Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows and Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Marshmallows


Peppermint marshmallows, two ways. I asked Kavi which she liked better, and she couldn’t decide — the peppermint swirl ones are more intensely peppermint; the chocolate-peppermint ones actually have more peppermint (same marshmallows, plus bits on top), but the dark chocolate has a strong enough presence that the overall effect is less peppermint-y.
 
Sometimes you just have to accept that you love them both, and it’s impossible to choose.   
 
*****
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 c. water
2 t. vanilla
1 t. peppermint extract
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
butter (for greasing the pan)
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar (about 1/2 c.)
a few drops of red food coloring
tempered chocolate for dipping (about 8 oz.)
crushed peppermints for topping
 
1. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with water, vanilla, and peppermint extract. Stir briefly to combine.
 
2. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.
 
3. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.
4. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes.
5. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan. Prepare an oiled spatula.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with the oiled spatula. (If making peppermint swirl, add a few drops of red food coloring and use a toothpick to swirl it around.)
7. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
8. Turn onto a board, cut into squares and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. (If making chocolate-peppermint, melt tempered chocolate, dip marshmallows, and set on wax paper. Sprinkle with crushed peppermints immediately, then let dry.
 
May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

Dark Caramel-Cashew Pralines

There is something pleasantly meditative about making sweets late at night, even if you burn the first batch a little. I forgot that my burners are misaligned and run hot (long story), so that even when I’m using my own recipe, I need to notch everything down a little — when I say ‘medium-high,’ I mean ‘medium’ on my own stove.

But it’s okay — milk toffee with cashews is still delicious even when it’s turned into dark caramel-cashew pralines. I wouldn’t serve it to Sri Lankans expecting our milk toffee, but otherwise, we’re good.

Melissa Elsmo Supper Club

On Friday night, I visited an Oak Park underground supper club. It’s called Kindred, and it’s someone cooking out of a private space; I gather this is quite a thing in big cities these days? But I’ve never been to one before, and it was fabulous. My favorite bite was perhaps the chicken sausage and sweet potato in the second course; my favorite presentation was probably the third course salad of edible flowers, micro greens, and soft cheesy dressing, served in a little glass cloche. But it was quite wonderful all around.

  

  

Usually Chef Melissa Elsmo does 12 courses; we only did 8, because we were intercutting it with the other event of the night, a powerful and moving storytelling session organized by Cynthia Martz. I was deliciously replete by the end, and also emotionally rejuvenated by the honest storytelling and warm fellowship of the women Cynthia brought together. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get it handed to you.

This was just splendid, and I’m hoping to take Kevin for supper there another time, perhaps for his birthday, if we can arrange 6 friends to come with us. (She also puts together blended tables, if you don’t have 8 people on hand.)

More about Melissa here: https://www.oakparkeats.com/…/meet-the-ope-t…/melissa-elsmo/

Find her on Facebook and send a message to reserve your spot!

Curried Tamarind Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Apples

I wasn’t sure if this would work, and I have to say, it’s a little nerve-wracking taking a great big pot of delicious pork curry and adding something to it that might ruin it….but I do love pork and apples and pork and sweet potatoes, so I thought maybe, just maybe, adding sweet potatoes and apples to my traditional Sri Lankan curried pork would work nicely. And it does!

Minor modifications — used apple cider vinegar instead of regular vinegar, added an extra cup of water when I added the sweet potatoes (just as the pork was becoming tender), because the sauce was getting a bit thick and I wanted to be sure there’d be enough liquid to cook the sweet potatoes, added the apples about 15 minutes after the sweet potatoes and cooked 15 minutes more — which was a little too much; they started to dissolve, but I just used the somewhat soft apples I had on hand. But with firm cooking apples, I think 15 minutes would be about right.

(1 1/2 hours, serves 6-8)

3 medium onions, chopped fine
1 TBL ginger, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, sliced
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 TBL red chili powder
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
1/3 cup ketchup
1 T tamarind paste
1 heaping tsp salt
3 pieces cinnamon stick
3 cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 dozen curry leaves
3 lbs pork shoulder, cubed, about 1 inch pieces
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 c. red wine
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 apples, cut into large chunks

1. In a large pot, sauté onions, ginger, and garlic in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed. Add chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring. Immediately stir in curry powder, ketchup, tamarind, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and curry leaves.

2. Add pork and stir on high for a minute or two, browning the meat. Add vinegar & wine and stir well, scraping to deglaze pan. Cover, turn down to medium, and let cook one hour, stirring occasionally.

 

3. Add sweet potatoes, stir well, and cover again (adding water if needed). After fifteen minutes, stir in apples, cover again. Cook until sweet potatoes are cooked through, adding water if needed to maintain a nice thick sauce (and to keep food from burning), stirring occasionally. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Weekend Cooking

If I make them every week, eventually I will be able to make them perfectly every time, right? Sometimes my batter is too thin, or too thick, or not fermented enough. Out of a dozen hoppers this morning, this was the only one I liked the look of enough to photograph.

They were all excellent to eat, though. Jed had his with leftover saag and the last of this week’s batch seeni sambol. Kevin and I had ours with leftover lamb vindaloo. The kids tried them with maple syrup — Kavi didn’t like it, but she doesn’t like anything she eats this weekend, so we’ll try again. Anand only liked the lacy crispy bit, not the spongy sourdough part. If I make them every weekend, though, they are going to learn to love them, right? Well, we’ll see.

#weekendsareforhoppers

Tandoori Chicken & Pasta in a Béchamel Sauce

Kavi: Can I learn to make something today?

Me: Sure? Like what?

Kavi: Maybe cooking?

Me: How about I teach you how to make a white sauce? We have some leftover pasta and tandoori chicken to use up.

Kavi: Okay!

Me: You know, this is going to make your college roommates very happy with you.

[continuing with snooty accent]

They’ll be all, “Oh, all we have is some plain pasta and last night’s dried takeout chicken. Sad!” And you’ll be all, “No problem! I’ll just toss together a béchamel!” And they’ll say, “What’s a béchamel?” And you’ll say, “Oh, it’s just one of the French mother sauces, you know. If you can make those, you can make anything!”

Kavi, barely restraining her pre-teen eye-roll: I’m sure everyone in college talks like that all the time.

Basic béchamel recipes are all over the internet, but essentially, warm milk in pan or in microwave. Then in separate pan, melt butter on medium heat, stirring (careful not to brown). Next, make the roux — add an equal amount of flour (about 6 T butter to 3.5 T flour is standard, with 2 c. milk, though I admit, I mostly eyeball it), stir until it’s a bit clumpy. Whisk in a little of the warm milk to smooth it out, then add the rest of the milk and whisk whisk whisk, stirring, until it thickens. Stir in your cooked pasta, shredded leftover chicken, maybe some frozen peas, and you’re good to go. 10-minute easy delicious & nutritious meal to feed a hungry college student and her roommates.

Sri Lankan Curried Roast Lamb

Traditionally, we don’t do a lot of roasting in Sri Lanka — too hot, I suspect! But here in Chicago, as it gets cooler out, roasting is a nice, easy option; it takes time, but very little effort. And if you prepare a spicy curry sauce separately, this method lets you adjust spice levels easily to the taste of your guests (or kids). The lamb itself is flavorful but not spicy; the potatoes ditto. The sauce adds a nice kick of heat for those who enjoy it!

Lamb:
3-4 lb. boneless lamb leg or shoulder
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 t. garlic powder
2 tsp. roasted curry powder
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. vinegar

Potatoes:
dozen cloves garlic (unpeeled)
3 onions, coarsely chopped
3 lbs. new potatoes, in roughly 2 inch cubes
1-2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
2 t. mustard seeds
2 t. cumin seeds
2 T vegetable oil

Curry sauce (optional):
2 T butter
1 t. red chili powder
2 T ketchup
1 t. salt
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. water

1. Mix spices for lamb together. Pierce the lamb all over with a fork or skewer and marinate in spices and vinegar for 2-4 hours. (I find this easiest to do in a plastic bag, turning periodically.)

2. Preheat oven to 450 F. Mix garlic cloves, onions and potatoes in a large roasting pan with the vegetable oil; rest lamb on top, fat side up.

3. Roast 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast until internal temperature reaches 135-145 degrees (for medium-rare or medium meat), about another 60-90 minutes.

 

4. Remove meat to a carving board and let rest 10 minutes, then slice and serve with the potatoes and onions.

5. While resting, if you’d like, you can make a curry sauce. Put roasting pan on stovetop burner, add butter, chili powder, ketchup, salt, coconut milk, and water. Stir and bring to a boil, then keep stirring and cook down until it makes a nice sauce, about 5 minutes. Pour into a gravy boat or measuring cup with spout and ladle over meat and potatoes. Enjoy!

Curry-Poached (or Grilled) Chicken Sandwich, Two Ways

The nice thing about poaching chicken on the weekend is that you can then make really quick weeknight meals. Throw a little garlic naan in the toaster oven (I just used some frozen pre-made naan), and then you can top it with all kinds of things. In this case, I did one open-face sandwich with store-bought guacamole and mango salsa (yum), and one toasted sandwich with homemade seeni sambol (also yum). Add in a little salad or some roasted veggies, and you have yourself a very nice meal.

Curry-Poached Chicken Soup

(20-30 minutes, serves 4)

I’ve been poaching chicken breast lately, and I was curious how it would work with Sri Lankan flavors. This turned out quite tasty served as a soup (very reminiscent of rasam), with a little cooked millet and some chopped bell pepper to fill out the dish. Would make again!

(I tried serving it on a plate with the millet, but even with a little broth poured over the millet, I thought the end result was a bit dry; wouldn’t recommend. The chicken would be nice in a sandwich with seeni sambol, though!)

1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 T dark-roasted curry powder
2 t. salt
2 T lime juice
1/2 c. tomato juice (from a can)
1/2 c. wine
3 c. water
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

NOTE: If serving with rice or millet, start that going first; it’ll be ready in 15-25 minutes, along with the chicken, making this as easy and healthy weeknight meal.

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot; slowly bring just to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10-12 minutes (until juices run clear when chicken is pierced in the thickest part of the meat).

3. Remove chicken to a cutting board, let cool a little, slice, and serve with the broth it cooked in. A little sliced bell pepper or scallion is a lovely grace note to the dish; you could also stir in some peas or corn.

Mango Passionfruit Caramels

Usually I make exactly what I write in the recipe, but the truth is, I find cutting caramels labor-intensive enough that it’s something I only plan to do once a year or so. So I’m not going to make these again anytime soon, even though they’re quite delicious, and even though I think they would be just the tiniest bit tastier with the proportions I’m going to write down below. I made these with 3/4 c. mango pulp and 1/4 c. passionfruit pulp, because that’s what I had on hand, but I think they would be even better with 1/2 and 1/2, so that the tartness of the passionfruit would better balance the mango. But honestly, I think any ratio of those two would be delicious, as long as you ended up with 1 c. fruit pulp total.

Based on a Gale Gand basic caramel recipe. Makes at least 60 caramels.

5 c. sugar
1/2 c. mango pulp
1/2 c. passionfruit pulp
1 c. water
6 T butter
1 c. cream, warmed a little
flake salt for topping (optional)

1. In a very large pot (it will boil up a lot), mix sugar, fruit pulp, and water.

2. Bring to a boil and continue cooking without stirring until hard ball stage (250 degrees on a candy thermometer).

3. Turn heat off and stir in the butter and then the cream.

4. Pour into a 9×12 pan that has been lined with parchment paper and buttered. Let the caramel cool and set until firm, at least two hours and preferably overnight.

5. Once firm, turn caramel out onto a board, cut into rectangles, and sprinkle with flake salt if desired. Wrap in decorative clear plastic (you can get squares online that are meant for caramels, that twist and hold well).