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Cooking with Myra: Cooking class results in good recipes

June 1, 2010 at 1:01 a.m.

Pork and Tomatillo Quesadillas with Ancho Dipping Salsa

KEY LIME-COCONUT CREAM CAKECAKE:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

21/2 cups all purpose flour

21/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup whole milk

FILLING:

1 cup granulated sugar

3 Tbsp. all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (1 medium orange)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (8 key limes)

3 large egg yolks

2 Tbsp. grated key lime zest

FROSTING:

4 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

3 to 4 cups flaked unsweetened coconut, for decorating

1 lime, for decorating

CAKE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, grease with butter or cooking spray, dust pan with flour and knock out excess. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the 2 cups granulated sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time beating after each addition. Beat until the batter is fluffy an additional 2 minutes. In a bowl, stir together 21/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt. Stir the vanilla into the milk. Add the flour and milk mixtures in alternating batches, beginning and ending with flour. After each addition, mix on low speed just until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold on a wire rack to cool completely.

FILLING: Stir together 1 cup granulated sugar, 3 Tbsp. flour, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a saucepan. Gradually stir in the 1/4 cup water and orange and lime juices. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils. Remove from the heat and pour 1/4 cup of the hot mixture into a glass measuring cup. In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the 1/4 cup hot juice into the egg yolks whisking constantly (this tempers the yolks preventing them from curdling). In a slow, steady stream, pour the egg juice mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining juice mixture, whisking constantly. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Pour the filling into a bowl. Stir in the lime zest, and cover with a plastic wrap, making sure the wrap directly touches the curd at all points, sealing out any air. Refrigerate this mixture until cool.

FROSTING: Gently fold 1 cup of whipped cream frosting into the cooled lime filling. Halve the cooled cake crosswise to make 2 layers. Place the bottom layer on a serving plate. Spread the filling over almost to the outer edge, top with second layer and frost all over with the remaining whipped cream. Decorate with the coconut and lime slices.

PORK AND TOMATILLO QUESADILLAS WITH ANCHO DIPPING SALSA2 Tbsp. chili powder

2 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 Tbsp. coriander seed, lightly crushed

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

11/2

4 pounds pork butt

TOMATILLO SAUCE:

2 pounds tomatillo fresh, papery covering removed and washed

1 medium yellow onion. Peeled and quartered

1½ jalapeno chilies, seeded

3 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice (1 lime)

Coarsely chopped cilantro

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 ripe medium avocado

QUESADILLAS:

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, sliced

4 poblano chilies, stemmed, seeded and sliced into long strips

2 Anaheim chilies, stemmed, seeded and sliced into long strips

12 large flour tortillas

3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (12 ounces)

Ancho Dipping Salsa

Pork: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the chili powder, cumin, coriander seed and 1 Tbsp. of salt and pepper in a bowl. Place the pork in a roasting pan and evenly rub the spice mixture all over the meat. Add enough water to the pan to cover the first inch of the meat, which will ensure the meat stays moist as it cooks. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Roast until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees on an instant read thermometer (5-6 hours) (When the meat is done, stand back when removing foil so heat does not burn face) The meat will be fork tender and almost falling off the bone. Let the meat stand until it is cool enough to handle. Remove the bone and pull the meat into bite size chunks. The meat can be stored in a covered bowl and refrigerated until it is ready to use.

Tomatillo sauce: Place the tomatillos, quartered onion, jalapenos and garlic in a large saucepan and cover with water bring to a boil over medium high heat. Decrease heat to medium heat and bring vegetables to a low boil. Cook until the tomatillos are soft and their bright green color turns to a dull green. This will take 7 minutes. When any of the tomatillos burst and fall apart, the vegetables are done; remove from heat immediately. Pour the tomatillo mixture into a colander set over a bowl or sink to strain out the liquid. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, puree the tomatillo mixture, lime juice, cilantro and 2 tsp. of the salt. Just before serving, peel, pit and cut avocado into coarse chunks and puree with the tomatillo mixture until smooth in a food processor.

Pour the olive oil into a skillet set over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the sliced onions, poblano and Anaheim chilies and saute, shaking the vegetables occasionally until they are lightly caramelized, 10-15 minutes.

Preheat an ungreased griddle or skillet over medium heat. Have the shredded pork, tomatillo-avocado salsa, tortillas, vegetables and shredded cheese within reach. Put as many tortillas on griddle as will fit without touching. Spread about ¼ cup of shredded pork, heaping spoonful of the vegetables and 3 Tbsp. of the tomatillo salsa. Reserve the remaining salsa for dipping. Flip the cheese-only tortillas on top of the pork tortillas and cook, flipping if necessary, until the tortillas are crisp and browned on the bottom. Once grilled, using a long sharp knife or a pizza cutter to slice the quesadillas into quarters. Serve immediately on warmed platters with Ancho Dipping Salsa and remaining tomatillo sauce.

ANCHO DIPPING SALSA8 Roma tomatoes

3 cloves garlic

1 medium onion, quartered

2 jalapenos chilies, stemmed and seeded

1 Tbsp. olive oil

4 ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded

2 chipotle chilies, stemmed and seeded

1½ tsp. kosher salt

Pinch of sugar

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roast the tomatoes in the oven in a large baking pan for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and add garlic, jalapenos and drizzle with oil. Return to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place the ancho and chipotle chilies in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Use a plate or small bowl to weigh down chilies. Soak until softened (15 minutes). Drain the chilies and set aside.

When the roasted vegetables are done, remove the skins from tomatoes and discard. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the vegetables in two batches. Don't over pulse or you will not have a chunky salsa. Pour the processed salsa into a bowl. Puree two of the reconstituted ancho chilies in the food processor. Stir the pureed chilies into the salsa mixture. Pulse the remaining ancho and chipotles until finely chopped, but not pureed. Stir in the chopped chilies, salt, sugar and lime juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

All recipes taken from "Pastry Queen Parties" by Rebecca Rather and Alison OresmanFOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information on future classes, call 361-275-2725 or visit www.thecookingdepot.com for a list of classes.

Cookbooks available from Cuero Cooking Depot.

By Myra Starkey

I've been losing weight for the last few months. I think I've dropped about 10 or 15 pounds. I don't feel sick.

It's probably because of my daughter's upcoming wedding. There is lots of stress getting everything organized to create the perfect event.

Thank heavens I have some really talented friends who are helping out.

Another factor is that as the mother of the bride, I bought a new special dress for the wedding, and it was a little snug, but I didn't want to buy a bigger size. I made up my mind to shed some of those middle-age pounds.

I'm still eating breakfast and lunch. I've just mostly cut down on snacks and my evening calories.

I realize that skinny is relative. I went for a doctor check-up a few weeks ago, and he complimented me for losing some weight, but then told me it wouldn't hurt to lose another 10 pounds.

I told him that I would look too old, and that I need to keep my weight up in order to fill out my wrinkles.

Besides, there are so many new foods to try.

One of my friends came over the other night, and I introduced her to the new ice cream bars from Blue Bell. I discovered these at the grocery store when I saw several people lining up in front of the freezer door on the ice cream aisle.

Not wanting to miss something delicious, I queried a petite lady who informed me she was buying a chocolate chip mint ice cream bar with dark chocolate coating. Yum.

I snagged a box and brought them home. I admit that I had two in the car on the way, but I did skip supper since my calorie quota had already been met. I am looking younger with every bite.

My friend exclaimed that the ice cream was delicious, but she just wanted a bite.

That attitude is the difference in at least 10 extra pounds. I never miss an opportunity to eat something new, not just one bite but rather the entire slice, scoop or however the food is served.

My motto is that I never met a food I didn't like. Well, actually, I don't like escargot because I've encountered way too many of their relatives in my garden.

My friend, Jerra, called to ask if I wanted to attend a cooking class in Cuero at the Cooking Depot.

Rebecca Rather would be there talking about her new cookbook, "Pastry Queen Parties."

I quickly agreed to join her and some other foodie friends for an evening with Rebecca. I have eaten at her Rather Sweet Bakery in Fredericksburg on numerous occasions and have enjoyed every crumb, so seeing her in person, and eating at her table, would be extra special.

I actually met Rebecca many years ago at a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. I contacted several chefs to come prepare a meal and give a cooking lesson. Rebecca was one of the chefs. She was working on her first cookbook. I volunteered to be her assistant on the stage.

Before the event, she had injected strawberries with a liqueur, and I believe I may have had one too many not realizing they packed a punch.

Thankfully, she did not remember me when I met her again in Cuero.

Annette, who owns the Cooking Depot, where they hold these classes, is a tireless worker. She frequently invites chefs to teach in her shop. She has a spacious room set up for classes, which has a cooking station with an overhead angled mirror so the students can watch all the action.

She and her staff prepare the same recipes before the class, so the students can eat the dish that the instructor chef is preparing.

I enjoy the first moments of the class when the expectant students look toward the teacher with sparkles in their eyes and growling stomachs.

Everyone knows what will be prepared because set at each place is a packet of recipes. I flip through those pages imagining the taste of the spices and the smells of the aromas before we even start.

I frequently make notes in the side margins hoping to glean tips from the master.

The classroom is also part of the shop, so it is lined with hanging cooking utensils of every kind, such as colorful spatulas and whisks, shiny tongs and cheese graters. The shop is a cook's dream.

The class was every bit as good as I expected. Rebecca took us through each dish step-by-step, answering our questions with a patient smile.

Our group was slightly rowdy since we are frequently together and have a lot of cooking memories to joke about. We rode to the class together in the party bus that belongs to one of the ladies in our group. Everyone likes the bus . well, almost everyone. I tend to get motion sickness, so I have to sit next to Sedrick, the driver, and look straight ahead.

I was feeling slightly woozy when I arrived at the class, but those feelings passed as I took my seat and imagined all the good things I would be eating.

Rebecca started with double cheese slice-and-bake crackers, which can be frozen and baked later. The sharp cheesy crunch was a perfect start to our meal.

Next, she prepared a Rosa's Red Posole, which is a soup made with hominy, several kinds of chili peppers and pork butt.

Quesadillas made from pork butt were our entree, and the dipping sauce served on the side brought oohs and aahs from our table.

Many of the components of this dish can be made ahead and then assembled at the last minute.

Then she showed us how to make Chubby's White Pralines. The recipe is unique since the confections are made with white sugar instead of brown.

Rebecca finished with Key Lime Coconut Cream Cake.

The frosting is made from whipping cream, powdered sugar and sprinkled with toasted coconut.

One might think that in a large cooking class you might get only a taste of each recipe and leave hungry. That was not the case that evening with Rather. The Pastry Queen manages to keep a trim figure by not eating sweets, but she lavished her students with mouth-watering appetizers, entrees and several desserts.

The bus ride back was filled with laughter. I sat near the driver and kept my eye on the road, promising myself I would never eat that much again.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail myra@vicad.com.

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