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Yellow Cake in Multiple Formats

February 3, 2008

This morning the house has the warm clean feel that it does after a party. You look around at the plants, vases of flowers, our enormous tree, new persian rug (⇐), no clutter, happy plump couches, vibrant velvet pillows, and these things look somehow different, because they are still exuding the warmth of the guests last night.

But then you look at the kitchen, and you fall to the floor, despairing. I cannot provide a picture of the kitchen.

My husband sleeps 15% less than I do, but in a scary twist of fate I’ve gotten up first, and I really must make a dent in all of these dishes, because he also cleans about 80-100% more than I do.

(I know that these metrics, which we only figured out yesterday, make me seem like a bad person. But I have . . . some . . . good qualities. Read his blog to see what they are. Oh, except I just remembered that his blog is about real estate, not me. Well then, one of my good qualities is having a blog where I mention my spouse. Go ahead, turn that into a percentage.)

Last night was New Jersey night in Brooklyn. We had 2 couples over, and both drove all the way from New Jersey. The first couple to arrive brought their teeny, tiny baby, Jacob, who is three months old and therefore still a really good party guest. The second couple brought a cake shaped like a football, which, no offense parents, was an even better party guest.

But what kind of party guest am I? Guest: ok. Host: I am trying to grow in this regard. You may or may not know that my current objective / project is to be able to have people over with less stress. I love to cook but generally it’s just for the 2 of us, and one person is setting the table while the other is stirring, or whatever. But when we have people over my objectives are to 1) visit, 2) feed them something extremely delicious, and 3) not be mean to anyone. So being *really* prepared beforehand with a *really* delicious thing to eat that is easily served and doesn’t require my attention while people are actually there is my strategy.

Cooking is the bomb (da bomb?) but takes a lot of time, so one thing we’ve been doing on weeknights, when M works really late is have “crockpot wednesdays,” so that we can have a super easy dinner and actually work on other projects in the evening, instead of just cooking and cleaning up and falling into bed. I love Chicken Paprikash and Moroccan Beef Stew but one of my favorite crockpot dishes is Manuel’s Beef Brisket Tacos. I learned about this dish when I lived in Texas (which is where I know Manuel from) and actually it’s to be cooked for about 100 hours at 100 degrees in an oven–which in Texas basically means leaving it on the counter, ha, ha, ha–but we do the meat in crockpot. I love this for many reasons, but in part because it’s one of these recipes where you just need one of each thing, and the devil is in the time rather than in the details. This isn’t a delicate recipe–just a delicious one.

Manuel’s Beef Brisket Tacos
The Brisket
1 Brisket (2 lbs is good for 6 people, 3 if you want leftovers)
1 lemon
1 bottle beer
1 beer bottle’s worth of water
1 can of pickled jalapenos (can be jalapenos and carrots)
1 onion, sliced into rings, rings then cut in half
sprinkle cumin

Salt and pepper the brisket. Heat oil until hot on medium high in a heavy cast iron pan. (If you don’t have a cast iron skillet or dutch oven, get one! You will feel better, all of the time. But don’t worry about it for this dish–just use a fry pan.) Place the brisket fat-side down; make it sizzle. Brown on all sides, for about 10 minutes total.

While the meat browns, prepare the braising liquid in the crockpot. Pour in the beer, then refill bottle with water and add that. Watching for seeds, squeeze lemon into the pot. Drain the juice from the pickled peppers into the crockpot, reserving the vegetables for garnishing the tacos. Add the onion and some cumin. If the crockpot has an “automatic” setting, put in on that. If not, turn on high, then turn to low 2 hours later. Cook until the meat is done done done. It will fall apart when you pick it up with a fork. This will take about 5 hours, but you can cook it for longer.

When ready to eat, bring into a stove-top pan and shred. Heat on the stove with some juice. Season with salt. Heat flour tortillas, serve with hot sauce (goya or costena in a bottle is my favorite if I don’t get to make it myself), cilantro, sour cream, and the pickled peppers. Spanish rice, refried beans, and salad are all you need to go with.

(I also made shrimp taco filling with lime, garlic, red onion, chili pepper flakes, and cumin–and okra and corn taco filling.)

Finally, it was time for the cake. It was a chocolate frosted ball with white creamy stitches, with with a blue “NY” in cursive. Apparently this is in reference to a big game happening today.

They imported it across 2 rivers all the way from the Snowflake Bakery in Northern NJ, which is touted as being very old-fashioned. Indeed, the delicious chocolate frosting was the same taste and texture as the black part of black and white cookies. Inside was a lovely yellow cake with chocolate pudding bisecting the two layers.

I got a small round end of cake, which had a high frosting to cake ratio, which I construe to be a plus. Still, I felt sort of sad because my piece was small. Luckily I was seated next to baby Jake’s dad, who said he’s on a diet and wanted to lob off part of his own sagittal football slice, so I eagerly complied.

It’s not like *I* need any more cake this weekend. Friday night I met a friend and some of her friends in Queens for a birthday dinner. One person arrived late, a girl from Manhattan who complained about coming to Queens. Ironic, because though Queens and Bklyn are contiguous, there is no straight shot to get there, without some walking between 2 transfers. Hopstop, which I love, timed my trip there at 1 hour and 18 minutes, and it was fairly accurate.

We got invited at the last moment, because she felt weird planning a trip to Queens without me. Thank goodness she was plagued by her conscience, because it gave us a great excuse to go out to what is generally written about as the best Thai restaurant in NYC–Sripraphai. I expected no ambience but it was quite nice. We had a wonderful catfish salad with shreddy little fried crunchy bits supposed to somehow be catfish; pickled pork spare ribs (boneless tangy succulent chunks served with lettuce leaves, peanuts, and ginger); Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce; Drunken noodles with ground beef; another sort of not-as-awesome but still impressive noodles with egg and tofu; a duck curry in green sauce; a shrimp Panang curry; and a red snapper with his eyes fried shut and many many delicious herbs and peppers stuffed in and over him. We ate coconut rice (yum) and a very chewy “sticky” rice which is served in little bags in little baskets. The presentation of this rice is very charming but somehow reminiscent of the drug trade. We didn’t want to indulge too much because we know that one of the other guests, Theresa, who is discerning yet hilarious and also, a good driver, had made a cake. Yellow with chocolate frosting! It was amazing. Thank you, Theresa. Thank you, Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Onto some reading new: Last night I finished reading Are You Hungry, Are You Cold by Ludwig Bemelmans. It’s a first edition I got for Christmas. I’m sad it’s over but it was so good! If you haven’t read any Bemelman’s, you actually have, because he wrote the Madeline books, but also, he wrote some wonderful things about grownups. They all have Madeline’s signature naughty streak, which makes them extra lovable.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alana permalink
    November 1, 2010 9:16 am

    That Thai place sounds amazing! We have a hand-me-down crockpot that I’ve yet to use. I’ll have to test it out w/Manuel’s pull-apart brisket. I’ve never made brisket either. OH – I see a post on filling the house with pudding!

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