Can I Get You Something To Eat?

28 02 2012

I don’t know if this is part of Southern hospitality or just my family, but if you visit any of my relatives, this is the first thing they ask.  And your answer doesn’t really matter.  They’ll be hauling out whatever they can find before you even finish saying your hellos.  How about a bag of Chex Mix, some crackers – here put some peanut butter on those – and a couple carrots?  There’s a can of peaches in the pantry if you want to grab that, and I’ll just smear a bit of jam on this bread and we’ll have a feast!

If you think I’m kidding or even slightly exaggerating, you are sorely mistaken.  Go visit my family – any of them – they’ll be glad to have you.  And you WILL eat something, whether you want to or not.

Because of this gene, I also have a tendency to go slightly overboard when I know people are coming over.  I have to be prepared.  There must be adequate food in the house to offer them.  It doesn’t matter if 2 friends are stopping by or the whole town is headed over, I have to go the grocery store and I mean NOW.  Bust out the cookbooks and take inventory of the pantry! And where the hell is my apron?!

J and I keep ourselves pretty busy most of the time, but every once in a while, social time is good.  Especially for me.  I need it, and don’t get enough of it.  (This is my own fault, but whatever.)  So this weekend, we decided to just invite some people over and see what happens.  For J, this means picking up a 6-pack at the store and maybe tidying up the house.  I, however, have gone into Must Feed The Guests mode.  Sure, I also have a cleaning frenzy at the thought of company, but food is still at the top of the freak-out-about-something list.

I make a list of things I want to make.  Check the cookbooks for a few tried-and-true recipes, mark the pages, and add the necessary ingredients to the shopping list.  Then check a few websites I haunt.  That looks tasty!  Wouldn’t that be fun?!  I bet everyone will love that!!  Bookmark, more additions to the shopping list. Off to the store!

Now, if you haven’t read about any of my other cooking experiences, let me fill you in: I’m no master chef.  I like to cook, I like to experiment, and I really like to eat, but things don’t always work out for me.  However, there are a few things that I have mastered and can make better than anyone else in the whole world.  One of these is angel food cake.  The only person that makes better angel food cake than me is my mom, and she taught me.  When I was in high school, we had anywhere from 40-50 chickens, or laying hens if you prefer.  That means we could have 40 some-odd eggs a day.  A DAY!  We sold eggs, we gave away eggs, we ate eggs, our pets ate eggs, you get the idea.  Angel food cake requires a dozen eggs – so my mother became the angel food cake GODDESS.  My dad and I would eat it by the block.  Dad comes home from work: “Hey short stack, want to split a cake?” “Heck yeah, dad, I want the bigger half!”  No joke.

The key to an amazing angel food cake is in the technique, not the ingredients.  Eggs, flour, sugar, yeah yeah.  You need mad skills. Here’s a quick run down of the recipe:

Sift 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup of sugar together.  Do it again.  In another bowl, separate 12 egg whites from the yolks, add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tarter.  Now pay very close attention, this step is crucial: beat the hell out of the egg white mixture. Get that electric mixture and beat those egg whites like your life depended on it.  If you think you’re done, beat them a little longer.  Do this right and you will have a cake as fluffy as goose down.  It should make nice soft little peaks when you finish.  Keep beating and add another 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time.  Now you should get stiff little peaks.  Sift 1/4 of your sifted flour mix over the egg mix and gently fold it in.  Do this with the rest of the flour mix, 1/4 at a time.  Pour the batter into your angel food cake pan and bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  When done, prop the cake upside down on a bottle to cool.

angel food cake upside down on bottle

A little help from my good friend Deschutes Red Chair

And voi-la! This may not sound like much, but you have to understand: angel food cake holds a sacred place among my taste buds, and second-rate, half-beaten, chewy cake is unacceptable in my world.  You may notice something else here: I have the equipment.  This is a big deal.  More often than not, I lack whatever necessary tool will turn my mess into a culinary masterpiece.  Not in the world of angel food cake.  I have the flour sifter, I have the right bowls, I have the right spatula, by golly I have the pan made specifically for angel food cake!!  This should tell you where this cake stands with me.

And I make a damn nice angel food cake.

Oh yeah, I also made two trays of tongue-tingling jalapeno poppers, a batch of melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella sticks, and a delightfully delicious plate of heavenly deviled eggs.  If the amount of food left over at the end of the night was any indication of how much our 3 guests enjoyed themselves…well, every last morsel was devoured.  (Ok, so maybe I ate the last popper. Don’t judge me.)

Well, great. Now I’m starving. Good thing I have cake left!




2 responses

29 02 2012

Whew! You and I are so much alike. Freaking out because a couple of people are coming over. The house MUST be clean. There MUST be food. This, though, is where we differ. You actually cook. I put ingredients in a crock pot, mix salads, arrange a cheese plate or veggie tray like nobody’s business and season and skewer things to go on the grill. I stop there. I do not bake things that didn’t originate from a box – and I very rarely do that. But I love your enthusiasm, your humor (this is hilarious) and I really, really want to be a guest at one of your dinner parties one day. I LOVE angel food cake. But I ain’t sifting flower for nobody! Great post as usual.

1 03 2012

I would invite you over for dinner anytime. Too bad you’re on the other side of the country. 🙂 Shall I mail your share of the cake?

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