Crazy Strawberry Cake, Barbecued Chicken, Tom Kha, Biscuits and Gravy, Blackberry Pie

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Turns out my bad attitude from last week carried through most of this week. But I think I’ve got my head on straight again.  I got to do lots of fun cooking things this week. I joined some food52 friends for a spectacular cooking class with Mrs. Wheelbarrow (her new book on canning is so much fun and so inspiring. I have learned so much from reading it, and I’m itching to can all the things).  I made a funny cake and food52 shared it on their instagram page and lots of people liked it. My sister and I made a big dinner to celebrate two people we love. I canned 20 pounds of tomatoes. Henry and George seem to finally be feeling better, and George has been sleeping soundly enough that I can sneak out of the bedroom for hours at a time in the evenings, which makes me feel better too. I’m using this paragraph as a little gratitude journal, I guess. I’m grateful for you too, dear reader. Here’s some more stuff about food.

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World’s Best Cake with Extra Strawberries and Whipped Cream. Ok, y’all.  This cake is real silly. It’s a semi-dense, rich cake, which is topped with a layer of meringue, and then baked, so the meringue ends up kind of like the stuff on top of a lemon meringue pie, except it’s on your cake, with the added bonus of a crackly meringue crust too. I liked the recipe because it uses 5 whole eggs, separated, 5 whites for the meringue, 5 yolks for the cake, and you don’t have any left over to figure out what to do with. But 5 yolks makes for a pretty dense cake. It tastes good, but it seems to weird people out (read the comments on the bottom of the linked recipe). Helen said the problem was that they shouldn’t have called it a cake. If you call it a ‘snickerdoodle biscuit’ you’d have a way better label for what you’re serving people and they wouldn’t ask what’s wrong with your cake. Instead of sliced bananas (like the recipe calls for), I used a pound of strawberries. I sliced half of them, and the other (uglier) half, I tossed with about 1/4 cup of sugar and mashed with a potato masher. I let that sit and macerate while I baked and cooled the cake, so it was really syrupy by the time the cake was ready to assemble. I also used double the whipped cream (2 cups), because I wanted cream on top too, not just in the middle. If you’re going to make this cake, have a little faith in the recipe. The cake is made by adding ingredients in a weird order, but it works. The meringue is made by dumping a cup of sugar into the unbeaten egg whites, which makes them take a while to fluff up (usually you’d get the egg whites to soft peaks and then add the sugar- which you could totally do here) but fluff they do. The meringue layer puffs up to a shocking size in the oven but deflates when you pull it out. To sum up, it’s a good, weird cake. Absolutely worth trying for the novelty alone. But it definitely doesn’t live up to the ‘world’s best’ title for me.

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Thai Grilled Chicken with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce, Tom Kha, Thai Cucumber Relish, Rice. The best part of this dinner was unquestionably the tom kha, a Thai coconut soup. I had a little bowl of it at Thai Fresh this winter and it has haunted me ever since- that soup was life changing. I’d had tom kha before but this one was so much better. I loved it so much I took a stab at making it at home the very same week. I used a featured recipe for it on food52, which was ok, but not what I was looking for. Anyway, I didn’t try again for four months, and in that time my brain pieced together that hey, didn’t Thai Fresh have a blog? It did! And couldn’t the very soup you’re lusting after be on that blog? It was! So yeah, tom kha all day every day from here on out. If you haven’t had it, here’s what you’re missing: it’s creamy from coconut milk, savory from chicken stock, spicy from galangal root (find it next to ginger in the produce section) and Thai chilies, sweet from a little bit of palm sugar, sour from lime juice and lemongrass, salty and meaty from fish sauce, and just all the things you could possibly want in your mouth right there for the slurping.

The sole comment on that blog post about tom kha was from some crabby internet troll saying that the recipe was poorly written. Well, it’s not. She neglects to tell you to add the lemongrass along with the bruised shallots and chile, but other than that it’s perfectly navigable and the resulting soup is something I’ll make forever and ever.  I guess I oughta go leave my own comment!

The Thai grilled chicken was good too, but the marinade didn’t really come through for me all that much in the finished bird, especially after you dip it in that chili sauce, which was great. For the cucumber relish, I followed the recipe as written except that I quadrupled the cucumber to make it more like a salad.

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Biscuits and Gravy, Butter-Braised Purple Potatoes. An all brown dinner. The potatoes were purple before I browned the hell out of ’em in a full stick of butter. I did a bad job making those potatoes look appealing, but they are so amazing. Please go look at food52’s photo of them and then make them tomorrow. I’ve done the recipe with sweet potatoes, fingerlings, regular ole yukons, and I’ve delighted in every buttery, herby, citrus-y bite. For the biscuits, whether you follow this recipe or a different one, try heating your oven to 450 degrees and cooking the biscuits at that temperature for 5 minutes, and then lowering the heat to 375 for the remainder of the cooking time (15 minutes or so). The biscuits are more crisp and buttery on the outside, and softer and fluffier on the inside, I swear it. The gravy is basically the gravy I linked to, but with no chiles, because I had none, and made with sausage fat, because I had some.

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Sicilian Tomato Salad. This is one of my very own food52 recipes from way back in the day, and it holds up. It’s a recreation of a salad at Mandola’s, an Italian chain, but a decent one, here in Austin. It’s cool because it’s got tons of fresh cherry tomatoes and briny kalamata olives all tossed in a vinaigrette that has grated pecorino (or parmesan if that’s what you’ve got) mixed in so it coats everything, but then all that is put on a big piece of grilled bread, which soaks up the vinaigrette and tomato juices and just, yes. It’s also got more cheese on top, grated ricotta salata, and when it’s all together it’s a light and satisfying summer dinner that looks really lovely too.

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Mushrooms in Pickle Brine-Butter on Toast, Couscous with Roasted Fennel. I don’t cook with mushrooms very often- I’m still getting over a childhood hatred of them. But I loved the look of these mushrooms on food52, and then a fellow was selling a clamshell of them for $5 at the farmers’ market, so I went for it. I used the brine from my own fermented carrot pickles (which turned out great! eee!), but I couldn’t really taste it in the finished product. Maybe the taste is more discernible with a commercial brine? Or maybe it’s not supposed to be. But either way, these tasted liked crispy mushrooms, which is a fine thing in my book. My adult book. By which I mean not my childhood book. Not some sort of mycological erotica. Do you think that exists? I hope so. Let’s google it together.

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I googled it. If you’ve always really really liked mushrooms you might want to point your browser over this way. Don’t say I never did anything for ya.

I feel we’ve reached an important milestone on this blog.

Hey, that couscous is good too!

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The Best Barbecue Chicken. Does it look to anyone else like I tore the skirt off this sweet lil modest chicken and she’s trying her best to be cool about it? Sorry, chicken.  It’s Serious Eats that’s claiming this is “the best” chicken, not me. I made the Kansas City style barbecue sauce they call for in the recipe, but I didn’t feel like it was that much better than store-bought. Also, it made about 2 1/2 cups and I only used the 1/2 cup for basting the chicken, so now I’ve gotta figure out what to do with 2 cups of barbecue sauce. The rub for the chicken was really great though- the brown sugar, salt, coriander, chile powder, fresh garlic combo is one I’ll use again for sure. The recipe says to use a giant 6-8 lb chicken, and they say not to try it with a smaller chicken. Well I tried it with a smaller chicken (4 lbs) and still had to cook the chicken longer than specified to get it up to temperature, and even then I felt it should’ve gone a bit longer.

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Gluten Free Blackberry Pie. I used this crust recipe, with the added fraissage technique explained here, and this filling recipe, with 5 cups of blackberries and no blueberries, no breadcrumbs, and with cup4cup in place of AP flour. The inside was a little soupy- cup4cup doesn’t have the same juice-thickening power as regular flour, I guess, but tasted really, really good. And the crust was rad. The fraissage makes thin layers of butter in your pie dough, and when baked, they create steam and many layers of flaky pastry, which makes the crust almost like a more substantial puff pastry. These are all good things.

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Birthday Feast for Joanna and Javi. Seemless editing of these three tablescape photos right? Yeah, I use the word tablescape unironically. The gorgeous platters of crudite and other snacks were made by Helen, inspired by a talented crudite platter-maker on instagram. Do you also follow people who put vegetables on plates? It’s one way to pass the time.  In addition to the 4000 snacks my sister brought to the table, I made the barbecue chicken and pie described above, corn on the cob, a simple green salad with the most gorgeous baby mustard greens and arugula from Boggy Creek Farm (these are worth the drive out there, even if you had originally driven out there for corn and blackberries, only to find you’d missed them by a day!), deviled eggs, and a potato salad that I was really happy with. I peeled and boiled yukon golds until tender, drained them, and then sprinkled a liberal amount of champagne vinegar over the still-hot potatoes and let them cool. Then mashed them roughly with a potato masher and tossed them with mayonnaise, dijon mustard, minced red onion, parsley, and lots of salt and pepper. For my taste, this was just what I wanted from a potato salad.

Joanna and Javi are two people who deserve to be celebrated. Their names should be sung from rooftops. They’re both hilarious and cool, and unbelievably generous. Joanna is a social worker who has improved the lives of so many people, most recently her Girl Scouts Beyond Bars troop for kids whose mothers are incarcerated. Javi owns and operates The Austin Kitchen Gardener, in which he uses his prolific knowledge of permaculture and organic gardening to help people grow their own food. He and Joanna devoted days upon days to get our backyard ready for my sister’s wedding, and look what they did!

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This is the best before shot I have, but shows the yard in the middle of the process, after Joanna and Javi helped us load 25,000 pounds of decomposed granite into our backyard. Even so, one does not look at it and think ‘wedding venue!’

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And the after. Yes. Yes.

Anyway, my point for all of this is to say that Joanna and Javi both had birthdays right around the wedding date, and we didn’t get to celebrate them as thoroughly as we ought to have. Which brings me back to dinner! Helen and I both cook as our love language. So for these two amazing people, we had to fill the table. Joanna and Javi, we are so lucky to have you in our lives. Thank you for all that you do. We love you!

Until next week! Enjoy your (probable) first foray into mycophilia!

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8 thoughts on “Crazy Strawberry Cake, Barbecued Chicken, Tom Kha, Biscuits and Gravy, Blackberry Pie

  1. Gangie June 14, 2015 / 10:11 pm

    Delightful

  2. lolakb June 16, 2015 / 1:23 am

    As always, I read your blog and chuckle, smile, laugh, and salivate.

    • lolakb June 16, 2015 / 1:30 am

      And the erotica, read it, weird, but then, mushrooms were featured

      • arielleclementine June 23, 2015 / 2:39 am

        Re: the erotica! I’m so glad someone else has read this thing! After making it through untold paragraphs of inane description, the reader is rewarded with some super hot mushroom action.

    • arielleclementine June 23, 2015 / 2:36 am

      Every blogger should be lucky enough to have a reader like you! 😍😍😍

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