Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dining in Switzerland

This weekend was our big trip to West Virginia. My friends have become rather as excited as I am about the 80 plates experiment, which is extremely gratifying, but adds a layer of enjoyment to it for me! It makes me feel a little bit less like a lunatic (as do the comments from strangers who somehow find me). So we were discussing our plans for the weekend and Amy suggested we do an 80 plates from Switzerland while we were out there. Why? Because we were heading to Helvetia, WV for its annual Swiss Fasnacht celebration. Helvetia is supposed to have a cheese shop and so our plan was to purchase some native Swiss cheese and then make a delicious fondue out of it--we were truly stumped about what type of food the Swiss eat. It seems that Swiss cuisine is heavily influenced by whatever bordering country is closest--Italy, Germany, France. But fondue is most assuredly something the Swiss love.

(FYI: I will post much, much more about my trip to Helvetia in the days to come, please be patient, I want to do it right)

Unfortunately, when we arrived in Helvetia, this is the sight that greeted us as we parked outside the Cheese Haus:

Yup, that sucker was locked up tight. Now, as it turns out, the back wall of the place was hanging wide open with a big hole in it, but Melissa and I figured they'd probably frown on us enacting a cheesebreak, so we elected not to.

On the way back from Fasnacht, I desperately wanted to make a pilgrimage to Kroger. I used to shop at Kroger all the time when I lived in Little Rock, and our nearest Kroger to Fredericksburg is in Charlottesville, so it's not worth the ride. But we decided to head over there on our way back so I could purchase whatever we couldn't get in Helvetia, which turned out to be everything. We were discussing how to know what the heck we should buy--I had left my fondue cookbook back at the cabin. But then I realized that I had purchased a Helvetian cookbook at the local general store! I looked in there and there was an authentic recipe in the book! SCORE! I brought it into the store with me.

Kroger obliged with a mighty expensive emmenthaler ($10 for a half pound!? OUCH!), some Jarlsberg cheese (which Melissa assures me is Swiss, but I have since discovered is from Norway--so there, Melissa! :-D), white wine (due to the expense of the cheese, I went with a less expensive wine--not knowing anything about wine made me not question this purchase one bit), corn starch and nutmeg. One of the things I dislike most about this project is that I buy all these things I need very little of and then I've got it stuck in my cabinets. Well, at home I had TONS of corn starch, but I didn't have it in WV, so I was forced to buy more. I wound up leaving it out there--if I need any, I have a big container of it here at home already. Maybe Amy or Annette will want to take it home as a memento!

We also bought veggies and bread. Melissa and I split the cost of the 'entree fondue' and Amy purchased the goods for chocolate fondue, our dessert choice! She was in charge of making that, while I was in charge of the cheese. Mmmm, I had a feeling we were going to eat good.

It was going to be a challenge to cook in a different kitchen than my own, not knowing what kind of gear I would have available to me. Amy and I discussed fondue pots and she ordered one for the chocolate fondue. I decided to bring my grandma's crockpot, because it gets quite warm and I've used it with good results for fondue before. Unfortunately, Amy's fondue pot did not arrive on time! She decided to microwave the chocolate fondue. We were fortunate to find a corkscrew to open the wine, but there was no cheese grater and the supply of measuring cups was limited.

Consequently, I knew I'd have to chop up the cheese with a knife instead of grating it. I wanted it to be fairly small and thus easier to melt. It took just a little while to chop it all up pretty nicely, so I didn't need the grater after all!! In fact, I wondered if it might not have taken me longer to grate than it did to chop.

I turned on the crockpot base--my grandmother's crockpot is awesome in that the top of it comes off leaving just a burner underneath that can heat up rather nicely. The first instructions were to rub a clove of garlic all over the inside of the fondue pot. The garlic wasn't broken up or crushed or anything, so I decided to go by smell. When the pot smelled good, I stopped. I rubbed it all over for a good few minutes, though, to make it nice and garlicky and we all agreed it was smelling so good!

Once that was done, I put the pot back on the base and added the wine. And waited. And waited. And waited. Unfortunately it was not really heating the wine to a point that I felt it'd be able to melt the cheese at any point even close to being 'reasonable'. I took the pot off the base and stuck it on a stove burner and jacked up the heat. Soon, it was steaming away and I added the cheese! Mmmmm, the cheese melted down beautifully.

It was quite runny, however. But this was quickly remedied by the fact that there was cornstarch and nutmeg to be added!

I stirred that all in and it thickened into a luscious, beautiful pot of bubbling cheese. It smelled so good and was hard not to dive right in and swim in it! But first, we gals needed a group photo of ourselves preparing to dine on fondue, as well as one of our beautiful table laid out with yummies!

I can't say enough about this simple recipe for fondue. Honestly, it was probably the best cheese fondue I've ever eaten--and I'm including the fondue from the Melting Pot in that assessment. I LOVED this fondue--and this is coming from someone who does not like cheese very much. We were scraping the bottom of the pot, trying to get every last delicious mouthful of cheesy goodness.

The cheese was wonderfully stringy, but smooth and wonderful and clung to our crudites and bready beautifully. The hint of nutmeg was fantastic. I was truly sad to see it end. We sat snacking on the veggies long after the cheese was gone, so it felt a wee bit healthy. While we were polishing off the veggies, Amy moved onto preparing the chocolate fondue. She did a simple fondue using just chocolate and heavy cream.

For dippers, we had strawberries, marshmallows, and angel food cake, and Amy, Annette, and Melissa also enjoyed bananas. Melissa especially enjoyed the bananas.

We ran out of cake before we ran out of chocolate. The strawberries and marshamallows fared better, but we did our best. The chocolate was great and it was fun to have a co-chef in the kitchen! What fun, not only for the trip, but for 80 Plates! We'll have to do it again sometime, ladies!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Trip to the Orient

Monday night, it was time to knock off another couple of countries. I changed Israel's blintzes to cover Ukraine. In hearing from a couple of people, it was suggested blintzes are Eastern European and my own independent research suggests Russia and Ukraine are where blintzes are heavily consumed. I didn't want to toss Russia away on blintzes--I want to learn to make a really good beef stroganoff--so although I haven't changed the post except for the title, blintzes are now Ukraine.

Anyway, I hadn't done 80 plates in almost a week, and if I am going to get through this project, that's not gonna fly. So I was at Borders the other week and found a cookbook, The Essential Asian Cookbook, for a whopping $5, so I picked it up. It's kind of exciting because the book contains recipes from a number of smaller countries and "weird" countries, like Pakistan and Singapore, where you might have a hard time finding good recipes. So I'm excited about this book for that reason too! Because we had people here to help with the baby's room, it seems like a good time to make the 80 plates meals--we always have waaaaaaaaaaaay too many leftovers and can never eat them all, which is kind of disheartening to throw away food like that. So if anyone's starving and has a country request, please plan to come to Fredericksburg for dinner. Seriously.

Also, Manda, if you're out there, do you still want these ham hocks? They've been in my fridge, but they don't seem like the type of thing to go bad. I've got 'em if you want 'em. Cindy, I don't have your email address to send you the beef wellington recipe, so I'm going to send it to you this week via Facebook.

Ok, so we read through the new cookbook and looked through the freezer at things that we needed to get rid of. There was a pork tenderloin in there, so we chose to do China and make Pork with Plum Sauce as well as stir fry vegetables. I wanted to make something from another country, so we selected Japan and as a dish, chicken teriyaki. This allowed us a couple main dishes and some veggies, plus lots of food for hungry builders. I was also going to make shrimp toast, but I just got to feeling like it was all too much and I'd never really attempted making 3 dishes before, much less 4 of them, so the shrimp toast got put to the side.

Unfortunately, we got so stinkin' busy, I didn't get the brown rice into the steamer till nearly 6:00, which meant that dinner wasn't really going to be ready till 8:00. I would have prefered white rice, but we didn't have any and it's not WW approved. So I let the brown rice cook. Besides, Lucas was taking a nap, Judy was doing something on the computer and I had Dottie's undivided attention, which I didn't mind at all.

Alas, an hour elapsed and I decided I'd better get cracking on dinner. I decided to do the pork and veggies first and then do the chicken second. But you know me, timing is not my thing and I should have done exactly the opposite. The chicken took twice as long to cook--less time to prep but more in the pan time.

Overall, however, these dishes were an absolute snap compared to the foods I've been preparing--the ease with which they were done was a real breath of fresh air. We're talking 15 minutes prep, 15 minutes to cook, and we're done. So let's hear it for Chinese cooking!

So, I did the veggies first. As you can see from the picture of my assembled ingredients, I did have shiitake mushrooms, but due to a food allergy, I was obliged to leave them out. Otherwise, the directions were quite simple: chop up veggies, fry them in a little oil, add some chicken broth, corn starch and sauces, and voila! Only, I suppose I was feeling over confident. And I did it wrong.

As I chopped each vegetable, I put it in a bowl. When I was done, I mixed them all together--I liked the color of them and how they all looked so nice together. Plus, it's not often I get to cook with fresh green beans, so I was enjoying that.

But once I did this, I read, "Fry carrots first, then add remaining vegetables." And I was going to be damned if I was going to pick out all those little carrots that I'd so thinly and lovingly sliced up. So I just threw them all in together. Basically, it was carrots, red pepper, and green beans. I heated the oil and put in some garlic, which I let soften and then I fried the veggies for 2 minutes or so, before it was time to make the sauce.

The sauce was comprised of a little bit of cornstarch dissolved into some chicken broth, to which was added a little bit of superfine sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce. I mixed it all up and poured it over the veggies, letting it cook down a bit and thicken up to a nice sauce. It smelled so great that I had a feeling it was going to be a homerun. Of course the recipe said, "Serve immediately" but that was impossible due to the fact that the rest of dinner was not even close to ready. So I clamped a lid on the pot and threw it in the oven to wait it out.

One of the reasons I have trouble with cooking more than one thing at a time is that my work space is approximately 3 feet square. The ingredients pictures I take are taken on what amounts to all the counterspace I have for cooking. The area to the left past the kitchen sink is taken up by the mixer, canisters, coffee pot, and to the right past the stove is where I set up my electric frying pan, which is often in use for these recipes. If I'm not using the stove top, I'll put the electric frying pan on the stove and give myself a little more room to work. Otherwise, space is at an ultimate premium.

Anyway, I digress. Time to make the pork! Another lightning fast recipe, this one involving pork tenderloin. (I was in such a rush, the ingredient photo is blurry--SORRY! Man, that pisses me off.) Anyway, the basic gist of this one is that you fry up some onions and garlic, slice up some pork tenderloin, fry it up, put it and the onions together in the pot, and put some sauce on it. The longest part of making this was frying the pork.

I dredged the pork in a little bit of cornstarch--the recipe called for something called 'corn flour', which I hope is what cornstarch is because that's what I used. The sole mistake I made in this recipe was that I fried the onions in garlic in the full amount of oil called for the whole dish, as opposed to the one tablespoon. However, I was able to salvage the oil when I drained off the onions and not have to use more.

Before and after shots of the beautiful pork

The last picture there shows the pork in the sauce, which I made by just mixing together hoisin sauce, plum sauce, a little bit of sugar, and some soy sauce, and pouring it over the pork and letting it thicken.

It was at this point, I was starting to notice a disturbing side effect of working with all this hot oil, which is that my kitchen was beginning to look as if it had been at the Exxon Valdez spill site. There was oil EVERYWHERE. I need to get one of those spatter guards. It was crazy. My new cookbook--thank God I only paid $5 for it--it's totally wrecked with oil. If you look at the next picture, you'll see it everywhere.

On to Japan and the chicken! I put the pork in the oven with the veggies and turned my attention to the Japanese section of the cookbook. We had decided to make chicken teriyaki from Japan. I would have been willing to be a bit more adventurous with something like udon soup, which I know my friend Joe LOVES and it'd be nice to know how to make it for him, or something else, but in fairness, I also have to cook for my audience, and my audience declared chicken teriyaki the most acceptable of the recipes from Japan, so that's what we decided to have. The recipe, again, was super simple--a minimum of ingredients and a minimum of fuss, but this time there was about 40 minutes of actual cooking. Consequently, we decided to have a "chicken course" later--i.e. I would dish up the Chinese food as soon as I got the chicken cooking.

It was time to make the sauce for the chicken. The sauce called for soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Basically, you boil it until the sugar breaks down and it gets a bit thick and then pour it over the chicken, which you have fried up in (what else?) oil. I decided to use the superfine sugar since I already had it out and it seemed like it would not be as grainy, even though it was supposed to melt anyway. I cooked it all down and whisked the heck out of it with my whisk, and it was done!

Meanwhile, I'd been frying up some chicken drumsticks. Now, here again is where we are going to have to start taking creative license with these recipes. None of us likes chicken with skin and bones on/in it. However, I wanted to stay true to the recipe, so I used drumsticks. I think I'm going to have to start sticking with boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Just my thoughts on the matter. Because we've just gotten so used to eating chicken that way that to eat otherwise is unappealing to all of us.

Anyway, I fried up the chicken legs and poured the sauce over them. Then I clamped the lid on the pan and let it simmer for 20 minutes while we ate. It was time to call the troops to dinner and get ready to eat!

Up first was pork with plum sauce, stir fried vegetables, and brown rice. Everything smelled great, so I was definitely hopeful that we would have a great meal. I had inadvertantly forgotten to make the ever present mashed potatoes however! The General really wanted mashed potatoes, so I jumped up and put them on the stove to cook before we got down to business and ate. Fortunately those little instant mashed potatoes cook up pretty quick, but I wasn't waiting before we ate. He'd just have to get his potatoes in a bit. Of course we had to photograph the ceremonial first bite. The General declared it "Good". Then he made a terrible face and said, "This is the face he makes when he likes something!" So I took a picture of that face and here it is:

Then it was time for the rest of us to have a plate and dig in! I am not exagerrating in the least when I say that we were very nearly licking the plate that the pork was on. It was so freaking good. We ate all the onions, we ate the pork, we scraped the sauce onto the rice. It's a shame that tenderloin was only 1 pound, we could very easily have eaten twice that much. The veggies were excellent too, but the pork was a total homerun. We will definitely be incorporating that into our regular menus, no doubt about it.

By the time we'd finished, the chicken was done. It smelled really good, but when we actually ate it, it didn't taste like anything all that special--just tasted like chicken. It was unfair to eat it after we'd devoured the pork so voraciously and it was so flavorful. I got a little of the teriyaki sauce from the pan and poured it over the chicken and it helped, but it was such an anemic flavor compared to the pork, that it was not something we ate. We each picked at a leg, gazing longingly at the now-empty pork plate, and then gave up. I cunningly packed all the legs into a to go box for them to take home. Mwahahaha

So that was our most recent trip around the orient, bringing our total countries to 11. We are now more than 13% done with our quest to travel the world, and by and large, it's gone very, very well. We've both tried new things and made old things a new way, and it's been a lot of fun! We have a request in for Trinidad, which I am researching and this weekend we will hit SWITZERLAND! Wahooo! I also got a pile of actual recipes from Israel, so I'm trying to decide which one of them to prepare. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

80 Plates: Rule Brittania!

So this weekend's two countries, as stated, were Israel and England. I have since discovered that my dish from Israel wasn't so much Israeli as it was Jewish, so I think I'm going to have to have a do-over of Israel. As for England, it represented a true success and a true failure, the failure of which was a bit disheartening as I am a real tried and true daughter of England. And there is a recipe that has always been one that I have always thought I would very much like to try, but never have: beef wellington. I am a devotee of puff pastry, and I figured you wrap it around some beef and voila. Oh no. No, no, no. It's not that easy.

I decided I was going to try Paul Burrell's recipe from his book In the Royal Manner. Burrell for many years was Princess Diana's butler and is vilified for being a total sell out after her death. I have 2 copies of this particular book, one of which is autographed and I keep under wraps. I pulled out the other copy, but I noted with some disdain that the recipe was for mini beef wellingtons, and quite frankly, I wanted to go whole hog and make a big one, and also that it called for foie gras.

Ok, well, I did not know this about beef wellington. So I quickly defected from Mr. Burrell and went to Darren McGrady's book Eating Royally. McGrady, you will recall from my review of this book last year, was Diana's personal chef and also a chef for the entire royal family during his career before moving to the US. He had a recipe for a big beef wellington, but also his called for foie gras.

Crap. Well, that was not going to happen. Although I can actually get foie gras at my local supermarket, I have some issues with forcefeeding ducks until they die just so they have plump livers. Yes, you can make the argument that the cow was probably unhappy to face its end so unceremoniously, but at least it wasn't forcefed with a metal tube that could have punctured its esophagus. Still, I decided to put it to a vote--if the General wanted to try it, then I'd buy some and put it in there. But I wasn't going to like it. The conversation went a bit something like this:

Me: Darling, what's your opinion on having foie gras with dinner?
Him: Foie gras? Don't believe I know the chap.
Me: Oh, you know darling, foie gras. It's made of duck liver or sommat...
Him: Go on. Pull the other one then.
Me: No, truly.
Him: Well, if it's all the same to you, I mean...
Me: Right-o, darling.

Well, if we lived in England, that could have happened. What actually happened was:

Me: Honey, the beef wellington has foie gras in it.
Him: What the hell is foie gras?
Me: Duck liver pate.
Him: Like hell it is.
Me: Seriously.
Him: I'm not eating that.
Me: Yeah, me either.

And thus the matter was decided.

Everything else I was completely faithful to.

Sunday morning, I headed out for my supply procurement expedition. I hit Giant first, by virtue of the fact that it is closest. And then I nearly had a heart attack.

I needed 3 pounds of center cut beef tenderloin. Giant's price!? $14.99 per pound.

"Go on. Pull the other one then."

Seriously!? You have to be the Queen of England to afford $45 dollars for beef for one freakin' meal! This is a week when we needed very few groceries, fortunately, but I can assure you, there's no way I'm spending $45 on some beef. I don't care if that was the happiest cow on the planet before he surrendered to his fate. Sorry.

I looked around desperately for other options. Of course, as you well know by now, I know absolutely nothing about cuts of beef. And nothing appeared even remotely do-able. So I went home to think about it. My dad called. He suggested I should get a boneless prime rib. The General and I pondered the matter over breakfast and the Sunday paper. We were looking at the ads for Best Buy, as he needs a new monitor (that's another story in itself), and we decided to go over to Central Park. I figured I could try Shoppers for the beef while we were there. I also needed a souffle dish for the pudding. (more on that later as well)

Although my dad was skeptical that Shoppers might come through ("Really, Cheese, they specialize in very cheap cuts of meat"), I was undeterred, and Shoppers proved my faithfulness was well placed. I got 2 1/3 pounds of beef tenderloin for about $20. I have no idea if it was center cut or not, but the savings made me very happy. After a quick stop at Target, where I used the money I saved on a souffle dish by Corningware, It was time to go home and cook.

On one of the pages near to Beef Wellington in Eating Royally was a recipe for Andrassy Pudding. A chocolate souffle topped by a rich chocolate frosting, I thought this would be a great way to add a dessert into the mix--I don't believe we have done a dessert yet. I have always wanted to learn to make a souffle, and the directions in the book assured that this was a good one to start with, as if it falls, it's fine, you're going to let it fall anyway. Perfect, I figured! So, I decided to make that first, since baking was involved and I knew I would need the oven later for the beef. The ingredient list was pretty simple: butter, sugar, flour, cocoa, cream, milk, and lots and lots of eggs. I combined the dry ingredients--sugar, flour, and cocoa--and added them to a half stick of melted butter in a sauce pan, where they promptly formed a muddy paste.

However, the next step was to whisk in some milk, which made everything go nice and smoothly. It turned into a lovely smelling, smooth mixture, a lot like I suppose hot chocolate might be like if it had flour in it. Per the directions, I took it off the heat and poured it into a bowl to cool while I beat some egg whites into stiff peaked submission. And, if I may, I'd just like to take a chance to re-iterate how much I love my mixer. It's one amazing piece of machinery. It took no time to whip egg whites.

So that done, it was time to butter the living hell out of the souffle dish, which I enjoyed. Normally I don't like getting my hands greasy, but I was feeling optimistic about this souffle, so I enjoyed it very much. Then, I began to carefully fold everything together, and then poured it into the dish.

I baked it up and voila! I MADE SOUFFLE!!!!!!!!! It puffed up beautifully, cracked a bit on top! I was stoked! Not only had I conquered crepes, I conquered souffle, and I did it all in one day!

Per the directions again, I let it cool a bit and then slid a knife around the outside and then flipped it onto a cooling rack to fully cool. That it did not fall apart, I took to be a very good sign. But it was at this time I realized I was running dangerously short on eggs. Remember in an earlier episode when I stated there are certain things we just don't keep around the house because we don't tend to use them very often? Well, eggs is one of those things. However, the souffle part of the pudding called for a full dozen of them, which fortunately I had the foresight to purchase, and the beef needed some too, as did the 'frosting' part of the pudding. When I began this day, I had 17 eggs in my fridge. By the end of the day, I had zero, and I had used up my egg beaters too!!

However, this was to be the last good news on this pudding, which went on to turn into my first kitchen failure. However, my good friends Elizabeth and Jacalyn/Lady Ozma have informed me that I really should report on my failures as well as my successes, and so, despite my desperate need for all of you to think I am the perfect chef, I am going to report on the full treachery of this pudding. Later.

But isn't she a beauty?

For now, it was time to turn my attention back to the beef. I gathered up all my ingredients again and laid them out. The first thing I had to do was to make a paste out of a pound of portabella mushrooms. Knowing that they would be turned into a paste, I decided to get baby bellas, which I cleaned and then naively crammed into the food processor.

Note to self: the food processor is a powerful tool capable of annihilating many ingredients. It was not, however, designed to do a full pound of mushrooms all at once. So basically, after letting it run a good 4 minutes, I wound up with paste on the bottom and whole mushrooms on top. I had to pull the whole thing apart, scoop out the paste, slice up the mushrooms so that more would fit in near the blades, run it again, scoop out more paste, cram in more mushrooms, and so on until they were a nice mushy paste. Also, it should be noted that the feed chute for your food processor was not really designed to stick the handle of a spatula down to "try and stir things up a bit". There is a high probability that the food processor will not like this.

Isn't the color of the paste beautifully rich?

Then I hacked up some onions and sauteed them in more butter. When this was completed, I added the mushroom paste and let the whole thing cook until "the mushrooms release their liquid and the pan runs relatively dry."

This seemed like it would take a while, so I decided to turn my attention to the beef. If I'm being perfectly honest, I'm not that crazy about how raw beef smells, and also thinking about those poor little ducks got me to thinking about the poor little cow, and I got a little teary eyed over this tenderloin, which is not a happy looking piece of meat. I mixed up a spice rub of dry mustard, celery seed, and salt and fresh ground pepper and rubbed that beef down, giving it a final massage on its journey to becoming food. Then I put it into the only frying pan I had that was even remotely large enough to handle the task of searing the whole thing, which was my electric frying pan.

Yeah, for a cut of beef, it looks kind of hideous

While it may not have looked too pretty, I will say, the smell of it was FANTASTIC. The General came downstairs, stood in the doorway of the kitchen and just inhaled. We both did. It smelled amazing.

Ok, so then it was time to turn my attention back to the mushrooms, which I figured were in pretty good shape by now. I added some heavy cream to them, along with some Worcestershire sauce, and let them cook up a bit more while I rolled out the puff pastry into what I hoped was a large enough rectangle to cover this whole thing.

After that, the hard part was done, if you can call it hard. It really wasn't that challenging. There was a lot to do, but not anything difficult. I had the pastry on the counter, and then smeared it with the mushroom and onion mixture. Then I put the beef on top of the mushrooms and brushed the edges of the pastry with the egg beaters.

After that was completed, all that was left was to basically folded the pastry up, over, and around the beef and kind of seal it, and then brush it with more egg. Then I put it in the oven and finished cleaning up the dishes while preparing the rest of the side dishes. In this case, I acquiesced to the General's demands for mashed potatoes and I added a side of peas.

I decided to bake the beef on a piece of parchment paper, figuring that it would a) be less likely to stick, b) be easier to clean up, and c) make it easier to lift and transfer the beef from the pan to the cutting surface. It turned out I was correct on all accounts, and I highly recommend doing this if you don't have one of those lovely little silicon mats, which I don't. The beef looked glorious when I removed it from the oven. There was some moisture in the bottom of the pan, which I took to mean that I probably had not let the mushrooms cook up enough to really get good and dry, something I would do if I make this again in the future.

It was time to dish up and eat! I decided to get a little bit creative with my mashed potatoes and my Pampered Chef scoop, in honor of the Pampered Chef party last night, and I made a little daisy out of my mashed potatoes. Oh c'mon, you love it! The General just got a mound of potatoes, but I got a flower. It also made my meager serving of potatoes seem like more than they were, which is always a good thing. I expect mashed potato daisies to be all the rage in haute cuisine in the very near future. The beef sliced up beautifully--it was so tender. I cut off the two ends, as they contained only mushrooms and pastry, but I'll be quite honest--I ate the end later and it was amazing. The only thing I thought was that it was a bit salty, which was when I discovered I had used celery salt, not celery seed as I thought I had done. So read those labels carefully when buying this stuff at the store!

I asked The General to give me a thumbs up after he assured me that he liked it, so here he is giving the dish a positive review while not pausing to pose. He wanted to eat, damn it!

After supper, we cleaned up and the General requested that I put some beef in his lunch for the next day. Mind you, this beef was LOADED with mushrooms and onions. There is hope for picky eaters yet!

Ok, so I cleaned up everything and then it was time to turn my attention to the frosting for the pudding. I had actually made it earlier in the day, combining more flour, cocoa, and sugar with heavy cream, butter, and eggs. It was supposed to sit, so I wasn't too concerned with the fact that it seemed very, very soupy. However, as I returned to it at 8:00 that evening, it was still very, very soupy. I decided to make up some whipped cream, as the recipe said it should be served with whipped cream, so while my mixer was quickly making delicious clouds of cream, I debated the problem with the 'frosting soup'. Clearly, I had forgotten to put something in. I re-read the ingredient list and could not find a single thing I had missed. I went through it line by line and nothing seemed amiss.

I sliced up the souffle, and I was supposed to spread the frosting on the cut part. But there was no way it was going to spread. Honestly, it would have soaked right through. I was also left with another problem: the souffle, when sliced, was falling apart. It was very, very moist in the middle--not underdone, but just very moist--and when I pulled off the top half, it broke. I managed to sort of push it back together on the cooling rack, but this was devolving rapidly.

Ultimately, I decided that what I should do was to fold the chocolate mixture in with the whipped cream. Unfortunately, it was so thin that it really turned the whipped cream into soup too. But even more unpleasantly, some of the cream refused to give in and formed little clumps in the overall mess, so I had a kind of chunky tan mass. But there really wasn't anything to do with it, so I decided to just put it on the souffle and hope for the best. I poured some of it onto the bottom layer, and as you can see, it started to run out all over the place. After this picture was taken, it made a break for the counters even.

In for a penny, in for a pound, so I then picked up the entire cooling rack, said a prayer, and flipped. Well, when a fairly heavy substance hits a fairly soupy substance, you can imagine one result and one result only: splatter. I didn't get a picture of it, but there was soup in the toaster. Ugh. I was getting kind of upset now. I had been looking forward to this chocolate fantasticness for some time, and it was rapidly turning into something horrible. The cake was falling apart, the sauce was going everywhere. Ugh. I poured the rest of the cream over it and quickly snapped a picture, then called the General.

I mean seriously, could it look worse?

We 'cut' into it with a spoon and scooped out a couple of servings. And I have to say, despite its spectacular failure, it tasted delicious. It was chocolately and sweet without being too sweet or too rich. It really was an amazing dessert and I think I will try making it again without messing up the frosting this time! Because, you see, it occurred to me in the middle of the night that what I'd done wrong was to put in 1/4 cup of flour and not 1 1/4 cups of flour. And that clearly made all the difference.

Sadly, we had to put the rest of it down the disposal. While we were eating, it just literally fall apart and went everywhere. I've never had such a chocolatey mess to clean up!

I have lots more recipes to try from this book, but these are the two I'll count from England! Great success and great failure, but everything tasted great, as usual. And if Mikey likes it...