This past Sunday, January 16th, 2011 was my birthday. I have a feeling you may already know this since I was overwhelmed with the number of the wonderful friends out there that either called, texted, Facebook”ed” or tweeted me this weekend to wish me a Happy Birthday and for that I thank you.
I had never thought of making my own birthday cake until recently. With this upcoming year being one that could go any number of ways for me, I was excited at the opportunity to set up the perfect conditions for my birthday candles. You see, I’m slightly superstitious so I wanted to make sure that my candles were in the perfect environment for when I were to make my wish and blow them out. And I couldn’t think of a better environment than a Double Chocolate Cheesecake.
As for the card, since it says “Son" at the top, you would be correct if you said it came from my parents! I think those three thoughts, “Celebrate, Honor, Take Joy” sum up much of what life is all about, so I thought it was appropriate to shoot the cake with the card.
There is just something so comforting and decadent about cheesecake. I also happen to like some crunch to my cake, so when I stumbled upon Anna Olson’s Double Chocolate Cheesecake, I know I found the right one. As you can see, the cheesecake portion is chocolate and the bottom brownie layer is also chocolate with some white chocolate thrown in for fun since calories don’t count on birthdays…
Confession time. I got to challenge myself on this project. I’ve never made a cheesecake of any type and I’ve never used a springform cake pan. Yes, I know, I’m showing my newbie baking status by admitting to that but I’m proud to say I’ve conquered both now. And whoever invented the springform cake pan is brilliant!
As for the wish, it’s a really good one, but it has to stay a secret for it to come true. I’m superstitious, remember?
Double Chocolate Cheesecake (From Anna Olson’s Sugar on the Food Network)
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 2×8 ounce (250 g) packages of cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
- 2 ounces white chocolate, melted
- For brownie layer, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch springform cake pan and line bottom and sides with parchment paper.
- Melt butter and pour into a larger bowl. Sift cocoa into butter and stir in sugar. Add eggs to mixture, blending well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt (do not sift). Add to cocoa mixture and blend. Stir in white chocolate chips. Pour into pan and bake for 35 minutes, until firm. Cool completely before filling.
- For cheesecake layer, place chopped chocolate in a bowl of a pot of gently simmering water (be sure bowl does not touch the water) and stir to melt. Remove from heat. Beat cream cheese until fluffy with electric beaters or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on high speed. Slowly add sugar while mixing and beat in vanilla. Pour in whipping cream and whip into cream cheese on high speed, until mixture becomes firm and holds a peak. Scrape chocolate into mixture and blend quickly. Scrape filling onto brownie base and spread evenly.
- Chill cake for at lest 2 hours before slicing. To garnish, remove springform pan and drizzle top with white chocolate.
Have you ever been to a restaurant and had a meal so good that you had to try and replicate it at home? Well, if you caught my experience in Lyon, you know I had to try making “poulet en vinaigre” (chicken in vinegar) for myself.
I found a recipe on the Food Network site compliments of Emeril that seemed to be identical to what I had and even though it was listed as an “intermediate level” recipe, I gave it a go. Luckily, some friends of mine in Vancouver were willing to be the guinea pigs for my project. I was overall pretty happy with the result and I got a thumbs up from my friends and I’m pretty sure they were telling the truth, since they ate the leftover chicken the next day!
Chicken in Vinegar (Poulet en vinaigre)
From Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network
A quick side note, I tried to take pictures along the way as I was cooking, but I needed all my attention devoted to the task at hand, maybe next time!)
Chicken in vinegar - Lyon Style
- 1 free-range chicken or fryer, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds, cut into 8 pieces, rinsed and patted dry
- (I’m not ready to cut a raw chicken properly, so I went with 3 chicken thighs and 6 drumsticks)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1 cup good-quality white wine vinegar
- 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, about 1 cup
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream (I used heavy cream)
- Chopped parsley, garnish
- Season the chicken evenly on both sides with the salt and pepper.
- In a large Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken and garlic cloves and cook until the chicken is well browned, turning once, about 8 to 10 minutes per side.
- Add the vinegar and stir to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium.
- Cook until the chicken is tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a warmed platter and cover to keep warm.
- Add the chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits that cling to the sides or bottom of the pan.
- Cook until the sauce is reduced by 1/3 in volume, about 10 minutes.
- Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and return to the pan, discarding the solids.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the remaining butter, a piece at a time, whisking constantly until all the butter has been added and the sauce is smooth and thick. Do not allow the sauce to boil and remove from the heat as necessary to prevent from breaking.
- Add the creme fraiche and whisk to combine. Adjust the seasoning to taste. (I forgot to add the heavy cream at this point and remembered it only after I had plated the chicken, so I poured a little bit in to each plate. Not exactly as Emeril would do, but it seemed to be ok)
- Ladle the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the parsley. (I was so excited that I had finished the dish, I totally forgot to garnish with the parsley!)
The broth is perfect for dipping, so make sure a really good baguette or loaf of crispy bread is nearby for dipping and soaking.
We’re all busy and it’s easy to get caught up in life. We usually don’t mean for work or whatever to take over our lives, but somehow it just happens and you lose sight of the simple things in life that make you happy. I felt this way the other night, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t found the time to blog lately, even though I kept thinking about it and wanting to do it. So with that in mind, I went to the grocery store wanting to cook and treat myself to something and as I was walking by the meat counter, I was caught by some meaty looking short beef ribs.
Needless to say I picked them up and rushed them home with the excitement of a yet to be created marinade being tossed around in my head. Once I got home, there was no measuring, just a free for all of sauces being married together that turned into Ethan’s Sweet & Salty Kicked Ribs. It turned out fantastic and I can’t wait to try this with fish and tofu as well!
Ethan's Sweet and Salty Kicked Ribs
- Carolina Honeys BBQ Sauce (I happened to have Tony Roma’s BBQ sauce in the fridge)
- Banana Ketchup (A Filipino condiment that is sweeter than the ketchup were accustomed to)
- Thai Garlic Chili Sauce
After letting it marinate for an hour or so, I heated up a pan with some oil and got it nice and hot and simply cooked them evenly on both sides. They tend to be pretty thin, so it didn’t take more than 4-5 minutes per side. I did cheat and make a little cut in the middle to check the color before removing it off the heat (I like it right at Medium). Once I took it them out of the pan, I let them rest for a few minutes with a tent of aluminum foil. If the chefs on the Food Network have taught me anything, it has been to let the meat rest and let the juices redistribute and settle before slicing and serving, if not, the juices will run out and it will be very dry.
Today wasn’t about cooking or a homemade sauce, it was about taking a moment and relaxing and doing something you enjoy and makes you happy.