It’s been far too long since I’ve posted to the blog. So many issues. A) I’m not on vacation and don’t seem to have the time B) There is no Top Chef at the moment, and although TC Masters improved about halfway through the season, it was tough getting there. C) We have had little in the way of themes
That said, this week was Joe’s birthday, and given that he is of Polish and Italian descent, the theme was Polish/Italian fusion food. This was initially a bit of a challenge for me. Everything I thought of was one or the other, and I just don’t know Polish food very well. I tried to bring Kielbasa into the game, but just was at a loss. I also considered Pierogi, as a parallel to ravioli, but I was afraid somebody else might choose that.
In the end, I was wandering through Meijer and saw a bag of sauerkraut. While wondering what I could possibly do with it, I remembered a sauerkraut chocolate cake Mom had made years ago. It sounded strange but was delicious. The sauerkraut preserved moisture and provided texture, but was otherwise unnoticed. That’s when inspiration hit. I could fuse this with the classic Sicilian dessert, Cassata cake (ie cannoli filling between layers), and add in some bumps across the top (more filling) to make a Detroit-style bumpy cake. The idea was brilliant!
On Wednesday I made the cake layers in preparation for assembly on Thursday. Thursday, I tried to make the filling, only to find that ricotta liquefies when beaten. I bought more ricotta and folded the sugar rather than beating. Next step was the frosting… and that’s where things went wrong. It was a “pourable” frosting, but I wasn’t ready to pour it. Once the frosting was made, I then built the bumps. After this, I tried to pour it, but it was already too firm. As a last result, I spackled the cake with the fudge frosting. The final verdict was that the cake was ugly, but very tasty. I would try to make it again in the future, but with some additional preparation.
My other foray into Polish-Italian fusion was my capreski salad. I used some of the sauerkraut to make a bed, upon which I scattered tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. This was garnished with olive oil and caraway seeds. The result was surprisingly delicious. The vinegar acted like a salad dressing and livened up the basil very nicely, with the kraut lending a nice crunch to an otherwise unremarkable set of ingredients (texture-wise anyway). I recommend this combination.
Other items in the offing were Michael and Joe’s (Joe, mostly) Polish lasagna. A brilliant fusion of cheese pierogi into a lasagna, providing both ricotta and pasta elements. I’m not very familiar with pierogi, but this combination worked really well, and it turns out an Italian can appreciate this Polish specialty.
Richard (without Natalie) brought stuffed bell peppers. This brought together classic Italian bell peppers and Polish galumpkis. Richard doesn’t realize how comforting these were for me. My mom often made stuffed peppers somewhat like these when I was growing up, and I haven’t had them in ages. They were delicious. I had to salt them, but the truth is I love my stuffed peppers oversalted. And a new revelation … I can eat and enjoy the bell pepper, just as I can eat and enjoy the filling (as a child I used to eat only the filling).
Finally, Mitch and Eileen brought Italian sausage knishs. They used Mitch’s mother’s recipe. I’m sure she would be appalled at the combination, but it was outstanding. The dough was beautifully layered, and the core of sausage like a little gem in the center. Well done!
Drinks of the week: A 2006 Bower’s Harbor Pinot Grigio – still delicious this many years out. A Roessler Pinot Noir – always a treat. And Godmother Cocktails – these pretty much left us on the floor.
March 29, 2021
Boy that was an ugly cake. I’ve long forgotten many of our Top Chef nights, but this one sticks in my memory because the cake was so terribly made (and I never tried again) and because the sauerkraut / caprese salad cross was so well received. Joe still talks about it.
We often featured Michigan wines during these dinners, and I’m proud of that.