Turducken? Baduckey? It’s all meat to me.

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I threatened to provide follow-up on our Thanksgiving turducken breast—and who am I to not follow through on my threats (or as my mom would say to us kids when she was mad, ‘this is not a threat, it is a fact.’)?

Let’s start out by saying it was my husband’s idea. Around July he began opining on how tasty it would be if we had turducken for Thanksgiving. Now, if you haven’t been previously informed—or don’t pay any attention to the “Popular Searches” box on Yahoo’s homepage, I’m happy to enlighten you. Traditionally, a turducken is a turkey wrapped around a duck wrapped around a chicken—with the appropriate stuffings filled in between each layer of meat. According to the always reliable Wikipedia, its origins are of some dispute (as is generally true of all excessive meat products worth their weight in fat), but it seems to have appeared on the scene earlier this decade. Of course if you have any idea who John Madden is, you’ll also know that the dude loves him some turducken.

For the purposes of our small Thanksgiving assemblage, an entire turducken would be, well, just too much meat. So, a little research yielded a recipe for a turduken breast. This is effectively the same thing but only the breasts and stuffing—a veritable meat roll.

While I knew I could be up to the challenge of paillarding multiple layers of raw foul and then wrapping it all in bacon, I almost wept with joy when the butcher at Whole Foods told me I could order one from their special holiday list.

Well, the idea was good in theory. There seemed to be some sort of confusion when I showed up at the appointed time to procure my pre-ordered turducken breast. After much shuffling and running around, the butcher on duty presented me with what looked like it could be a turducken. He also mentioned that he’d knocked off three dollars a pound for my trouble. Hmmm.

All was explained the next day when I went to prepare the meat for grilling. I opened the neatly packaged birds to find duck. And chicken. But not turkey. Ahha! That explains the apologetic look in the butcher’s eyes. I could have taken it back, but in the spirit of culinary adventure I figured we already had enough birds to feed four. So, I wrapped it in bacon and a baducken was born.

raw_baduckey

We then covered it in aluminum foil, threw it on the grill for a couple of hours and voila!

cooked_baduckey

I’ll admit, it was pretty tasty, though turducken it was not. Will there be a rematch next year in which I do what I should have done the first time and make the thing myself? Perhaps. Until then, happy Thanksgiving. And, to those of you frying your turkeys this year? I hope you have homeowners insurance.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, the nectar of a sound relationship

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I was a bad food blogger and did not take process pictures of the red velvet cupcakes featured in the previous post. Bad, bad blogger.

My husband is from the midwest. I’m from Southern California. What this means is that while our native tongues may be the same, our cultural icons aren’t always. In our relationship, nowhere is this more present than at the dinner table. When we first started dating, he’d never had a churro and I’d never even heard of a strange concoction he called red velvet cake.

Back at the start of the century, when our courting commenced, red velvet cake hadn’t yet burst onto the trendy LA baking scene. In fact, I doubted its very existence. For months we had to take a stroll down the baking aisle of every grocery store we visited looking for evidence of this mysterious cake variety. Not once did we find any. So set was my husband on proving himself right however that around the holidays he had his dad send a box from Tennessee.

So, it did exist!

Well, one box of red velvet cake is all fine and good until it is gone. So, I womaned up and found a few recipes for red velvet cake. After much experimentation and too much money spent on Schilling red food coloring, I found a winner. Of course, this was just about the time that red velvet cake became the next big thing in Los Angeles. While our local grocery stores now carry the boxed stuff, and every bakery seems to offer it in cake and cupcake form, this recipe is pretty darn easy to make and much better if you ask me.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 2 round cakes or about 16 regular size cupcakes.

For cake

2.5 C all purpose flour

1.5 C sugar

1 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 t. cocoa powder

1.5 C vegetable oil

1 C buttermilk at room temp.

2 large eggs at room temp.

1 ounce red food coloring (see note)

1 t. white vinegar

For frosting

1 lb light cream cheese, softened (full fat works well too through I like the lightness of the reduced fat)

4 C sifted powdered sugar

1 C unsalted butter, softened

1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Lightly oil and flour 2 round cake pans (8” or 9”)

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle (or large bowl) mix together buttermilk, eggs, oil, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.

With the setting on low, slowly add in dry ingredients until just combined. Batter will be very wet and oily looking.

Divide cake evenly in prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes rotating halfway through until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Removed cakes from oven, let sit for 5 minutes. Run the edge of a butter knife around the rim of the cakes, loosening them. Invert pans on to cooling racks, let cakes cool completely.

Frosting

In standing mixer fitted with a paddle or a large bowl with a hand mixer, combine all ingredients on low. Once combined, increase speed to high and whip mixture until light and fluffy. Use immediately.

Notes:

Red food coloring: an ounce is a small bottle of the stuff. In our neighborhood, this runs around $4. However, gel food colors such as the ones made by Ateco are less expensive and will get you more bang for the buck. You can find them in restaurant supply stores, suburban cooking shops like Sur La Table or can order them all over the place online (just enter in “Ateco food gel” as the search term).

The cakes don’t rise a whole lot. When I’m making a layer cake, I usually bake two batches and use three of the layers (you can freeze the fourth for later assuming it doesn’t get eaten on the spot like it seems to in our household).

For cupcakes, fill to a generous ¾.

It’s (almost) the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hi there.

It’s been a while.

I take full responsibility. Gingerbread Royce really took it out of me. But, I seem to have found the human growth hormone equivalent for baking (really great vanilla perhaps) and am planned, organized and ready to embrace this holiday baking season. As someone who has always equated new beginnings with new outfits it seemed fitting that The Misanthropic Hostess blog found a new home and new look as well. So, here we are. Welcome!

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting my 2009 holiday recipes along with mediocre process pictures. By my count, there are about a dozen. At no extra charge (save shipping and handling), I also plan to document the full blow by blow of the preparation, grilling and final product that is to be our Thanksgiving Turducken Breast. Yeah, I know, ‘gee thanks.’

Just to get us started, I’ve posted a teaser photo. Stay tuned for details.

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Gingerbread Royce’s 15 Minutes

Gingerbread Royce has taking on a life of its own. In fact, I think Royce’s dance card is significantly more full than my own this holiday season.

GR, that charming devil, was featured in both the online UCLA staff and faculty newsletter and the online version of the alumni publication; UCLA Magazine:

Extreme Makeover

I also just got an email that GR made an appearance at the UCLA Athletic Department Holiday Party yesterday. It warms my heart that something I made took its place next to pie. I like pie.

Since I’ve now finished my holiday baking (of course I have photographic evidence…pictures to come) and the holiday cards are all in the mail, I’ve had a few moments to turn my thoughts toward what I could do to top Royce next year. I can think of only one thing: Yule Log. Stay tuned.

Royce In Situ

If you’ve ever watched the food pornography that is the Food Network, you’ll know that the most exciting part of those wild edible structure competitions is when the competitors have to move their creation from work space to display table. My adrenaline gets pumping more while watching “the transfer” than when they announce the brackets for March Madness. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll admit (even if it’s just to yourself) that just like there is joy in seeing the underdog upset a top ranked team in round one (as long as it isn’t UCLA), there is some pay-off when the structure doesn’t quite make-it.

Well, I’m happy for me (and sad for the adrenaline junkies) that Gingerbread Royce’s trip to its final destination was very uneventful. Indeed, it made it to UCLA all in one piece. More or less. I can’t vouch for how it looks now, a week later, but when I left it, Gingerbread Royce was whole.

Here she is, finally at home.

And now my friends, we’ve reached the end of the second half and fourth quarter. The clock has run out and it’s all over save part where the band takes the field–or court–and plays the Alma Mater. While the trip has been entertaining, it’s time for me to switch aprons—but not Crocs—and start my holiday baking. Today: green coconut and royal icing. Tomorrow: Sparkly sugar stars and rum butternuts. Hail to the hills of Westwood…

Royce Rising

Well folks, it’s done. I promised to deliver this process in excruciating detail, and so will not disappoint as I unveil my little project.

Let us begin with Petting Zoo. Apparently her palate does not stop at gingerbread. Here you see her in her native environment snacking on neon green shredded coconut. I cut her off immediately after exploiting her digitally as I didn’t fancy the idea of cleaning up green cat yak from front hallway runner (her carpet of choice when it comes to regurgitation).

When we last left off, I had roofs and landscaping ahead of me. All of the peaked roofs were decorated using “tiles” made out of three kinds of gum wrapped over pretzel sticks. Inspiration for this came while sitting in a staff meeting looking out the window at the roof of a similar Romanesque Revival style building at that school across town. It took over 500 hundred “tiles” to cover the peaked roofs.

Of all the structural elements that had me in a quagmire, the pyramids for the tower roofs were the worst. They say there are two kinds of people—algebra people and geometry people. Unfortunately for this project, I am definitely the former. And that’s why we love the Internet. After some quick and dirty research I learned about the golden triangle. Now, ratios I can understand. I built slightly undersized models out of paper and then crafted the gingerbread pieces over them. The rise is definitely too high if you compare it to the real building (as is the pitch on the roofs of the wings). It’s the thought that counts. Right?

The top of the building called for some creative license. Through all my searching, I was never able to find a real picture of Royce’s roof. So, I improvised.

Then it was time to landscape. There are some home baking techniques that span the generations. Dying shredded coconut green and using it for grass has to be one of them. To this day, my husband talks about his favorite birthday cake—a re-created baseball diamond his mom made from scratch. The grass? Green coconut. Why mess with perfection? I also used sugar wafers for the walkways and spearmint gumdroppy leaves for the hedges. I had planned to make trees but realized that they would just obscure the building.

And this brings us to the big picture. I’m not completely convinced it even looks like Royce Hall anymore. In fact, once the roofs went on, it began to look quite a bit like a Spanish hacienda. Eh. BUT it’s standing, it’s big, get within 10 feet of it and all you can smell is cinnamon AND every single bit is completely and totally edible. Just ask Petting Zoo.

Alas, my work here is not done. This weekend we will attempt to take a decent picture of it and transport it to my husband’s offices in Pauly Pavillion at UCLA.

Always Wear Sunscreen

Remember the Baz Lurhman “Wear Sunscreen” song/speech dealio that was popular around graduation time in 1999? There is a great piece in it that goes:

“Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.”

Let’s set aside just how appropriate this is when applied to our current economic conditions (because why talk about something important?) and instead apply it to the project at hand. I’ve anticipated stuff would come up along the way. You know, burnt dough, crooked walls, a national shortage of red food dye. And in fact, most of these things have happened. Of course, as is so articulately said above, it’s what we don’t anticipate that gets us. In my case it seems to be a plague of vermin. Well, one vermin. Who happens to be domestic. And have a taste for gingerbread. There is a reason Bella the Cat is nicknamed Petting Zoo. Yes, she actually ate the tips of both of the towers.

Now that we’ve had our fun, let’s get down to business. This weekend was sort of a coming of age for Project Royce. It didn’t run away or get caught up in drugs or anything (well, there was the violence with the cat), but, it did come out the end of the weekend an entirely different beast than going in.

The sunscreen speech says to “do one thing every day that scares you.” And so, I mapped out the board and started building.

Then the kitchen kind of exploded. There was brick-tinted icing everywhere. Everywhere! I love that part of the project where it looks like it a tornado has just swept through town and nothing is going to work out (can you see who is in the upper left hand corner just waiting for her chance to snack).

Amongst the chaos, these were a couple of my favorite details. I finally figured out how make stained glass (add in the crushed candy only for the last five minutes). The wreath is one of two that will hang from the two front towers (you can’t see here because I’m bad at taking pictures, but the stars are blue, yellow and white).

Just for reference, this is what the real deal looks like:

And while we are referencing, this is what the model looked like:

…and this is what my version looks like:


Front:


Side (please ignore Rosarita, she’s helping hold up the building while it dries).


And now comes the hard part: roofing. As careful as I was about right angles, building the different roofs is going to be a challenge. And then there is the landscaping. And the keeping away of the cat. And the wearing of sunscreen…