For the Cake:
For the Cake:
It is a Halloween night and we’re going to have some hello-w/in time taking a break from home cooking and going out. Part of the plan is to drive by some areas where people have turned their front yards into some creepy insane asylums and have our share of spine chilling and laughs. I’ve already got a few good Halloween recipes listed in this blog including the yummy Dead Fly Pies, or Fly Cemeteries, or Fly Graveyards, which in fact are also more humanly called Eccles Cakes; and Pumpkin No Brainers . If I would be selecting a recipe that sounds crazy-scary-engaging for most of North American ears tonight, I would probably go for a traditional British fare with ominous name Spotted Dick But that would be some other time. For now I have something else and a great story to tell: about one of our recent nightmarish evening and a later flop-cooking experience.
Couple week-ends ago we were driving back home with the double brown bag of dozen live blue crabs in it. We were excited to make a fresh crab risotto later that night. We took a rural side road going through the forest to go back home to avoid traffic. We’ve never taken that road before and first were surprised about how empty and quiet it was.
The night was rainy and foggy although the full moon still casted the eerie glow through the clouds and trees. The crabs managed to wet the bags through and were going out of whack, so we had to make an emergency pit stop to catch them and collect them into the plastic bag. While we were stepping out of the car a peaceful booty-song on the radio has awkwardly switched to vintage Billy Idol’s Eyes Without A Face. It was then that I started feeling uncomfortable. I became fear-stricken by darkness, emptiness, silence and sinister shadows appearing through the forest trees here and there. ‘Eyes without the face have got no human grace…’ the radio went on when suddenly the end of the road was lit by a light which, obviously, seemed like another car was approaching. Except the light stood there without moving for a minute or so and then disappeared…
|The Good Shepherd by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1903 Zimmerli Art Museum|
No big deal, right? But for some reason for me it was a heart pounding moment. I couldn’t wait to get out of that road. Imagine when I told this story to one of our neighbours the other day, he revealed to me that the empty road used to be the place where Hell’s Angels gangs were making their executions and/or police would sometimes find a burning car with the body in it (how’s that for hair raising?). And that came as real creepy news to me. Was it a sixth’s sense? You tell me. But if you are a mystic or clairvoyance, perhaps you can see some ghosts in these images.
Otherwise you can just apply your imagination and try to read these moon shadows – it’s actually quite interesting…
Once back home we were greeted by the local two-headed Boo dog. Making a crab boil was already not so easy task (crabs appeared to be much livelier than lobsters).
After we hankered down in our kitchen with cracking tools and bunch of newspapers to process them. Already upon the first five minutes (and to our greatest regret) of tackling the impossible and having the crab scraps flying all over the kitchen, we realized that the fresh crab risotto would be ready by next morning or would have to be put on hold. Hubby quit first, declaring he was an equal opportunist believing in fair trade and no exploitation. OCD driven, I went on crab-cracking to prove that home crab flesh extracting (like pierogi-making that D. believes should only be made by prisoners) is a doable chore. The problem was, I was hungry, so most of the result secretly went straight into my belly. After the crab juice went into my eyes though I abandoned. Well, may be somewhere in Japan people from Okinawa island consider crab-cracking a meditative and fun activity which they practice often while whistling Japanese version of La Marseillaise. But there are many other things I’d like to do around my week-end. Not to mention that exactly during times like that you realize more than ever that time IS the most precious commodity… Change of plan (which is not unusual for the flop cooking): I went to the pantry, got a can of the crab meat, and deviled a box of button mushrooms with savoured crab meat into these little guys within 20 minutes.
Sounds like a cell phone from 90ies? Hell yeah, but still as exquisite as ever. By the way, they didn’t use much of smoked paprika in those days Slice some black or green olives for the top to give that Halloweenish twist and, voila, you got your ‘Eyes Without A Face’ party snack. We managed to eat them before The Midnight Hour.
Happy Halloween and enjoy your cooking!
One Year Ago: Pumpkin Mini-Tarts
DEVILED CRAB ‘N SHROOM BITES
1 box button mushrooms (around 18-20)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup chives or scallions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp white wine or brandy
¼ crumbs (gluten free if necessary)
1 (7 oz) can crab meat, drained
½ cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
1 tbsp mayonnaise or sour cream
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of smoked paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
Remove the stems from mushrooms with grapefruit knife. Chop the stems finely. Set aside. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped mushroom stems and cook for 1 minute. Add chives (or scallions) and garlic. Cook for another minute. Add a splash of brandy or wine. Evaporate for a minute. Add crumbs, mix well. Add crab meat and mix well. Remove from the heat. Stir in Parmesan, mayonnaise (or sour cream), mustard and smoked paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool down. Stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place mushrooms on baking sheet. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan, Top with sliced olives if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Applying the white wine jelly glaze over instead of the classic apricot jelly was a grown up step up in the finishing touch (microwave jelly in increments for 30 seconds and stir each time until almost pourable consistency). When it came to the traditional lemon-sugar glaze however, I wasn’t satisfied: it tasted too 70ies and lacked ‘personality’ in terms of a great cake’s buttery touch. We expertly played with cream cheese (first), Mascarpone (second) and whipped cream (third) on a side – they were all good, yet they still didn’t taste like perfect match. And then, BOOM-BAM, the idea of the salty caramel sauce dressing has arrived and made a real hinge point of the recipe.
It was euphoria inducing delicious and everyone raved about salted caramel applied to it (match point it was). Later that night we crashed on the sofas determined to re-watch one of the above-mentioned movies, but fell asleep as soon as our heads touched the pillows…
|Freedom from Want, by Norman Rockwell, 1943|
”You can tell you ate too much for Thanksgiving when you have to let your bathrobe out.” – Jay Leno
”Have you ever tried Coq au Vin?” ”No, but I once let an Italian put his hand up my jumper on the back seat of his Fiat…” Anglophones truly love the play of French words in this dish. But, whatever the jokes are, Coq au Vin (rooster in wine) continues to tickle the taste buds and enthrall the world’s pickiest eaters through the centuries.
And maybe it’s not so bad that this French classic is so ‘’oxymoronic’’ – for sure it helps to create certain gastronomic enigma à propos de complexity of the dish. Which in fact is very simple to make and quite inexpensive if you adjust the ingredients set to create a healthy and easy weeknight meal. In this one I traded rooster for chicken, Burgundy for a good quality dry red wine (Cahors), and pearl onions for a regular yellow onion (the last one is REALLY a good idea when you want to have a quick supper without spending some extra 30 minutes peeling pearl onions).