Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reader's Favorite

Every issue of Bon Appetit has a short section called R.S.V.P./ readers' favorite restaurant recipes. It allows anyone to request their favorite dish from a specific restaurant. I'm not sure how they get chefs to give up their secrets, but they do. The March 2011 issue had five such requests. I decided to do two separate posts and cook them all.

The first request came from Cynthia Redding in Mount Pleasant, SC. She says "I absolutely love the coconut cake at Hominy Grill in Charleston. Can you get the recipe so that I could make the dessert at home?" (My daughter Katie currently lives in the area and even did a stint in Mount Pleasant, so I thought I have to try this.)

Part 1

Hominy Grill's Classic Coconut Cake

PREP 30 minutes TOTAL 4 hours (includes baking and cooling time) 10 SERVINGS

Room-temperature ingredients make all the difference in this cake. You can get more loft from non-chilled egg whites, and room-temperature butter is easier to cream (beat together) with sugar than the straight-from-the-fridge stuff. The fluffy egg whites and properly creamed butter and sugar mean tender, light cake. And room-temp butter and cream cheese will translate to creamy, smooth frosting instead of a sticky mess filled with lumps.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all purpose flour
1-1/3 cups (loosely packed)sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 large egg yolks
4 large egg white, room temperature

3-1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 8-ounce package Philadelphia-brand cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (about) sweetened flaked coconut

CAKE Preheat oven to 350 degrees F., Coat two 9-inch diameter cake pans with 1-1/2 inch-high sides with nonstick spray; line bottom of pans with parchment paper rounds. Mix flour and coconut in medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and baking soda in small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks and beat to blend. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, beating just to blend after each addition. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon salt until peaks form. Add 1/3 of egg white mixture to batter; fold into batter just to blend. Fold in remaining egg white mixture in 2 additions. Divide batter between pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around sides of cake pans. Invert cakes onto racks. Carefully peel off parchment. Cool cakes completely.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in large bowl until blended. Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting. Place second layer, flat side up, atop frosting. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle some of the coconut on the top of the cake; pat more coconut on sides of cake.

Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

This cake was delicious - moist, tender and sweet. I think it should stay refrigerated because of the cream cheese. Just make sure the slices come to room temperature before serving.


The next request came from Amy Madden, who lives in Kansas City, MO. She wrote "[w]hile visiting friends in California, I tried the much-talked-about Gjelina in Venice. The food definitely lived up to its reputation-especially the bacon and date scones. I'd love to serve them for brunch back home."

OK this sounded really strange to me (meat in scones?) but then again it is coming from a restaurant located in Venice, CA. which is one of the strangest places I have ever visited. After thinking about meat in scones it occurred to me that the meat was after all bacon, and as we meat eaters know bacon is good no matter what you do with it!


PPEP 40 minutes TOTAL 3 hours 10 minutes (including chilling time) MAKES 8

Gjelina chef Travis Lett and pastry chef Meave McAuliffe have perfected this sweet-savory treat. "It's essential to work the dough as little as possible," says Lett. "If there are streaks of unincorporated butter or flour that's fine." And Lett has a serving suggestion, too. "Try them with a high-quality farmstead butter and some flaky sea salt. Lovely."

10 ounces thick-cut bacon slices
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted Medjool dates
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
Raw sugar

Ingredient Info: Raw sugar, which is sometimes called turbinado or demerara sugar, is available at most supermarkets and at natural food stores.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until cooked through but still tender and not crisp, turning occasionally. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain; cool. Poor bacon drippings from skillet into small heatproof bowl and reserve.

Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Coarsely chop cooled bacon. Add bacon and dates to flour mixture; toss to coat. Coarsely grate butter into flour mixture. Using fork, stir in butter. Add buttermilk; stir until large moist clumps form. Using hands, knead mixture briefly in bowl until dough forms.

Transfer dough to floured work surface, Pat into 8-inch round.

Leave more room than this for expansion!
Cut into 8 wedges. Transfer scones to sheet. Cover and chill scones for 2 hours. Brush with reserved bacon drippings. Sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake scones until golden brown and tester inserted into center of scones comes out clean, 16 to 18 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cool completely; store airtight at room temperature.

Mike and I thought these were really great, but best cooled slightly and eaten right away. We ate them with butter and strawberry jam. If you decide to make them give them plenty of room on the baking sheet to expand.


The last recipe request in Part 1 of this experiment came from Jeanne Schmid who lives in Alexandria, VA.  She says that "Carbana is one of my favorite restaurants in West Palm Beach. I really like the mahi-mahi with tomato-pepper sauce, which isn't on the standard menu but is often a special."


PREP 45 minutes TOTAL 2 hours 45 minutes SERVINGS  6 

To make sure there are enough fish in the sea, eat sustainable fish. The mahi-mahi in this recipe is considered a good option by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Before you go shopping, print out or download the aquarium's Seafood Watch regional guides-and ask your fishmonger about where the seafood comes from and how it's caught.

16 garlic cloves, divided
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup olive oil
6 - 8-ounce mahi-mahi or black cod fillets
Ingredients for 2
1 large white onion, halved, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup sliced large pimiento-stuffed green olives (about 24)
4 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 cups crushed tomatoes with puree
1-1/2 tablespoons drained capers from jar

Puree 10 garlic cloves in mini processor; transfer to 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Add 1/2 cup oil, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons pepper to garlic; whisk marinade to blend. Add fish to marinade, cover, and chill 2 hours, turning fish occasionally.

Chop 6 garlic cloves. Heat 1/4 cup oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped garlic, onion, and next 7 ingredients. Cook until vegetables are soft, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Add wine; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with puree and capers simmer 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-heat. Add fish to skillet with marinade still clinging. Cook until golden and just opaque in center, about 5 minutes per side.

Discard bay leaves from sauce. Divide sauce among plates. Top with fish.

I have to say the sauce is the major player in this dish. It is thick and rich with a delicious salty taste thanks to the capers and olives. The recipe divides easily. I made it for two, and I bet it easily could be made for 12. I made this same recipe last night with a boneless chicken breast and it was just as good.

Next week the readers of Bon Appetit will take us to Argentina for beef and chimichurri sauce and a side of jalapeno corn pudding.

Life is good - enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, they all look delicious! If you need a sous chef, just let me know.