Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pastry Pirate's Booty

Michael never fails to amaze me. Today he walked in the room holding the dough hook to my KA mixer and declared, "You might want to think about going as the Pastry Pirate this Halloween." What a guy, already thinking of my costume! I actually did dress up as a pirate, once for a party and another time at a Jimmy Buffet concert. "Pastry Pirate Looks at 40", again and again. Yes, I still have the pictures! So in honor of this brilliant and creative use of kitchen attachments, we offer Rum Balls. These are another good companion to a cup of hot tea or cocoa, or even a hot buttered rum, while we wait for spring to warm us up. They are super easy to make, but keep these balls way from underage folks, and always use a designated captain, we are talking real rum here, matey. The Pastry Pirate says yo, ho, ho, and balls of rum! Arrgghh!!

RUM BALLS - adapted from FoodTV
Makes about 36 one-inch balls
2 cups finely ground vanilla wafer cookies or Marias
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup very finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup dark rum, we like Meyers
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
additional powdered sugar for coating

In the food processor grind vanilla wafers, pulse lightly. In a large bowl mix the vanilla wafer crumbs, 1 cup powdered sugar, pecans, dark rum, dark corn syrup, and butter. Knead mixture together, wear gloves if you must. If the mixture is too dry or if the humidity in your area is low, add a tablespoon more of the rum. Couldn't hurt. With a melon baller or sturdy teaspoon scoop out mixture and shape into one-inch balls. On a pie pan sprinkle about 1/4 cup or so of additional powdered sugar and roll the balls, coating each with the sugar. Set the rum balls on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover rum balls with plastic wrap completely sealing the baking sheet. Let the rum balls sit at room temperature for 48 hours to develop the flavor. You will be tempted to unwrap the plastic and sneak a ball or two for yourself, but wait and your patience will be rewarded with this Pastry Pirate treasure.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Big Buckin' Chicken Rodeo

Have you seen the Burger King commercial with the chicken rodeo, and the brokeback cowboy singing "Big buckin' chicken, you are big" while they take turns riding that monster poultry? Yeah, it's weird but it made me laugh. It also made me hungry for my Southern Fried Buttermilk Chicken. It's a simple recipe I developed at culinary school (perfected by Monica) and it is umm, umm good! (Safety note: Remember to wash your hands each time you touch the chicken, and avoid cross-contamination by washing all utensils, equipment, and surfaces.)
1 whole fryer, 3 to 4 lbs. cut into 8 pieces
1 quart buttermilk
4 tablespoons onion powder, divided
4 tablespoons garlic powder, divided
2 tablespoons dried thyme, divided
2 tablespoons dried sage, divided
2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, divided
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Oil, peanut or canola
Rinse cut up fryer chicken under cold water, pat dry with paper towels and set aside. In a large zip top plastic bag, add all the flour and half of the seasonings. Zip the top and set aside. In a large bowl mix the buttermilk and the remainder of the seasonings. Place the chicken in the buttermilk mixture. Cover bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight. In a large cast iron skillet add enough oil to come 1" up the side of the pan and heat to 350 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk mixture with a pair of tongs and place in the flour mixture. Coat evenly then place into the skillet skin side down. Fry until golden brown then turn to fry the other side. Remove from skillet and place on wire racks over baking sheets to drain. If necessary, finish in a 350 degree F oven until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Bread Love

Ever get caught up with a friend's quest for culinary delights only to discover a world of new tastes and flavors for yourself? It happened when I accompanied Annie on her bakery visits for a report due this week. She really didn't need me to go along, could have done just fine on her own. And I could have used the extra sleep. But I was promised lunch at Porto's, so on our way to the new location in Burbank, we walked into a bakery about the size of a walk-in closet. The line stretched outside as the two counter girls quickly handed out brown paper bags as fast as they could. Of course I had to line up and see what all the fuss was about. As soon as a man carrying two large bags passed by me, the answer was clear. The aroma of the fresh bread followed him. I wanted to follow along, as he held the bags above his head to get through the crowd outside. A kind lady in line behind me smiled and said, "It is barbarie," and I was in love. For only $1.25 each, they come hot out of the oven, sprinkled with sesame seeds, slightly salty and baked to a lovely golden brown. I quickly bought two for myself and hurried back to the car to take a bite. Others were much less self-conscious and openly tore off pieces to eat as they walked by. Annie has a saying "It is so good I forget my mother-in-law," which generally applies to culinary delights, but could be useful on other occasions. Well, this lip-smacking bread made me forget everything. Except how to duplicate the formula. I searched all over and found a few formulas on the internet, but this will take some research & testing, and sampling, of course.
Masis Bakery
321 E. Alameda #D
Burbank, Calif.