Thursday, November 22, 2012

gluten-free thanksgiving feast

Look, I don't like turkey. I know, it's un-'Murrican, it's the whole point of Thanksgiving dinner, blah blah. Judge me how you want, I don't care. I don't like turkey, and I don't eat it unless I have to. Since I was hosting Thanksgiving this year, I didn't HAVE to make I didn't. I made a pork rib roast instead, rubbed with sage and garlic. It was epic, visually stunning, and REALLY damn tasty:

sage and garlic rubbed pork rib roast
My only (trivial) complaint was that it was somewhat hard to carve even with the rib bones pre-cut by the butcher, but it was so juicy and flavorful that it kind of cancelled out all the flailing around with the knife that I had to do to get it onto the plates.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of my pictures of the feast came out really blurry (apparently a combination of low light and quaking with anticipation is not conducive to good photography), but I can still regale you with descriptions of what I made!

With the pork roast, I served my much-asked-for-in-my-family roasted veggie mix, which consists of carrot, potato, radish, and Brussels sprouts. I tossed the prepped veggies with sea salt and black pepper and some fresh thyme and rosemary, then spread them evenly over two parchment-lined baking sheets. I cooked them for about 20 minutes at 475 degrees (because that's what my roast was cooking at, at the time) and then another 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees. Cooking them at high heat first gives the surface a nice crisp crust, then cooking them at a lower heat for longer allows them to cook through without losing the crust or getting burnt.

For other sides, I made a wild and brown rice dressing with lots of fresh thyme, dried cranberries and chopped pecans, some whole-berry cranberry sauce made with maple syrup and orange zest, kale sauteed with shallots and bacon, and I also did a twice-baked winter squash. For the squash, I used buttercup squash which I hadn't used before. I cut it in half and cleaned the seeds out, then cooked it on a foil-lined baking sheet at 375 for about an hour. I then scooped the flesh out into a bowl and added several (I, uhhh...lost count...hehe) tablespoons of butter, a splash of maple syrup, a pinch each of ground clove and ground nutmeg, and a couple pinches of sea salt. I used a stick blender to combine the ingredients and smooth the consistency of the squash out. The squash puree went into a baking dish and was topped with chopped walnuts, a sprinkle of brown sugar and dots of butter. It was then baked again at 350 for about an hour. All the sides except for the kale were actually made ahead last night and just reheated / baked in the oven while the roast finished cooking, and it worked out really well and saved me a lot of stress today!

We had two desserts today - crustless pumpkin pie and a flourless chocolate cake. The pumpkin pie is super easy - I just mix up normal pumpkin pie filling and dump it straight into a glass pie plate - no greasing, no crust, nada. I bake it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and it always comes out great. I've never had a problem with it sticking in the pan, and I honestly don't miss the pie crust one bit.

The flourless chocolate cake, on the other hand...that was a bit of a project. I actually used this recipe from Epicurious - the name of the cake is "La Bete Noire", which means "The Black Beast". I mean, how could I find a a recipe called The Black Beast and NOT make it, right?! So. The recipe is pretty straight-forward: melt chocolate and butter, beat in some eggs, make a sugar syrup, beat that in, dump into a springform pan and bake in a water bath. Can you see where things might go wrong? Yeah. Springform pan + water bath. I know, I know, people do it all the time and it works just fine....good for them. I followed the directions to a T - wrapped the bottom of the pan in layers and layers of foil, carefully poured the hot water into the roasting pan around the springform pan, etc. I thought it was slightly weird when the springform pan started to float in the water bath, but I saw no leakage / seepage, so I threw the whole thing in the oven for an hour. When I took it out, it was entirely apparent that shit had gone awry. There was a layer of water all over the top of the cake! I let it cool enough that I could pull it out and open the latch on the pan, and all the chocolatey goodness came sliding out in a giant placental sploooosh. Thankfully I had had the presence of mind to open the pan over the sink, or I would likely still be scraping chocolate sludge out from between my floorboards. Anyway - so the first try was a miserable fail. The store was already closed at that point and I didn't have enough chocolate to re-do the cake last night, so I had to wait until this morning to re-stock and try. For the re-try, rather than use a traditional bain marie, I instead took the roasting pan half-full of water and put it on the bottom rack of the oven, then put the springform pan full of cake batter on the TOP rack. An hour later, it was done and beautiful. It did develop a rather large crack across the top as it cooled, but the ganache that I poured over the top filled the crack quite nicely!After the ganache set, the finished product looked like this:

La Bete Noire. La Bete, indeed! 
I got a little over-zealous while mixing the ganache, which is why it ended up with a lot of bubbles, but you know what? Bubbles made of chocolate still taste like chocolate!

This cake is truly ridiculous. It's so incredibly dense and rich. It's like a truffle in cake form. Look at this.

 I just followed the recipe and made it plain chocolate (I did add a pinch of salt to both the cake and the ganache because they needed them), but my mom and I spent the whole of dessert talking about different ways you could flavor this thing, and they ALL sounded good. I can't wait to make this again and play with flavorings. I want to get some smaller pans and make mini-cakes though. It's just so dense and rich that there's no way anybody would want to eat more than about a 1/16th wedge of it. My family are hearty eaters and we can put away some serious cake...and we only slayed a quarter of this beast. Whew!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I know we did, and with not a trace of wheat gluten in sight.