the pork loin to a dry, chewy oblivion, and the brine also helps to keep the meat moist while adding some lovely flavor. The best lobster roll and the best pork tenderloin I’ve had to date; but I do have to say that the thing that brought the whole dinner together for me was the corn on the cob. It was sweet and salty with a nice bite of lime – refreshing, starchy, savory, tart – just absolutely fabulous. I not only finished what was on my plate – I also ate another helping of just the corn for dessert.
If you enjoy comfort foods but think you might want to explore new ones, or slightly new ways of preparing them, I cannot recommend this book enough. There are helpful tips and technique hints in the book, as well as gorgeous photos of the food, cute drawings and even pictures of Chef Keller himself, kind of like your culinary coach through this journey of deliciousness.
“When we eat together, when we set out to do so deliberately, life is better, no matter your circumstances. Whether it’s a sad or difficult time, whether it’s an ordinary-seeming day, or whether it’s a time of celebration, our lives are enriched when we share meals together. And that’s what the food in this book is all about.”
~ Chef Thomas Keller
I love pie. Who doesn’t? One of the things (if not THE thing) I like the most about pie is the crust. I also love cookies, and I believe a great pie crust is just a huge cookie surrounding whatever delicious filling is inside (for pot pies, I still adhere to my cookie ideal, I just like a more savory cookie in that instance).
As you know, Nick and I try to eat more Paleo when we can. This means NO PIE CRUST! Or does it? You can make a lot of things without grain or processed sugar (two big things to avoid on the Paleo diet), but while they are technically following the Paleo ingredient rules, they still are a very big treat and shouldn’t just be “Paleo replacements” for things that really aren’t good for you in the first place. Pie crust is an example here. A delicious one. Since it’s a special day, we get a special treat.
While I didn’t use a recipe for the pot pie filling (you really can just throw any bite sized things together in a dish and add some gravy), I got the crust recipe here (the recipe for the filling in this one does sound delicious though).
I took veggies from our Tuesday night, early St. Patrick’s Day corned beef meal (not the one I brined myself – that’s still chilling in the fridge) and cubed them, and put the cooking broth from the corned beef on the stove to reduce:
I placed the veggies in a casserole dish (I like a higher crust-to-filling ratio) and then cut up some cooked chicken to toss in there as well:
I also (of course) simply had to make a round (Pi Day!) version:
Here are all the ingredients you need for a delicious (special treat) Paleo-friendly pie crust – Almond flour, salt, an egg, and butter. The Matryoshka doll measuring cups (thanks again, Jing!) are just fun (I used the spoons too, but forgot to include them in the picture).
After mixing all the crust ingredients together, I patted the dough out onto a silicone mat, into the shape of the casserole dish I was using. The mixture is pretty moist, so rolling isn’t really a good option. The silicone mat was great, because when I had my desired shape, I simply took the whole mat and inverted it over the casserole dish, then peeled the mat away.
Same went for the traditional pie pan: form, lift …
… flip, peel!
I have to note that in my excitement about the pie crust, I totally forgot to add my reduced (and thickened with some arrowroot powder and water) broth! I had to lift some crust from each pie and pour the gravy in, then mash the crust back together on top of the pies. With not much effort, you can spot where I had to break the crusts. I didn’t care – I knew they’d still taste delicious!
Here they are out of the oven:
The crust was absolutely delicious. It reminded me of how frozen pot pies were back in the day, when they used a more cornmeal-type crust. I can honestly say that I can make this crust for pot pies for the rest of my life and never miss the old flour ones. I am SO happy I tried this recipe. I’m going to stop writing now because I have pie to eat. Happy, happy, happy (.14) Pi Day!
Blanched Almond Meal Flour, 5 lb. (Amazon)
Honeyville Farms Almond Meal (Honeyville Site)
Arrowroot Powder Organic – Manihot Esculenta, 1 lb,(Starwest Botanicals)
Fred M Cup Measuring Matroyshkas, Set of 6 Dry Measuring Cups
Fred & Friends M-Spoons Measuring Spoons
Matfer 321005 Exopat 11-5/8-by-16-3/8-Inch Nonstick Baking Mat
The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet