Sunday, March 18, 2007
It is clearly some sort of oversight on my part that I haven’t gotten to this before because no annals of my cooking life could ever be complete without at least a single mention of one of the greatest cakes I was introduced to growing up: the Sh*t Cake. The Sh*t Cake, you see, is a lighter-than-air chocolate roll cake with whipped cream that my mother would make each and every Passover. Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever made a Yule Log or other such roulade cake knows, they crack and sever easily and often, and can be mighty frustrating because of this. A nice, sweet person like my mother, who otherwise echews displays of gutter mouth might even be so irritated by say the fourth or fifth crack or so to curse aloud while her (frankly, precious) 7-year-old daughter watches, and comes in turn to rename the cake.
But despite the annoyance of making the cake, we still go at it year after year (I’ve made it too, and it has indeed kept its nickname in the process) because the cake is really one of the best in the world. It manages to have an intense, pronounced bittersweet chocolate flavor but none of the heft of your typical flourless chocolate cake (although I love them, they are so often like gigantic truffles and less like something you can eat more than two bites of without running your fork through sauce, fruit or gulping down quantities of water). Besides having no flour, it also has no butter, milk, cream or chemical leaveners. Frankly, if you have a bag of good chocolate pieces, a dozen eggs, some sugar and salt, you could make this right this very moment, though you might need to dash to the store for some heavy cream for whipping. Mwa-ha-ha, consider chocolate cakes as you know them banished.
Continued after the jump »
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
It only took us over a year, but Alex and I finally had dinner at Tia Pol, a closet-sized gem of a tapas restaurant on 10th Avenue on Saturday night. We live so close, it’s embarrassing that we hadn’t eaten there yet, but the thing with the proximity is that every time we’ve popped our heads in, taken note of the mob of people crushed against the entryway and the “at least an hour and a half” wait, we’ve rationalized that we’ll go another time — later. Well, six months had passed since our last “later,” when on Saturday, so we decided arriving at the criminally early hour of 6 p.m. would outsmart the crowds. The laugh was still on us but the 45 minutes were well worth the wait, the tight space not claustrophobic but cozy on a freezing night as we snugged into a row of coats while drinking our first then second (mon dieu!) glass of their delicious sangria. At the bar, we couldn’t resist trying one of almost everything — marcona almonds, potatoes with aioli and hot paprika, ham-wrapped artichoke hearts with manchego cheese, deep-fried spicy chickpeas and thick, fork-tender white asparagus stalks again with that blessed aioli.
By last night, it had been a whole two days since our last dose of aioli and we needed a fix. Alex grabbed some white asparagus, red potatoes and salad greens on his way home and I began mincing garlic for the sauce. Oh, how easy dinner will be, I thought… And now you see where this is going. The first aioli started out splendidly, but at some point near the end, when you start drizzling the olive oil more confidently, it split and if there’s one thing that’s impossible to fix, it’s a broken mayonnaise. Frustrated as hell, I didn’t want to associate mayonnaise-making with failure and unhappiness, and forced myself to make another, this time in the food processor. I’ve seen Emeril make his in there often (say whatever you want about the man; he always makes his mayo from scratch), and hey, isn’t that what the little drip-spout is for? This batch not only didn’t break, it didn’t come together at all. Four egg yolks, two CUPS of good olive oil, twelve cloves of garlic and any remaining joy I’d had toward cooking that night went right in the trash. I was ready to write the evening off completely — never happened, nobody needs to know, let’s not dwell on these failures, okay? — but I still had those four egg whites and I got clingy, unable to part with another ingredient.
Continued after the jump »