Yes, I own a cake caddy.

It looks like a pile of whipped cream, but it’s actually a pavlova with raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, and mango on it.  This was my second attempt; the first time, I made two errors, at least one of which kept the egg whites from forming stiff peaks:

  • I put the eggs in a plastic bowl, which may have trapped some oil in it.  Oil is game over for whipping eggs whites.
  • I didn’t have an egg beater, so I tried to do it first with the immersion blender, and second with a hand whisk.  The hand whisk should have worked, so I think the plastic bowl may have been the problem?

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Lobster and grits with grilled green tomatoes

My girlfriend’s family just moved from New England to the South, so I tried “fusion” for Christmas brunch – a variation on the traditional shrimp and grits.  It’s not trivial to find lobster in upcountry South Carolina; we believe the enormous creature below is a “rock lobster”, also known as a “spiny lobster”, which has similar taste but slightly different appearance and texture.

This was my first time cooking grits, and they turned out a little clumpy, but the addition of Gruyère and gouda cheese kept anyone from complaining.  I have never been a big fan of fried, battered vegetables, so we grilled the green tomatoes, which turned out to be delicious.

Bellini cocktails are not Southern, per se, but peaches are, so they seemed like a reasonable substitute for brunch mimosas.

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Rouladen with spaetzle

The first of two holiday meals I cooked for my girlfriend’s family: rouladen with spaetzle.  I’m an outspoken fan of the cheaper cuts of beef, which are often more flavorful than the more expensive cuts; thin-slicing and pounding is one of many ways to tenderize them.  Spaetzle can be made with a specialized tool, but fortunately we found a colander with large holes that made a fine substitute.

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Tacos with ground pork, black beans, and acorn squash.

People who consider vegetarian or veganism for environmental or animal welfare reasons should also consider the venerable practice of stretching meat. For example, these tacos were filled with a mixture of ground pork, black beans, and textured vegetable protein (TVP). TVP is a soy product with a texture – but not flavor – very similar to that of ground meat, meaning that it substitutes well for ground meat in dishes that are heavily spiced, or that also contain some meat to provide flavor.

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Braised tofu with minced pork and stir-fried kale

I always thought “braised” meant “simmered for a long time,” but actually it means “cooked once with dry heat, then simmered for any length of time.”  For this dish, the tofu was stir-fried until lightly golden, then simmered briefly in thickened broth.

As in many (most?) Asian dishes, the tofu is a “meat replacement” in an economic sense only; it accompanies meat rather than fully replacing it.

The broth was flavored with some ginger, sriracha, and leaks, sauteed with some rice wine, soy sauce, and oyster sauce; for the broth, I used chicken Better Than Bouillon thickened with corn starch.  I ended up overdoing the salty/savory a bit, an overcorrection to my previous experiments with Cantonese recipes.

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