St. Paul Sandwich

St. Paul Sandwich

St. Paul Sandwich

 

People are usually better in the abstract.

It’s a line from “Orange is the new black” and one that stuck with me because it’s spot on, especially concerning my online dating exploits.

I’m concluding my sandwich series with one that I’ve been anticipating making for over a year – the low-brow St. Paul Sandwich. Called the St. Paul, but created in St. Louis, and not even available in St. Paul (go figure), it a piping-hot egg foo young patty (how 1960’s!) with lettuce, tomato, zingy dill pickle slices and unctuous mayonnaise, all sandwiched between pillowy-soft, Wonder-style, white bread. It’s dirt cheap and the perfect foil after a night drinking.

This was to be my sandwich magnum opus. But alas, my St. Paul sandwich is…also better in the abstract. I took two bites, plucked out the egg foo young and pitched the rest in the garbage. Perhaps they’re better in St. Louis.

St. Paul Sandwich

St. Paul Sandwich

 

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Please, Stare at Me Ucomfortably

Chocolate Cherry Bars

Chocolate Cherry Salted Caramel Squares

I should have stayed home and played with the kittens. The night would have been more satisfying. But, instead of staying put, I shaved my legs, whitened my teeth, and switched glasses for contacts – all for another dud of a date.

Isn’t it the rule on a first date that each person is mutually responsible for maintaining the conversation? Instead, I sat with someone who answered my questions willingly, but only asked one question after fielding ten of mine. For me, the gift of gab does not come easily on a first meeting, yet I was solely responsible for the mind-numbing conversation (can I even call it a conversation?). Otherwise, we would have found ourselves blinking, mute, with nothing to break the tedium. He divulged the intricacies of his family’s various residences, his kid’s ages and hobbies, where he’s traveled, and what his younger brother likes, does and where he currently lives. Two questions were asked of me in kind.

The effort to keep the conversation moving was beyond my skills. At one point, towards the end of the lackluster night, he remarked that I appeared ‘distracted.’ I’m afraid he caught me daydreaming about my escape.

Next (again)…

Chocolate Cherry Salted Caramel Squares (because I deserve it!)

150 gr.  butter (softened)
50 gr.    sugar
25 gr.    brown sugar
½ t.      salt
½ t.      vanilla
1          egg yolk
185 gr.  All- purpose flour

227 g.  Salted Caramel Sauce **
170 gr.  Tart Dried Cherries
Cherry Juice or Cranberry Juice
57 gr.    sliced almonds
85 gr.   dark chocolate, chopped

Make Shortbread Crust
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 8×8 baking pan with two layers aluminum foil with an overhang to help remove the cookies. Grease foil with cooking spray. Cream butter and sugars to form a paste (not until pale and fluffy). Add salt and vanilla and combine. Add egg yolk and combine. Scrape down as needed. Add flour and mix until dough just comes together. Do not over-mix or too much gluten will form and base will be tough. Press into bottom of baking pan and just slightly up the side (to stop filling from oozing). Bake for 15 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.

Make Topping
Cover dried cherries with juice and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Let rest 5 minutes to soften cherries. Drain juice and roughly chop cherries. Pour salted caramel over baked crust. Do not allow caramel to overflow down the sides of the pan or you will have difficulty removing the cookies. Sprinkle softened and chopped cherries over caramel. Sprinkle almonds over cherries and return cookies to oven. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until crust is light brown, caramel is bubbling, and almonds are slightly toasted.   Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped chocolate.

Rest cookies on counter for 10-15 minutes to allow chocolate to melt and then cool completely (I put my pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes). Remove cookies from pan using foil. Cut into 16 squares.

** While store-bought salted caramel sauce will do in a pinch, David Lebovitz’s Salted Butter Caramel Sauce is worth it. His recipe makes 1.5 cups, more than you need. I usually eat the remainder straight from the pan.

Butter Cake Attempt #2 (St. Louis Style)

Gooey Butter Cake

Gooey Butter Cake

I have once again avoided working on a lovely Sunday by sequestering myself within the walls of my kitchen. I am visiting a dear friend this afternoon whose father passed away Tuesday. I’ve never been good with expressing empathy and I often find that cooking must substitute for the words I cannot find. I spent this morning baking a Butter Cake (Version #2) to bring to her.

This butter cake is of the St. Louis “gooey” variety, similar to Paula Deen’s version, but made from scratch rather than a mix. I found this recipe on Mama’s Empty Nest, adapted from Heimburger Bakery in St. Louis.

I baked mine for 33 minutes, rather than the 25-30 minutes called for in the recipe. I’ve seen too many gooey butter cakes consisting of a cake shell oozing with a filling  resembling pancake batter (blech!). I wanted a moist outcome closer to Tres Leches. I am once again disappointed. I would call it “gloppy butter cake”. Not awful, but the paste-like, interior leaves something to be desired.

One for One

Mac and CheeseThis baking obsession has become a bit much. These past months I’ve churned out a succession of sugary confections (which I’ve also shamefully consumed). I’m placing limitations on my baking habit – henceforth, for every cake, cookie or pastry that enters my oven, I will conversely prepare one savory dish. Does a re-hashed Lagasse recipe count?

Mac and 4-cheeses with Ham
*Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Ingredients

7 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground Urfa chili (or creole seasoning)
8 ounces grated parmesan cheese
4 ounces grated white cheddar cheese
4 ounces grated fontina cheese
4 ounces grated gruyere cheese
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups half and half
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 dashes Tapatio
12 oz. Ham steak, diced
1 pound campanella pasta (or elbow macaroni)
2 cloves minced garlic

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using 1 tablespoon of butter, grease a 10×12 or smaller baking dish and set aside.

Make Bread Crumbs: In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, Urfa chili and a small handful of grated parmesan and toss to combine.

Combine Cheeses: In a large bowl combine half of the remaining parmesan cheese, white cheddar, fontina and gruyere cheeses. Toss to combine. Set aside

Make Béchamel: Melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium low heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes to remove flour taste. Increase the heat to medium-high and whisk in the half and half slowly. Cook until thickened, about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, season with the salt, pepper, hot sauce and the remaining grated parmesan. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Cover and set aside.

Cook Ham: Sauté ham until slightly brown around edges. Set aside.

Make Pasta: Cook pasta in salted water about 5-6 minutes until very al dente (undercooked). Drain in a colander. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter to the pasta pot, add garlic and sauté until fragrant and just beginning to turn golden. Add pasta and béchamel sauce and stir until combined. Set aside.

Place one-half of the macaroni in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with one-half of ham and cover with one-half the mixed cheeses. Top with the final half of the macaroni and remaining ham and cover with remaining cheese. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni and cheese (can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Add 10-15 minutes to final cooking time).

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the macaroni and cheese is bubbly and hot and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Anise Scented Orange Cake – version 1

Anise scented orange cake

Anise scented orange cake

This is what happens when a gibassier obsession meets fond memories of a butterkuchen sugary shard crust and a need for a 2015 Bundt cake contest recipe submission.

No recipe today.  It’s not quite right.  I think it would vastly improve as an Italian polenta cake. Back to the drawing board.