Friday, May 15, 2009

Gimme Some Dulce

I'm sitting at the kitchen table eating Near East lentil pilaf for lunch and waiting for my shortbread dough to chill enough for baking. Might as well catch up on posting recipes from last weekend. Friday noon, I prepped some ribs with dry rub and stuck them in the fridge to do their thing. Then, I got started on a knock-your-socks-off dulce de leche cheesecake from Rachael Ray Magazine, the recipe for which can be found here: . Since I'm a relative cheesecake novice, I followed the recipe almost to the letter. I chose to use full-fat cream cheese and I used Marzetti's caramel apple dip for the caramel that actually goes into the cheesecake, since I didn't have the homemade dulce de leche made yet. It turned out fine. However, I strongly urge you to make homemade dulce de leche sometime. It's what I used for the topping and it's really delicious served with fresh blackberries, too, as a dessert all its own. I picked up that idea from one of my favorite restaurants, El Meson in West Carrollton, Ohio. Their website is and if you're in the Dayton area, you really must go. Homemade dulce de leche is simple. Peel the label off a can of sweetened condensed milk, cover it with water in a deep pot, bring it to a boil. Then, continue to boil it for a couple hours, adding water as necessary to keep it covered. Remove the can from the water with tongs and allow it to reach room temperature. If you try to open it before it cools, as I did the first time I made it, caramel will shoot across the room!

I try to make meals I know the boys will like on Friday nights when they arrive and they love ribs. J usually does them on the grill with BBQ sauce. I thought it would be fun to try a dry rub and bake them, since I am not a grilling girl. I got 4 pounds of baby back ribs at Trader Joe's. Here's what I mixed together to rub on them:
1 tbsp. chile powder
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. orange zest
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Generous 3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne

I let them chill for about 6 hours and then baked them in a preheated 400 degree oven for a little over an hour. They turned out great!

Sunday, it was just me and the wife, so I could go back to "weird" spices. I made a Moroccan-inspired spice coating for some chicken breasts by mixing the following:
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tbsp. flour

I dredged the chicken pieces (skinless, boneless) in the mixture and sauteed them in a little olive oil until they were cooked through. I made a pot of rice to go with these, along with a salad and one of spring's most precious treats, fried morels. I'd found a nice big plate of them at the farmer's market. I know J thought I was nuts to pay $25 for them, until she saw a guy further along selling two big ones for the same price. Since I don't have a morel spot here in Cleveland yet (although I have since found 3 huge ones growing in my side yard!), nor did I have a chance to visit my mom's or grandparents' woods this spring, I was willing to do what it took to have a taste of these scrumptious delights. I wish now that I'd allowed myself to spring for a bag of fiddleheads, too. Mmm, mmm! Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, the only way to eat morels is the way my grandmom & mom made them. Slice them in half and soak in heavily salted water to cover for 24 hours. Drain well & pat dry. Dip in a beaten egg, then dredge in Saltine cracker crumbs. Fry in butter until golden, then drain on paper towels. Eat all & wish you had more. Eye your wife's plate jealously because she hasn't yet finished hers. Graciously decline her offer of a few extra. Spend the rest of the evening kicking yourself for being so nice.

By the way, the chocolate orange shortbread I'm making goes like this:
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla (I make my own by scraping a couple-few vanilla beans into a small bottle of vodka, tossing the beans in and letting it sit for at least 2 weeks before using)
2 1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. sugar
Zest of two oranges
2 sticks cold butter, cut into small bits
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Beat egg with vanilla. Mix the flour, soda, salt, sugars and orange zest. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 forks. Add egg mixture and mix until it forms a ball (I like my stand mixer for this part). Knead in chocolate by hand. Shape into a 16" long log and roll in wax paper, twisting the ends to seal. Chill 2 hours. Roll the logs to smooth out the surface. Chill another 4-6 hours. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Slice log into half-inch rounds. Bake 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets for 16 minutes. Makes 42.

J just called and found out about the shortbread, then commenced begging me to let her have it all rather than taking it to the discussion group tonight! Do I make a back-up dessert?

Oh, by the way, if you haven't yet read Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton, go buy it now! It is fantastic! I just finished it last night and found myself dreading the end of the book as I got closer. I even read it while I was pumping gas. You can find out more about it & read the first 3 chapters here:

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