Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday Dinner with Friends

Ahhhh, do you hear that?  It's the sound of a quiet Saturday.  I love Saturdays - to quote a NY Times ad, "the word alone makes me happy."  I actually love Friday nights more - that prospective feeling of two whole days away from the usual weekday grind.

The day started out great with this wonderful new coffee from Counter Culture in Annapolis.  It's called Magnolia Blend, because this is the coffee served at the award-winning Magnolia Grill in Durham, NC (I knew there was a restaurant in Durham I wanted to add to "my list" - see recent post).  On weekends, we make coffee in our French Press - what a difference.
We are having dinner with some friends tonight and we are making Stretch's Chicken. For those of you not from NJ, Stretch's is a very well known Italian restaurant in northern NJ.  They make a dish called Chicken Savoy, served with fabulous crispy, thin potatoes (not unlike those great potatoes you get at Portuguese restaurants).  Through a friend of a friend, we obtained the original recipe for Chicken Savoy and although it takes a long time to cook and makes a mess of your oven, it's worth it. So, tonight's menu is as follows:
  • Pre-dinner: Comte (a wonderful French cheese actually purchased at Costco) and Spanish Marcona Almonds (also a Costco item) - I was so excited when I saw these at Costco last week because these are the same wonderful almonds we had in Europe this past summer
  • Stretch's Chicken with crispy, thin potatoes
  • Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
  • Crusty Italian Bread
  • Pinot Noir
  • For dessert: Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake (from the December issue of Gourmet, photo above, recipe below)
I hope you are having an "ahhhh" kind of day. 

Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake - this was very easy to make and the aroma of the vanilla sugar was deluxe.

  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 oz)
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

    confectioners sugar
  • Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.
  • Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife (reserve pod for another use if desired). Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).
  • Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.
  • Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining batter and smooth top.
  • Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining Tbsp each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.
  • Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up.
COOKS’ NOTE: Coffeecake can be made 1 day ahead and kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

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