Faux Saigon Subs

Let’s talk about my favorite Vietnamese sandwich.
Well, it’s inspired by the Vietnamese banh mi.
With traditional Chinese flavorings.
And a slaw that would not seem out of place in a Thai restaurant.
So, yeah…this really isn’t Vietnamese.
It’s really just an impostor.
Faux Saigon Subs

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb meat – pork, beef, chicken, or any combo thereof
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (preferably panko)
2 Tbsp. Chinese five spice
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
sambal olek to taste
1 batch Asian Sandwich Slaw
1 baguette, cut into 4 equal pieces

 1) Put your meat into a large bowl and mix it with the Chinese 5 spice.

 2) Add the breadcrumbs, scallions, and cilantro,

 and the fish sauce. Mix until all ingredients are combined.

 3) Make yourself a test patty in a saute pan and see if you need to add anything. I needed to add quite a bit more fish sauce, which really caramelized and adds a salty sweetness to the meat. But feel free to add whatever else you need. The tip to make a test patty is some of the best cooking advice I ever received.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 F.

4) When your meat is seasoned well, make oblong patties, about 1/4 of an inch thick, and put them on a tinfoiled sheet pan. You want two patties per sandwich, and they should each be quite thin, so that the patties cook quickly and the sandwiches can be easily eaten.

 5) Your patties should be done in about 10 minutes, or when the inside is completely brown, but not at all dried out. Start checking at 7 minutes, just so you don’t overcook them.

 6) Now assemble your sandwiches, layering the mayonnaise, sambal olek…

 slaw…

 and, finally, meat.

7) Serve. 
The only phrase for this is “Oh, hell yes!” Soft bread. Spicy sambal. Creamy mayonnaise. Tangy and herbal slaw. Salty, sweet, juicy meat. Textures and flavors that come together harmoniously and taste complex, deep, and well rounded. It’s impossible to eat this and not feel warm and cozy on the inside – you just have to feel happy when eating a sandwich that tantalizes all of your tastebuds at once. Isn’t this what eating is all about? Feeling happy and feeling sated.
It might be faux, but this sandwich is the real deal. 

Asian Sandwich Slaw and Giveaway Winners!

Some people like potato chips in their sandwiches. I’m a fan of coleslaw in mine. Nothing like big pile of creamy coleslaw on a spicy pastrami sandwich.
Unless of course, it’s a tangy Asian coleslaw on a light fish or meat sandwich. This isn’t a salad to serve on its own. This is a slaw specifically engineered for a sandwich. It is not so spiced that it takes away from the main event, yet provides the perfect sour tang to bring brightness to a meal between bread. And it couldn’t be easier to make:
Asian Sandwich Slaw

Ingredients:
rice vinegar, to cover vegetables
sugar, to taste
cilantro
1 onion, thinly sliced
juice and zest of 1 lime
3 carrots, grated
1 English cucumber, sliced into thin strips

 1) Combine all the ingredients. Let it sit for half an hour, then taste to see if you need more sugar. Um…that’s it. Really…that’s it. No salt, no pepper, no cooking. The rice vinegar effectively cooks the vegetables, rendering the onions sweet and mellow and turning the carrots savory and tangy.

 Make sure you strain the slaw before you serve it on your burgers or sandwich.

Oh, you want to know what kind of sandwiches? Well, you will have to wait until tomorrow to get the recipe for these Faux Saigon Subs. They are meaty, fragrant, and benefit from the refreshing cool tang of this simple salad. 
I can’t give away all my secrets at once. 
In the meanwhile, how about the winners of the giveaway?
Jookie, you have won $50 to Pickle Me Pete!
Kyle, you have won $50 to Mmm…Enfes! Please email me your mailing addresses so I can get you your gift certificates, or you may pick up your certificates in person!

Maple-Apple-Brussels Sprout Hash

I bet you thought that Thanksgiving was the best time to eat Brussels sprouts. WRONG! The colder it gets, the sweeter and more tender Brussels sprouts become. That means the best time to eat them is now! Combine them with onions, maple syrup, and an apple for a side dish so delicious, you may choose to make it your main course. If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, this dish may change your mind.
Apple and Brussels Sprouts Hash

Ingredients:
1 small container Brussels sprouts, washed and halved (with outer leaves removed)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 package bacon
1 peeled apple, diced
2 – 3 Tbsp. maple syrup (plus extra, to taste)
olive oil, to saute
salt and pepper, to taste

 1) Preheat the oven to 350 F, place the halved sprouts on a tinfoiled baking sheet, drizzle heavily with olive oil, and stick them in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the sprouts are charred without and tender within.

 2) While the sprouts roast, pour some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When the oil starts to make ripples, add the…

 onions and apples. Let them sautee for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the apples start to turn golden.

 3) Add the bacon

 and sautee for about 20 minutes, or until the bacon is brown and crispy, the onions are sweet, and the apples are soft. You want really nice, crunchy bacon here to contrast with the soft elements in the dish, but don’t turn up the heat. The point is to render the fat slowly so the bacon cooks evenly without being black on the edges and raw in the middle.

 4) When the sprouts are done (just taste them…when there is a tiny bit of resistance to your teeth, they are done), take them out and add them to the pan.

 5) Add the Brussels sprouts and maple syrup to the pan. Stir the ingredients around gently, so you don’t break the sprouts apart but so that the maple syrup melts into all of the components.

 6) Taste for maple syrup, salt and pepper and serve!

 This is a side dish for people who love sweets. The apples, onions, and maple syrup make this positively sugary. In fact, I add a heavy dose of pepper to balance out the sweetness, though my sister likes it au naturale. The crispy bacon mimics the crispy sprouts, and the entire mixture is a sweet, salty, crunchy, and tender delight.

I could top this with a fried egg, or it is also delicious over a baked sweet potato. And don’t worry about being wrong about the best season to eat Brussels sprouts. I’m wrong sometimes. 
Well, no I’m not. I just said that to make you feel better.

Chopped Liver with Prunes and Marsala

Here’s the thing…I have posted a chopped liver recipe before, but back then, my blog was a little bland. A little unspecific. And, probably, extremely ill edited. So, I thought it warranted a repost. After all, this most perfect union of meat, fat, and onions can’t really be posted enough, can it?
Okay, you can stop staring me down. After this year, I won’t post it any more.
Chopped Liver

Ingredients:
2 lbs. chicken livers, rinsed in a colander until the water runs clear
4 onions, sliced
1/4 lb. chicken fat (Or 1/4 cup ready made schmaltz)
about 15 pitted prunes
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper, to taste

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1) Put the chicken fat in a pan over medium low heat. You want the fat to melt very slowly, so it doesn’t burn. This is called rendering the fat and will result in crispy skin(gribenes), and liquid gold(schmaltz). If the liquid starts to turn golden brown or give off a strong aroma, turn down the heat immediately.

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2) When the fat is melted (about 20 minutes), remove the gribenes and pour the onions into the pan.

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 3) Turn the pan on medium high and really fry those onions. You don’t want a golden brown color, you really want a darkly caramelized and fried color. This will likely take at least 25 minutes.

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Chicken skin sexy photo shot break…these would be great crumbled up over hot popcorn…okay, now back to the recipe!

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When the onions look like above, take them out of the pan to drain on a paper towel, but leave the pan on the stove.

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 4) Dump the chicken livers into the pan, and…

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saute them until they look like this – a rather unappetizing grey. It will take around 15 minutes. You know you are done when you cut into the largest liver and the middle is just BARELY a pale pink. This isn’t the time for rosy red livers.

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 5) Put the hot livers in your food processor.

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 6) Add your prunes.

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 7) As you start the processor, drizzle in your wine…

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 and your cream.

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 8) When the pate is smooth, put it in a large bowl. Add a hefty amount of salt and pepper (the liver REALLY needs a good amount of salt),

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 and the onions.

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 9) Now mix with a spoon and taste, taste, taste! Is it too bland? Add more salt. Too acidic? Puree up a few more prunes with some cream and add the puree to the dish. Too sweet? Time for some more Marsala. When the liver tastes good to you, wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for at least 3 hours or up to overnight. The flavors will really develop over this time.

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 10) Serve. 
This is rich – like, Warren Buffet rich. Some people dig it on bagel chips, but I prefer mine with celery sticks and endive spears – some crisp, clean vegetable that really showcases the decadent nature of the meat. This is not overtly liver-y. It is really rather mild as far as pates go, thanks to the prunes and cream. The onions add a chewy, crunchy element and the Marsala adds a tang and depth that only alcohol can truly give(don’t worry, the heat of the liver cooks the alcohol in the processor). This is just so great. Anyone who has never had chopped liver will like this. Anyone who has ever had chopped liver will LOVE this.

And forget what I said above. I am totally going to post this recipe every year. It’s just that great.

Tuscan Hummus

Contrary to popular belief, the great equalizer isn’t education. It’s hummus. Have vegetarian friends? They can eat hummus. Same goes for people who can’t eat dairy, wheat, or nuts. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to make a huge amount. It also couldn’t be easier to make and it’s pretty damn delicious, to boot. That said…If I never see another pita chip again, it may be too soon. Sorry, but the thing about hummus is…since it is so great, everyone does it. It’s time to jazz up hummus, to give it new life and make it sexy and mysterious again. It’s time to take it to San Remo, drive it down the Italian Riviera, and bring it back in its new European outfit. It’s time for:
Tuscan Hummus

Ingredients:
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
3 Tbsp. jarred pesto (be sure to find one without nuts if you are serving those with allergies)
1 head roasted garlic
1/3-1/2 cup apple cider or tomato vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Special Equipment: Food Processor

 1) Dump the beans into the food processor.

 2) Toss in the pesto.

 3) And the garlic
You guys doing ok? I know, I’m really intimidating with all of the incredibly technical recipes I show you on the blog.

 4) Vinegar. Add it. Be aware, you may need up to 1/2 of a cup of vinegar by the time the hummus is to your liking. But start out with 1/3 of a cup. You can always add more later.

 5) Start the food processor, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. You won’t need much because the pesto has oil in it.

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Just drizzle a bit in until the hummus becomes a consistency you like – I prefer a consistency that is mostly smooth, but not too thin. Transfer to a container and refrigerate the hummus for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight. Taste for seasonings before serving, and add more pesto, oil, or spices as you see fit.

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 6) Serve.

This hummus is a showstopper. I served it with a drizzle of chile-infused olive oil on top, but it is delicious just on its own. The beans are creamy and mild, and the roasted garlic adds the deepest, sweetest flavor to the dip. The jarred pesto is – if I do say so myself – the genius of this recipe. Two little spoonfuls and you get the most incredible, unmistakably Italian flavor of sharp Parmesan cheese and earthy basil. The vinegar is the kicker here – its brightness and acidity adds another dimension to the hummus.
That’s what this recipe does all around – it adds another dimension to hummus. It is elegant, it is hearty, it is healthy, and it is really, really tasty with a breadstick or crudite.
And, let’s not forget…hummus is the great equalizer.
I know, I taught you that…you’re welcome.

Kimchi Latkes – Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah starts on Monday, and boy am I ready! I might be too old to get gifts anymore, and I know that the blue and silver tinsel around my house has nothing on a fully decked out Christmas tree, but latkes…yeah, I got latkes. Standard latkes, Moroccan Latkes, and…now…
Kimchi Latkes
(because, really, who doesn’t need more fermented cabbage in his or her life?)

Ingredients:
3 potatoes, grated
1 onion, grated
1/4 cup kimchi, chopped
1 – 1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup cilantro and 1 serrano chili, diced
sour cream
gochujang*
sesame oil or sesame chili oil
vegetable oil in which to fry
*gochujang is a Korean hot sauce that is made with chili, rice, and fermented soybeans. It is slightly spicy, but also nutty, earthy, and a little sweet. You could always use Sriracha or Sambal Olek in place of this, but you won’t get the same complexity or subtlety of flavor that you get with the gochujang. You can get it in upscale grocery stores or Asian grocery stores.

 1) Combine the potatoes, onions, cilantro, and serrano pepper in a bowl.

 2) Put the mixture into a paper towel, and squeeze the moisture. This is a VERY important step, or your pancakes will be mushy and not crisp properly.

 3) Take the kimchi (which I like to cut with kitchen shears)

 and blot it with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. It doesn’t have to be super dry here, just not sopping wet.
That’s what she said

 4) Add the kimchi, eggs, and 

 flour to the potato mixture. 

 5) Combine with a fork or your hands until a thick mortar is formed. 

 Add more flour if necessary. You need the flour to work with the eggs to bind the pancakes.

 6) Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat.

 7) Drop a small lump of latke mixture into the pan – it should sizzle when it hits the oil. Mash the latke down with a fork to make it thin, so it has enough time to cook on the inside. Thick latkes = raw potatoes.

 8) When the latke is golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes) flip it, and cook it until it is crispy on the other side. Then remove it from the pan, and place it on a paper towel-covered plate to drain.

 9) In the meanwhile, combine the sour cream, gochujang, and sesame oil. I like to use a 1.5:1 ratio of sour cream to gochujang with just a splash of sesame oil, but you do what tastes good to you.

 When it is all combined, the sauce should be a lovely orange-y color.

 10) Serve.

These are really pretty outstanding. Somewhere between a traditional Pajeon and a classic latke, these are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside – like the hash browns of your dreams. The kimchi becomes soft in texture and mild in taste when it is cooked, removing the overt fishiness kimchi can have, but leaving behind a pleasantly salty, tangy taste. The cilantro is herbal,and the diced serrano adds heat to the potatoes and sweet onions. These latkes are perfect on their own, but the dipping sauce really takes it over the top. The cool sour cream and nutty, deep sesame oil play well off each other. The gochujang adds heat and a bit of funky umami flavor. This would be delicious with sliced flank steak or maple salmon
Of course, it also goes great with that well known party game “Spin the Korean Dreidel.” Happy Hanukkah!

Brown Butter Cupcakes

Tis the season to be baking, and this cupcake recipe will bowl you over. The cupcakes are so good that they don’t even need frosting.
That’s right. I ate the cupcakes without frosting – one of the main food groups.
These cupcakes are a little complicated to make, but the result is absolutely astounding. I have eaten a lot of cupcakes in my life, and these sweet, buttery morsels quite literally take the (cup)cake.
Brown Butter Cupcakes (adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook)

Ingredients:
6 Tbsp. butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 tsp. canilla extract or paste
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

 1) Preheat the oven to 350 F and cream 4 Tbsp. of the butter with the sugars for at least 3 minutes or until the mixture changes from pebbly to creamy looking. After that is done…

 2) Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium-low heat, past its usual melting point…

 until it froths and is brown. It is going to sputter, pop, and smell nutty. When you smell the butter, take it off the heat. That timing is the difference between brown butter and burnt butter.

 Ta-da! You now have brown butter. See all those black specs at the bottom? Those are the best, deepest, most buttery bits. You want those!

 3) Add the eggs to the sugar mixture, and mix it for about 3 minutes, or until the eggs are combined.

 4) Now stream in the milk, the brown butter,

 and the vanilla, SLOWLY. You keep mixing the entire time, between each addition, and want the mixture to increase in volume and become pale. I ended up mixing for about 10 minutes total, until the mixture went from this:

to this:
See the difference? If not, just pretend you did and move on. Fake it till ya make it!

 5) Add the flour, baking soda, and salt…

 and mix them by hand to avoid overmixing. This is a good time to try the batter. Try not to eat it all, selfish. Sharing is caring.

 7) Dollop the batter into your greased cupcake pans, filling each hole about 3/4 of the way full, because the cakes will rise quite a bit. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until a knife plunged into the center of a cake comes out cleanly.

 8) Serve.

So, these cupcakes deserved a beauty shot. They deserved a gorgeous photo showing off their airy, moist insides and their crispy, buttery crusts. They deserved that respect from me. But, life ain’t fair. And my sister, her friend, and I gobbled these up way too fast to remember to take a photo. Really. The three of us ate 12 cupcakes without taking a photo. They were just phenomenal. The brown butter makes the cupcakes SO rich and moist – nutty and creamy in the most buttery of ways. They are sweet but not saccharine – the real taste here is the butter. Slightly sticky and light as air, these would have made a great breakfast. You know…if we didn’t eat them all. 
Just wait till you make them. You won’t have any left, either. 

Oyako Don – Mother and Child Chicken, Eggs, and Rice

When you hear the term “mother and child,” the first thing that comes to your mind might not be “lunch.” But, indeed, that’s just what oyako don is. This Japanese dish served over rice, is comprised of chicken (the mother) and eggs (the child). If you can get around the sneaking suspicion that you are being cannibalistic (the name really is kind of creepy, right?), then you will be privy to one of the most delicious meals known to humanity. It is unbelievably cheap, easy to make, and delicious at any time of the day. 
Oyako Don (Adpated from 3 Hungry Tummies)
Ingredients:
1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken (white or dark meat will work), cut into bite size chunks
1 onion, sliced into thin rings
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/8 cup mirin or white wine
1/8 cup soy
5 scallions, sliced into rings
4 eggs, whisked
2 egg yolks (optional)
Oil, in which to saute
Rice for serving

1) Saute the onions in the oil over very low heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes

2) Add the chicken to the pan.

3) Add the stock, mirin, and soy sauce to the pan, cover the pan, and let it cook for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through.

4) Add the whisked eggs

and scallions to the pan.

5) Cover the pan, and let the eggs cook until they are about 70% cooked through – set around the edges, but still jiggly in the center.

When the eggs are set around the edge, but still slightly undercooked in the center, turn off the heat. Wait for 5 minutes, or until the residual heat finishes cooking the eggs.

6) Put the hot white rice in a bowl, top with the egg and chicken mixture, and top with an egg yolk if desired.

7) Serve

This is the most comforting meal on the face of the planet. The chicken is tender, infused with the salty, sweet, umami flavor of the cooking stock. The onions are sweet and tender, almost like the onions in a French onion soup. The eggs are a unique texture – fluffier than an omelette, with the creaminess of scrambled eggs but the delicate lightness of a souffle. It absorbs the savory flavors of the chicken and the sharp bite of the scallions. The egg yolk really puts this over the top. The steaming rice gently cooks the yolk, and as you mix it in the dish, it makes the whole thing creamy  and rich, almost like a risotto. I topped this with a sliced serrano chile, which contrasted pleasantly with the creamy richness of the rest of the dish, but my mom prefers it as is. Because she is a wimp when it comes to heat.

Of course, my never ending spice feud with my mother is a wholly different mother and child blog. 

Sesame-Ginger Salad

This recipe is one of those “can I even post it on the blog because it’s so simple” ones. It’s really just a salad with a very simple dressing. But, considering how much I love complex flavors and difficult preparations, my  palate could use a bit of a break. This isn’t spicy, sour, or salty. It isn’t served at a certain temperature, and you can’t really make it a main meal. It isn’t even as popular as my favorite cucumber salad (For the love of all that is holy, don’t look at that blog post. As amateur as this blog is now, it was once even…amateur-er). This delicious dish is just:
Sesame-Ginger Salad
Ingredients:
Bell Peppers and Cucumbers, cut into bite size pieces
Pickled ginger, chiffonaded
Toasted Sesame Oil
Rice Wine Vinegar
Scallions, diced


1) Make a dressing with 2:1 oil:vinegar ratio.
2) Pour dressing over cucumbers and peppers.
3) Add ginger and scallions.
4) Serve.

 See? I told you this wasn’t a real recipe. It shouldn’t count at all. But it is so oddly addictive. The slippery, nutty dressing is tempered by the sweet-tangy taste of the rice vinegar. The bell peppers add sweetness and the cucumbers absorb the dressing completely, becoming vehicles for the rich taste. The ginger adds a faintly spicy, peppery note to the rather tame dressing, giving it dimension and brightness. The scallions are the final touch, cutting through the sesame oil. Though you could add cilantro, chili flakes, or a sprinkle of ponzu sauce to this, I wouldn’t recommend it. Then you have a whole new dish. A delicious one, but not this one. The beauty in this lies in its simplicity. Serve it with white rice and a fried egg for a delicious meal. And that’s what I call a delicious palate break. Now, back to your regularly scheduled, 1,000,000+ Scoville Units programming.

Brown Sugar Orange Pound Cake

You can keep your cupcakes. The licorice and chocolate candies are all yours. And chocolate cake? Never met one I couldn’t resist. All I need from the realm of dessert is a pound cake. One thick, dense, moist pound cake, scented with citrus and drizzled with a crunchy glaze. The best recipe I have ever found comes straight from Paula Deen. I have (as always) made a few adjustments, and have recorded the process here, for your viewing pleasure.
Brown Sugar Orange Pound Cake (Adapted from Paula Deen’s Southwest Georgia Poundcake)
  • Ingredients:
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
  • Zest of 3 oranges
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1-2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1) Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or with handheld eggbeaters for 7 minutes, or until the mixture goes from pebbly
  • to creamy.
  • 2) Add the eggs,
  •  vanilla,
  • and orange zest, and mix until combined.
  • 3) Add the flour and baking soda, and mix until just combined - do NOT overmix, or the cake will turn out tough and crumbly.
  • 4) Add the cream, and mix until the mixture is thoroughly combined. You will have to mix for a few minutes here, so the cream is really incorporated into the batter, not running a ring around the edge.
  • 5) Grease one bundt pan or two loaf pans and pour the batter into the pan(s). 
  • 6) Put the pan(s) in a COLD oven, then turn the oven to 335 F. Do NOT preheat your oven. These cakes must start in a cold oven.
  • 7) After 75 minutes (60 if you are using 2 loaf pans), slide a knife into the middle of one of the cakes. It should come out cleanly, and the cakes should have hard, lightly golden crusts and probably a split in the middle of them.
  • 8) Allow the cakes to cool, and in the meanwhile, combine the orange juice and powdered sugar to make the glaze.
  •  9) When the cakes are at least mostly cool, drizzle on the glaze.
  • 10) Serve.
  • This pound cake is just the limit. It has a crunchy crust surrounding a moist, tender, finely-crumbed interior. It has that delightfully underbaked feeling in the very center, right where that dark spot is: the “sad streak.” Many cooks hate the sad streak, but I love it. It is so homemade, and I secretly love that slightly mushy spot right in the center of the cake, surrounded by the denseness of the rest of the pound cake. The glaze becomes a crunchy, sugary icing that hardens and adds another texture to the cake. The oranges add a tart freshness that counteracts the sweetness and richness of the cake, and using the zest in the batter really emits the most wonderful scent – vanilla-y, orange-y, and heavenly. This cake works just as well using lemons instead of oranges, and limes might be wonderful as well! This pound cake is delicious for dessert, but I especially love it as an indulgent breakfast.
  • So, like I said, enjoy your sad little brownies and crumby store bought cookies. I’ll
  • be over here with my pound cake.