Saturday, June 17, 2017

Clams Casino

Clams casino is a clam on the half shell with breadcrumbs and bacon. The dish is popular with Italian-Americans, and when I was growing up it appeared regularly on the menus of every trattoria near and far.

Julian's Clams Casino ready for garnishing.
According to Good Housekeeping Great American Classics, the recipe for clams casino was originally developed in 1917 at the Little Casino in Narragansett, Rhode Island, by maître d'hôtel Julius Keller for Mrs. Paran Stevens who requested something special for her guests.  During this period in American history if a restaurant wanted to be noted, it came up with a dish that involved the baking of shellfish, and many did. However clams casino and oysters Rockefeller are among the few surviving dishes from this trend.

I've got my small clams on an escargot plate to hold them steady.
Preparing the Clams:  Before you try making this dish, watch a few of the online videos and read this step-by-step instruction on how to properly clean and shuck your clams. I do mine from the back the same as the guy in the video link I provided, but both methods work. It takes a little practice. Also consider how you will bake and serve the clams. As the bottoms of the shells are rounded, they don't sit easily and you don't want them to tip. Above I'm using an escargot plate. Anything with an indention will do, even a bed of salt (for cooking and serving) or seaweed (for serving only).

Clams Casino

The recipe makes 12 clam servings. If you are using them as an appetizer, than two-three per person is likely sufficient. 

Clams ready for fillings with clam juice preserved. 

4 slices bacon
12 large clams

1/4 cup minced shallot or onion
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon paprika
Chopped parsley for garnish

In a small skillet, cook bacon until crisp over medium heat. Crumble, and set aside. Reserve bacon drippings in the skillet.

Wash and open the clams (as noted above) being sure to cut them loose from the shell after you have it open, but leaving each in the bottom half of the shell. Take care to preserve as much of the liquid inside the clam shells as you open them. Discard the top shell.

Preheat oven to 450F degrees.

Warm the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet, and place pan over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and saute until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and stir until golden brown, another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a separate dish. Stir in the oregano, parsley and cheese. Toss in the crumble bacon and combine. Set aside.

Wipe out the skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute 1 minute.

Spoon the butter/garlic mixture into the clams. Spoon the bread crumb mixture on top of each buttered clam. Sprinkle with paprika.

Place the clams on a cookie sheet or in any type of oven save dish that will hold them steady making sure they will not rock and spill the ingredients. Bake for 7 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fresh Blueberry Lemon Cake

With fresh blueberries now in abundance and knowing they always pair well with lemon, I set off to find a cake that utilized both summer-fresh ingredients.

Julian's Blueberry Lemon Cake
The original recipe came from the website which is heavily filled with advertising which makes pages hard to load and read. In any case, the recipe turned out well, although I added the two sauces. (Recipes at the bottom of this page.)

Her recipe calls for a 9-inch spring form pan and as I only have a 10-inch version, I used that. The 9-inch pan would give you a better result. My baking time was also reduced to 40 from the 50 minutes she reported.

2 large eggs
1 cup (210 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 medium lemon (zest and juice), separated
1/2 tablespoon corn starch
16 ounces (450g) fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar to dust the top, optional

Lightly butter or spray with food release a 9-inch spring form pan and line the bottom with parchment. Preheat Oven to 375F degrees.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 2 eggs and 1 cup sugar on high speed 5 minutes, or until light in color and thick. Add sour cream, oil,  vanilla, salt and mix on low speed until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour with baking powder. Add 1/3 of the batter to the egg/sugar mixture and on low speed, mix until combined. Add the remaining flour 1/3 at a time, mixing to incorporate with each addition. Finally, add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and all of the lemon zest and mix on low until combined.

Rinse blueberries and drain well. In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with the corn starch and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Toss to combine until there is no dry white cornstarch showing on the berries.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Top with half of the blueberries. Spread with remaining batter then sprinkle the rest of the blueberries evenly over the top, pushing them slightly into the batter (about halfway).

Bake at 375˚F for 40 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Check at 40 minutes and test regularly. Do not over-bake.

Let cake rest in the pan 15-20 minutes then remove ring and cool until room temp or just warm. Carefully lift the cake off the pan base and peel off the parchment. Place the cake on your serving plate.  When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar. Do not dust in advance.

Optional Sauces

4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put egg yolks into a medium heatproof bowl; set aside.  Whisk together lemon zest, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups water and the lemon juice; whisk until sugar and cornstarch have dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; gradually whisk one-third of the lemon mixture into the reserved egg yolks. Pour mixture into pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface. Keep at room temperature if using the same day to maintain the sauce consistency. Refrigerate for longer storage. Thin with some additional warm water if needed before serving.

1 pound fresh blueberries, wash and stemmed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place the berries into a sauce pan.  Add the sugar, lemon juice and corn starch. Stir to combine. Cook over  medium-low heat until the berries soften, stirring regularly until they make a sauce. Let cook down to desired consistency. The longer you cook, the thicker they will become.  Keep at room temperature if using the same day to maintain the sauce consistency. Refrigerate for longer storage. Thin with some additional warm water if needed before serving.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Beef Brisket - Slow Cooker Method

Most people only enjoy beef brisket when it is served as corned beef around St. Patrick's day, but this meat has a nice flavor on its own and can easily be prepared in a slow cooker. In fact, a slow long cooking is required to make the meat tender and to bring out its very beefy flavor.

Julian's Trimmed Beef Brisket
I got my brisket at Costco and like all things there you get a large piece. To fit it into the Crockpot I cut it in half. The recipe also calls for chili sauce and here any variety you prefer will do. I've used the classic Heinz Chili Sauce (not very hot) to the quite spicy Sriracha. I would say I prefer the less spicy in this recipe.
1 (3-4 pound) beef brisket, trimmed of fat
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
 1 can beer (12 ounces more or less)
 1 bottle tomato-based chili sauce
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
Preheat the slow cooker on the high setting. Trim excess fat from the brisket and cut it in half if necessary so it fits in your slow cooker. In a hot skillet with a little vegetable oil, brown on both sides.

Season the brisket on both sides with salt and pepper, and place in the slow cooker. Cover with a layer of sliced onions. In a medium bowl, mix together the beer, chili sauce, and brown sugar. Pour over the beef making sure both layers get coated. Close the lid.

Cook for 3-4 hours until tender. Remove the crockpot lid and let cook another 30=45 minutes to reduce the liquid. Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let the brisket rest and cool slightly before slicing.

You may return the sliced meat to the slow cooker to coat in the sauce or plate the meat and spoon the sauce over. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Grilled Stuffed Lobster

Today I'm grilling lobster and this one happens to be of the warm-water Caribbean variety. That's because I'm staying at our St. Thomas villa where these lobsters are large and plentiful.

Julian with Grilled Stuffed Caribbean Lobster
I had previously discussed stuffed lobster and the various varieties and I'd given you the recipe from a great local restaurant in St. Thomas. But today I'm making these on the grill and stuffing them too, so I wanted to share a bit more on this topic.

Stuffed and Ready to Eat
Now whether you get cold water (Maine) lobster or warmer water (spiny Florida or Caribbean) lobster, they are all dispatched and cooked in the same manner. The primary difference between the cold and warm water varieties is the lack of pincer claws in the warm water lobster. It is for this reason you'll want to select larger specimens if you go with spiny lobster, as the only real meat is in the tail.

Boiling and steaming lobster is perhaps the most popular method. That's because it is killed and cooked all in one step, by placing into the already hot pot. However if you are going to stuff, grill or bake lobster, you need to send them on to that great ocean in the sky (kill them) first. To do this it is best to put them in a cold, dark place and let them sit quietly for a while. Warm water lobster in a cooler with some chunks of ice will do the trick if left for about an hour. For a cold water lobster you'll need an even colder environment (more ice in your cooler or your freezer) for at least 15-20 minutes. The cold and darkness rather put them into a deep sleep and make it easier to handle them.

One Quick Cut and It's Done
Wearing a heavy glove, one at a time move the lobster to a cutting board. With a sharp tipped chef's knife, place the point just behind the head. On a cold water lobster there is a small hinge in the shell at this point. On a spiny warm water lobster, there is usually a small dot on the shell. With the blade facing toward the front of the lobster, plunge the point directly down through the shell and quickly push it forward cutting the lobster's head in half. The lobster is now dead. Turn the knife the other direction, insert into the same spot and cut the lobster tail end in half.

Then cut the other end in half.
Spiny lobster have a harder shell with spikes and you'll need some muscle to cut it in half. Heavy gloves are a must as the shell is after all 'spiny'. I sometimes use kitchen sheers especially for cutting the underside of the tail which is more of a thin but tough membrane.

One you have the lobster cut in half wash out the insides removing the internal organs and creating a place for your stuffing. Prepare any additional lobster one at a time.

While the grill is heating, prepare the stuffing below. Note it uses left-over rice of any variety. I usually have some white or yellow Spanish rush in the refrigerator. You can of course make fresh and include it after it is cooled.

1/2 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 stocks of celery, finely chopped
3 green onions, all of the white and a little of the green, finely chopped
             (or substitute 1/3 of a yellow onion)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Tabasco hot pepper sauce, to taste, 3-6 dashes
1 egg
1 cup cooked rice (any type)
3/4 cup of lump crab meat

4 tablespoons melted butter for basting
Paprika for color

Combine all of the above ingredients except for the rice and crab. Stir in the rice and gently fold in the lump crab trying not to shred it completely. The mixture may seem a bit dry, but the lobster shells will provide more moisture while it grilling/baking, so do not be concerned. Stuff the lobster body cavity, brush the lobster tail meat with butter and give it a light dusting of paprika.

Basting with Butter before Grilling

Place on a pre-heated grill (about 400F degrees) meat/stuffing side up and close the lid. Grill for 15-20 minutes until the lobster tail is cooked through. The lobster is done when the meat is opaque and feels firm when pushed with your finger or the temperature reaches 145F degrees at the center of the tail when measured with an instead read thermometer.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bacon Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin

This is any easy and fast weeknight dinner. Pork tenderloin can be both delicious and tricky. It is small and lean and if over-cooked can be dry and chewy. In this recipe the tenderloin is protected by a wrapping of bacon, which also adds fat to keep it moist and flavorful.

Julian's Bacon Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin
I purchase an individual fresh tenderloin at my local grocer. If you get yours in those vacuum packs that are nearly as big around as your wrist, understand it is two pieces of tenderloin inside, which is twice what I'm using the recipe below. If you plan to make the two of them, double the recipe.

I'm using the popular Major Grey's Chutney in this recipe, which you can find at most grocery stores. However, you can substitute another chutney or jam of your choice. I've used peach preserves with success in the past.

erves 4
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 to 6 slices bacon
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup Chutney (Major Grey's preferred)
2 tablespoons whole grain or Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the silverskin (the silvery-white connective tissue running along the top) from the pork tenderloin with a sharp knife, if the butcher has not already done so. Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels.

Lay the bacon strips parallel across a cutting board spread about the same as the length of your tenderloin. Place the tenderloin on the bacon.

Combine the brown sugar, salt, paprika, and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub all of the mixture into the pork tenderloin turning it as necessary to coat all sides. Wrap the tenderloin with the strips of bacon, securing along the sides with toothpicks.

Ready for Browning
Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron skillet, or other oven-proof skillet, over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the bacon-wrapped tenderloin and sear — do not disturb it while it's searing — until deep caramel brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the tenderloin and continue searing until the other side is browned.

Mix the chutney and mustard in a small bowl and brush generously over the top of the tenderloin.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the tenderloin until a thermometer reads 140°F, approximately 10 to 14 minutes.

Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil. Rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the tenderloin to finish cooking and for the juices to redistribute into the meat. Remove toothpicks and slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces for serving. Serve with any leftover chutney on the side.

Sliced and Ready for Serving

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Whole Wheat Caramel Pecan Cake

This is an old recipe and you may remember your grandmother serving you something like it. I take liberties with the recipe and usually make it when I have ingredients I'm trying to use up. You probably have all of these in your pantry today.

Julian's Whole Wheat Caramel Pecan Cake
I often find I have extra bits of nuts and coconut on hand from other recipes. Here you can use more or less of either of these. I used more here and the topping is more solid. The recipe below will give you a more moist sticky topping, which I actually prefer to the version pictured here. The original recipe card indicated the cake was baked in a 7 x 11 inch pan, which I do not have and have not seen. I make this in an 8 inch square baking pan.

Here it is made with more coconut and nuts than in
the recipe below as I had them on hand.

Whole Wheat Caramel Pecan Cake

1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
 1/4 cup butter, diced
 1 egg, lightly beaten
 3/4 cup brown sugar
 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
 1/2 cup all purpose flour
 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
 1 teaspoon cinnamon
 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
 pinch of salt

 1/4 cup butter
 3/4 cup brown sugar
 1/4 cup half and half or whole milk
 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
 1/2 cup chopped pecans
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Heat the oven to 350F degrees. Lightly spray an 8 inch square baking pan with food release (Pam). Set aside.

In a small saucepan add the water and butter and bring to a low boil. Add the oats and ook for 5 minutes over low heat stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

In a mixing bowl add the egg and the 3/4 cup brown sugar. Stir to combine. Spoon the oat mixture into the mixing bowl with the egg mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Spoon the cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, turning the broiler on.

While the cake is baking, make the sauce.

In a medium saucepan melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter. Stir in the brown sugar and half and half and stir until combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut flakes, pecans and vanilla extract. Spoon the sauce over the warm cake.

Return to the frosted cake to the oven and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until the sauce starts to bubble and the topping is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Crockpot Chicken Tacos - Super Simple Dinner

Making a taco bar is simple, especially when you can prepare the meat in advance. I'm busy with other things today and so I'm making this in my slow cooker (Crockpot). It's pretty much a set it and forget it type recipe. This is also a great recipe for hot chicken sandwiches.

Julian's Chicken Taco Meat
The chicken can cook 4-5 hours and be ready when you want to serve dinner. It will hold longer as necessary. Then just prepare the other taco ingredients such as shredded lettuce, cheese, chopped tomatoes, sour cream and any other favorites and let the family build tacos themselves using warmed tortillas to hold the ingredients.

Julian's Chicken Taco Bar
I'm using the Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix in this recipe. You can get this in one ounce packets or a bigger container as I am showing below.

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

2-3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 ounce taco seasoning mix (1 packet)
1 ounce dry ranch mix (1 packet)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup chicken broth

Place the dried mixes into the slow cooker along with the optional pepper.  Add broth and whisk until combined.  Add chicken breasts and turn in the liquid mixture.

Cook on low setting for 4 hours or a bit longer depending on amount and thickness of chicken breasts.  When chicken starts to fall apart when pulled with a fork, it is ready for shredding. Using two forks, shred the chicken right in crock pot and stir to combine with the liquid. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes. If the chicken has too much liquid, cook without the lid. If the chicken is of the correct consistency after shredding, continue cooking with the lid in place.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pork Tenderloin with Coffee Spiced Rub and Red Cabbage Slaw

Pork tenderloin is sometimes challenging to purchase and harder to prepare. For such a tender piece of meat you would think it would be easier.

Julian's Pork Tenderloin with Coffee Spiced Rub
on a bed of Red Cabbage Wild Rice Slaw
First, you often find packages of what in the store appears to be a single, pre-marinated, vacuum packed very large pork tenderloin. When you open the package you find you have two pork tenderloins that were packed together. I'm not sure why they package them this way, other than they appear more like a pork loin roast. The meat is often not as tender and it is sometimes rubbery from the marination inside the package. For this recipe, I recommend you get a single, fresh pork tenderloin from the butcher's meat case, not vacuum packed. This will be more fresh and tender.

Pork tenderloin with the coffee rub.
Second, when preparing pork tenderloin it can be challenging to get it cooked to the right temperature throughout. A tenderloin is by nature thicker at one then than the other. It is also quite small and overcooks easily. It is for this reason I prefer the sous vide technique which I'm using here today. This isn't required, as you can roast it in the oven, but you must use a good thermometer to make sure it is done correctly.

I found this recipe in the Sous Vide at Home cookbook by Lisa Fetterman. Highly recommended if you are doing sous vide style cooking.

Pork Tenderloin with Coffee Spiced Rub
Sous Vide Technique

(serves 2-3 adults)
1 teaspoon course salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground coffee, preferably fresh
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin
  not more than 2 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

Preheat the sous vide water to 60C or 140F degrees for a medium pink doneness.

In a small bowl stir together the first set of ingredients (from salt to cayenne pepper) to make a rub. Rub the dry mixure onto the pork coating it evenly. Drizzle with the oil spreading it all over the tenderloin. Place the pork in a gallon sized zip locked bag and remove the air. When the water reaches the set temperature, lower the bag into the bottom of the water and cook for 1 hour. While the pork is cooking make the slaw below.

When the pork is ready remove the bag from the water bath and transfer it to a tray. Discard any cooking liquid and the bag. Gently pat the tenderloin dry with a paper towel. Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron preferred) over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the pork and sear on all sides about minute per side until well browned, about 4-5 minutes in all.

Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 3-4 minutes before carving. Place the warm pieces of cut pork tenderloin on top of a bed of the slaw below.

Red Cabbage Slaw

1/2 small head red cabbage, shredded
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway or dill
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
salt and fresh pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 package Seeds of Change Brown & Red Rice
    or 1 cup cooked wild rice

Heat the rice according to package directions or until it is warmed through. In a large bowl, add the shredded cabbage and toss with the lemon juice, caraway/dill, shallot, cranberries and salt/pepper. Let sit for 5-10 minutes tossing occasionally. Add the oil and the rice and toss to combine.  Plate with pork tenderloin on top.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Lemon Meringue Pie - Meringue Topping Tips

A bright, slightly tart lemon meringue pie is as refreshing as can be after dinner. They never feel heavy or too rich, and are not overly sweet. The combination of sweet and tart simply makes this a perfect pie choice all year long.

Julian's Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon meringue was my mother's favorite pie and she made them regularly. This however, is not her recipe as I don't think she actually had one written down. She used a cast iron skillet and said it was essential for her recipe. I however just use a standard pot and it comes out great. My recipe is based on that of Cooks Illustrated, but I have made several small changes over time.

Here are my key meringue tips:

  • Make meringue toppings on dry, low-humidity days, or in the house when the air-conditioning is removing humidity. Humidity causes the meringue to weep (small droplets of moisture form on the top and under the meringue), as does refrigeration. 
  • Undissolved sugar in the egg whites can also cause weeping. Don't add the sugar before a coarse foam appears, and then add it very slowly to insure it dissolves. To make sure the sugar gets dissolved, mix the egg whites and sugar at a low speed until the mixture feels perfectly smooth with no graininess when you rub a little between your thumb and finger. Using superfine sugar is preferable to regular table sugar, as it dissolves more quickly.  
  • Use the corn-starch mixture in the recipe below in your meringue, as it also traps moisture and reduces weeping. The cream of tartar reduces shrinkage.
  • Don't over bake your meringue. Finish browning with a blow torch or under the broiler if needed for extra browning. Over baking causes the egg whites to shrink and squeeze out small droplets of moisture called weeping. Always make sure to check on your pie at the minimum baking time. 
  • Keep the pie filling warm and covered with plastic on the surface as you prepare the meringue. When meringue is ready, pour the still hot filling into the pre-baked crust and spread. The heat from the filling will help set the meringue and the steam will pass up through the meringue, rather than being trapped underneath, making it less likely to weep.
  • Make sure to seal the meringue completely to the edge of the pie first, before filling the center of the pie. It must be sealed to the crust edge to prevent shrinking.  
  • Allow to cool on a rack or trivet for 3-4 hours before serving. Do not refrigerate before serving. Pie should be served the same day as baked.

Julian's Meringue Topped Lemon Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie


 Lemon Custard:

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 2 pieces


1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (3½ oz) granulated (superfine) sugar

Pie crust:

1 recipe single-crust pie dough, fully baked and cooled


Pre-bake the pie crust per the instructions on that recipe.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Zest the lemons and then finely chop the zest. Cover and set aside.

Divide eggs, noting that you will need six yolks and four whites. Use another small bowl for the extra two whites.

For the Lemon Custard:

In a heavy medium-sized pan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch and salt. Whisk in water and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. When mixture starts to turn translucent, whisk vigorously while adding in two egg yolks at a time. Whisk in lemon zest, juice and butter. Return mixture to simmer, whisking constantly, then remove from heat. Lay sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of filling to keep warm and prevent skin from forming.

For the Meringue:

In a small pan, add the tablespoon of cornstarch, then whisk in 1/3 cup water. Bring to a bare simmer in small saucepan and cook, whisking until it just becomes thickened and translucent looking, 1 to 2 minutes at most. Remove from heat and let cool slightly while you prepare the egg whites or trasnfer to a small bowl to stop the cooking process. The mixture should remain of a glue-like consistently that you can easy spoon into the egg whites.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and vanilla at medium low-speed until foamy and very frothy. Mix together the cream of tarter and sugar, turn the speed up to medium high and add very slowly pouring about a tablespoon at a time until all incorporated. Test between your fingers to ensure it is not grainy. The mixture should now form soft peaks. Continue to whip and add the cornstarch mixture, about a tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 2-4 minutes longer on high speed.


If filling is no longer hot, during the last minutes of beating the egg whites, remove plastic and return to very low heat for just a moment or two to warm. I rarely find this necessary.

Pour warm filling into cooled pre-baked pie crust. Working quickly, use a large spatula to place the meringue around the edge of the pie crust, while slowly turning the pie. Seal the meringue to the edge all around before filling the center. Fill the center and spread the meringue to cover the top. Using the back of spoon, create attractive swirls and peaks in meringue. Bake until meringue is light golden brown, about 15 minutes and finish with a blow torch or quickly under a pre-heated broiler if necessary for extra browning.

Cool to room temperature on a rack for 3 hours before serving. Do not refrigerate.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pie Pastry- The Right Technique for the Best Pie Crust

Pie is among my favorite desserts. A fresh berry pie in spring, fruit in the summer/fall and the cream varieties throughout the winter always hit the spot. Pie also seems to impress in ways that cakes do not. But as my mother used to say, making great pie pastry is something that comes best from experience, which means making pies regularly. She baked pie every week, and didn't have a food processor, yet her crusts were perfection!

Julian's Apple Pie with Lattice Pastry
This recipe is for pie dough, pie crust or pie pastry... all the names used for pie making. Don't confuse it with classic tart doughs, often just called 'pastry dough'. When people say pastry dough, they are likely talking about what the French call pâte sucrée and pâte sablée. While these are similar to a finished pie crust (what the French call (pâte brisée), pastry dough contains more sugar and incorporates eggs into the recipe. The mixing method and addition of egg to the batter makes this dough more forgiving than pie crust dough. When making pie crust dough, there is a delicate balance of fat, moisture and mixing method that must be followed in order to achieve optimal results, which is more time consuming than a pastry dough.

Like much in baking, practice and sticking to a strict recipe is required for pie crust success. After you make the pie pastry several times you get a feel for exactly the right consistency. You know when it's got just the right amount of water. And you know not to over-handle it. Pie fillings are relatively simple and have some wiggle room in making. Pie crust does not. You want a flaky, light crust and that doesn't happen by accident.

A good option if you don't make pies regularly.
You can purchase a perfectly good pie dough at the store. If you don't plan to make pies regularly, this may be your best choice.

Below I provide you with my preferred pie crust recipe and technique, which is largely that of the good chefs at Cook's Illustrated. It contains the 'secret ingredient'; vodka. This is not my mother's recipe. There’s a whole science to pie crust and the secret to making a good one lies in achieving the right ratio of flour, liquid and fat. Of course blending water and flour creates gluten, which toughens the dough. So, accordingly to Cook's Illustrated, using a hard liquor such as vodka--since 80 proof vodka is only 60% water, combines the dough but doesn’t contribute as much to gluten formation while leaving no unwanted flavor. It seems to work.

Julian's Cherry Pie with Full Top Crust
Let me also give you a couple tips on baking the pie, which are just as important.

Baking Tips: Place your prepared crusts (homemade or store bought) in a glass Pyrex pie plate. Ceramic pie plates, lovely as they may be, do not give you the best results. Pre-heat your oven with a baking steel, ceramic pizza stone or cookie sheet on the bottom shelf. This is where you will bake your pie. The heat of the surface will help to brown and cook your crust so it comes out flaky on the bottom; not moist and gummy.  If you need to finish the pie in the broiler, move it up to the top shelf when you are ready for browning the top. Also, don't over-handle the dough. Your warm hands will melt the pockets of fat, which will take away from the flakiness. Refrigerate frequently if necessary to keep the dough cool. In the recipe below you'll note everything is marked as 'cold'. This does not mean room temperature. It means, refrigerated thoroughly before use.

Pie Pastry


2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

In your food processor, pulse 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until dough just starts to collect in clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no un-coated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Do not use your warm hands. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

When ready to make your pie, remove from refrigerator and generously sprinkle a work area with flour (I use a large heavy board or work directly on the marble counter top) and roll the dough out into discs. Roll from center to edges to make a 9-inch disk, rotating a quarter turn after each stroke, sprinkling additional flour underneath and on top as necessary to stop from sticking. Flip dough over and continue to roll, but not rotate, to form a 13-inch disk just under 1/8-inch thick. Fold into quarters, place the dough point in the center of your Pyrex pie plate and unfold to cover the entire plate. 

To fit the dough, lift the edge of the dough with one hand and press dough into pan bottom with the other hand. Repeat around circumference until dough is fitted but not stretched. Trim excess overhanging dough about 1/2-inch past the lip of the pie plate.

For fruit and berry pies, which are baked with a filled, raw crust, tuck 1/2-inch of overhanging dough under so folded edge is flush with the edge of the pie plate. Make a dough edge by pinching together to make a ruffled edge, if you are not using a top crust.

For cream pies and others that require pre-baking the crust, tuck 1/2-inch of overhanging dough under so folded edge is flush with the edge of the pie plate and use a flour coated fork pressing down along the rim to make a decorative edge. This method is less likely to slide down into the pan when baking an empty shell, so use this for your cream pies and other recipes where pre-baking the crust is necessary.

Refrigerate until firm, about another 30 minutes. Follow recipe instructions taking note of whether or not pricking the bottom crust is required.

For pre-baking pie shells for cream and similar pies, place parchment paper into the pricked raw crust and fill with ceramic pie weights or dry beans. This will help to insure the crust does not slide down the sides while baking. Pre-bake at 425F for 10 minutes, remove the weights and parchment and finish browning for 2-3 minutes more.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Eggs Benedict - Sous Vide Technique

Today I made the classic Eggs Benedict but not using the classic technique. I thought I'd try using the sous vide device and they came out great.  I would suggest just using the recipe on the Joule website, as it worked perfectly. We only eat one egg per person, as they are pretty rich. But of course that's up to you and your guests. Most restaurants serve them as a pair of two eggs.

Julian's Eggs Benedict - Sous Vide Technique
I broke the yolk open in the photo above so you can see that it was indeed the proper consistency.

I didn't follow the instructions and just put the eggs right into the container without a bag. It worked fine but I'll go back to using a plain zippered storage bag in the future. Easier to remove.

I had some leftover ham, so I just fried that up in butter. Then I quickly pan fried the English muffins and placed both in a 200F oven to stay warm.

The hollandaise sauce was also cooked in a bag in the sous vide right along with the eggs. Even though it doesn't look right when you are done cooking it, it does become perfectly creamy and clings to a spoon when processed. 

Above I'm starting to assemble the breakfast. Only thing left is a bit of sauce spooned over the top. 

If you fear making Eggs Benedict for a group, this recipe and technique will ensure you can do it for a brunch for 8 as easy as you can for an intimate breakfast for 2. And you won't spend your entire morning in the kitchen or worried about poaching those eggs.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Glazed Burgundy Pepper Lamb Tips - Easter Dinner

Lamb is a wonderful spring dish and particularly good to serve on Easter. I've done many types of lamb for Easter and this year I'm making lamb tips marinaded in a red wine, with mushrooms and onions.

Julian's Easter Dinner - Burgundy Pepper Lamp Tips
I've marinaded my own and I've also tried the Trader Joe's pre-marinaded version. They came out quite good and if you are in a hurry, this is a perfectly fine substitute for doing it yourself.

Trader Joe's Lamb Tips - Very Good
If your store doesn't sell 'lamb tips' you can purchase a larger piece and cut your own. However, you are looking for a tender cut of meat. I've used lamb cuts labeled both "top round" and "sirloin chop" with good success.

Glazed Burgundy Pepper Lamb Tips


1-2 lbs grass-fed lamb tips
Or purchase the Trader Joe's marinated version.

To Marinade Your Own:
Ready to Saute
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup burgundy or dry red wine
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons molasses

Ingredients for Saute:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, roughly cut
8 ounces whole white button mushrooms
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chicken stock (or water)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup red wine


To Marinade Your Own:
Whisk all ingredients for the lamb marinade. Make sure all tips are similar in size. Add lamb tips, cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain marinade.

Cooking Instructions:
Over medium heat, add the olive oil to your saute pan. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the onions and stir to coat. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove the pan and set aside.

Whisk together the corn starch and chicken stock. Set aside

Increase heat to high and add the lamb to the hot skillet, adding a little more oil if necessary. Sear tips 1-2 minutes without stirring. Add the red wine and stir as it reduces, about 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add the mushrooms/onions back to the pan and stir to combine. Add the corn starch mixture and stir another 2 minutes until thickened and the lamb tips are medium rare, about 145 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Times may vary depending on size and thickness of your tips. Do not overcook.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pasta Fazool - Pasta and Beans

Tonight I'm making the classic Pasta Fazool. The Italian name is Pasta e Fagioli, but of course you can also just call it pasta with beans.

Julian's Pasta Fazool
While this is a classic Italian hearty soup, it is pretty time consuming and has many steps. If you don't have a food processor I would say to skip this recipe. Otherwise you are in for quite a lot of work. If you're in a hurry, this isn't the dish you want to make.

With that said, I do like to make a batch once each winter. A good hearty soup like chili, pasta fazool has its own special flavor and this batch makes quite a lot. Plenty of left overs will be available, or you can feed a family of 10-12.

When you travel through Italy, and I've seen most of the country, you find that there are as many version of Pasta Fazool as there are people. I've not had two that are exactly the same. My recipe is what I remember from my childhood and similar to that of TV chef Lida Bastianich. You can make yours however you like it best, but I'll share my recipe below. I don't follow the recipe closely and use what I have on hand. This batch has more pasta in it than usual as I was trying to use up some leftover.

Pasta Fazool

(Serves 8-12)
In the pot ready to boil.
1 pound dry cannellini (white kidney) beans
5 quarts water
3 Idaho baking potatoes, peeled whole
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 dried bay leaves
6 slices bacon, cut into smaller chunks
1 to 1.5 pounds Italian sausage (mild)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 14.5 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound ditalini or elbow pasta
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesano cheese

Soak the beans in cold water over night. Drain and dump the beans into a large pot with five quarts of water (at least an 8 quart pot). Add the potatoes, rosemary and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a gentle boil. Let cook while preparing the vegetables.

Using a food processor with the standard chopping blade, process the bacon and garlic to a paste. Add the Italian sausage and pulse until well combined. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon/sausage mixture and cook, stirring regularly to break into small pieces until lightly browned. Stir in the onions and cook 4-5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook another 5 minutes Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Transfer the tomato sausage mixture into the soup pot and bring back to a full boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Using a slotted spoon, remove about one third of the beans to a bowl. (If some meat or other ingredients are included that is okay, but try to avoid the herbs.) Add just enough cooking liquid to cover them. Remove the whole potatoes to the bowl and break them into pieces. Transfer to the large bowl of a food processor or blender. Cover and process until fully creamed.

Add the creamed ingredients to the soup pot and cook another 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Increase heat to bring the pot to a full boil and add the dry pasta. Cook until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes more.

 Let the soup rest off the heat, covered, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thai Marinade Pork Chops - Sous Vide

Pork chops are one meat you don't want to overcook. Much like beef steaks, you want a juicy perfectly cooked chop every time. One way to ensure this happens consistently is to use the sous vide method.

Julian's Sous Video Thai Glazed Pork Chops
Sous vide is a method of preparing food by vacuum-sealing and heating in hot water until the meat reaches the water temperature. The words sous vide are french for “under vacuum”, although this is not a requirement as many just use zippered storage bags for cooking. The problem with that method is of course, the bags want to float and you must find a way to keep them down in the hot water. I use a vacuum system.

Juicy and perfectly cooked.
Now you might think that food would be unattractive even if perfectly cooked using sous vide. Most meats are actually finished for a minute or two on each side in a hot skillet, to give them that perfectly grilled look. A technique used extensively by fine restaurants, banquet houses and caterers, sous vide gives you the flexibility to put the food in the water to cook and know that it won't ever over cook because it can't get hotter than the water temperature. What you need to make this water bath stay hot is of course, a sous vide device (sometimes called a water oven.)

Joule in a plastic water tank with lid on to prevent evaporation.
After much research I select the Joule by ChefSteps. It's smaller than many other devices and sits in a pot or plastic container. It has a clip on the side to hold it to the container/pot and it is also magnetic on the bottom. I selected Jouse because I was trying to minimize yet another device that I would have to store, but also wanted one that was well rated. It's powerful enough for steaks for 8, and at 11 inches, it’s small enough to squeeze into my kitchen drawer. I also like the Smartphone app interface and it also connects to our Amazon Echo so I can asked Alexa what the water temperature is at any time. The app itself is pretty amazing and I usually select the guided approach. For these chops I selected the types of chops I was cooking using the photos, and then it asked me about my desired degree of doneness (again using photos to guide me) and asked for the thickness of the chops (one inch in my case.)  She set the temperature automatically, started the water pump and said it would take one hour for the chops to reach the desired temperature once cooking began. When she signaled that the water was at temperature, I lowered the vacuum bagged chops into the water bath.

Julian's sous vide chops, without marinade.
As you can see from the photo above, I've made chops several times. The first time they were not seasoned before they hit the hot skillet to finish. The second time I made a Thai marinade and put that right in with them in vacuum bag. They came out quite delicious both times. My marinade recipe is below.

The beautiful thing about the sous vide is that after the hour of cooking, you can let the chops sit in the hot water for an additional 90 minutes. They will NOT over cook. So you can finish them in your hot skillet whenever you're ready for them.

Thai Pork Chops - Marinade and Glaze

(enough for 3-4 chops)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice

Whisk the ingredients together, reserving about 1/4 cup for later use.

If using sous vide, place the marinade in the bag with the chops, seal and place them in the hot water and cook per your devices instructions. I like them just a bit pink. I'd call them medium-well. For that the water should be at 60C or 140F. For one inch thick chops that takes about an hour. The chops will hold in the water bath up to 90 minutes after they've finished cooking. When you are nearly ready to serve, heat a heavy skillet with a little vegetable oil until it is quite hot. Remove the chops from the bags and discard the bags and used marinade. Place the chops in the skillet for 1-2 minutes. Turn and use the reserved marinade as a glaze on the chops. Let rest five minutes and serve.

If using this for traditional pan fried or oven baked chops, place the chops in a large zippered storage bag or baking dish. Pour the marinade over the chops and cover. Refrigerate for one hour, turning once halfway through.  Bake or pan fry as usual.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sriracha Chicken - Sous Vide Optional

Chicken breasts can be dry and tasteless if not properly prepared. This recipe works to keep the kitchen moist and flavorful.

Julian's Sriracha Chicken
Even though this has the sriracha seasoning from Thailand, it really isn't too spicy. The heat is moderated by the honey and mostly you just pick up a bit of the garlic flavor. I would make it just the way it's shown below. If you do find it too much for your tastes, just reduce the amount used or limit the marination time.

I'm going to make mine using the sous vide today, as that water-bath method keeps food very moist. But this recipe will also work fine using a traditional oven or cook top technique. I'll give you instructions for both methods.

This recipe uses boneless, but skin on chicken breast halves. This can be hard to find in pre-packed chicken. I usually buy the bone-in variety and just cut out the little breast bone myself. You'll find this quite easy to do if you can't purchase them already boned.

Sriracha Chicken


4 skin-on boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons sriracha sauce
Juice of one small lime (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons butter (for browning)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Combine the honey, sriracha and lime juice to make a marinade. Place the chicken in a large zippered plastic bag or vacuum bag.  Pour in the marinade, add the butter pieces, close tightly (or vacuum on the moist setting if using a vacuum bag) and place in the refrigerator for one hour. Turn once during marination.

Sous Vide method: Heat the water with the sous vide device to 140F (60C). Add chicken to the hot water in the sealed bag and push it down to the bottom. Cover and let cook 60 minutes. Can hold for 30 minutes longer as needed. Open the bag and remove the breasts, reserving the liquid. Melt the additional two tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the breasts, skin side down and brown (about 3-4 minutes). Turn and brown 30 seconds more on the other side. Remove chicken to a cutting board and let rest. Pour the reserved marinade into the skillet and scrape up the brown bits stirring constantly until slightly reduced. Slice the chicken into pieces, plate and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve hot.

Oven method: Pre-heat your oven to 350F degrees. Remove chicken from the bag and reserve the liquid. In a flame-proof baking dish (safe for use on the stove top), place the chicken pieces skin side up. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the chicken reads 140F degrees on an instant read thermometer. Remove the dish to the cook top and over a medium heat, turn the chicken skin-side down and brown as necessary to get a dark crisp skin. Remove chicken to a cutting board and let rest. Pour the reserved marinade into the skillet and scrape up the brown bits stirring constantly until slightly reduced. Slice the chicken into pieces, plate and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve hot.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Rum Bundt Cake

Rum Bundt cake and Caribbean rum cake are not at all the same thing, and today I'm making the former. A light, flavorful Bundt very much different than the dark heavy Caribbean rum cake. Many rum Bundt cakes are made with a boxed cake mix, but this is not. It's made completely from scratch and absolutely moist and delicious. Since the rum is cooked, very little alcohol remains, but it still has a wonderful sweet rum flavor.

Julian's Rum Bundt Cake
Rum cake is a favorite in the Caribbean islands where we own a vacation home. But sadly, most of what you get at the tourist shops isn't very good. When you do get a homemade Caribbean black rum cake, they are actually much more like what we call a fruit cake, and like those we have in the U.S. mainland, they are all descendants of the British holiday puddings. The primary difference between a classic British pudding and a rum cake is of course, the rum.

These cakes are sometimes called black cake, because the color is quite dark. In the Caribbean, making a classic rum or black cake is expensive, as it includes dried fruits not common in the islands, such as raisins and prunes. These are much more expensive than local fruits and so it is for this reason they are usually made only for the Christmas holidays, with plenty of local rum, which is inexpensive. Locals say you should 'start the fruit when the hurricane season ends', which is around October. By start the fruit, they mean soaking the dried fruit in rum. Most families serve it on Christmas day and then just keep it out on the table for guest snacking until it's gone. They sprinkle on more rum if it starts to get dry. In fact, many drink it with a glass of rum. What makes the cake nearly black is the soaking of the dark fruits in rum and the use of brown sugar, molasses and a bittersweet caramel called browning. Unlike the British or American versions, in the Caribbean they grind the soaked fruit to a fine paste, so you never bite into a piece of fruit.

Browned nicely on the outside, golden rum inside.
So I'm afraid I've told you all of this when I'm not making a Caribbean rum cake, but rather my favorite rum Bundt cake, which comes nearly verbatim from King Arthur Flour, my favorite flour company.  It's really quite excellent and always much more popular than the Caribbean version, at least here in the north of the USA.

Bundt Pan Sticking:  Some people tell me they have trouble with their Bundt cakes sticking to the pan and not releasing cleanly. I've never had this experience. I have one old pan and one new top of the line pan. Every cake has released just fine using nothing but food release spray to prepare the pan, along with either with traditional all-purpose flour or ground nut flour (I prefer the latter.) Here are some solutions if you have a problem with pan sticking. First, use a non-stick pan of good quality. Then, make sure the entire pan is sprayed with food release, including the central cone, and do not use butter for this purpose. If you don't have food release, use solid shortening or spray vegetable oil. Butter causes sticking. If you don't have nut flour, use granulated sugar. If you use sugar, be sure to turn the cake out of the pan when it's warm, otherwise it too will stick.  Let most cakes sit out on the counter for 5-10 minutes before turning them out. Run a knife gently along the edge and center cone and even down the sides. If the cake doesn't release when it's turned over, let it sit in this position for another five minutes. If it hasn't dropped onto the plate, the use a gentle side-to-side shaking motion to help release it. If the cake has left in the pan too long and is now cold, reheat it for 5-10 minutes in the oven at 300F degrees.

Rum Bundt Cake


2 cups  all-purpose flour
          (King Arthur Unbleached preferred)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ounce box, Jello-o pudding mix, dry
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup white or aged (golden) rum
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon butter rum flavor (optional but excellent)
1/4 cup pecan or almond flour, for dusting baking pan

Nut flour coated Bundt pan.

Rum soaking syrup

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white or golden rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly spray a 10 to 12 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle on the pecan or almond flour and turn the pan to coat evenly. Set aside.

2. Place all of the cake ingredients except the rum, vanilla and butter rum flavoring in the bowl of your stand mixer and blend on medium speed for 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape down the bowl after one minute.

3. Add the rum, vanilla and flavor to the batter and blend for another minute. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and spread level with a spatula.

4. Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes until a long pick inserted comes out clean. (I use a bamboo skewer for this purpose.)

5. Allow the cake to begin cooling in the pan while you make the soaking syrup.

6. In a medium-sized saucepan combine the syrup ingredients, except vanilla. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

7. Use a long skewer to poke holes all over the cake. Pour about 1/4 of the syrup over the cake (still in the pan). Allow the syrup to soak in, then repeat again and again until all the syrup is used.

8. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit out overnight to cool completely and soak in the syrup. When ready to serve, loosen the edges of the cake by carefully inserting a thin long knife along the edge of the pan. As this cake cooled in the pan, it does not come out as easily as traditional Bundt cake. If you have trouble with release, follow the instructions above. Invert on to your serving plate.