Monday, June 18, 2012

Barbecue and a Chocolate Cake

After what one could label a tedious 24-hour drive, I have arrived back home in Omaha totally broke and on the mend. My acid reflux, which had become something of an obsession (re: I troll the Internet at all hours trying to come up with a breakthrough), has lessened ever so slightly but enough, although I am still abstaining from all things fun, which is to say beer, spicy food, coffee, tea and carbonated beverages.

Part of my healing process shall be to do some cooking, and yesterday being Father's Day, I had a great opportunity to thank my dad for all his love and support during the Boston internship by spoiling him with barbecued beef short ribs and a triple-chocolate cake. He deserved that and more. Really, he's the best.

Unfortunately for the Internet, I signed one of those pesky nondisclosure agreements with America's Test Kitchen and cannot reproduce the recipe here. However, you are in luck because the recipe is featured in this month's Cook's Illustrated magazine. Let me entice you to purchase the magazine for this (and an awesome grilled jerk chicken recipe that I can't eat right now because of the habanero chile). Beef short ribs are maybe a little bit of a restaurant secret. Braised beef short ribs was something I was taught almost right away upon entering culinary school. You can get a lot of bang out of those ribs. The cut has a lot of connective tissue, making it pretty tough unless you cook it for a long time at a low temperature, at which point it becomes that melt-in-your-mouth meat.

Contrary to everyone else in the world, I have actually not been a huge fan of beef short ribs. There is a lot of fat in the cut. A lot. And it's that chewy, collagen-esque fat. It is always a heavy meal, especially when braised and all that fat just sits there in the stewing liquid and solidifies all over your leftovers. This technique solves that problem by roasting the ribs that are coated with a general rub. The fat melts off and you leave it in the pan when you move the ribs to the grill where they are treated to a mustard glaze. The glaze is the real ringer in this entree. It's mustard, vinegar (a personal favorite ingredient) and brown sugar. You glaze the ribs every half hour until the ribs gets this sweet-and-sour crust on the outside. The meat is completely tender once your break through that delectable outer layer.

We were stuffing ourselves not wanting to leave any meat behind. But once we had our fill, the family dog, Shelby, was more than happy to clean the meat completely off the bone and gobble down the last layer of fat and collagen right next to the bone. It was astounding really. Our eyes had not yet witnessed her skill at tearing through tough meat. She really such a wussy dog--she can't even jump high enough to get into the truck and this is a large golden retriever--we were impressed that she could rip the meat, clean off.
Not one to disappoint, I'll leave you with a different recipe. One for a Brooklyn Blackout Cake. We made it in my cakes class at school and I subsequently featured it at a Sukkot dessert reception where I worked last fall. My dad went straight for the chocolate on the buffet and requested it for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I held off until now, and I am happy to report that the cake came off without a hitch. It's not perfect by professional standards, but I think I may have finally moved beyond my early cake traumas with a little practice and the help of a screaming instructor. I present you with the Brooklyn Blackout Cake: a moist chocolate cake with a chocolate pastry cream filling and chocolate-butter frosting. 

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup brewed coffee

1 cup milk
pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
11 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix dry ingredients including flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cocoa powder and sugar. Whisk to combine. 

In separate bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, butter and vanilla. In bowl of standing mixer, add wet ingredients to dry. Mix for one minute until combined. Pour in coffee and mix until smooth. Divide evenly into two nine-inch cake rounds that have been greased. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until toothpick comes out cleanly. 

To make pastry cream, warm milk and salt in a saucepan on medium-low heat until steaming. Meanwhile, whisk egg, sugar and cornstarch. Pour hot milk slowly over egg mixture, stirring continuously. Pour entire mixture back into saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened. Pour hot pastry cream over chocolate. Stir until smooth as chocolate melts. Place in between layers of cake once cream is cooled. Assemble cake before making frosting.

For frosting, melt chocolate in microwave by pulsing and stirring frequently. Cream butter in bowl of standing mixer. Add powdered sugar and cream again. Finally, pour in vanilla and melted chocolate, mix until smooth. Frost cake before icing is cooled because it will harden at room temperature and be difficult to spread. Decorate outside with crumbs from evening out cake layers or leave plain as I have here.

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