Sunday, March 21, 2010

Butterfingers and the Boss

A woman after my own heart, my boss happens to love Butterfingers. The way you love your children, or your parents. It's a deep, unending love. And few candies can inspire such love.

Except a Butterfinger.

So in honor of the boss's birthday, I've combined her favorite things... chocolate and peanut butter. Once I found this recipe for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Cream Cheese and Butterfinger Frosting I felt confident I had a winner.

Time will tell. If it's a hit, I'll be disappointed my annual performance review was several weeks ago. If it's a dud, I'll be grateful I have another year before the next one. And hopefully enough time will pass for her memory to fade.

However, I'm feeling confident. I licked the beaters. I know it's good.

The cake started with 3 layers of peanut butter cake. Since you can't go wrong with 2 layers of cake, why not go for 3?

After the cake layers have cooled completely, you can either follow the recipe instructions for a 3-layer cake, or take a walk on the wild side and cut each layer in half for a whopping 6-layer cake.

Glop on a generous amount of hip-expanding, peanut butter chocolate filling.

Next, attempt to wrangle the spoon and bowl of cream cheese frosting from your husband to slather upon the filled cake.

While I love a beautifully smooth frosting, I love the old-fashioned "look" of this cake. Nothing fancy. Just goodness.

Then pile on the chopped Butterfinger bars. And I do mean, pile on. Don't restrain yourself, unless you're saving a bar for yourself as a midnight snack.

It looks heavenly and beautiful, and it smells even better. I'm honestly hoping to find the cake in this same state in the morning. Cream cheese icing-eating husbands have been known to try and sneak a nibble.

And speaking of beautiful, these cubes met a big pot of risotto last night for Ina Garten's Butternut Squash Risotto. Somewhat of an acquired taste, the two youngest at the Tyson Kitchen dinner table last night - a 5-year old and our 3-year old - gobbled it up. Success.

Since every recipe and cooking experience is a lesson in itself, I offer you this lesson.

When you get excited about beautifully presenting your sweet creation in your new cake dome - that set you back a whole $10.00 - consider using a ruler.

To make sure your cake fits under said dome.

Here endeth the lesson.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Old Bottling Factory"

Ever intrigued by the simplicity of recipes from one of my favorite chefs, Ina Garten, I couldn't wait to try Nick And Toni's Penne alla Vecchia Bettola. Hopeful to learn the recipe was steeped in some sort of rich, Roman history, I was a little disappointed to find out the literal translation of "Vecchia Bettola" is "old bottling factory". However, when digging a little deeper, it also means a cheap, dumpy restaurant.

Regardless, I was ready to try what looked to be a delicious sauce. It has vodka in the recipe. Anything with vodka mustbe good.

And then I looked in the liquor cabinet. No vodka.

In the moments following my despair of no vodka in the house, I decided to press forward and try the recipe with a dry white wine, Pinot Grigio.

A few simple ingredients to make the sauce.

If you're disciplined and follow instruction, you'll buy canned, whole tomatoes rather than crushed.

(Now would be the time to admit I left out the fresh oregano.)

I started by chopping half and onion and 3 cloves of garlic. I cried the entire time. It had nothing to do with the onion. I was still weeping over no vodka in the house.

Next, cook the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. It only took me about 6 minutes.

Add the crushed red pepper and dried oregano.

Pour in the white wine. (If you're a responsible cook, you'll have vodka in the house.)

Simmer the onion, garlic and wine mixture until the wine reduces by half.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes.

Then throw a lid on the pot and place in a 375-degree oven for 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes, you'll have yummy, thick and rich sauce. Noticed the difference in color?

After the sauce cools, blend the sauce in a blender in several batches. (I recommend blending about 1 1/2 cups at a time.

Fast-forward to the end of a 5-hour work day (of which I could easily become accustomed). Place the desired amount of the blended sauce into a pan. Add some fresh oregano.

Add heavy cream to thin and enrich the sauce.

Ooooh... velvety, rich tomato cream sauce.

Make sure you have really good Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for this dish. It makes all the difference in the world.

Meanwhile, cook the penne pasta al dente. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and cook for about a minute.

Then, please the tummies of your family.