MiMi’s Chocolate Cake

J – My grandmother, MiMi, used to make the best desserts, in addition to making the best just about everything. Most Thanksgivings we would head down to the Gulf coast in Texas with the whole family and spend a good weekend eating everything in sight. To this day, my favorite part of Thanksgiving is the transition from entrees to desserts. It’s that moment when you’ve just stuffed yourself silly with turkey and mashed potatoes and you think you can’t possibly eat another bite. That is, until someone brings out countless desserts and suddenly you aren’t as full as you thought you were. My three favorite desserts of hers were her chicken scratch cake, pumpkin pie, and chocolate cake, and I’ve quite stupidly never thought to ask for the recipes. Well, last night my parents sent me some of MiMi’s old recipes and it turns out not only are the incredibly tasty, they’re incredibly easy. Today, let’s make some chocolate cake – it will take 10 minutes, promise.

MiMi’s Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups flour (I used cake, you can use AP or whatever you like)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, combine 1tbsp white vinegar and 1 cup minus 1 tbsp cream and let sit for ~5 minutes).
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup boiling water (add last!)

Preheat oven to 300F. Combine everything in a mixing bowl, adding the boiling water last. Mix thoroughly and pour into a 9″x13″ baking pan. Yes, it will look very low in there – it’s fine. The buttermilk and the huge amounts of baking soda, plus the relatively light flour use, means this cake rises like crazy. Bake at 300F for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!2014-07-05 09.30.16This cake is fudgy, chocolatey goodness. Because you use relatively little flour and lots of baking soda plus the acidic buttermilk, this cake rises like crazy and, despite its richness, is very light and fluffy. I chose not to top mine, but go ahead and whip up a chocolate fudge frosting if you wanna double down on chocolate, or a nice espresso chocolate or salted caramel frosting if you want some layers here. Or, just sprinkle some powdered sugar on this and enjoy. A quick note – some of you might be wondering why we didn’t separately mix our wet and dry ingredients then combine. You can, but you don’t need to, and this cake comes out great regardless. Without the melted butter to mix in (instead using oil) and with the addition of boiling water, everything will go in smoothly, trust me.


Update on the July 4th Brisket

J – The brisket came out pretty well, I have to say, all things considered. 2014-07-04 15.05.15First, I clearly should have been more specific at the butchers. I’m pretty happy with the quality of the meat, but next time I’m gonna have to tell him exactly how I want it cut – this was a really nice, fatty, tender cut of brisket, but it was a bit thick and not flat, so it cooked somewhat unevenly. Second, we’ve been having some problems with our oven (as usual) being hotter than it says it is. I tested it in the morning with a thermometer and thought I had it adjusted right, but it still ended up more like 300F than 250F for the majority of the day. The brisket cooked about an hour – hour and a half faster than I thought it would, clocking in at just over 6 hours. The meat is still tender, still juicy, but not quite the fall-off-the-fork tender I was looking for. Luckily, our landlord has kindly offered to replace the oven – he understands the importance of a well-cooked brisket. Even with all that being said – this stuff is delicious, and plentiful:  2014-07-04 15.14.05The dry rub has an intense smoky, spicy flavor – fair warning, if you don’t like heat, I would tone down or even take out the cayenne. It really comes through. Dry aging this overnight really brought some of that flavor inside the meat and tenderized the whole thing. Next time I make this I’ll double the liquid smoke and the beer and go a bit lighter on the dry rub. Given how much of this we have now, we’re going to be eating it all week. Given how tasty it is, that’s not a bad thing, either. All in all, for my first time making brisket at home – I’m calling this one a success.

We’re back, and just in time for a weekend of freedom and meat

J – So, it’s been a while. Life got in the way, moves occurred, and cooking still happened – but pictures and posts got left behind. But, after a 15 month hiatus, we’re back! And just in time for a July 4th meat-filled freedom weekend. We’ll have a few posts this weekend – including our first attempt at grinding our own hamburger meat (hint: it involves bacon and pork fat) and four new summer beers. Without further ado, I wanted to jump right in and tell you all about what I’ve got in the fridge for tomorrow – about 7 pounds of beef.

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Growing up in Texas I always loved brisket, but I’ve never had a big enough oven (or access to a smoker/grill) to make it myself. This year, Ines & I are celebrating our combination birthdays and July 4th this weekend with heaps of meat, and I figured it was about time I tackled brisket on my own. We popped by Central Meat Market in Providence this afternoon to check them out – it’s a great butcher that carries lots of Spanish/Portuguese cuts, which is nice (I’m especially excited about their bacon and pork belly slabs…that might be my next meat project). They cut us some brisket on the spot – not quite the way I would have liked it cut, but I didn’t specify I wanted it flat and untrimmed, so that’s really on me. Still, we walked out with a 7 pound brisket cut with plenty of fat for my taste for about $30, which really ain’t that bad.

I made up a simple rub – equal parts salt and black pepper and 1/3 parts each cayenne pepper, paprika, and cumin, and then 6 cloves minced fresh garlic (see recipe for exact amounts). This rub is a bit like a chili spice, but much, much saltier so the meat will cure. If you like it spicier, take out the paprika or cumin and add in the same amount cayenne. The now-rubbed brisket is sitting in the fridge on a rack curing overnight, and tomorrow it’s going in the oven for…well, the better part of the day at 250F with some onions, Worcestershire sauce, coffee, apple cider vinegar, and a cup of homebrew to keep things moist. I can’t wait to see how this one turns out…we’ll check back in tomorrow with the results!

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Oven-Baked Beef Brisket (for a 7-pound brisket)

In a bowl, whisk together 3 tbsp salt, 3 tbsp ground black pepper, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp paprika, and 1 tbsp cayenne pepper. Mince 6 cloves garlic.

Sprinkle the rub and garlic on all sides of the brisket, with most on the meat side. Rub in well, cover and let sit in fridge overnight.

Remove the brisket from the fridge and let come to room temperature. In a large roasting pan, add:

  • 1 onion, sliced into half-rings
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup black coffee
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup beer (optional, sub in beef broth or water if you don’t want to use beer)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup liquid smoke (optional, I didn’t use it, but you sure can – adjust liquid volumes accordingly if you include this)

Try to keep the liquid around 1 1/2 – 2 cups for a brisket this size. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 250F for 75 minutes per pound of brisket.

Let the brisket rest in the pan for 15-30 minutes after it has cooked. If you want, reduce the pan sauce to a gravy and serve warm. Enjoy!


Pan-Seared Steak with a Bourbon Cheese Sauce and a Fried Egg on Top

J – Like all good, red-blooded Americans (and most other humans) I love steak. A good steak is a thing to be marveled at. Growing up in the South, I’ve always been told that the way to cook a steak is on the grill, and to cook it rare or medium-rare (relevant King of the Hill scene) – anything else is a waste of good meat. However, our good friends gave us an Alton Brown cookbook for Christmas, and in it we found a method for making steak that piqued our interest. When we got a couple of really excellent pieces of meat from Friends & Farms a little while back, we decided to give it a shot.

IMG_7176 So the basic method needs only the following: a large oven-safe skillet (we used our cast-iron skillet and it was perfect), a kitchen timer, a colander + a pot lid big enough to cover it, your stovetop, and an oven pre-heated to 500 F. Oh, and two steaks – 1-1/2″ thick ribeyes are best, about 15-16oz each. For the sauce, if you choose to make it, you’ll need either cognac or bourbon (your choice; I used some bourbon and it was delicious), a crumbly cheese (I used goat cheese but blue cheese would work very, very well too), and two tablespoons unsalted butter.

Put the skillet in the oven as it heats. Once the oven reaches 500 F, leave the skillet in there for about 5 minutes, then move the skillet (carefully) to the stovetop on high heat. Leave it on the stovetop on high for another 5 minutes, then (carefully) place your seasoned (salt + pepper + some oil on all sides) steaks on the hot pan. Cook for 30 seconds (time it with the kitchen timer), flip with tongs and sear for another 30 seconds on the other side. When the timer goes off the second time, place the skillet in the 500 F oven for 2 minutes. Flip the steaks one more time and leave in the oven for the final two minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the oven and place on a heat-safe surface (I pulled one of the guards off the stovetop and put it on there). Remove the steaks to the colander and place them at an angle such that the steaks don’t lie on top of each other, and the juices drip down into a bowl below. Cover the colander with the pot lid and collect the drippings while you make the sauce. IMG_7178

Add 1/4 cup cognac or bourbon to the still-very-hot skillet and deglaze all of the delicious bits stuck to the bottom with a whisk (just whisk it). Let the residual heat of the pan reduce the cognac for ~30 seconds, then add 1 oz of cheese and whisk.



When the cheese is good and dissolved, add the butter one piece at a time and whisk in until it, too, is dissolved. Return the drippings you collected from the steak and whisk those in, or just soak them up with a few pieces of toast for a delicious snack. Pour the sauce into bowls or ramekins, or just pour on top of the steak (careful – the pan is still molten lava). IMG_7182We also fried a couple of eggs and topped the steak with those – you’re going to eat steak covered in bourbon/cheese/butter sauce, you might as well throw an egg in the mix, too.

IMG_7183Serve with pan-fried asparagus and home-made fries to soak up all the juices left on your plate. Enjoy!

*Note – the recipe here will get you a medium-rare steak. Leave it in the oven for less time if you want it rare (and I bet you do). If you want it medium or, god forbid, medium well, then you just get out. If you’re thinking well done, just go season some charcoal and call it a day, you barbarian. Just kidding – just cook it longer, Conan.

We’re back! And with more posts!

J – Hey everyone – sorry we took a little impromptu break there. We got overwhelmed with work and cooking became a chore for a little while…lots of pastas and take-out around here for the past couple weeks. However, here we are, awaiting snow, and I’ve got beets boiling right now for a salad. Stay tuned – I’ll be updating the blog today with some of the noteworthy meals we’ve cooked this month, including easily the best steak I’ve ever made (and easily one of the best I’ve eaten, too).

Beet & Candied Pecan Salad

J – I actually really like beets – Ines thinks they taste like dirt – so while she was away on vacation, I got to make a nice beet salad to go with the roast chicken I made earlier. This salad is really, really simple:

  • 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 medium sized beets, boiled and sliced thin
  • ~1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 10 oz lettuce or mixed greens, chopped
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Goat cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Lemon/lime juice

Skin and clean the beets, then boil until tender and slice then. While the beets are boiling, toast the pecans in a pan on medium-low heat, then add the maple syrup. Immediately turn off heat and turn pecans until coated.


To make the dressing, I mixed 3 parts olive oil with 1 part balsamic vinegar, then added about 1/2 the juice of 1/2 a lemon (so…the juice of a quarter lemon…). Chop up the lettuce or simply add 1 10-oz bag of mixed greens to a bowl, then add the beets, pecans, goat cheese, and dressing. Mix and serve!


Honey Roast Chicken

J – Keeping with the baked theme, I decided to be 100% lazy and prepare the delicious ~3.5 pound chicken we got from Friends & Farms last week the same way I prepared the ribs. Check out that post for the dry rub recipe. I sprinkled the chicken all over with my dry rub mixture, trussed it, then tossed it into a 350 F oven until my thermometer read 165 F internal temperature (about 1-1 1/2 hours). As with the ribs, I drizzled the top of the chicken during the last 15 minutes with about 1/4 cup honey.

Roast_Chicken_1  Roast_Chicken_2Roast_Chicken_3This one went straight into Tupperware – Ines was out of town and staring at this chicken too long was going to ensure she never got to eat any, which would have probably meant my death. Enjoy!