June 29, 2022

A la Carte: Twice the Usual Feast Today:- First Maple Gooey Butter Cake, Then Whole Coconut Curry Chicken

Lee White

Column #1

All winter, friends have been wailing about winter. When will it be over? Will summer ever come? Others complain about the cold. Some have slipped on ice. 

For me, winter on the Connecticut shoreline isn’t bad.

I grew up in Troy, N.Y. Went to college in Ithaca and Rochester, and lived and worked in Worcester, Mass.

Even the isolation during the pandemic wasn’t bad for me. I read a lot, I write a lot, I cook a lot, I learned about HGTV. My daughter installed Roku on my television.

And I get all my food magazines. 

Last week, my new Bon Appetit arrived and the cover showed a pale green cake topped with chocolate glaze showered with pale green powder. But the recipe called for mochiko (or sweet rice flour) and matcha. So I called Christine, who owns Fromage in Old Saybrook. “Oh, Lee,” she said, “I just sold the last package,” and said she’d have more by the end of the week.

Obviously, I wasn’t the only shoreline denizen who saw the magazine’s cover photo.

The next day I got my copy of Yankee magazine and saw a recipe requiring all the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator. Wait until you try this one.

Maple Gooey Butter Cake
From Amy Traverso, Yankee magazine, March/April 2022, page 60
Yield: 12 servings

For the cake:
1 cup salted butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan*
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan*
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup  maple syrup, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup maple syrup, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon maple extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and set a rack in the middle position. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of butter, then sprinkle with some flour, tilting the dish to coat evenly. Discard excess. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a medium ball, whisk together I cup melted butter, maple syrup, egg and vanilla. Add butter mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until evenly combined. Use your hands to press this mixture into an even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan.

Now, prepare the topping: Using a stand or handheld mixture, beat the cream cheese with the confectioners’ sugar and eggs in a large bowl until smooth. Add maple syrup and maple extract (if using). Beat until smooth.

Pour topping over the cake base. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is puffed but still jiggles slightly when you shake it, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

*I use PAM in the blue can for baking instead of buttering and flouring a baking pan.

Column #2

Almost eight years ago, I sold my big old 1690 cape and moved to a condo. And while I miss the house, without my husband, who died in 2009, I couldn’t keep up with the what an old house requires to stay gorgeous. 

Generally speaking, a condo is just fine for me, especially during the fall (raking all those leaves) and winter (shoveling all that snow). But this winter, with too much snow, the company hired for the complex couldn’t begin to do a good job.

Good thing I always have a refrigerator full of leftovers.

Last week I ate chili three different meals and made my new favorite: pasta with summer-frozen basil pesto, lots of little  tomatoes, tiny frozen sweet peas from Trader Joe’s and flurries of grated good parmesan.

But what I was hunkering for was chicken with red curry and coconut milk, and during those snowy days I couldn’t get into my garage to buy a chicken.

In the meantime, I found a recipe on the internet I had not made before. A few days later, I tried this recipe, adding carrots and fresh cauliflower: Using one pot, a can opener and a good knife, I had four more yummy dinners.

Whole Coconut Curry Chicken

Adapted from Modern Proper
Yield: serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole chicken (about 3 ½ pounds)
2 tablespoons salt
2 cans unsweetened coconut milk, divided
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 cup cauliflower florets (optional)
1 cup carrots, cut into ½ inch dice (optional)
1 lime, zest and juice
Cooked rice for serving

Rinse and pat chicken dry inside and out with paper towels. Discard anything inside the cavity. Salt inside and out.

Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown chicken until skin is golden and crispy on both sides. Remove chicken from the pot.

Add 1 can coconut milk, curry paste, onions, garlic and ginger. Bring to a simmer. Add chicken, cover and cook for 30-45 minutes over medium heat.

Uncover and add peppers (or any other vegetables you might like), lime zest and juice, the second can of coconut milk and continue to cook, covered, for another 10 minutes, or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. 

When you are ready to serve, either shred the chicken or quarter the chicken from the carcass and serve in a bowl along with the broth and rice.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes ‘Nibbles’ and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com along with the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.