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Kitchen Story: Blazing Hot and Super Fast are Not Always Best (unless you’re a superhero)

July 6, 2011

Heat and time. Two of the primary components of cooking. Yes, I know you can make delicious food without heat. And yes, if you happen to be The Flash or The Great Gazoo, you can move back and forth through the continuum and you can create a dish without actually using up time. But, for most of what I deal with in the kitchen, there is heat and time. I found this recipe for a slow roasted pork dish in Bon Appétit and made it a while back.  But when I first tried it, I rushed the time – I started the roasting late, not having been prepared for how long the browning might take, and, although it was cooked through (and safely), it was not that falling-apart, fork-tender roast pork that dreams are made of. I didn’t respect the time element. And as any good Doctor Who aficionado will tell you, you gotta respect Time.   So on Monday, with the day off for the Fourth of July, I started the roast early enough that it had the full extent of time to get to the desired tenderness.

The heat in this dish is also important to get to the right outcome. It’s a low 300 degrees F. It cooks slowly and allows the entire roast to get to the right temperature evenly and at the same time.  Cooking something at a higher temperature means a big differential between how it is cooking on the outside and the inside…and that does not a tender, melty roast make.  So don’t rush it – take your time and keep the heat low.

The rest of the process for the pork roast is relatively easy, which is one of the reasons I love a good roast – brown it, put it in a pot, cover it with whatever will give it flavor, and leave it alone!  It even has to rest when it comes out of the oven – do NOT rush that part either. If you slice a roast before it has a good 20 minute rest, you’ll regret it. Trust me. Use the 20 minute rest to get the sauce in shape, chat on the phone with your fabulous sister, and mash the potatoes. (You ARE having mashed potatoes, right?)

Onto dessert. I wanted to try my own hand at making a chocolate cake with some sort of gooey filling.  Once again, time was a factor.  The factor was that I wanted these made fast with the least amount of effort.  Because I wanted to eat them.  Right now. These are the times when boxed cake mixes are heavenly.  But even if you are shortcutting with a mix, don’t skimp on the time…it may be a box cake, but if it says to beat 2 minutes on medium, then make sure your mixer is going strong and leave it alone for the whole 2 minutes.  And the filling is amazingly easy.  Along with dill pickles, Sriracha, and at least 3 kinds of breakfast cereal, my pantry is rarely without marshmallow crème.

UPDATE: I made these “Devil Dog” cakes again, for my friend Jessica Blanche’s birthday. This time, I made them from scratch, and red velveted them.  The recipe is added at the end of this post!

Heat is the obvious player, but I have started learning that time is not an enemy in the kitchen.  Work it into the recipe just like you would any other ingredient and give yourself time to get everything done and enjoy the results.

Slow-Cooked Hoisin Pork Roast with Green Onions

Bon Appétit | October 2003

Yield: Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 5 1/2-pound boneless pork shoulder (about 6 1/2 pounds with bone), trimmed, tied to hold shape

3/4 cup hoisin sauce

3 bunches green onions, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/4 cup Scotch whisky

3/4 cup (or more) water

Sliced green onions (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over high heat. Add pork shoulder, fat side down; brown on all sides, turning often, about 12 minutes. Remove pot from heat. Spread hoisin sauce over pork; sprinkle with green onion pieces and peppercorns. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook until pork is very tender when pierced with fork, about 2 3/4 hours, adding water to pot by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry.

Remove pot from oven. Transfer pork to cutting board and tent with foil. Let pork stand 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, spoon off fat from pan juices. Stir whisky and 3/4 cup water into juices; boil 2 minutes. Add more water by tablespoonfuls if sauce is too thick, or boil to reduce sauce if too thin.

Cut pork crosswise on slight diagonal into 1-inch-thick slices. Garnish with sliced green onions. Pour pan sauce over pork and serve.

Devil’s Food Cakes with Marshmallow Crème Filling

1 box devils food cake mix

1 7oz jar marshmallow crème

1/3 cup powdered sugar

½ cup shortening (or unsalted butter, softened)

2 tsp very hot water

¼ tsp salt

Make the cakes according to the package instructions – bake in muffin tins or mini loaf tins. While the cakes are cooling, dissolve the salt in the hot water and let cool to room temp. Whip the marshmallow, powdered sugar, and shortening in a bowl with a whisk until fluffy.  Add the salted water and whip it good.  Using a pastry bag with a round tip, pipe the filling into the bottom of the cakes.  Alternatively, you can cut them in half, and put the filling in between.

 

Red Velvet Devil Dogs

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

¼ cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder (like Hershey’s Special Dark)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

1 tablespoon red food coloring

1 teaspoon vinegar (I used apple cider, but white works well too)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp

½ cups sugar

2 eggs, room temp

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your pans. I used a mini loaf man.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium for1 minute, until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients alternately, beginning and ending with the dry, and mix until combined. Stir with a rubber spatula to be sure the batter is mixed.

Put the batter into whatever pan you are using. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Continue with the recipe as shown above to make the filling and stuff the little doggies.

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