The Weekend Gourmet: 1/9/11 - 1/16/11 F

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sweet and Tangy Cranberry Upside-Down Cake...and Toffee Giveaway Winner

Hope everyone's having a lovely weekend! It's drizzly and chilly here in central Texas, so it's a good day to be inside baking and listening to some Elton John in the background! I want to start off today's post by announcing the winner of a 1/2-pound bag of delicious Tungsten Toffee. Per, the winner is #9, which is....

All's That Left Are the Crumbs

Congrats!! I'll be in touch via e-mail later today to verify your toffee selection and get your shipping information. Then I'll forward your selection and shipping info to Tungsten Toffee so they can get the toffee sent to you right away!

Speaking of winners...I came across a fantastic recipe for Cranberry Upside-Down Cake from Everyday Food magazine at Martha Stewart's website. I've had a bag of cranberries in my freezer since Thanksgiving just waiting for the right inspiration to come along. This recipe was it!! Tangy cranberries sweetened with brown sugar and flavored with orange zest and spices. The cranberries are topped with a simple vanilla-infused cake batter.

What more can you ask for? Not much, really...except maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side!

Sweet and Tangy Cranberry 
Upside-Down Cake
adapted from Everyday Food

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Rub the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan with 2 tbs. of softened butter. In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. allspice, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle the brown sugar-spice mixture evenly on the bottom of the buttered cake pan.

Step 2:  Arrange 2 cups cranberries in a single layer on top of the brown sugar-spice mixture. Frozen cranberries are fine to use, but be sure to thaw them completely before using. Grate the zest of one orange on top of the cranberries.

Step 3:  Make the cake batter by creaming 6 tbs. butter and 1 cup sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add 3 tbs. mayonaise and 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat until well combined. Add 1 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, 1.5 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 cup milk. Mix on low until well combined. Don't be alarmed -- this batter is pretty thick. 

Step 4:  Spoon the batter evenly over the cranberries in the pan and smooth the top. 

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the inside rim of the pan to loosen, then invert onto a serving platter. Cut into wedges to serve.

This cake is so yummy!! I found the consistency of the cake to be almost like a torte. It's not really's almost like a sweet shortcake. The cranberries are really tasty...the butter and brown sugar become a bit like caramel, which takes the tart edge off the cranberries. It's a great combination of flavors. You can taste the warm spices and the orange zest in the background, but they don't upstage the cranberries, which are the star of the show!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lickety-Split Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup...the Weekend Gourmet Way!

Let's face it. Sometimes, the only thing that will do the trick is a big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. It's basic, but as comforting as a warm blanket: juicy chunks of chicken, healthy veggies, and lots of noodles! Michael called me at work last Friday afternoon and asked if I'd make a pot of chicken noodle soup for dinner. It was a chilly night, and his allergies were really acting up. A bowl of comforting soup courtesy of Dr. Weeekend Gourmet was exactly what he needed. 

Some cooks contend that a proper pot of chicken soup needs to simmer for several hours to develop that soul-satisfying flavor that cures all ills. But, sometimes that's just not practical...but you want to do more than open a can of soup. Through trial and error, I've come up with a recipe for hearty chicken noodle soup that's ready to eat in about an hour -- but it tastes like you've been simmering it for hours. It's comforting on sore throats, and it really warms you up on a chilly winter evening. 

Lickety-Split Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Step 1:  Add 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil to a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 sliced carrots,  2 ribs sliced celery, and half of a chopped yellow onion. Stir well and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.

Step 2:  Add 1 lb. diced chicken tenders, 2 grated/finely chopped garlic cloves, 1.5 tsp. poultry seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and cook until the garlic is fragrant and the chicken is browned on all sides. 

Step 3:  When the chicken is cooked, add: 8 cups chicken stock, 2 bay leaves, 1 can Campbell's Creamy Chicken-Mushroom soup, 8 ounces No-Yolks egg noodles, and 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels. Stir well to combine. 

The canned soup may seem out-of-place in a homemade chicken soup, but it's my secret ingredient! In a pot of soup this large, it simply adds a nice richness and depth of flavor to the finished product. When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until the noodles are cooked. 

Step 4:  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. This pot makes six to eight bowls of hearty, comforting soup. We love lots of noodles in our chicken noodle soup, but you can cut the amount of noodles in half if you prefer.

The next time you feel a cold coming on...or you just want to warm up on a chilly evening...I hope you'll give this soup recipe a try!! I find it's even better when you eat this soup while wearing your favorite pajamas and sitting in front of a roaring fireplace.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Thank You Dinner Party...Featuring Banana-Pecan Cake w/Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Icing

I added several new cookbooks to my ever-expanding collection thanks to generous Christmas presents from my family. To thank them, I cooked a special dinner last night spotlighting recipes from two of my new cookbooks: Barefoot Contessa's How Easy Is That? and Thomas Keller's Bouchon. It was a chilly night in Texas, so I decided on a simple and hearty French bistro-inspired menu:

  • Bibb-Herb Salad w/Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette
  • Croque Monsieur Sandwiches
  • Balthazar's Onion Soup Gratinee
  • Banana-Pecan Cake w/Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Icing
We lit the fireplace, poured some white wine, and put on a nice mix of music in the background to set the mood for a evening of yummy food and lively conversation. It all added up to a wonderful, relaxing post-holiday evening! After the hustle and bustle of the past few weeks, it was nice to sit and visit over a belly-warming meal.

The Balthazar French onion soup was featured in my Top 10 Restaurant dishes for 2010 post last week. I own their cookbook -- also a gift from one of my guests -- and decided to try my hand at making The Holy Grail of French onion soup last night. This stuff is off. the. hook. As in we all raved and raved about how good it was!! I promise to share the recipe here soon, but I have to make another batch first. I forgot Food Blogger Rule #1 last my haste to taste the soup, I didn't take any pictures of the finished product!!

Thankfully, I did manage to take lots of pictures of the delicious banana-pecan cake I made for dessert -- before and after slicing! The first time I flipped through Ina Garten's latest cookbook, I knew that I'd be making this cake, and soon! It's simple to whip up, very moist, and the combination of flavors is really nice. The only major changes I made to the recipe were to use pecans instead of walnuts in the cake, and I added 1 tsp. of Vietnamese cinnamon to the icing. 

Banana-Pecan Cake With Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Icing
adapted from Ina Garten's How Easy Is That?

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Add the following ingredients to the bowl of your stand mixer: 3 ripe bananas (mashed), 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/ cup lightly packed light brown sugar. Blend on low speed until combined.

Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup melted butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sour cream, and 1 tbs. vanilla. Mix until the batter is smooth. Meanwhile, sift together the dry ingredients in a bowl: 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.
Step 3:  Add the dry ingredients and the grated zest of one medium orange to the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped pecans and stir to combine. 

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then place on a serving platter to cool.

Step 4:  Make the icing. Combine 6 ounces cream cheese and 6 tbs. butter (both room temp) in the bowl of your stand mixer. Combine on low until combined -- don't whip! Add 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. Vietnamese cinnamon, and 2.5 cups powder sugar. Mix on low speed until smooth.

Step 5:  When the cake is completely cool, frost the top of the cake with the icing. It should be thick enough that it won't run completely down the sides of the cake. It just sort of drapes over the edge. Decorate the top of the cake with pecan halves.

This cake makes 8 generous slices. The cake is only one layer, but it's very dense and moist. The consistency is reminiscent of a moist banana bread. The orange zest gives it a nice citrus background flavor, and I really thought the cinnamon in the icing was a nice flavor profile as well. I hope you'll give this cake a try the next time you have some ripe banana on hand!

While you're here, don't forget to scroll down and enter my Tungsten Toffee giveaway. Their toffee is really delicious...sweet, but not sticky or rock-hard. Last day to enter is this Thursday, and the winner will be announced on Friday.

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