Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year's Eve Seafood Dinner with Rum Cake

My husband and I started a tradition when we were first dating of staying home and making a fancy dinner instead of going out for NYE.  We also always get a bottle of Asti.  In years past, we've made prime rib- delicious slabs of herb and garlic crusted beefy goodness.  We decided to do a seafood dinner this year.

My husband suggested shrimp two ways (peel-and-eat with cocktail sauce, and scampi), crab legs, crab cakes, garlic bread, and baked potatoes, plus dessert.  "Holy shit," I said to myself- there's no way I can eat like that and still respect myself on New Year's Day.

I wound up getting all the fixins and suggesting a two-part dinner.  In case we got seafood overload on the first round, we could always have the rest the next day.  That wound up being the case.  We had the peel-and-eat shrimp (sans cocktail sauce- in all my grocery planning, I neglected to write that one down) and the crab legs with baked potatoes and dessert.  It was delicious.

For dessert, I went with a traditional favorite from my family- rum cake.  My great-grandmother, Lucy Castle, a sweet and much-loved lady, was known for her version of the decadent, boozy cake every holiday season, and I was very fortunate to inherit both her recipe and her actual Bundt pan.  I'm not a religious or even "spiritual" person by any means, but I do have a fondness for the idea that personal items can have good mojo.  I feel good and have good memories of Grandmother Castle every time I bust out that pan.

For tonight, I'm feeling too lazy to go get the newspaper clipping and type out the rum cake recipe, but it's readily available online so I'll give you the guidelines.  It's simple enough, and uses a yellow cake mix.  (Oh, the horror!)  This is one of the very few times I can bring myself to use a cake mix.  I pride myself on scratch baking, but since it was good enough for Grandmother Castle, it'll be good enough for me.

Rum Cake
Serves 12-14

1 box yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) box instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup each cold water, vegetable oil, and dark rum
Generous cup of chopped pecans

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup dark rum

Preheat oven to 325ยบ.  Grease and flour a Bundt pan, or spray with Pam baking spray that contains flour.  (The spray works great, is less messy, and avoids a floury crust.)

Dump the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, vegetable oil, and rum into a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk or electric mixer.

Place chopped pecans in the bottom of the prepared Bundt pan and pour cake batter on top.  Smooth batter and bake cake for about an hour, until a toothpick or skewer just comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool for about 15 minutes before inverting it out of the Bundt pan onto a sheet pan with a cooling rack inside.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the water and sugar.  Boil for about 4-5 minutes, or until the sugar has melted.  Remove from heat and carefully stir in the rum.

Using a fork, gently prick the cake all over.  Pour the glaze over the cake, cool completely, and serve.

My pint-sized helper took a photo of the cake ingredients in the bowl before she used the electric mixer on them.

A generous cup of chopped pecans goes into the well-lubed Bundt pan.  I use Pam baking spray with flour.

She liked the rum cake batter a little *too* much.  :D

Unglazed rum cake.

After being stabbed repeatedly but gently with a fork, the cake is glazed.

Hello, sexy!

One piece was never enough.

Recipe Collection Meets Technology

While I don't have a lot of actual cookbooks to speak of, I've had an extensive recipe collection for some time now.  I store them a few different ways.  The recipes I find online and print out go into 3-ring binders, in plastic sheet protectors, and are divided by category- chicken, desserts, breads, etc. 

I also had a subscription to two different cooking magazines, Martha Stewart Everyday Food and Bon Appetit, for about 3 years each.  Every month when I received a new magazine, I pored over it cover to cover.  I marked recipes that looked good with a tiny Post-It note with the recipe name written on it.

About 2 years ago, I started an index system to keep track of what I had.  I went through the binders and magazines and made a list.  Binder recipes were indicated by "NB" for notebook.  Magazine recipes were marked with "BA" or "EF" and the issue date.  That way, I could scan the list of recipes, make up a menu, and mark my menu with a quick notation of where to find the recipes.  Easy peasy, and that system worked well for quite a long time.

Here comes the end of 2010, and I've got a big drawer full of back issues of magazines taking up valuable storage space in my dining room, and a brand new Nook Color for Christmas.  (If you haven't laid eyes on this fancy schmancy e-reader from Barnes and Noble, go get you some.)  Not only can you read electronic books, magazines, and newspapers, but you can store and view photos, play Sudoku, do crosswords, listen to Pandora, surf the web (with WiFi), and read Word and PDF documents.  It's like a mini iPad for the PC crowd, but without the $600 price tag.  Economy WIN!

I'm the wife of a computer dude and somewhat of a gadget whore myself, so one of my dreams in recent years was to have an electronic recipe collection at my fingertips in the kitchen, completely paperless.  Now, I had the perfect piece of equipment to help facilitate my dream.

Over the last week or so, I've been visiting the websites of Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart, looking up the recipes I have marked in my issues, and creating PDF printouts of each one.  It sounds time-consuming, but has gone very quickly.  I do a little at a time, and my stacks are getting smaller.  I will take my paper issues to the local library to give away- they have a give-away magazine shelf that gets pawed through daily by patrons.  I've offered this culinary goldmine to two people in my family who proclaim to be learning to cook, but they turned them down.  I call "bullshit" on their purported interest in cooking.

Soon enough, minions, a world of electronic recipes will be at my fingertips!  *insert maniacal cackle here*

Some of my Everyday Food issues with their wee little Post-It notes.

A fraction of my Bon Appetit mags.  Good bye, friends.  You've served me well.