Last week I had really great plans for you, dear reader. I had a list of treats I was ready to prepare and spotlight here for you, everything from Japanese beef and scallion rolls to ginger green tea ice cream and more. But someone or something out there had a very different plan. Nothing worked. Even if it had a great start and I was licking my fingers as I moved on to step 2, it ended up just plain NOT good. I couldn’t even cook rice well last week.
It started with these beef and scallion rolls I was excited to make one night for dinner. The recipe made it seem so simple. Pound out a flank steak really thin, wrap it around some blanched scallions, marinate it, sear it, slice it into rolls that look a little bit like sushi, and enjoy. But when I got down to it (and was up to my elbows in beef bits), it just didn’t work. The rolls came apart in the marinade and then further disintegrated when I put them in the pan. The rolls that did try to stay together were nothing short of RAW inside when the recipe called for taking them off the fire. So in the end, even the ones that didn’t fall apart I had to take apart so I could cook the beef all the way through. The one saving grace of the whole disaster was that the marinade was quite good. If I hadn’t had the high hopes for the cute little rolls, I would have been satisfied with thinly sliced beef, marinated and then quickly cooked in a wok with the scallions served over rice.
So, now you know how the rice fits in. In the middle of cursing the beef rolls that ended up being just stir fried beef, I decided rice would be a nice addition. 2 cups of water, 1 cup of rice, timer set for 20 minutes. Fairly simple. Except at the end of the 20 minutes, I still had most of the water, the rice was crunchy and it was burning on the bottom. Down the drain went the rice. I mean, come on…RICE?? I can’t even get rice right?
Then I decided to make ice cream. $1.25 played a role here too. He decided he wanted ginger (notice a theme here??) green tea ice cream. No problem. I had a recipe for green tea ice cream, I had a recipe for ginger ice cream, I could just cobble them together. Well, something didn’t work because what I ended up with tasted strangely (and disgustingly) like pumpkin pie. Maybe that would have been ok if I had actually started with a pumpkin, but it was kind of disturbing when I realized that the only resemblance to pumpkin pie was the ginger. It’s still in the freezer, but neither $1.25 nor I have touched it.
Finally, I wanted to make something I found on the internet called “Cake Balls”…I wanted to rename them, but the finished product wasn’t deserving of it. The idea is simple: bake a cake (box or scratch). When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool just a little bit and then crumble it into a bowl of frosting. Then scoop balls of the cake and frosting and dunk them in melted chocolate. I started out strong. I decided to make yellow cake and vanilla buttercream frosting, both from scratch. Buttercream is scary stuff to me. It involves melting sugar in water and bringing it up to a precise temperature of 240 degrees, pouring it into a meringue slowly and cautiously, and then adding in copious amounts of butter until it all comes together in a delicious cloud. And it did! The frosting was great! And $1.25 declared that the cake was the best cake he’s ever had…ever . A victory!
Until I crumbled it all together, mixed it up and put it in the fridge to cool. Suddenly the best cake ever was kind of weird and not all that yummy. But we thought maybe it would be better at room temperature. I forged ahead and melted the chocolate. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me, but here’s the thing about putting cold buttercream into hot melted chocolate: it falls apart. I couldn’t get the balls covered in chocolate before they started to melt and suddenly I had a giant mess on my hands. Melted chocolate, melted butter, cake bits all over…it was a disaster. $1.25 was happy with the cake mixture without the chocolate coating, but the finished product really didn’t meet our expectations. At all. Into the trash they went. Sigh.
So, after all of that work, I ended up with a lot of trash to take out and a very disappointing week in the kitchen. But, I did come up with two recipes, each a smaller part of a bigger project, that really held their own. One was the marinade for the beef and the other was the yellow cake. Sorry I don’t have any pictures for you, but I didn’t have the energy for it at the end of all of that. But here are the recipes if you’re feeling adventurous!
All-Occasion Yellow Cake (courtesy of The Gourmet Cookbook):
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer with whisk attachment at medium high speed until pale and fluffy, 3-5 min. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla and beat until thoroughly blended, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and milk, alternately in three batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Do not overmix.
Spread batter evenly in a prepared pan (buttered and floured, either one 13×9″ or two 8″ rounds). Bake at 350 until cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 20-25 minutes. Cook for 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely.
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup Japanese sweet rice wine (Mirin)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar