Tres Leches Cake

Once again inspired by my Food Network Magazine, I attempted the Tres Leches Cake recently since HH loves milk!

I followed the directions, did what it said, then got really worried… The directions called for baking the relatively small cake (8” x 8” baking pan); poking holes in the cake then adding the 42 ounces of milk! That’s 5 ¼ cups of milk!

The milk was a combination of whole milk, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. I felt like I was flooding the cake, and how on earth was it really going to fit in the little square pan?! It almost didn’t. The milk mixture came to within an 1/8” of the top of the pan, so I took some out. How was I even going to transfer it to the refrigerator to finish?

Anyway, the recipe said to let the cake sit with the milk mixture for at least one hour or overnight. I could barely wait one hour. I took it out, had a slice, it was good but I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. I stuck the pan (and remaining 8/9ths of the cake) back into the refrigerator overnight, with the excess milk mixture pooling into the corner of the missing piece – I should have left it overnight to begin with.

I wouldn’t let HH look at the cake, let alone have any, until the next day. We took the cake out of the frig, with the empty corner still pooling with milk mixture – this didn’t look good; HH was very skeptical. We sampled it, not bad; very moist (how could it not be!) I tipped the cake pan over the sink to drain all that extra milk mixture, and surprisingly the only extra was the little bit in the corner of the missing piece. All of the other liquid had been absorbed – Wow!

I had a second piece, tasting it as it should be after soaking over night. The cake was very moist, almost custard like, although still not quite the “perfect picture” as in the May 2010 issue of the magazine. Maybe I’ll have to bug my friend Luis to see it there is a better version in his household – just like that fabulous molé!

P.S. - The photo is NOT what my cake looked like, but what it was supposed to look like. I promise to add my photo on the next attempt.


Deep Dish Pizza

Ahh, Pizza…I could eat pizza every Friday night and be very happy. I have tried to make my own pizza crust, finally stumbling along one that is okay but still not as good as a pizzeria pizza crust. Recently, I have been buying a pizza dough ball from a local Italian restaurant, Lido’s, and bringing it back to the Diner to make my own pizza. I have to admit, it is much better than my pizza crust.

I usually cook the pizza on my pizza stone, to get it crispy and cooked, not mushy. HH recently commented that he preferred a deep dish pizza with a crust a little softer, not so crunchy. Well, that was a dilemma, how do I do deep dish on a pizza stone?! Then I was reading one of my many food magazines a few weeks ago and ran across a recipe for a do-it-yourself, at-home deep dish pizza. I tried it, HH liked it! I liked it! Now I want pizza all the time!

Here’s the at-home, deep dish secret – use your favorite seasoned cast iron pan to make your pizza. And viola - delicious, at-home (or should I say at the Diner) deep dish pizza!

I made the pizza as usual, the crust just stayed thicker because it didn’t have as far to stretch; heated The Good Oven to 450º F; put the assembled deep dish pizza in the cast iron skillet in The Good Oven for 25 minutes and it came out perfect. And perfectly delicious! (P.S. – HH still hasn’t figured out that I’m using turkey pepperoni, tastes the same and helps our hearts!)



Well, did that get your attention?! Don’t worry, there were no jerks visiting the Diner recently, just Jerk Turkey Burgers with Mango Slaw on the menu. And they were delicious!

HH wasn’t too sure, at first, that a turkey burger was going to work out – he loves hamburgers, half pounders to be exact. Although with the Jerk seasoning, some grated green apple for juiciness and Panko breadcrumbs for a binder, they were turned out great. I’m not sure they will completely replace hamburgers on the grill all summer, but they are a wonderful stand-alone alternative even a “meat lover” will love.

I found the recipe in the April 2010 issue of Food Network Magazine, I tried the Nest Eggs on the front cover but they were not as exciting as they looked. Anyway, I digress, back to the Jerks. I altered the recipe only slightly to fit what we had at the Diner.

Jerk Turkey Burgers with Mango Slaw
Serves 4
(April 2010 Food Network Magazine)

1 lb ground turkey
1 tbsp jerk seasoning
1 small green apple, peeled and grated
½ cup finely chopped scallions
¼ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Kosher salt (I use red Hawaiian volcanic salt) and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise, plus more for brushing
¼ cup mango chutney, roughly chopped (I used mango/peach salsa)
3 cups shredded green cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
Canola oil for the grill
4 hamburger buns

1. Mix the turkey, jerk seasoning, apple, ¼ cup scallions and the panko in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Form into four 1” thick patties and make a small indentation in the middle of each with your thumb to prevent it from puffing up on the grill. Refrigerate.
2. Whisk the mayonnaise and chutney (salsa) in a large bowl. Add the cabbage, carrot and the remaining ¼ cup scallions, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
3. Brush grill pan with canola oil and heat. Grill the turkey patties until browned and cooked through, 4 – 5 minutes on each side.
4. Brush the cut side of the buns with mayonnaise and sprinkle with jerk seasoning, toast on the grill, about 30 seconds. Serve the burgers and slaw on the buns, and a little extra slaw on the side.



Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo, or Big Spaghetti and White Sauce as HH likes to call it. It is a Diner, after all, so maybe Big Spaghetti and White Sauce is a better fit anyway.

HH likes Alfredo sauce. I like Alfredo sauce. I have tried to make Alfredo sauce from scratch from about, I don’t know, five to seven different recipes. It just hasn’t worked – until now!

I found this recipe in the March 2010 edition of the Food Network Magazine (page 89 if you are looking for it). It looked delicious, sounded simple, and was a little different than other Alfredo’s I’ve tried. Then I got some really good, really authentic pasta for my summer food project from Pasta Bob (that’s what I call him) of Maestri Pastai USA. With a simple recipe and some great pasta, I thought I would give it a try.

So the difference in this recipe compared to the others I have tried is the ingredient of one egg yolk. I also made sure I had a good chunk of parmesan cheese to use.

Because the pasta is so authentically Italian, and made in Italy, I got to use the largest stock pot I have to accommodate the significantly long fettuccine. I waited until the pasta was done, like the recipe said, until I started the Alfredo so I would not overcook it.

As I was preparing things and got to the egg yolk part, I felt like I had OD’ed on eggs today – scrambled omelet for breakfast, a pound of eggs for the poundcake, and one more for the Alfredo! Oh well, I’m not having my cholesterol checked tomorrow.

I finished the Alfredo and it actually started to thicken, combined with the fettuccine, got the warm bread from The Good Oven and served. Voila! Successful Alfredo, and so delicious with the good pasta.

Next time perhaps broccoli and a little chicken, and it will be just like HH’s favorite dish at Marie Callendar’s.


Old-Fashioned Poundcake

After receiving Grandma Helen’s cookbook recently, I have been looking through it to see what recipe I am missing from my collection and need to try. Old-Fashioned Poundcake became the chosen one.

I knew that the premise behind “poundcake” was a pound of this and a pound of that – no kidding! Although this recipe is simple, there is a lot of mass to it.

This recipe is from The American Woman’s Cook Book published in 1942, so it’s all about “from scratch” which is what I wanted, and “by hand” which I wasn’t quite as interested in. But off we go!

I started by measuring the POUND of butter (an entire box!) and a POUND of flour and mixing them to “mealy.” Hmmm; the hand mixer will have to do.

Next was the separation of the POUND of eggs – ten of them! – separating the whites from the yolks. The whites got “stiffly beaten,” definitely not by hand, I left this to the counter-top mixer and it worked just find. After removing the stiff egg whites the egg yolks, a POUND of sugar and vanilla (just a tsp) went into the counter-top mixer, adding the flour and butter mixture, and finally folding in the whites – for five minutes! I think another job for the counter-top mixer, whether right or wrong.

I don’t think I have loaf pans like Grandma Helen did in 1942, I was lucky to have any loaf pans actually. Although, I think one of my loaf pans worked better than the other. The silicon loaf pan I got at a yard sale for $1 was great for the non-stick feature, but it cooked the bottom too much – not bad but too much. I almost thought “The Bad Oven” was back in at the Diner!

Anyway, before I serve the Old-Fashioned Poundcake at the Diner, I need to come up with a bit of a drizzle, I think a simple syrup-type lemon glaze is going to be the solution.
By the way, since the poundcake is four pounds of ingredients, will I only gain four pounds if I eat both loaves?

Here’s the recipe if you would like to do it circa 1942.

Old-Fashion Poundcake

1 pound butter (2 cups)
1 pound sifted cake flour (4 cups)
10 eggs, separated
1 pound sugar (2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter, work in flour until mixture is mealy. Beat eggs yolks, sugar and vanilla until thick and fluffy. Add first mixture gradually, beating thoroughly. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Beat vigorously 5 minutes. Bake in 2 loaf pans lined with waxed paper, in a moderately slow oven (325ºF) 1 ¼ hours (that’s actually what it says!) Makes 2 loaves (8 x 4 inches)

I just realize this says “cake flour,” which I didn’t use. (Heavy sigh.) I’m going to have to try this one again.


Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon! Say it like Julia does! Or for those of you not into French –simply Beef Stew.

Perusing through Mastering the Art of French Cooking recently (I can do that because I have my own copy!), I found a recipe I have heard a lot about – Boeuf Bourguignon. Julia’s famous comfort food of beef stew in red wine with bacon, onions and mushrooms – all but the mushrooms are fine at Holly’s Diner.

I decided with the addition of The Good Oven to the Diner, trying a chunky beef dish, which should make HH happy, would be okay. I made the grocery list more than a week ago, did my shopping earlier this week, and yesterday seemed the perfect day to tackle the recipe.

I happen to have The French Chef on DVD, so I was able to watch Julia demonstrate the recipe (three times), and read the recipe (five times) before attempting Julia’s signature dish. I knew, in order to serve it for the dinner crowd at the Diner, I had to start the prep at about 1 PM.

I got going, boiling the bacon slices, then browning them; browning the chunks of beef; slicing the onion and carrot; mixing in the flour and seasoning and stirring – then the phone rang! It was Chef David asking if I had time to chat, I told him I was fixing Boeuf Bourguignon for the first time. He said, “Well, Julia Child!” (Now I really had to do well.) I told him I could talk until the timer went off and I had to take the casserole dish out of the oven for the next step. We talked, the timer went off, he waited, I stirred the flour to brown on the beef one more time, we continued and concluded.

Phew! Back to concentrating on one thing - I added the ¾ bottle of red wine, beef broth, thyme, garlic and tomato paste; turn the oven temperature down. Simmer on the stove top for a few minutes and finally back in the oven for 3 – 4 hours to simmer and “stew.” What a process! The prep took me 50 minutes! I hoped it would work.

I felt relieved and started to clean the kitchen a bit, and realize I had not de-glazed the pan I browned the bacon and beef chunks in! How did that happen!? Julia did it on the French Chef DVD, but no mention in the recipe. I hope I didn’t screw it up!

I left it alone, trusting in The Good Oven, and went back to other things.

As the appointed time got closer, I had to fix the pearl onions – cleaning, peeling and browning them. I got them ready, put them in the pan on low in olive oil and butter, and stepped away to send a quick email – a follow-up to the conversation with Chef David. Just then HH showed up at the Diner, seeing that the little onions had been abandoned and were left to “burn.” They weren’t but he was sure they would.

Finally, the Boeuf Bourguignon was done (I hoped). yes, fork-tender so it should be okay and it was time for the finale – plating the beef and onions, and making a sauce of the stew juices. The juices were not as thick as Julia said they would be, so I simmered them more hoping they would thicken. And more, and more and… It was time to serve and be done with it. I knew I could not add more flour to the juices, it would not have time to cook and would take very “flour-y.”

It worked out okay. HH was sooo happy to have some big chunks of tender beef. We just need more carrots next time, and instead of the expensive pearl onions, a sliced white onion cooked separately will do.

With the help of The Good Oven, another recipe from my “new” cookbook is complete and delicious!


No Foolin'

This is no April Fools, this is the real deal!

If you follow Holly’s Diner at all, you know that one of the treks HH and I keep when we travel is trying to get to Guy Fieri’s list of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, and now More Diners Drive-Ins and Dives from his Food Network TV show and best-selling books.

HH and I most recently visited Joe’s Farm Grill in Arizona for the amazing burgers. We have also visited El Indio’s (and have for a long time) in San Diego for their delicious chips – I even had them help cater HH’s surprise party last year. We have had shakes at the Falafel Drive Inn in San Jose and Emma Jean’s on the way to Vegas. It took us three years and two stops to finally get into The Squeeze Inn in Sacramento for their awesome burgers with “cheese skirts,” and we were pleasantly surprised by their tacos!

But now, NOW, the guy, Guy, who I have watched since he was on the Season Two of The Next Food Network Star (and was the clear star from the beginning), is coming to Holly’s Diner!!! Well, sort of.

Technically, Guy is making an appearance and will be the featured entertainment at the San Diego County Fair!! While the Fair is going on, that IS Holly’s Diner – I spend more time there than at the Diner during that time of year!

With a “Taste the Fun” food theme at this year’s San Diego County Fair, it makes a lot of sense to book Guy on the grandstand stage where Fergie, Kelly Clarkson, Barry Manilow and Milli Vanilli (remember them!) have performed before.

I’m not going to get star-struck and try to go back stage, but I am SO EXCITED I can hardly stand it! Maybe he’ll stop by the theme exhibit building where I will be and it’s “all about food!” I think I will lower my expectations and just hope that he signs one of my books.

If you want to see the San Diego County Fair, it runs June 11 to July 5. If you want to see Guy, he’ll be there on June 19. I can’t wait!