Kitchen Guy: Convenient Food

By Beacon Staff

I’m second to no one when it comes to finding the most convenient way to do things. In fact, I’ve made a fairly decent living showing people how to make complex restaurant style food in an easier and more convenient way.

I use shortcuts, but I never skimp on ingredients. The fact is, real food can be made conveniently and it is always tastier than convenience food.

Even so, as much as I love convenience, I fail to understand the workings of the minds of harried moms who prefer to use the ingredients in a famous blue box to make macaroni and cheese, when it’s probably simpler (and to my way of thinking, a lot tastier) to make it form scratch. Trust me. It’s conveniently easy.

Really. How hard is it to boil pasta and grate cheese into thickened milk?

To be sure, there are two distinct types of convenience foods. One is good. The other is not so good. The good ones include pre-made stocks and broths, canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables and fruits. The not so good ones are those that come in packages where the ingredient list reads like the inventory from a college chemistry lab.

Pancake batter is so easy to make – and cheaper when you make your own – but the stuff in a box or molded plastic pitcher continues to make millions for Aunt Jemimah and the Pillsbury Doughboy. If you’ve got access to the Internet, paste this link in your browser and watch me make pancakes from scratch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTYOXnQ2egk&eurl=http://kitchenguy.biz/category/videos/videoarchive

On a recent trip to the supermarket, I was surprised to see three different brands of cake mix for chocolate cake with a liquid center. Sometimes it’s called chocolate lava cake. I can’t recall which pastry chef created the concoction, but it took the culinary world by storm several years ago after its debut.

My version of this dessert is so rich and chocolaty, I call it “Chocolate Dream.” I also employ a technique used by many Mexican cooks and bakers. I add a dash of chili powder to my chocolate. And one more flavor enhancer in this recipe is espresso or strong coffee. You’ll never taste the spice or the coffee, but they have the effect of really making the chocolate “pop” and that’s what my food is all about: flavor.

The thing is that this cake is so easy to make, I’m mystified why anyone would use a mix in a box, what with all the chemicals that food manufacturers are obliged to use in order to offer their goods on grocery store shelves for the sake of shelf life. Those chemicals, as Alton Brown would say, just aren’t good eats.

If you want to make a splash at your next dinner party, or if you just want to show off to the family one night, here’s my recipe for Chocolate Dream:

8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 cups butter, unsalted
4 large egg yolk
4 large eggs
1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon coffee or espresso (cold and very strong)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Powdered sugar and whipped cream – for topping

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter and set aside. Use simmering, not boiling, water.

Whisk together the egg yolks, the whole eggs until smooth, then fold into the chocolate.

Combine the flour, chili powder and sugar and add to the chocolate mixture.

Add the coffee, vanilla extract and combine well.

Butter six 4-1/2 oz. ramekins and divide the batter evenly among them. Place ramekins in the oven on a flat cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.

When slightly cooled, invert onto dessert plates. The center will be soft. Top with whipped cream and garnish with fresh berries.