Friday, December 10, 2010


A little confession. Sometimes I may be a bit of a perfectionist. Maybe even the teeniest idealistic. Okay, fine, maybe I can be accused of sometimes holding situations, food, people, et al to expectations not even the gods could attain. I'm thinking back to dishes, artwork, maybe even people I've nearly snuffed the life out in attempt for perfection. My latest Day of the Dead party, an event in its fourth consecutive year, was recently a good reminder that sometimes simple, unefforted things are really the best. The original party was conceived four year ago because I wanted to make mole. It started with five friends around the dinner table. Every year it grows. Every year I feel compelled to outdo the spread of the previous year. This year we crammed 19 people around several tables in our kitchen. I decided to serve courses this year, because with 19 people in attendance, there was no way once they were seated for anyone to get up and move around. So I, along with my wonderful sister, played waitstaff. The amount of food was enormous. I cooked for two and half days straight. I went to Portland and Boston to hunt ingredients. It was a big deal. But you want to know the kicker. That even with the pre-dinner table filled with salsas, guacamoles, chopped veggies, and the courses consisting of grilled marinated shrimp with pickled onions, empanadas, pozole made with weird cuts of pork I had to specially seek out, tostadas, the doubled layered chocolate flan (!!!) ...things I labored over for hours, days. Even with all know what stole the show? The Fresh Corn Cake I whipped up in 10 minutes as a dessert for my friend who can't have flour. It seriously took 10 minutes to make...fresh corn, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, cornmeal, cinnamon, and salt thrown into a blender and dumped in a cake pan. It was heaven! I knew just from the smell when I took it out of the oven it was something special. Even more so when topped with ice cream and a sauce of blueberries infused with lime and tequila. My friends and husband raved about that cake for days. It was a nice lesson in that what is good, the best, isn't necessarily the thing that's most efforted. Sometimes the simple things are what shine.
Fresh Corn Cake, Veracruz Style
from Rick Bayless

4 ears fresh sweet corn, husk and silk removed
6 ounces unsalted butter cut into 6 pieces and softened to room temperature
3 large eggs
1 14-ounce can sweetened condense milk
1/4 cup white corn meal (preferably coarse-ground, polenta style)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Prepare the batter. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees and position the rack in the middle. Cut the corn kernels from the cob, measure 3 cups and scoop into a blender or food processor. Add the butter and the eggs. Process until smooth, then scrape into a bowl. Measure in 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk, along with the corn meal, cinnamon and baking powder. Whisk to combine.

2. Butter (or spray with oil) with bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan. Cut a circle of parchment to fit the bottom and press it firmly in place. Pour the batter into the pan (it will be full to the top) and slide into the oven. Bake until richly golden and set (no longer jiggly) in the middle, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool 10 minutes then turn out on a rack. Immediately flip the cake over (the top is the prettiest side) and let cool completely.

I topped mine with vanilla ice cream and a blueberry-tequila syrup

Blueberry Tequila Syrup

2 cups of blueberries (I used the quick-frozen kind)
1/3 cup of sugar
grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons of blanco (silver) tequila

In a small saucepan combine the blueberries and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the berries have released their juices, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and combine warm blueberries, lime zest, lime juice and tequila in a blender. Blend until smooth.

I have to confess that this cake was gone so quickly, and I was in the thick of serving 18 people dessert, that I failed to grab a photograph. Here's a photo of the sugar skulls I made (again with the help of my sister.) Can we say, over-achiever? ;)

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