Sunday, April 25, 2010

Happy All the Time

I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures at last night's "all-Laurie-Colwin-recipes (plus salt!) dinner party." This was E.'s inspired idea (the dinner, not the failure to take pictures) and as such, took place at her lovely second-floor apartment, with its old, wide floorboards and warm light. The event, which was conceived as a partial-potluck (but with more coherence) sent the emails flying.

'I will happily bring dessert...the "nantucket cranberry pie" is actually delish, and I've always wanted to try "Elizabeth David's Chocolate Cake!"' I wrote.

L. replied that he would "be happy to bring biscuits or maybe the bread. (Also, head's up to Sadie, the "Happy Winter Fudge Cake" that appears in the chocolate cake chapter is not that great.)"

Sadie: Have always been curious about that fudge cake...

Requests: please don't make Inez Fontenez' succotash, a batch of which languished in my fridge for a month. Or a "palate-teaser of spicy brussels sprouts." I always secretly pity her guests, eating that endless procession of ever-odder baked chickens and broccoli rabe concoctions...

I can tell you I've had good luck with the "mustard chicken" (also in NY Cookbook), and, oddly, the tomato pie - which everyone else finds bizarre.

It occurs to me maybe I should make something really odd, like Suffolk Pond Pudding!

E: Is that the one where a lemon is coated in suet?

L: Or that Steamed Chocolate Pudding, which I have the hardest time picturing! And ditto on her poor dinner guests. It seems so weird that she should fixate on baked chicken.

E: It also seems like she literally did not put salt in ANYTHING after a certain point which also seems inhumane.

Sans the marinated brussels sprouts, the New Years meal in More Home Cooking seems about right (broiled salmon with italicized salsa, etc. And I have been wanting to try that jalapeno creamed spinach though I will use fresh, not frozen spinach).

S: Sounds good! And I'm sure the sprouts are actually fine, I added some odd things which she suggested, like Pickapeppa sauce. (Although that rice pudding, which I made recently, was pretty spartan.) I can probably be talked out of the suet-wrapped lemon. Easily.

(End convo.)

In the end, I was happily stymied not by a lack of suet, but by the out-of-season shortage of pudding steamers. And I did, indeed, make the chocolate cake, which proved - especially for an 80s affair - quite mild, containing a mere 4 oz. of chocolate along with ground almonds and eggs and sugar and was, to my mind, the more digestible for being less decadent. (But then, I'm not a chocolate-lover.) L. did indeed bring biscuits - scrumptious biscuits, sided with a notable mulberry preserve - and gingerbread - for which he obtained the "last can of cane syrup" (a pet product of LC's) in Brooklyn. I had my wedge for breakfast and then again with tea. The hostess, for her part, provided a roast chicken made tawny with paprika, and roasted fingerlings, and then a lovely soft lettuce salad. And, yes, the creamed spinach with jalapeno peppers, which truly is so good that one wants to "sit up and beg like a dog." (Although no one did.) And while the meal may have been rather less eccentric than its namesake might have preferred, it was certainly scrumptious, and fueled with laughter and good company and, yes, some of her prose, so I daresay she would have approved. Also, given her early commitment to the local and sustainable, I think she would have found the pedigree of just about everything, from chicken to eggs to cheeses to jam, to her liking.

I love themed dinners, when the theme is relatively organic. We're going to have another LC potluck - this one very likely based on her "Friday Night Supper" menu - but I hope we won't stop with that. There's a whole world of food writing out there, and many good meals waiting to be cooked and eaten with friends.

Elizabeth David's Flourless Chocolate Cake

* 4 oz bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate
* 1 t vanilla
* 1 t brewed espresso (or any other *strong* bre
* 1 t brandy
* 6 t butter
* 1⁄2 c Sugar
* 1⁄2 c ground almonds
* 3 large Eggs, divided

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. and butter and 8-inch springform pan. 2. In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate with vanilla and brewed espresso and brandy.
2. Add butter, sugar, and almonds and heat the mixture until the butter has melted.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly.
4. Beat the 3 egg yolks until they are lemon colored and stir them into the chocolate mixture.
5. Whip the 3 egg whites until they are just stiff and fold them into the chocolate mixture.
6. Turn the batter into the pan and bake the cake in the middle of the over for 45 minutes.
7. The cake will have some cracks on top, and a tester inserted into the cake will not come out clean.
8. Let the cake cool completely on a rack and remove the sides of the pan. The cake will rise and then fall.
9. Serving suggestions: brush with raspberry jelly; sprinkle with powdered sugar; cover or serve with whipped cream.


  1. I must say that "Happy Winter Fudge Cake" is the best cake I've ever had. It's tricky to make and a slight mistake can change how the cake comes out. When made correctly it's an amazing moist rich cake that does not need frosting. I come up with excuses to make this cake!