Saturday, January 30, 2016

another amazing dinner

Friday-evening dinner with Ligament was a thing of beauty. Ligament had wanted to come over and bake cupcakes; I told her that I'd do pulled-pork quesadillas. I also quietly decided to make a companion dessert for her: some of the same faux chocolate mousse—my "mouce"—that I had made earlier. This time around, I think I did a much better job.

Below, a shot of the table setting (hover cursor over image for caption):

Next, a picture of the now-prepped pulled pork:

It's not so obvious in the above photo, but the muscle fibers in pork shoulder—and the fat deposits as well—look substantially different from both sirloin and tenderloin. More chunky. A bit silkier, a bit less fibrous. The mouth-feel is also a bit different.

Below, my franks and beans (why am I thinking of "There's Something About Mary"?):

The tortillas were a Costco purchase, and all the local Costco had was wheat tortillas sold in enormous 40-packs (3 kg worth of bread!). I'll be eating tacos, burritos, and enchiladas for a month, I fear. ("Not a horrible fate," my coworker joked.)

Big tortillas make for big quesadillas. I painted one side of each tortilla with mayonnaise, per a suggestion made by Wolgang Puck years ago. A German chef with a heavy accent isn't normally the first person I'd turn to for suggestions on how to prep Tex-Mex, but mayonnaise works because it's mostly egg and oil. The only drawback is the smell: cooking mayonnaise doesn't exactly evoke quesadillas for me. But the results, visually speaking, are undeniable.

Below, I'm holding open a tortilla to give you a peek inside. With cheese both above and below the pork, I've justified the "quesa" in "quesadilla."

Here's a better shot of the mayonnaise:

And here's the first quesadilla, loaded onto Ligament's plate before being topped:

Here's my quesadilla, cooking on one side and soon to be flipped:

The nice thing about the one-tortilla style of quesadillas is that such quesadillas are easy to flip. When you use two tortillas and try to flip the whole thing, the chance of spillage is much higher. I spilled nothing during the making of all three of my quesadillas.

Below, my quesadilla, prepped and ready for eating:

We paused after dinner to wash dishes and prep the kitchen for making dessert. I became Ligament's sous-chef, helping her where I could. A bit of eggshell got lost in the batter when Ligament cracked an egg, but das macht nichts.

The cupcakes came out flat-topped instead of rounded and puffy, the way they're supposed to look. As much as I love my oven (a gift from Charles), it does have flaws, and two of those flaws are (1) weak heating elements and (2) wildly uneven cooking. This isn't a big deal when baking cottage pie, but it matters greatly for cupcakes: each cupcake is like a data point, indicating quite clearly where the hot spots and cooler spots are inside the oven.

This flattening was to our advantage, however, when it came time to put on my homemade Nutella ganache (Nutella, cream, and a bit of table sugar to make the ganache shiny—all heated in a double boiler): the cupcakes, being flat, dipped straight into the ganache and were 100% covered without any need for rolling them around.

Here's the ganache:

I put a lone cupcake on a plate to make it look all pretty:

And here's another cupcake, but not plated:

Here's a platoon of cupcakes that, no matter how they looked, tasted amazing and had a perfectly moist consistency to them:

We ate cupcakes and my "mouce au chocolat." I made it pretty much the same way I'd done before (Nutella, gelatine, heavy cream, water), but this time, I beat the heavy cream until it became more whipped-cream-y, and I added chocolate chips. The whipping made a small difference in texture, but the most curious phenomenon, visible in the final picture, is how the bubbles floated to the top, even after my having mixed the gelatine thoroughly, to form a true couche mousseuse—a foamy layer that, when scraped off with a spoon, felt and tasted like the mousse I had been trying to simulate all along. This gives me ideas for how to make a better mousse next time.

And in this final image, you can see the cross section, with the different layers of pudding and mousse now clearly visible:

It was a fantastic dinner. Very comfort-foodish and rib-sticking. We were stuffed, having enjoyed ourselves immensely, and we'll be doing something along these lines again soon. Ligament needs to get more familiar with Tex-Mex cooking, so, given all the damn tortillas I have, that's the path we'll be heading down for the next little while. I think she'll enjoy the culinary tour; she texted afterward that her quesadilla had been "sexy."



Charles said...

Belated comment, but sorry to hear about the oven. Truth be told, they are sort of a "better than nothing" stand in for real ovens. One day... one day I will have a real oven.

Anyway, the rest of it looks good!

(Still waiting for an invitation to come my way...)

Kevin Kim said...


You're free to come over whenever—just give me a day's warning so I can shop for the appropriate ingredients. Ligament and I are doing something on Seollal (the 8th), but aside from that, I'm free. Come over this coming Sunday or Tuesday (I assume we're all off that day).

As for putting you through a taste test or other sort of challenge... given what I've discovered about the properties of pork shoulder (see here), I'm no longer sure such a challenge is even possible: all you have to do is LOOK at the meat to know what kind it is. And I'm not going to make you suffer the indignity of a blindfolded taste test.

Kevin Kim said...


After the cupcakes, we did bake an actual cake in the oven, and it came out looking the way a cake is supposed to look, i.e., rounded and puffy. The oven works fine, but its imperfections show up when making cupcakes mostly because of the nature of cupcakes. I bet that, if I were to try my hand at baking bread, the bread would come out fine.

It's also possible that I still don't know everything about how to control the oven. It's billed as a convection oven, and convection currents supposedly make for more even cooking, but I've never heard the fan come on in all the times I've used the oven. I need to find out how to activate the fan.

Charles said...

Well, it was never really so much about trying to tell the two apart (which I'm pretty sure I could do even with a blindfold) but just comparing how they taste. Don't feel you have to go through some rigamarole for me, though.

As for the oven, I guess yours doesn't have a dial that allows you to select the baking mode? You might remember that mine has one with "bake," "oven," "convection," etc. Incidentally, I've never used convection when baking, and I've never had a problem with evenness when baking separate buns, muffins, etc. Then again, I think my oven is smaller, so it might not suffer from the same problems.

I'll have to see when I'm available. I think I might be doing something on Tuesday, and I'm not sure about Sunday, either. I'll have to check and let you know via email.