Wednesday, May 10, 2006

happy pork-chops-and-ice-cream-cake to you

COFFEE ALMOND ICE-CREAM CAKE WITH DARK CHOCOLATE SAUCE


I turn my first quarter-century next week, and have started to wonder if this is that year when it will become increasingly less fun to welcome the arrival of any subsequent years.

That aside, I still have no problem making a big deal of other people's birthdays. My dad's was at the end of April, and we decided to cook for the family instead of risk another mediocre meal at one of Boston's many generic, overpriced restaurants (no, I am not jaded by the restaurant scene in this fine city of culinary magnificence).

It is not easy for my dad (I call him Baba) and me to share a kitchen. "I am the best chef," my dad will periodically remind me, whether he is surveying the steak he scored at Whole Foods, tasting a spoonful of his seafood soup, or pouring himself a Sam Adams. "Really. I am."

"Whatever."

I like to create drama in the kitchen when I am cooking with Baba. "GET OUT OF MY WAY!! I NEED THE STOVE!!! arghhh...MOVE!" It's more interesting this way. My dad's too zen, and he spends 80% of his "active cooking time" on the couch, watching golf. Meanwhile, I am zigzagging, juggling my time between prepping veggies, mincing garlic, reducing sauces, rolling out and freezing dough, marinating meats, toasting almonds (I always burn the stupid almonds - arg)....it's just not fair.

For his own birthday dinner last weekend, Baba prepared pan-fried pork chops (Taiwanese-style) and miso-baked salmon. I took care of salad and dessert. Yes, yes, I know - it seems unfairly balanced, but honestly, I spent way longer preparing my two courses. Pathetic, I know. (And Baba washed the salad greens, too.)

BABA'S TAIWAN-STYLE PORK CHOPS


We composed our salad around a base of sliced honeydew melon and prosciutto, cushioned with frisee and arugula (my dad's favorites, after a particularly good experience at Lumiere in West Newton, MA). I topped the greens with blueberries and candied sliced almonds, then dressed everything with a blend of chili sesame oil, olive oil, cider vinegar, sugar, and toasted sesame seeds. The result was a satisfying mix of spicyness from the dressing and sweetness from the fruits and nuts. (I know it's overkill to post three photos for the separate steps I took in preparing the salad, but I happen to like the photos I took.)

BEGINNING WITH PROSCIUTTO & MELON...


...THEN TOSSING WITH CANDIED ALMONDS AND GREENS


SALAD OF PROSCIUTTO, MELON, & FRESH BLUEBERRIES
on a bed of frisee and arugula with toasted almonds and chili-sesame vinaigrette



For dessert, I attempted my first-ever ice cream cake. Despite its 4 layers, it was extremely easy to prepare (though if you try it, budget for at least a half-day, to allow for ample freezing time). I followed a recipe orginally printed in Gourmet in 1991. A springform pan is a must.

Coffee Almond Ice Cream Cake with Dark Chocolate Sauce
1 1/2 cups fine chocolate wafer crumbs (couldn't find any - I used Oreos)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 pints coffee ice cream, softened slightly
1 1/2 cups well-chilled heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups crushed amaretti (Italian almond macaroons, though I used crushed biscotti)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

For the dark chocolate sauce:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3 to 4 tablespoons Amaretto, or to taste (I substituted with Bailey's)

To make the cake:
In a bowl with a fork stir together the crumbs and the butter until the mixture is combined well, pat the mixture onto the bottom and 1 inch up the side of a lightly oiled 8-inch springform pan, 2 1/2 inches deep, and freeze the crust for 30 minutes, or until it is firm. Spread the ice cream evenly on the crust and return the pan to the freeze for 30 minutes, or until the ice cream is firm. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the cream with the vanilla until it holds stiff peaks (do not overbeat!), fold in the amaretti thoroughly, and spread the mixture over the ice cream. Smooth the top of the cake, sprinkle it with the almonds, and freeze the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the top is firm. Freeze the cake, covered with plastic wrap and foil, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, wrap a warm dampened kitchen towel around the side of the pan, remove the side, and transfer the cake to a serving plate. Cut the cake into wedges with a knife dipped in hot water and serve it with the chocolate sauce.

To make the sauce:
In a small heavy saucepan combine the cream and the brown sugar, bring the mixture to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking occasionally, and boil it, whisking, until the brown sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolates, whisking until they are melted. Whisk in the butter and the Amaretto, whisking until the sauce is smooth, and let the sauce cool slightly. The chocolate sauce may be made 1 week in advance and kept covered and chilled. Reheat the chocolate sauce over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is warm.



I can't wait for my dad's birthday next year.

8 comments:

wheresmymind said...

That cake looks too good! I'm definately gonnna have to try and make this! Just wait 'till you are outta your 20's, that's when reality really hits ;)

mini-me said...

i love prosciutto and melon ... good inspiration for a salad :)

Peter B. said...

You are an inspiration to us all.

fooDcrazEE said...

omgoodness - what a wonderful time you had and the food are so delish ......any recipe for ur baba's pork chop ?

Luv2cook said...

wow...that cake looks delicious........

gemma said...

That cake looks fabulous! Nice picture too.

Happy birthday!

Helen said...

Happy birthday to you and your Dad! Can you believe it that after cooking all these years, I've never made an ice cream cake? Your recipe inspired me :)

Oh and now I have a terribly craving for Blue Ribbon. Maybe we should meet there for lunch sometimes.

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