The Elusive Sparkling Cider

COOKING ADVENTURE #46: Green Bean Casserole and Sparkling Cider Pound Cake

Turkey day. I know some of you were dying to see me attempt to cook the giant bird. I know my limits, folks. And cooking a massive 10 lbs. turkey isn’t one of the things I see myself being able to do. I mean, do you remember what happened with the chicken? Case and point, I shouldn’t be touching any turkeys. But, I did however want to make a side and a desert for the occasion. It is tradition that I make the green bean casserole every year. In addition, I also found this delicious recipe for a sparkling cider pound cake but  just seemed too amazing to pass up. It came from www.chef-in-training.com, where you can find many other wonderful recipes. In fact, I’ve held onto that recipe for a few months, waiting for just the right week to make it. This my friends, was definitely the week.

Beep, beep, beep. 6:00 Thanksgiving morning. I don’t think I even heard my alarm. I slept in until 7:30 and woke up to the cat licking my hand and “purrupping”. If you have a cat, you know the noise of which I speak. He gets fed at 6 every morning… so he was a little anxious. I also knew that I was supposed to make the casserole and the pound cake before going over to my parent’s house. After taking a couple hours to fully wake up, eat breakfast, and take a shower, I collected my ingredients in the kitchen and went to work. I also decided tht since I was running behind in time, that I’d make both recipes at the same time. Don’t worry; I didn’t end up with Green Bean Pound Cake or Sparkling Cider Casserole. I took it upon myself to make sure that I followed the directions extremely well… and even managed to watch some old episodes of “Whose Line Is It Anyway” at the same time. Like I’ve said before, I can multi-task well.

I pulled out all of the items for the green bean casserole: frozen green beans, the pyrex casserole dish, cream of mushroom soup, and of course, the fried oni– Um. Fried onions? Where are you? I couldn’t find them anywhere. I knew I’d bought them. For several minutes of caffeine fueled rage, I actually thought that the lady at the grocery store had forgotten to bag them. Then I found them underneath a jar of peanut butter on my wire rack. I forgot that I’d bought the store brand so the jar was a different color than the traditional French’s one. Commence the feeling of stupidity.

I took a pot and filled it with water. Then, I cut open the package of green beans and dumped them in. Of course, I forgot to show some restraint here and ended up dumping in the entire bag… which barely fit. I knew I’d instantly made a mistake. Regardless, I put it on the stove top on low heat so that the beans could thaw enough. Once they had relaxed back down into the water instead of rising out of it like a mountain, I put the cover on and turned up the heat to cook them. I also added a spoonful of baking soda. It’s a helpful trick to keep the beans looking green after they’re cooked.

Meanwhile, I took my glass measuring bowl out and put a stick of butter in. I heated this for about a minute to allow it to melt before adding the 1/4 cup shortening and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Once these were all stirred together, I added in 2 eggs, one at a time. During this time, the green beans came to a boil, so I drained them and then mixed in a can of the cream of mushroom soup. I’ve never been a fan of that squishy sound you get when you mix viscous liquid with solid objects. I was happy when this step was done.

I returned to the pound cake. I pulled another bowl from the cabinet and measured 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. baking powder, and 1 1/2 cups flour together. I don’t own a sifter but I doubt I’d actually use one of those things anyway. Using a spoon is just a lot more easy for me, although I’m sure there’s probably a reason why the sifter exists for this recipe. I’ll bet it keeps the flour light and poofy… moving on. I then took my sparkling cider, pried it open, and set to work on measuring out 1/2 cup of it.

Finding Sparkling Cider in the grocery store should be fairly simple. Either put it with the wine or put it with the carbonated beverages. Naturally, I checked the wine section first but after a thorough search, I came up empty handed. I went to the soda aisle next, knowing I wasn’t going to find it there and wasn’t surprised when I didn’t. So, there lies the question, where was it?! Turns out, the wine aisle is one of those half aisle deals, where they cut it in half and make the other half of the aisle something totally unrelated, like greeting cards. I found the sparkling cider holed up at the top of a shelf on the backside of the wine aisle. Figures.

I mixed the Sparkling Cider in with the butter sugar mixture, only pouring little bits in at a time and then adding the flour concoction to it to make sure the measurements stayed even. This took some time, but I’m pretty sure it kept the cake the right combination of airy and dense. I moved back to the green bean casserole after that, and mixed a few breaded onions in with the green beans. I dumped the entire green bean fiasco into a 7″x9″ square casserole dish and sprinkled a generous helping of the fried onions on top for a bit of crunch.

I went to do the same with my pound cake mixture, only to realize that I didn’t have another dish in the correct size. I snagged my slightly smaller casserole dish from beneath the cabinet and pouring a generous helping of the batter into it. Then, I found a stoneware bread pan for the rest of it and placed all of the casserole dishes in the oven together… like a little casserole family. They were cooking at the same temperature, 350, but for different times. The green bean casserole only stayed in for about fifteen to twenty minutes. The coffee cake stayed in for at least 45.

The green bean casserole came out ahead of time, sizzling and smelling like the most beautiful thing I’d seen so far that Thanksgiving. There’s nothing more satisfying than the salty treat of the canned soup mixed with one of the best vegetables ever, and of course, some fried goodness.  When the pound cakes came out, it was like plunging into the darkest saccharine depths of Thanksgiving. I’d made a glaze for them from 1/4 cup of sparkling cider and 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. I took a spoon and made a cross hatch pattern across both cakes. Looked beautiful, smelled beautiful, and tasted like a breakfast pastry to die for. In fact, I almost ate it as breakfast before I got myself under control. I could imagine this would be a delightful treat for Christmas morning as well…

Next week on Cooking Adventures (this Thursday… hopefully), I’ll be making a Crockpot Honey Apple Pork Loin, a recipe I found on this fellow wordpress site. Stay tuned!

~KSilva

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