Saturday, February 18, 2012

stuffed pork chops michael symon would be proud of.

has anyone seen that new show called "the chew"?

i love it.

but shoot. i think confessing to loving a daytime talk show is probably the first step to becoming an old cat lady! nooo!

anyways... it's awesome. it's got clinton kelly (fab!), mario batali (iron chef #1), carla hall (i've never heard of her before the show, but she's basically hilarious), daphne oz (daughter of dr. oz, weirdly enough), and michael symon (iron chef #2!). they are so funny and make some delicious looking food, too!

the reason i mention this is because michael symon could probably be considered a pork connoisseur and i wish i could make these pork chops for him. because man, are they good!

so these were the main entree for my dinner party that included that crazy valentine's cake for dessert. i think the funniest part of this whole party was that i wasn't even there for it. i had to make everything ahead of time with strict instructions on finishing everything. from cooking times to what plates they should go on to how to garnish it. i wanted it to seem like i had been there, even though i wasn't. and because i had no end product pictures, i even left my camera asking to take pictures for me.

when i got home that night, my sometimes-technically-challenged parents said that they took pictures for me, much to my surprise. super pumped to see what they looked like, i turned on my camera.

not to my surprise, the most recent picture was one that i took right before i left.

all of their friends who were over for the dinner party chimed in, "we saw them take the pictures!"

what? don't get me wrong, i believe them. but no cameras take pictures and just automatically delete them upon turning the camera off. and my camera is slightly confusing when it comes to deleting pictures so it's not like they could've bumped the "erase all recent pictures" button.

nevertheless, here they are. smoked gouda and bacon stuffed pork chops.

ohh yeah.

the first thing i did was get my filling ready.

almost 3/4 of a pound of smoked gouda, shredded (keep in mind this is for 10 servings)...

couple tablespoons of fresh, chopped parsley...

and a good looking, full pound of crushed up and crispy bacon.

i just mixed it all up and set it aside until my pork chops were ready. ohh, the aromas are already intoxicating. bacon... hellooo?

and not to keep michael symon waiting, on to the pork chops.

i started with some bone-in, 1-inch thick pork chops and sliced a stuffing pocket into them. the easiest way to do this is to put one hand on the pork, flat on a cutting board and then take your sharp knife in to  the pork as parallel as you can to the board.

then, just keep slicing through until you're about 1/2 an inch away from the bone.

woo hoo! the hard part of stuffing pork chops is done! well, i guess you have to do like 2 or 3 more for your family or roommates. or you have like 10 more if you're doing it for a dinner party :)

 once you're all sliced and ready to go, take about two tablespoons of the filling and smash it into those beautiful pita-like pork pockets.

and if two tablespoons doesn't do it, just keep stuffing it in there.

the more cheesy, bacony, melty goodness, the better.

seal it all up with a toothpick or two and call it a day!

...or a raw pork chop stuffed with cold cheese and bacon.

so fire up the grill!

or the grill pan, as i did.

brush each pork chop with a little canola oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and let those babies sizzle away! (to get those awesome grill marks, just turn them like 45 degrees after a couple minutes). let them go about 4-5 mintes per side.

i flipped them over and did the same on the other side.

now at this point they're not cooked all the way through. so for my dinner party later that night, i just put them in 13x9 pans with a little chicken broth (so they wouldn't dry out) and sealed them off for the refrigerator. but if i were making them right away, i would simply put them in a pan and finish them off in the oven for about 15 minutes or so.

speaking of finishing them off, you'll just have to imagine these being pulled out of the oven.
juices seeping out of the pork.
cheese oozing out of the middle.
bacon sizzling and crispy.
grill marks dark and caramelized.
that's almost as good as a picture, right?

not to mention they taste even better. ho hum yum.

Smoked Gouda and Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops

4 bone-in, 1-inch thick pork chops
4 oz. smoked Gouda, shredded
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Canola oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high.

Mix the Gouda, parsley and bacon in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Slice pockets into the larger side of the pork chops. Stuff 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture into the pork chops and weave in toothpick to keep most of the mixture from oozing out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush each chop with a little canola oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sear on the grill or grill pan for about 4-5 minutes per side. (For cross grill marks, turn the pork 45 degrees after 2 or 3 minutes.)

To finish the cooking, roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes. (If these will be refrigerated and cooked later, bump up the cooking time to about 25 minutes.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

the layers of valentine's day revealed.

this is how valentine's day works.

if you have someone, you're all for it. you're like "bring on the chocolate, the cheesy cards, the hearts, the fluff, the expensive dinner-for-two and the loooove."

and if you don't have someone, you hate it. you think it's a hallmark holiday created by and for the people who do have someone. you think they created it to torture those who don't have someone "special." maybe you even see it as an excuse to make a date with ben and jerry's and the latest channing tatum flick.

whatever your take is on this day, i hope you appreciate the following recipe. because i'm basically in loooove with it. :)

here's the reason i decided to make this extravagant dessert. my parents are part of a bible study and they asked me to make the food for their valentine's dinner. obviously, i agreed.

when in my right mind would i ever turn something like that down? mm. never.

so the other parts of the meal (which were completely delicious as well) will be another post on another day, so just the fact that i'm starting with dessert should count for something!

alright, so if you're a true food-blog-lover, i feel confident that you have seen these rainbow cakes circulating. ever since seeing the first one, i wouldn't call it a strong desire... i would call it more like just looking for an excuse to make a cake that extravagant.

because making one on a tuesday afternoon for no apparent reason would be completely ridiculous... for most people.

so with this cake fantasy whirling around in my head and a menu needing to be planned, i took the plunge into rainbow cake making.

and it. was. fan. tastic.

plus i made it v-day friendly :)

and it's a true symbol of valentine's day because after all, it really is what's on the inside that counts... (sorry for the cheesiness, single ladies).

so the cake recipe i found was enough for a 6 tier cake, so a large bowl was definitely in order.

after my idea of holding the bowl up under the kitchen aid paddle attachment got shot down, i resorted to the mini handheld mixer.

then, with six bowls spread out around me, i started dividing up the batter, 2 cups at a time.

the cake itself has an almond taste with the help of some extract, which is probably the reason i chose this recipe. i'm kind of an almond extract junkie. cookies with it are my favorite... if you have any recipes, please share :)

since i wanted my version of the rainbow cake to be valentine's day-themed, i busted out the red food coloring. a drop in the first bowl, a few more in the next, until i was basically emptying the bottle into the last bowl.

it was fun playing with the different shades of pink and red. so fun, that i ended up also dying each one of my finger tips red.

at this point you would think that the most time-consuming of all tasks would be out of the way. however, i had two cake pans to work with and 6 layers to be made. so a 15 minute pop-em-in-the-oven-and-they're-done-kind-of task turned into over an hour of greasing and pouring and baking and waiting and taking out and letting cool and flipping over and regreasing and repouring and... yeah you get it.

another reason i made what seemed to be such an insane amount of batter was because i figured i was going to have to cut off a good amount of the cakes so they would be flat. however, they baked up pretty flat, that i just figured i would leave them and make up the slightly rounded edges with just a little extra frosting (ohhhh yeah, i'm getting to that!).

one by one, they came out perfectly. some sort of baking fairies must have snuck in while i was scrubbing the red food coloring off my hands and sprinkled some sort of magic fairy dust over this project. because they were all very evenly cooked and almost exactly the same size.

 i was kind of geeking out at this point, but not on any sort of level close to what i was like when it was complete.

you'll see... just keep reading, my loves.

on to the frosting!

i would just like to start off by saying two things:

first, i realize what the name of this blog is. but i must admit that light and flavorful and delightfully whipped buttercream is an exception. i'm sorry, ok, but we all have weaknesses.

and second (and much less important), i made the cakes the night before and then made the frosting the next day. i really didn't want to risk putting the frosting on even slightly lukewarm cakes. plus, it was around 8 o'clock by the time i finished the cakes. and being the baker that i am not, i was totally baker-ed out at that point. i couldn't lift another measuring cup, if you catch my drift.

so the next day, the disaster started all over again.

i decided that since i was taking on such an enormous task as making a rainbow cake, i would stick with fairly "normal" flavors my first go-around. so with my plain white almond cake i went with a simple vanilla buttercream frosting that i found here.

alice's recipe called for 2 sticks of butter and 3 cups of powdered sugar as the base. i knew it was going to be whipped but i had no real idea of what that would look like after it was done. so i made one batch.

and i was pretty confident that the 3 dollops of frosting was not about to smother all 6 beautiful layers of cakes.

so i proceeded in doubling what i had just made in order to get 3 times the original recipe.

basically what that meant was 6 full sticks of butter...

and 9 cups of powdered sugar.

i started by whipping the softened butter until it was nice and fluffy.

then came the obscene amount of sugar.

i mixed those on low in order to prevent a dust... ahem, powdered sugar storm in my kitchen. but i don't always win those battles. and apparently i didn't have my game face on that day.

anyways, eventually the butter will start to be incorporated.

first it will look very crumbly.

then it will look really sticky.

and then it will almost resemble frosting. at this point, i cranked the mixer up to medium high speed to get that lovely, powdered-sugar-dense air incorporated into it.

as that happened, i slowly added in some vanilla extract and some half and half.

i think that little bit of half and half (only 2 tablespoons per batch) really made it shine and made it look a lot less like just whipped butter.

look at all those lovely air bubbles!

just in case i somehow measured something a little differently from the first batch, i added it back into the bowl at the end just to gently fold them together. for some reason or another, i then decided to transfer this outrageously heavy amount of buttercream into a separate bowl.

sometimes i think i subconsciously want more dishes to clean in the end. because there's really no other reason.

well with the cakes baked and the frosting whipped, i was ready to assemble! eek! i started with arranging 4 small sheets of wax paper on the bottom of my cake stand around a dollop of frosting. the dollop helps make sure the cake doesn't move around and the wax paper?

stay tuned...

one by one the layers were stacked, dolloped, spread out, and stacked again...

until i had this beautiful mountain of sugar-y, cake-y goodness.

but that's not very aesthetically pleasing. well, i mean the colors are fantastic, but the whole point is to hide the best part!

so with as much grace and master-cake-making craftsmanship as i could, i slowly turned that cake into a white pillar of mystery. 

and let me tell you, i did not have a drop of buttercream to spare.

sometimes my guesstimates are scary awesome.

once it was completely covered and i liked how it looked, i slowly removed the sheets of wax paper, leaving a clean plate. you're a genius paula deen!

a couple strawberries on top because i couldn't resist and voila! 

a six layer masterpiece!

this was the point in which my geeking out reached new levels... even for me.

the worst part was that no one was home. not a soul in ear shot that could hear me making little squealing noises and literally jumping up and down and skipping around my kitchen. picture messages were even sent to friends who i knew would either (a) roll their eyes, but still smile because they knew my excitement or (b) wish they could have been there to help. it was a big moment for me. because like i said, i don't normally take on baking adventures such as these.

the best part about all of this was that i finished it around 1 in the afternoon and it was for my parents' dinner party that night. and as luck would have it, i had to work that night. so with very specific instructions not to cut it before i got back, i  reluctantly left for work. and the whole time, all i wanted to do was get back to my cake. the stuffed pork chops, the mashed potatoes, the vegetables ... they could all have been served cold for all i cared. as long as no one touched my cake, i was happy. 

because i wanted to be the one to slide the dental floss down the center of the cake (yeah, that's the trick to avoiding collapsing layers!), and reveal the hidden treasure inside the white pillar.

call me selfish, but i wanted to be the one to do it.

so they waited. thankfully, i got off work at a very reasonable time, so at least the guests weren't waiting too eagerly for my arrival.

but let's be honest. if they knew what was hidden under that enchanted buttercream, their patience would have been coming to an end much quicker.

and oh, how magical it was.

there were so many elements of suprise here.

first, there's the obvious. it's a tower of magestically cascading colors of baby pink to fire engine red all tucked in to bed under a dreamy blanket of buttercream frosting. is your mouth watering yet?

second, i had no idea i had this in me. honestly. me? frosting a 6-tier cake? git ahhta heeya.

third, and most suprising, i really want to make another one. with some notes that hit a little higher than almond and vanilla on the interesting, yet delicious scale.

so to of all you who are taken this valentine's day, make this for your other half. you're sure to woo them and anyone else who happens to see this true work of art. and to all of those who aren't...

what are you doing this tuesday? because my schedule's pretty wide open :)

Versatile White Cake

2 (18 ounce) boxes white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups sour cream
8 large egg whites

Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir together with a wire whisk.
Add the remaining ingredients and beat for 2 minutes.
Separate into 6 separate bowls, starting with 2 cups of batter in each bowl and finishing off each bowl with the rest. Dye each bowl different colors, or start with a small amount of dye in the first bowl and work your way up to more as you go along. Pour  batter into greased cake pans. Lightly tap cake pans on counter to bring air bubbles to top.
Bake in preheated 325 degree F oven until cake tests done. Baking time depends on the size of the pans and the amount of batter in each pan.
Creamy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
(this is for one batch, keep in mind i made 3 of these!)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream or half and half
Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.