Monday, December 31, 2012

Paul's Famous Burgers

The location on 19th Street formerly known as TK Burgers is now Paul's.

I noticed this a couple of weeks ago. After a day trip where I tried to figure out what the heck to get my nephew for his birthday, I meandered over to Paul's to give it a whirl.

Thinking a burger would be good, I bypassed Five Guys specifically to try Paul's.

I was a little disappointed when I entered the building. It was exactly like TK burgers. Nothing had changed. No, that's not true. They swapped out paper cups for styrofoam. And paper wraps the burger now instead of foil.

The burger is ok, the fries tolerable. While I wish I dying to support Paul with more of my cash, I doubt that will happen.

Bacon cheeseburger combo: $7.48 OTD.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Newman's Own Thin & Crispy Uncured Pepperoni Pizza

I have a weird love/hate relationship with frozen pizza. The amount of time spent in front of the freezer section debating on whether to get one was beginning to be a little lengthy.

Finally, with all that time invested, I figured I may as well just get one. And if I'm going to get one, I may as well try one that will at least benefit a charity.

The instructions are pretty standard for frozen pizza.

And there are even tips.

The pizza has enough uncured pepperoni to completely cover it, which is nice.

And the ingredients aren't even scary. They actually look pretty good.

The uncured pepperoni contain "no nitrate or nitrite added except which naturally occurs in sea salt and celery juice concentrate (pork and beef, sea salt, natural spices, evaporated cane juice, lactic acid starter culture, natural flavorings [including celery juice concentrate], oleoresin of paprika)".

The parsley bits add a little fresh-ish feeling.

Baked 10 minutes until the edges started to brown, I let the pizza stand on a cutting board and the crust went from floppy to crispy.

I'm impressed! This skinny little pizza is actually really tasty! The pepperoni is spicy, the sauce tangy, and the flat-bread-like crust crisp. It's not even exceptionally greasy. While there is supposed to be three servings in this pizza, I can honestly tell you that I polished off the majority all of it in one sitting.

My only complaint about this pizza is that there isn't enough sauce. I think I found my go-to frozen pizza.

Newman's Own Thin & Crispy Uncured Pepperoni Pizza in the frozen pizza section of Ralph's for $5.99.

Food Plan and Grocery List, 123012

The past couple of weeks I've been gradually making room for the new year. By that I mean I've begun a doing a little bit of cleaning up in various sections of my apartment. Most relevant to this blog though is the kitchen.

The kitchen walls and cabinet exteriors were washed using a Dawn:distilled white vinegar mix (not a 1:1, more like a 1:10 which was still much too sudsy)! While the kitchen is still like a dungeon the clean walls and cabinetry brighten things up quite a bit. Spices, oils, vinegars, and condiments were examined for expiration dates; the old ones were emptied from their containers and the containers recycled. The joint looks empty.

I plan to empty everything from the cabinets, clean the cabinet interiors, and sort through the items as I return them to the cabinets. Same with the fridge and freezer. Going forward I'll replace the old items as necessary, buying reasonably-sized packages of each instead of thinking bigger = better. Remember that flour? I still haven't used any. This will help keep the foods I make as fresh as possible, eliminating the possibility that any less-than-stellar results are from sub-par ingredients.

The meal to begin the next (it's going to take two days to prep) is from one of the only Bon Appetite mags I have:
  • Shrimp and Sweet Potato Cakes with Chayote Slaw and Chipotle Tartar Sauce
  • Slow-Roasted Pork with Lime Mojo
  • Spiced Butternut Squash
  • Corn and Cheese Arepas
  • Coconut Creme Brulee
I hope to set the tone for the upcoming year by beginning with a well-rounded meal, complete with a starter, main, sideS and dessert.

Grower's Direct:
  • limes: $1.28/1.44 lb (6)
  • red bell pepper: $1.59/0.64 lb
  • yellow bell pepper: $1.10/0.44 lb
  • garlic: $0.62/0.31 lb (2)
  • jalapeno peppers: $0.27/0.23 lb (2)
  • pasilla peppers: $0.77/0.60 lb (2)
  • butternut squash: $3.18/4.03 lb (2)
  • chayote squash: $0.99/3
  • sweet potatoes: $2.25/3.81 lbs
  • TOTAL: $12.05
  • Newman's pizza: $5.99
  • frozen corn: $1
  • marshmallow creme: $1.99
  • coconut milk: $2.99
  • mayo: $2.99
  • chipotle peppers in adobo: $1.49
  • vegetable oil: $2.99
  • coriander seeds: $2.99
  • cumin seeds: $2.49
  • heavy whipping cream: $2.50
  • heavy whipping cream: $2.50
  • cilantro: $0.49
  • pork loin: $10.86
  • shrimp: $3.91
  • TOTAL: $45.18
Stater Bros.
  • sherry vinegar: $7.99
Stater Bros.
  • eggs: $3.99/dozen
  • Bailey's creamer: $1.99
  • Knox gelatin: $1.99
  • TOTAL: $7.97
Grand Total: $73.19

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 122812

Monday: holiday
Tuesday: holiday
Wednesday: day off
Thursday: Corner Bakery Chicken Pomodori Panini: $8.50
Friday: Siamese Express for two: $20.22

Total: $28.72
Total for the year: $1504.85

Beats last year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chocolate Stout Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Can you trust a meat guy with cake? You know I had to find out. Honestly, I waffled a little bit before just going for it.

Sticking to the recipe almost exactly, I deviated by using unsalted instead of salted butter and I didn't trim the round tops of the baked cakes before frosting. Well, that and I took about 4 days from start to finish.

Chocolate Stout Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting
adapted from Epicurious
click to print

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 1/4 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
14 tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 c chocolate stout, regular stout, or porter
2/3 c freshly brewed strong coffee

1 lb bittersweet chocolate (54% to 60% cacao), chopped
2 c heavy whipping cream
1 tsp instant espresso powder

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides.

Line bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper round; butter and flour parchment.

Having to do all of this buttering and flouring and lining and buttering and flouring seemed like overkill to me, but I'd hate to dig the cake out of the pans later and kick myself over being too lazy to do this.

Place chopped chocolate in medium metal or glass bowl.

Set bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and set aside.

My small saucepan has pourspouts built in which are convenient except when melting chocolate. I made sure to tip the bowl away from the spout where steam was escaping to minimize the possibility of the water going into the chocolate.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat butter and 11/4 cups sugar in large bowl until fluffy and pale yellow, about 2 minutes.

Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl.

Beat in lukewarm melted chocolate, then stout and coffee, scraping down sides of bowl after each addition.

With all this liquid the batter is sloppy wet.

Beat flour mixture into chocolate mixture in 2 additions just until incorporated.

Mmm, now it's lookin' good.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in another medium bowl until stiff but not dry.

This took 25 minutes which is about double the time it took when I made the chocolate torte though the changes are the same. (Definitely check out the torte if you want to see an egg montage or make a great torte.) Guessing, these eggs are a little older than perfectly fresh.

Fold 1/3 of egg whites into cake batter to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions.

Divide batter between prepared cake pans (about 3 cups for each); smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Checked at 25 minutes, the first one was done. The second one was done after 5 more minutes.

Transfer cakes to racks and cool in pans 20 minutes.

After 15 minutes the edges of the cakes were clearly pulled away from sides of the pans.

Invert cakes onto racks; remove parchment paper and cool completely.

The cakes popped right out of the pans. The parchment when peeled off the cake on the right pulled a little bit of the crumb with it; the parchment peeled off the cake on the left leaving the cake perfectly intact.

At this point, I left the cakes alone, putting the cakes and rack right there in the microwave, until I had time to prepare the frosting, which turned out to be two days later.

For frosting:
Place chopped chocolate in medium heatproof bowl.

Combine whipping cream and espresso powder in medium saucepan.

Bring cream mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally.

Pour cream mixture over chopped chocolate; let stand 1 minute, then whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Chill chocolate frosting until slightly thickened and spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours (or for quick chilling, place frosting in freezer until thickened and spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes).

Checked after an hour, then again after 1.5 hours before it was whisked. I deemed the frosting spreadable at that point.

Using serrated knife, trim rounded tops from both cake layers so that tops are flat.

Place 1 cake layer, round side up, on cake saver. Drop 1 1/4 cups frosting by large spoonfuls over top of cake layer; spread frosting evenly to edges with offset spatula or butter knife.

Top with second cake layer, round side down. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.

Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let cake stand at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours before serving (or not).

Cake chilled 24 hours. I decided to cut into it instead of waiting to bring it to work Monday.

Seriously. How is it that Bruce Aidells does not have insane cult-like following? Not only can the dude totally rock meat, but he can rock CAKE.

Trying this recipe was a little weird. On one hand I kept thinking to myself, "of course it's going to come out marvelously! It's an Aidells recipe!" On the other hand, I had a niggling feeling that maybe this one just wasn't going to be right, that the coffee was going to be too much, the chocolate excessive, the stout maybe a little too "beery", that maybe Aidells should just stick to the cooking and leave the baking to the precise hands of bakers. And I'll be damned if none of the major components were too much - they married together like a happy little threesome doing all kinds of pleasing positions in my mouth. Bruce is just a genius any way you cut it.

I even like how the cake looked. The frosting, cold from the refrigerator is quite firm and fudgy; cutting it left nice crisp edges that are pleasing to an OCD person like me. Originally thinking I'd bring the cake to work the morning after frosting it, I'm now clicking my heels together with joy that I'd forgotten the cake when I left. Life is good.

Total: $15.48 or about $1.29 for each of 12 glorious servings, delicious even for breakfast.

I have Ming Tsai on in the background and he's talking about ganache. When I heard him basically describe how to prepare the frosting here, I was stoked to have learned that I already knew how to make ganache. I just didn't know I knew. And now you know I know and I know you know I know. So we're clear on that.