Saturday, April 30, 2011

Long Dark Roasting Time of the Soul

Chocolate cheesecake - not a bad way to begin the weekend. Not a bad way to end the weekend, and middle it, while we're at it, for the matter of that. This was an easy prep with one major hiccup: I got partway through and realized I didn't have sour cream. I had forgotten to write it on my grocery list. This is the second time in as many weeks that my list has been wrong. In the future, I'm going to have to make sure I check it twice (see who's been naughty or nice?).

Recipe says to add lime juice to taste ... apparently, my tastes are fairly extreme. Rather than the half to one teaspoons it recommended, I ended up with about two teaspoons.

However, by now my roasting pan has to be having an identity crisis. It's been used as an ice bath for ice cream, a water bath for pudding cake, and now once more as a water bath for cheesecake ... but never as a roasting pan.

Unmolding the cheesecake destroyed two thirds to three quarters of the outer rim. I'm not sure how to fix that; may have been overbaked slightly. But this only affected the look. If the whole rim had stuck to the springform, it would have been uniform. I did ponder trimming off the excess and eating it on the spot, but I'm the only one who has to look at the cheesecake.

Final verdict (cheesecake): A simple, tasty cheesecake, infused with chocolate but not overwhelmed by it. So glad I used some semi-sweet chocolate - even at that, it was a tiny bit too bitter for me.

I regressed a bit, culinarily speaking, in my dinner prep: I missed two parts of my mise en place, meaning I had to scramble to do it while cooking. However, I was very relaxed, so it was a leisurely scramble, all things considered.

(Insert standard disclaimer about onion usage reduction here.) I couldn't find plain rice when shopping for the chimichangas, so I used Spanish rice, which seemed appropriate for the flavor profile. I had the common sense to use a proper sized skillet this time. Added some red pepper flakes to kick up the heat another smidge. Reached the cilantro and hadn't cut it ... and cilantro takes a long time to cut per square inch, so I possibly shorted the half cup just a smidge.

At this point, I want to comment on my fine chopping technique, or utter lack thereof: I tend to just put whatever on the board, cut it into manageable pieces, and then hack away with the knife at rapid random until it looks good. It's worked so far. I'm not dextrous enough to precise without taking far too long, and I'm usually hungry by now, darnit.

I started the actual creation of the chimichangas and froze in terror. Oh, great, thought I: I'm stuffing something. This never ends well. But the mixture was perfect for the number of tortillas: they sealed up without any leakage in the oven.

Then I got on the hoecakes, yet another nemesis of mine: frying. By now, I'm similarly unimpressed with funnel cakes, because I always seem to get their artistic equivalent when I fry things. I was learning what the right timing for these was as I went, so it's very possible only two or three cakes out of this batch are cooked the same, but it all tastes good.

Final verdict (chimis): I thought this might be bland, but it's flavorful and fun, crispy in imitation of a fried chimichangas without being heavy. I may have kicked it up slightly with my substitution and addition, but I think the base recipe has enough flavor to satisfy. For myself, I'd be reaching for more chili powder in the future, and/or more adobos. There's nothing wrong with the recipe as-is, but I enjoy the higher spice level.

Final verdict (Hoecakes): These are heavy, but they're a delightful, almost creamy heavy that tastes wonderful with maple syrup. It's hard to eat too many, but the texture is great until they fill you up.

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