Monday, January 18, 2016

Notes: January 2016

10 January 2016 

"Traditional French Cassoulet"

Recipe from Serious Eats.

Looking back, this is the fourth cassoulet recipe that I've tried. I can's say that any would be a favorite, partly because I can't remember the various versions very well and it has been some time since I used the America's Test Kitchen recipe that introduced me to this dish.

This was a good hearty fare perfect for a winter meal. In addition to the main component, the beans, it includes chicken and garlic sausage. The amount of work was reasonable. Great northern beans were substituted for cannellini beans because that's what they had at the supermarket. The dish was too salty, even for me and certainly for Diane. If I make it again I should not include salt in the soaking liquid for the dried beans or the salt pork should be soaked before it is cooked to reduce its salt content.

17 January 2016

"Broiled Pork Tenderloin for Two"

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, September & October 2014.
Served with "Sun-dried tomato and basil salsa for two" (recipe), from the same edition of the magazine.

This was a quick meal to prepare, taking under an hour with rice pilaf requiring the most work to prepare. The tenderloin is tied, seasoned with a mixture of salt, pepper, baking soda, and oil, then broiled. It is placed in a disposable aluminum pan for broiling with the test kitchen found leads to more even broiling, a challenge for broiler recipes because broilers vary so much.

The meat was good if not great. I thought it was a little bland but that the salsa provided enough extra flavor to make up for the relatively bland protein. Diane wasn't fond of the salsa but liked the pork. There are several other sauce recipes accompanying the pork tenderloin recipe that could be used if we have this again.

24 January 2016

"Best Ground Beef Chili"

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, November & December, 2015

This recipe was accompanied by an article titled, "Bringing Back Ground Beef Chili".  Rather than using ready-made chili powder from the store, chili powder was home made from using a variety of homemade spices plus dried ancho chilis which were toasted, mixed with the other spices, and then ground in the food processor. The ground beef was treated with baking soda prior to cooking. 

As advertised, the chili was "highly flavored" and, as recommended, we always ate it with rice or tortilla chips. Due to the treatment with baking soda the ground beef was very tender. This is a trick that I have seen in other recent Test Kitchen recipes.

I probably won't make this chili again. The flavor was just too strong and the work involved in making your own chili powder, while not extreme, just is not worth it for us. A good supermarket chili powder used in a simple quick recipe (like this one) is perfectly acceptable and much quicker. 

"The Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Cake"

Recipe from, published March 1998.

This was a good cake but not for the dieter. The ingredient list is very short: 8 eggs, 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, and ½-pound butter. And that's all. It calls for an optional ¼-cup of strong coffee but I left that out; Diane would have liked me to include it. 

Cooking the cake, as the short ingredient list suggests, is pretty easy. The chocolate and butter are gently melted in a bowl, and the eggs are beaten. The beaten eggs are gently folded into the chocolate mixture. This is baked using a springform pan immersed in a water bath.

It is a good cake which we both enjoyed and would make again.

31 January 2016

"Frosted Meatloaf"

Recipe from Cook's Country, February/March 2014

This is a dish, meat loaf with a frosting of mashed potatoes, is from the rationing days of World War II when it was probably served with a thicker layer of potatoes to extend the weekly meat ration. It is a meat loaf with a frosting of mashed potatoes. After seeing it on TV I thought it was worth trying; we like meat loaf, it is a great winter comfort food, we like mashed potatoes, and they go well together. It reminded me of Shepherd's Pie which I have written about here several times. 

While there was nothing wrong with this dish, I doubt I will make it again. It was worthwhile once for the novelty (we're not old enough for it to be nostalgic) but it wasn't particularly special. The meat loaf was good and the mashed potatoes were good and the glaze (between the meat loaf and the potatoes) was very good. But there was not much advantage to welding them together other than perhaps some convenience when having leftovers.