Sunday, February 19, 2012

Say Cheese!

As is more typical with my cookery, I started with dessert - the sour cream chocolate cake. Seeing as the last time I made a two-layer cake like this, I forgot to grease-and-paper the pans not once, but twice, that was my very first step. After blending the dry ingredients together, I discovered how difficult it was to whisk cocoa powder, egg, vanilla and sour cream without spraying the former all over the kitchen. The goopy mixture that resulted, however, poured easily into the dry mixture. I was dubious I had enough batter - it called for eight inch rounds, and I only own nines - but even though the batter barely seemed to fill the bottoms of the pans, it swelled up nicely in cooking.

Next, started on the frosting - the first time I've used sour cream in such. As usual, my tactic with measuring vanilla extract is to pour the suggested amount and then casually splash over a bit more. You can never have too much. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what the "form a square outline with four strips of parchment paper and place cake over it" was supposed to do (hint: so you can remove them after the frosting has dried and not have a splattered plate), but once I worked it out, all was golden. Or chocolatey.

Final verdict (chocolate cake): This is a very moist, rich cake, with a distinct tang of sour cream. It's not my favorite thing I've made, but definitely worth another try.

The rest of my meal contained blissfully little mise en place, mostly grating some cheese. In fact, there was an awful lot of cheese involved: fontina, mozzarella, and parmigiano reggiano. Knowing I had to have both dishes ready to go right away - one required frying in hot oil, while the other consisted of multiple, relatively brief steps on the self-same stovetop - I formed the croquettes first, placed them on a baking sheet, then rolled up the scallopine.

I had bought a four pack of miniature wine bottles to use in the pan for the scallopine. After I removed the chicken from the pan and added the wine, I was left with a bit ... so I followed good ol' Italian advice: now would be a good time for the cook to have some wine. It was only a swallow, but hey. It proved rather hard to rotate the chicken to brown on all sides with the toothpicks in it, maybe because the ends stuck out.

The directions for the croquettes said to use extra virgin olive oil to fry in. Excuse me? How expensive is that a bottle? I don't think so. I compromised, used part EVOO, part canola oil. This might have been dimwitted. And ... I started the oil too early, had to turn it down and back up - because at 350 degrees, the croquettes fried up almost instantly. I made three too far ahead of time and set them aside as my Sunday warm-up portion, then finished the rest during the 5 - 7 minutes of final cook time on the chicken.

Warm, the scallopine didn't slice well, but I managed to fix myself up a portion without making too much of a hash of it. Well, not a hash at all, as potatoes were only involved in the other dish and they were not fused together, except in my stomach.

Final verdict (chicken): I should learn not to make stuffed / wrapped recipes; they don't come out too well, and this one was, alas, no exception. I thought it was kind of bland, without enough cheese and the sage showing up only in part of the portions.

Final verdict (croquettes): Wow - a perfect blend of crunchy exterior, then creamy potato, then melty cheese. So simple, but really good and definitely worth it.

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