Blue Ribbon BBQ

May 7, 2010

Dry-Rubbed Ribs

Vegetarians be warned; this is not a post for the faint of heart.

Blue Ribbon Barbeque and I go way back. I first discovered it last year while out on a run in Arlington. I was intrigued by the sign, which promoted their BBQ as “real.” Coming from St. Louis, I’ve had my fair share of cooked meat. I’m no connoisseur, but I know good pulled pork when I see it. And while the fish here is phenomenal, the other meats leave something to be desired.

The menu seemed promising, so I got a group of my friends together. It was the end of freshmen year, and I was ready to smother the pain of finals with some dead animals.

But wait, there's more!

This wasn't even all of it...

I should tell you all, the portions are quite large. Last year, we ordered the supper for six and didn’t finish. There were eight of us. Eight male college students. We eat like it’s our job. They call it the supper for six, but they don’t specify. Six humans? Six grizzly bears? Six Cthulhus? I’m not sure.

Here are the contents…

1½ slabs of Memphis Dry-Rubbed Ribs
2 pints of Pulled Pork, Burnt Ends, Pulled Chicken, Beef Brisket or Hot Sausage.
2 Barbecued or Jamaican Jerked ½ Chickens
2 pints of Baked Beans
2 pints of Cole Slaw
6 pieces of Cornbread
6 Sandwich Rolls

There are also a myriad of sauces that range from mild to volcanic. For me the Blue Ribbon Gold Barbecue Sauce took the gold, followed by the chipotle mustard. All of my friends and I agreed that the pulled pork was by far the best. If you go, that’s what I’d recommend.

And the most essential part of any trip to Arlington ends with a visit to Boston’s premier frozen custard establishment: The Chilly Cow. Frozen custard is another Midwestern phenomenon that hasn’t taken off in other parts of the country. Much like Blue Ribbon, The Chilly Cow’s serving sizes are a bit warped. There’s kiddie (essentially a small), small (medium to large), medium (big), and large (gargantuan).

So here’s to PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals!

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Salted Caramel Whoopie Pies

March 10, 2010

This past weekend the Tufts’ student theatre group—Pen, Paint, and Pretzels; affectionately abbreviated to 3Ps—put up an amazing production of Eric Bogosian’s “SubUrbia.” The play was incredibly powerful and scarily relatable. The acting was great and the set was phenomenal. So at the end of the show I enthusiastically applauded the cast. I decided that I would treat them to a little something extra. Some people give bouquets of flowers, I give baked goods. Because after all, flowers are nice to look at, but their beauty is short lived. Food is equally temporary, but at least you get to eat it. Booyah roses.


In one scene, the hyperactive Buff (played brilliantly by Greg Berney) waxes poetic about Oreos. The show’s producers got really into the whole Oreo thing; they even placed a Technicolor Oreo on the posters. I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is no. I didn’t make them oreos. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So I decided to make Whoopie Pies, which are kind of like Oreos on sterioids. Instead of crisp cookies, the creamy center is sandwiched by two moist chocolate cakes. I decided to swap out the normal buttercream filling with a salted caramel frosting. This added some depth to the cookies, befitting the play’s intensity.

Whoopie Pies originated up here in the Northeast, specifically in Amish-country, Pennsylvania. The Whoopie Pie’s popularity has reached an all-time high.  Swanky dessert places hawk reimagined whoopie pies for ridiculous prices (think Finale).  Even Nabisco has hopped on the bandwagon, selling a bastardized Whoopie Pie in the form of “Oreo Cakesters.” This version requires the use of Dutch-process cocoa powder. This gives the cake a more distinct flavor. If you don’t know the differnce between Dutch-processed and non-dutch cocoa powder, then check to see if the box specifies. If it says “Natural,” then you probably have non-dutch. Go for European brands, such as Valrhona. Hershey’s Special Dark is partially dutched. Generally, brands will label accordingly, saving you the time and trouble. If you want to learn more, check out David Lebovitz’s encyclopedic FAQ about cocoa powder.

But enough cocoa-powder musings. Back to “SubUrbia!” The entire play takes place in front of a 7/11. The characters saunter in and out of the parking lot and pass the days and nights by loitering out front. So I figured that I would re-create the Giant Hostess Cupcake for the cast. Hostess is the quintessential convenience-store snack food, so it would only be right to make that.


The show was awesome, and hopefully the cast enjoyed the desserts.

RECIPE FOR WHOOPIE PIES

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup DUTCH-PROCESSED cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together shortening, sugar, and egg. In another bowl, combine cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir the vanilla extract into the milk. Add the dry ingredients to the shortening mixture, alternating with the milk mixture; beating until smooth.

Drop batter by the 1/4 cup (to make 18 cakes) onto prepared baking sheets. With the back of a spoon spread batter into 4-inch circles, leaving approximately 2 inches between each cake.

Bake 15 minutes or until they are firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

MAKING THE FILLING

*  1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

* 1 cup marshmallow cream such as Marshmallow Fluff

*1 cup salted caramel (see recipe below)

* 1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat together butter, caramel, marshmallow, and vanilla in a bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Shmear the inside of halve the cookies, and then top them off.

ASSEMBLING THE WHOLE THANG

When the cakes are completely cool, spread the flat side (bottom) of one chocolate cake with a generous amount of filling. Top with another cake, pressing down gently to distribute the filling evenly. Repeat with all cookies.

Deep, Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

(this makes way more than a cup, but believe me, you won’t mind one bit)

1 cup sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) salted butter,

1/2 cup plus two tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature

Melt the sugar over medium high heat in a large pot (at least two or three quarts) whisking or stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly. If the sugar begins to clump, then you’ve been over-stirring. Should this happen, let it sit for about twenty seconds, before you continue to stir. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice, dark copper color. Add the butter all at once and stir it in. Once you turn off the heat, pour in the heavy cream (The sauce will foam up quite a bit when you add it; which is why you want the larger pot), whisking it until you get a smooth sauce. If any pieces of hardened sugar remain, they can be strained/picked out.

You use it right away or pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you take it out, it will likely have thickened a bit but 30 seconds in the microwave brings it right back to pouring consistency.


Valentine’s Day Clincher: Molten Chocolate Cake

February 7, 2010

Chocolate is a requisite for Valentine’s Day.  I still remember picking out chocolates in hopes of winning the heart of my third grade crush, Anya. Unfortunately for me, another boy was competing for Anya’s heart, and he shrewdly took credit for my act of love. Oh the agony! I despondently watched as he proclaimed himself her “Secret Admirer.”
While it didn’t exactly work out as planned, there’s no denying the aphrodisiacal powers of chocolate. So when you’re planning a dinner date for V-Day, dessert is a huge consideration. And while there’s no denying the romantic allure of posh dessert spots like Finale or Burdicks, they can be a little draining on the wallet.

The solution—make it yourself. It’s cheaper and far more rewarding. Spending money on a girl will make her blush, spending time on a girl will make her purr. Girls love it when you take them to a swanky restaurant, but if you slave over a good dessert, you’ll have her eating out of the palm of your hand. But guess what? You don’t even have to slave over the dessert. So for all those guys out there with ladies to impress; it’s easy to do, just follow these steps.

Step 1: Cut a hole in a box

Just kidding. I highly doubt you’ll score many ladies with that sort of gift. Here’s a better option.

First, you should invite a girl out to dinner. You can either take her to a restaurant (Sushi or Tapas are options that strike a nice balance between informal and fancy). If you’re a little more confident in your cooking skills, get some pasta from Dave’s Fresh and dine at home/dorm. If it’s a first date though, I’d keep it in neutral territory, like a restaurant.

Step 2: Prepare dessert yourself. A mediocre meal can be remedied with a phenomenal dessert. This final course is the clincher, which is why you should make it yourself. She’ll appreciate the fact that you made it yourself, and best of all—it’s a guaranteed way to get her back to your place.

You should make either the chocolate soufflé or the molten chocolate cake. Both desserts are flashy enough to wow her and easy enough to keep your pre-date day stress free. And best of all, these desserts can both be made ahead of time. Just make them right before you go and place them refrigerator. When you get back, put them in the oven and bake them and voila! Hot, freshly baked dessert! The last thing you want to be doing when you bring her home is fretting over the dessert in the kitchen. By prepping everything beforehand, all you have to do when you get back is put it in the oven. What you decided to do after dessert is all up to you.

If you wanna make the Soufflé…
I detailed this one in the soufflé post, so just click here for that recipe

If you wanna make the molten chocolate cake…

Molten Chocolate Cake
(adapted from New York Times recipe, which in turn was taken from “Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef” by Mark Bittman and Jean-Georges Vongerichten)

INGREDIENTS
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, plus more to butter the molds
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting

METHOD

1. Beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar with a whisk or electric beater until light and thick.

2.) In a double boiler (Saucepan of simmering water with a bowl on top), melt chocolate and butter together until the chocolate is almost completely melted.

2. Pour in the egg mixture, then quickly beat in the flour, just until combined.

3. Butter and lightly flour 2 8-ounce molds, custard cups, or ramekins. Tap out the excess flour, then butter and flour them again. Divide the batter among the molds.

(At this point you can refrigerate the desserts until you are ready to eat, for up to several hours; however, you must bring them back to room temperature before baking.)

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the molds on a tray for about 11 minutes; the center will still be quite soft, but the sides should be set.

5. Once baked, take ramekins out of oven. Immediately place a serving plate on top  of the ramekin. Acting quickly, flip ramekin/plate over. The cake should unmold itself onto the plate. Serve immediately.

Ps: It’s good with vanilla ice cream and a couple of sliced strawberries.


Black and White Cookies, minus the black and the white

October 9, 2009
School Spirit, baked at 375º for 20 minutes

School Spirit, baked at 375º for 20 minutes

Those “Half Moon” cookies at Lyndell’s inspired me this past Sunday night. Since our room had to host “hall snacks,” I decided to make a Tufts-version of this New York dessert.

Tufts in a cookie

Tufts in a cookie

Let me explain the concept of hall snacks. In an effort to bring people together, the office of student life asks students to hold weekly get-togethers, when residents of the various dormitories can socialize and connect with those people who live near them. Each week, a different room hosts the get-together and provides the food, the universal college incentive. You want kids to show up at a general interest meeting? Offer free snacks. Anyways, Sunday was our night to host, so I decided to make the cookies, but with a distinct Tufts flair.
Brown and Blue
I colored the white icing blue and made the other side brown. I accomplished this by not going super dark on the chocolate. The original recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, but I cut it with bittersweet (2oz unsweetened and 1oz bittersweet) and didn’t use any cocoa powder. The frosting bordered on a fudgy ganache, so I occasionally added a little extra hot water to keep it spreadable. The icing was a little too sugary for my taste, but so if I make it again, I might cut it ever so slightly with potato starch and throw in some vanilla extract for extra flavor.
Gotta Love the checkers table
My low inventory forced me to improvise a little bit. I replaced lemon extract with the zest of half a lemon without much of a problem. The cookies also called for cake flour, and I didn’t have any on hand. Cake flour has less protein or something in it, which creates a lighter cake. I used the conversion rate of 1-cup cake flour to 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons of All Purpose Flour. My cake was a little dense for my liking, but most people enjoyed it just fine. They kind of took on the texture of madelines.

I invited my friend Eugene over to inspect my cookies. Eugene hails from Manhattan, so I figured that he would make the best judge for authenticity. According to him, I passed the texture category with flying colors, thanks to the soft cookie’s crisp edges. He also found the white side to be a little too sugary. While they may not have been genuine New York-style Black and Whites, The fact that he went for thirds leads me to believe that they’re good enough. Either that or he has low standards (a common trait of the collegiate male).
Yumsies!

Black and White Cookies

Yield: About 45 4-inch cookies. Much like dogs, the smaller the cookie, the more dainty, but the more frustrating. You might want to sacrifice some cuteness for sanity on this one, but that’s just one lazy college student’s opinion…

COOKIE
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
2 sticks of unsalted butter softened at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of half a lemon of a lemon
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

ICING
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup of water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces very bitter or unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon light corn syrup.
1 to 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (optional or a darker chocolate frosting)

COOKIES
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line with parchment paper or with a non-stick spray.

2. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix with electric mixer for about five minutes, until fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, milk and vanilla extract and lemon zest, and mix until smooth.

3. In medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients (cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt) until mixed. Add dry mixture to the wet in batches, stirring (I used a wooden spoon) well after each addition. Place heaping spoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. These cookies will spread, and they lose something when they aren’t circular, so make sure you give them some space. Bake until edges begin to brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely. Flip them over, so you frost the flat side.

FROSTING

4. In a small pot, boil the cup of water. Place the confectioners’ sugar in large, heat-safe mixing bowl. Gradually add boiling water and vanilla extract to the sugar making a thick, spreadable mixture, about a third of a cup. If for some reason you add too much water, just add some more confectioners’ sugar. Leave remaining boiling water in the pot on the stove.

5. Spread frosting on half of the flat side of each cookie. Once all cookie halves have been frosted, place the bowl of the remaining frosting over the pot of hot water and bring it back to a simmer, simulating a double-boiler. Stir in the chocolate until it has fully melted, and then add the corn syrup. At this point, depending on the chocolate you used and your preferences, you might find the chocolate color to be a little lighter than the “black” of a black-and-white cookie. If so, use that cocoa powder to darken the mixture.

6. Ice the remaining half of the cookies with the chocolate frosting. If the frosting gets too dry and fudgy, then add a teaspoon of the hot water from the pot to the chocolate. This should bring it back to its shiny, spreadable consistency.