Monday, April 02, 2007

Marshmallows, part 1: Vanilla With Egg Whites

Years ago, when my oldest daughter was a baby, a group of friends and I would meet regularly for Stitch'n'Bitch nights: quilting or knitting, with gossip and wine, hopefully away from the kids. The hostess was responsible for making dessert, and this gradually became a bit of an escalating competition. I think my finest, or most pathetic, hour was when I made s'mores from scratch: homemade graham crackers, marshmallows, fudge sauce and all. I love s'mores when camping, but am not a big fan of marshmallow otherwise; however, these were pretty darn good.

Spin forward 9 years, and that baby is now old enough to help me try again. I spent a bit of time researching recipes, and ended up with a variation of one from Gourmet. Recipes can be divided into with and without eggwhites; this one is with. I'll attempt one later without, and I'd also like to experiment with the variations suggested by fellow Eugene food blogger Brownie Points, who suggest techniques for strawberry marshmallows, among others.

These marshmallows are satisfyingly light and fluffy, with a good vanilla flavor. They melt into hot chocolate in a very satisfying way, and are orgasmic in hot fudge sauce. A huge improvement over JetPuffed, and they sell for more than a buck each at Williams-Sonoma, so you can pretend you've saved lots of money by making them.

You really need to have a standing mixer, like a KitchenAid, for this recipe. It can burn out hand mixers. You'll also need a candy thermometer.

This is an easy recipe for kids to help with-especially older children who can be careful with hot syrup. Mary was really delighted to have made something this cool, though she was pretty sullen through the whole process. She'd like to try rolling them in colored sugar next time.

*about 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
*2 large egg whites
*3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
*1/2 cup cold water
*2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
*5/8 cup hot water (about 115°F.)
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*3 tsp vanilla

*Spray bottom and side of 9x13 inch pan with Pam. Powder with powdered sugar, tapping out excess.
*Beat egg whites until they barely hold stiff peaks. Scrape into another bowl, and rinse mixer beaters and bowl.
*Pour cold water into mixer bowl, and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set aside so gelatin can soften.
*In medium saucepan, over low heat, stir granulated sugar, hot water, and salt until sugar has dissolved. Increase heat til boiling, and boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 240 on candy thermometer, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir into gelatin mixture until gelatin is dissolved.
*Beat mixture at high speed (WARNING! Increase heat slowly to high and use those pouring shields if you have them-you don't want this napalm spinning all over your kitchen) until snow-white and tripled in volume, a good six minutes.
*Slowly beat whites and vanilla into this mixture just until combined.
*Scrape into pan, smoothing top, sift 1/4 cup powdered sugar over top, and refrigerate at least three hours until firm.
*Spread a piece of wax paper on counter and loosen edges of marshmallow with a sharp knife. Turn pan upside down and kind of pry on one corner until mixture plops onto wax paper. Cut into whatever size you like with a pizza cutter.
*Mix remaining sugar with an equal amount of cornstarch and sift over, getting all sticky sides covered. Keeps, airtight, at least a week. Modified from Epicurious

Pepperoncini Pork

Pepperoncini Pork Taco, originally uploaded by stankey.

This is the simplest, and one of the most satisfying, recipes I know. My friend Rick shared it with me-it apparently was his go-to recipe for cooking food at home to impress a date. They really shouldn't've been impressed enough to sleep with him-the recipe is that easy, but I'm guessing it worked. Sometimes. At least frequently enough for him to keep cooking.

We made this recently when my friend Crit was visiting from Australia with her American sweetheart, Jay. They arrived after a long, exhausting trip, and we wanted to fix them something easy, that could be eaten whenever they got here, and that could fulfill a craving someone might have after being out of the States for awhile. Whatever failings there might be about food in America, we do have access to Mexican food, and Mexican ingredients, that is not available in much of the world. Jay and Crit report that you can get flour tortillas and basic salsa in Australia, but not much that's really authentic.

Throw the pork for this recipe in the crockpot in the morning on low. Head to your local Mexican market and pick up good corn tortillas, fresh green salsa, cilantro, cotija cheese, avocado, and some Negro Modelo. Good refried beans are fantastic, too. The pork tastes spicy and vinegary and is incredibly tender. It makes a lot-leftovers freeze well.

*1 pork roast, boneless, about 2-3 pounds. Nothing expensive.
*1 jar, 16 oz or so, pepperoncini.

-Place pork roast in crock pot.
-Pour pepperoncini over.
-Cook on low all day, til pork falls apart when shredded with two forks.
-Remove pork from pot and shred with aforementioned two forks.
-Let people make their own tacos with above ingredients.