Monday, February 21, 2011

Chez Panisse Blood Orange Upside Down Cake with Cardamom Whipped Cream

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
Let me just say right off the bat, that it is incredibly difficult to take a good photo of an upside down cake. Which is why I'm giving you a photo of the one I had at Chez Panisse Cafe a year ago, rather than the one I made myself.  I promise you, they looked exactly the same.

I have actually been waiting with bated breath for blood orange season to come around again so that I could both make this again and share it with you. It's really pretty simple, a buttery cake batter poured over brown sugar, butter and blood orange slices in a cast iron skillet.  Still, there is something deceptively ingenious about the combination of cardamom with the blood oranges and brown sugar topping.  It's a strange harmony that keeps pulling you back in, bite after bite.

As soon as I returned home, I started looking for a recipe, and found one on David Lebovitz' website.  Since he used to work at Chez Panisse I figured it must be the real deal.  Indeed - when I made it at home, it was every bit as good as it had been at the restaurant.  He has since pulled the recipe from his site, but he has another one up that can be used for various types of fruit, etc. and does not include the cardamom.  Luckily I had saved it the first time around - so when blood orange season rolled around again, I was ready to go - and now you are too.  :)
Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
Chez Panisse Blood Orange and Cardamom Upside Down Cake with Cardamom Whipped Cream Adapted from David Lebovitz

David's recipe called for a lot of cardamom - in the topping, the cake and the whipped cream.  I definitely think it should be included in the cake, but I can live without it in the topping or the cream.   If you decide to add it to either or both, 1/2 teaspoon will do the trick.

Topping:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 medium-sized blood oranges, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

Batter:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 orange

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Center rack in oven.
2. In a 9 inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter and the brown sugar (along with 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom if using) until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Lay the orange slices in concentric circles over the brown sugar mixture.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and ground cardamom. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, vanilla and orange zest.
5. Using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and thoroughly incorporate into batter. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
6. Stir in half of the dry ingredients, then the milk mixture. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined.
7. Line the lower rack of the oven with aluminum foil to catch any drips.  Pour batter over the oranges and even out with a spatula or knife.
8. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
8. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes. Place serving platter over skillet and flip carefully while still hot.  

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.  This is definitely best eaten the day it's made. Leftovers will keep for a couple of days, but the cake will become progressively more soggy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

La Super Rica - Santa Barbara

La Super Rica - Santa Barbara
Until a few weeks ago, I had never been to La Super Rica, despite many trips to Santa Barbara, and many, many years of Julia Child fandom.  James, on the other hand had been many times. It was his "neighborhood taco shop" when he lived in Santa Barbara (for part of the time anyway) and for whatever reason he didn't seem all that impressed with it.  He said it was overrated, not that special, just the place Julia "happened to go." 
La Super Rica  Santa Barbara
You all know I love my husband dearly, but on this count, he was wrong.  Just a look at the menu tells you this is no ordinary taco shop. We arrived at about 2 in the afternoon, so we weren't quite hungry enough for a full meal, but we wanted to give the place a legitimate try.  There are two things to keep in mind as you choose - one, they make their own fresh corn tortillas and they are FABULOUS.  And two, they use some kind of special white cheese that turns super creamy when it melts and is completely and totally amazing. Exhibit A... 
La Super Rica Special - Santa Barbara
This dish, the Super Rica Especial consisted of two fresh corn tortillas topped with chopped sauteed pasilla chiles, marinated pork and chorizo and a layer of that incredible cheese.  I had heard (or read) that the thing to order here is the "Rajas" - which turned out to be a melting concoction of cheese, onions and peppers on a tortilla. We also had a quesadilla -  which James said he ordered when he used to live nearby.  The quesadilla is two smallish tortillas with the cheese sandwiched between.  You can see the aforementioned meltiness - and the crisp edges....
Rajas and Quesadilla at La Super Rica - Santa Barbara
The Rajas are an almost indescribable dish. A perfect balance of sweet, savory, intense and rich.  I can only assume the peppers and onions must cook for hours - probably in some broth and a little lard - and are  mixed with melting cheese to form something like a thick fondue just before serving.  It's truly wonderful and absolutely, positively, worth a special trip. 
La Super Rica - Santa Barbara
I snuck a peek into the kitchen - where they were cooking up the food to order with fresh ingredients.  None of those frozen bags of taquitos or gristly carne asada meat here.  Nosireee.   
La Super Rica - Santa Barbara
To top it all off, the place had style.  I loved the chalkboard, the turquoise and white retro architecture, the font on the windows and the expansive white sailcloth covered dining area.  (Todd Selby - if you're listening, I think you could do some good work here!) 

I am told the lines can be insane - especially on the weekends.  All I can say about that is: 1) it's worth it, and 2) If you go on a weekday at 2 PM, you won't have to wait long.

Oh, and if some jaded Santa Barbaran tells you it's not that great, don't listen!

La Super Rica
622 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
(805) 963-4940
Cash only - open 11 AM - 9 PM most days, 9:30 on weekends.
(James also says the Pozole is good.)