05 February, 2011

Some eats, some thrifts: Brother's Birthday Dinner and Cake - "Fried" Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Apple Bundt Cake with Caramel Sauce; Vintage bundt pan, tablecloth, table runner

We had two snow days in a row. The second day, I got pretty stir crazy. It happened to be the day before my brother's 25th birthday, so I put together a pretty decent meal with stuff we had in the house, cake included.

This post is part eats and part thrifts. My vintage bundt pan was a gift from a friend's mom. I'd said how I wanted to make a bundt cake, she gave me this pan, and then three years later, I'm finally using it. Sigh. 
Vintage bundt pan
The pan worked wonderfully. The cake was delicious, but I made a bad decision. I'll discuss it below.

Also, in the following pictures you can see my vintage fruit tablecloth and table runner. My grandmother gave me the tablecloth from her personal stash (it had belonged to my great-grandmother), and the runner came from the Southport Antique Mall last spring. Funny story...I bought it thinking it was two kitchen towels. I didn't realize until the day before the following pictures were taken that it was, in fact, a table runner. I had put it away, thinking we have enough dish towels, and I would save it for when that wasn't the case. Sigh.
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas
I learned this way of making fried chicken from my mom. Start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, wash them, dry them, then cover them with a flour mixture that includes salt, pepper, and paprika. I put this mixture in a pie pan and dip the chicken in it. Heat some oil in a pan on medium high - Just coat the pan a little heavily, there's a reason I put "fried" in quotes. Cook the chicken until golden brown, turning as necessary. Have your oven preheated to about 250 deg. F, and once the chicken is browned, place it in a baking dish in the oven to finish cooking through.
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas; Vintage tablecloth, vintage table runner
I make mashed potatoes slightly "dirty." I quickly peel the potatoes (for this, I used a full two pound bag of red potatoes), not taking care to remove all of the peel, just most, and then I leave a few completely unpeeled. I think this makes them just the right amount of dirty. Cut the potatoes into cubes - about 3/4 of an inch thick, put in a pot, fill with water to just cover the potatoes, and boil until soft enough to mash with a fork on the side of the pot. Drain (but a little potato water is good, so don't try too hard). Pour into a mixing bowl, add butter (I used 1/3 of a stick), whipping cream, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix until stiff and fluffy. Note - if you do not have whipping cream, sour cream and milk also works, or you can use only milk, but they end up less stiff.
No birthday party is complete with out the Jack
After you've shifted the chicken to the oven, add about 1/4 of a stick of butter to the pan, melt, then add enough flour to make a roux, whisking the flour into the butter as you add it. Add some chicken broth (about 1/2 cup), whisking the roux into the broth. Cook down a bit, and then add some milk - about a cup. Add broth and milk as needed until you have the quantity and consistency you desire. I seasoned the gravy with thyme, rosemary, white and black peppers, and salt.

The peas were an addition by a friend. They're a favorite of my brother's, but are the only vegetable that I don't like. Lately, though, I'm trying to decide if I still dislike them just because I always have. The last couple of times I've eaten them, they haven't been so bad.
Apple bundt cake with caramel glaze - with candles
A note about the cake: Neither my brother nor I are big on nuts in our baked goods, so I left the walnuts out. Also, the recipe calls for shaking a sugar mixture over the cake, but obviously I went a different (more difficult, less wise) route.
Cake cooling
Walnut Apple Bundt Cake (from The Taste of Home Cookbook - 2006)
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded peeled tart apples
2 cups sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts (omitted)
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar (omitted)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (omitted)
Apple bundt cake with caramel glaze - with candles; Vintage tablecloth, vintage table runner
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, and vanilla. Add apples and sugar; beat 1 minute. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and baking powder; add to apple mixture until blended. Stir in walnuts.
2. Pour into a greased and floured 10-in fluted tube pan. Bake at 325 deg. F for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Combine confectioners' sugar and brown sugar; sprinkle over cake (this step was omitted and replaced with a caramel sauce).
Apple bundt cake with caramel glaze - without candles.
I'm including the caramel drizzle recipe, but I don't recommend it for this cake. It looks really pretty, but it became completely hard (you can see it in some of the drips - it sort of icicled off the edge of the cake), and made for an interesting eating experience. It would work better for something like caramel baskets for candy. However, after sitting over night, the caramel sauce was all absorbed into the cake, and, I think, helped keep the cake more moist.

Caramel drizzle (from Larousse Gastronomique - 2009)
(From a recipe by Car^eme) Melt some caster (superfine) sugar without adding any water, and leave it to colour gradually over a gentle heat (this takes about 15 minutes). When it has turned amber-red, add 175 ml (6 fl oz., scant 3/4 cup) water, turn up the heat to high and boil for a few minutes. The result should be a beautiful amber-red caramel.

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