Saturday, September 17, 2011

Better Late Than Never

I had a painter over today and tried to wait until he was gone before finishing dinner. By the time I gave up, it was quite late ... and I had forgotten to take the chicken out so it would get to room temperature. Upshot: dinner ended up being consumed about 9pm this night, far later than I like to contemplate. So I will just focus on the deliciousness of it all.

This morning, the first thing I started was the marinade for the chicken. I made the mistake of using the blender, when a much smaller vessel would have done. I added a little water to the contents in an attempt to get more out of the blender, which did seem to work.

(On the bright side, the lateness of final consumption did mean that the chicken marinated for longer and soaked up more flavor.)

I also decided to attempt the Quick Tamarind Chutney from Anjum's book, only to discover that I had bought tamarind concentrate, not paste. So - improvisation, I made a sauce rather than a chutney, reducing it for longer into a sweet side for my corn cakes.

Final verdict (chutney):
Not what was written on the page, but a good mixture of flavors. Works very well with the corn cakes, despite not being designed for them. (I didn't, FYI, make the chutney or creme fraiche actually intended to accompany the cakes.) Would definitely try it properly.

Next, I started work on the cupcakes. They are much easier than the Difficult rating would suggest, though one valuable lesson learned: do not overfill the cups. It makes it hard to get them out intact, and a smooth, round cupcake top is important for full (and pretty) ganache coverage. There are a fair number of steps - prepping three different parts of the batter; alternating mixtures; separate hazelnut filling; ganache prep - but nothing requires much skill. Case in point: I did it.

The quantity seemed a bit off: I overfilled the liners (as previously mentioned) and still had enough for nine filling-less minis. And I suspect I used a bit too much filling per cupcake ...

Be careful when opening the oven with these. With well over a cup of hazelnut liquor involved, I opened the oven to swap the trays around halfway through - listened to my instincts this time! - I got hit with a wave of alcohol. Stronger and more pungent than onions cooking. Wow.

Final verdict (cupcakes): The cupcake itself is amazingly good, and the ganache is perfect with it, dark and intense. I'm not so sure about the filling - it's good, but to me it doesn't really blend with the cupcake.

I wandered through various stages of mise en place while waiting for the painter to depart, then finally started on the rice. First time using whole cardamom pods - and of course, I discovered I didn't have a whole half cup (is that an oxymoron?) of golden raisins, so I elected to use some regular raisins as well.

Re-verdict (pilau): Again, a simple, satisfying pilau that makes way too much rice. Maker beware.

I had boiled and mashed the potato some hours beforehand - no, really - so I was able to start the corn cake mixture right away ... and that's when I discovered that the chicken was still in the fridge and had to come to room temp first. I ended up blending the corn, making the mixture, even frying the gram powder - yes, I purchased and fried gram powder for the first time all in one recipe! also first time using chaat masala, for the trifecta - before my chicken finally got under the broiler and going. I didn't have a broiling rack per se (... I don't think), so all times were approximate but accurate.

As a further note, I did make a substitution in the salad - pineapple rather than tomatoes. Hey, they're both fruits, thank you very much.

The corn cakes didn't fry up as neatly as I expected - they stuck to the bottom of the pan a bit. Maybe more oil next time and/or even lower heat, though I did use it between 3-4.

The last ten minutes or so of this meal prep were zany, despite the amount I had previously prepared - even the dressing for the salad, which is positively nummy.

Final verdict (corn cakes): I thought that these didn't cook through properly, but the texture and flavors were delicious. Would try again, thinner, with more oil, more time and less heat.

Final verdict (salad): Mmm ... delicious and (I hope) nutritious. The marinade flavors the chicken beautifully and complements the dressing, which is surprisingly good even in small doses.

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