"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." 'A Room of One's Own', Virginia Woolf, English novelist (1882-1941).
My life when Francois is away turns a bit bizarre. To begin with, I don't sleep well. And it's not missing that person beside me at night (although I do). If I happen to wake at 2:00 in the morning there is no reason not to get up, read my current book (or three) , put on a movie, play some music, sing, dance - whatever I wish - even cook.
Which brings me to the next problem - dining alone. I like to 'dine' when I eat....well prepared tasteful meals, pleasingly presented - maybe a bit of candle light and a sip of good wine. Not much fun cooking for one though and can't continue my frozen pizza habit following trip to Paris. I remember when I was a busy Mom and cooking for 3 hungry kids I had adopted the method of 'cook once - eat twice'. Seemed like a logical approach to assume in this situation. In this case it's more like 'cook once eat many times'.
I try (most of the time) to eat fresh, healthy and local and as much as possible, seasonal. Thus the following recipes: corn on the cob is in season, my local butcher just brought in some little free range chickens. And it is now autumn - the time when bears (and wild cats) put on those extra pounds in preparation for their winter hibernation - yum! cake with cream cheese icing!
The following are some share-worthy recipes from Kat's (now really messy) Kitchen......
Maque Choux: a creamy corn dish from southern Louisiana.
3 ears of corn
2 tablespoons butter or oil or bacon grease
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/4 cup celery, finely diced
1/4 cup bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup tomato, finely diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon thyme
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the corn kernels from the cob but only cut into them about 2/3 of the way and set aside
Scrape the remaining 1/3 of the corn kernels off in a large bowl and set aside
Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat
Add the onion, celery and bell pepper and saute until tender, about 10-15 minutes
Add the corn, tomatoes, cream and thyme and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 10-15 minutes
Use an immersion blender to puree 1/4 of the corn mixture
Mix in the green onions, season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.
Spatchcocked Ricotta Chicken
1 whole chicken, at least 3 1/2 pounds
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Remove the innards from the chicken and reserve them for another use. Wash and pat dry the chicken.
Spatchcock (aka butterfly) the chicken using poultry shears or a sharp chef's knife: first remove the backbone, slicing or cutting it along each side all the way down to the tail end. Splay the chicken open with the skin side up on a flat surface. Place the heel of your hands, one on top of the other, over the middle of the chicken. Press down to flatten the chicken. You may hear the breast-bone crack.
Run your fingers under the skin at the neck opening to loosen the skin around the breasts, reaching as far down as the legs if possible.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, egg, bread crumbs, basil, garlic, lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
Using a spoon, carefully stuff the cheese mixture into the chicken between the skin and the meat, starting at the breasts. Coax the mixture into an even layer by pressing and pushing it from the outside, above the skin. Place the chicken on a rack, or several 1/2-inch-thick slices of onion, in a roasting pan, skin side up. Rub it with about a tablespoon olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
Roast for an hour or until the juices run clear from the thigh. To test for doneness with a thermometer, check the breast meat for an internal temperature of 165°F. Transfer the chicken to a cutting surface and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
To serve, divide the chicken into quarters, splitting the two breasts into four pieces if desired.
Dark and Damp Molasses Cake12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups dark or blackstrap molasses
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter or grease a 10-inch springform cake pan.
Place the chunks of butter in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Pour in the molasses and whisk in the brown sugar and white sugar. Whisk as the butter melts. When the butter has melted and is completely liquid, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy, give it a final stir and turn off the heat. Set the pan aside to cool. (The molasses will look slightly separated from the melted fat; they won't be smoothly combined.)
Use a clean dry whisk to combine the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and espresso powder in a large bowl. (The espresso powder is optional; it will lend one more dimension of flavor to your cake.)
Whisk the vanilla, eggs, and milk into the saucepan with the molasses and melted butter. When it is completely combined, pour this liquid slowly into the bowl of dry ingredients. Whisk thoroughly to combine, making sure there are no lumps.
Pour the thick batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 20 or 30 minutes, then run a thin, flexible knife around the inside of the pan to help the cakes edges release. Remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely on a cooling rack before icing.
Extra-Creamy Cooked Cream Cheese Icing
makes enough icing to sandwich and cover two 9-inch cake layers
16 ounces (2 bars) full-fat cream cheese, softened at room temperature for at least 1 hour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place the softened cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or simply use a large bowl and hand beaters). Whip the cream cheese on high speed for several minutes, until it is completely smooth and silky. Scrape the cream cheese out into a separate bowl and set aside.
Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a small saucepan. Turn the heat on to medium and slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. It will look lumpy at first but whisk vigorously to create a smooth paste. Continue whisking as the mixture comes up to a simmer. It will thicken rapidly and dramatically as it comes to a boil. Simmer for 1 full minute, then turn off the heat. Scrape the flour and milk paste into the mixer bowl. (If you want to be 100% sure there are no small lumps, pour it through a mesh sieve.)
Turn on the mixer or beaters and whip the flour-milk mixture for 10 minutes, or until it is lightened and no longer piping hot. It should be lukewarm or cooler. Slowly add the whipped, softened cream cheese, whipping constantly. Add the vanilla.
Continue whipping until the the two are completely combined and smooth and silky.
It is best to let this icing firm up a bit more in the refrigerator but you can use it now to ice a completely cooled cake. If not using immediately, store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Whip again briefly on high speed before using. It is also best to refrigerate cakes that are iced with this frosting. It is best eaten within three days or so.
...the wild Kat is now ready to crawl into her cave and sleep....