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Archive for March, 2007

The midnight cuban was my very first meal in Seattle. About four and a half years ago (gasp), I came to Seattle to prepare for life as a grad student, or in other words, to hunt for an apartment. The night I flew in, I stayed with a friend’s friend, who introduced me to Paseo’s midnight cuban sandwich. Somehow, after that sandwich, I just knew that life in Seattle would be good.

Paseo is a Zagat-rated hole-in-the-wall caribbean restaurant located in the Fremont neighborhood. It draws a large lunchtime crowd, and no wonder, because you haven’t had a pulled pork sandwich until you’ve eaten here. There are many other choices on the menu, but the pulled pork sandwich (a.k.a the midnight cuban) seems to be the most popular item. And it’s not just any old pulled pork sandwich, but one that comes with fat slices of caramelized onions, pickled jalapenos, cilantro, crisp leaves of romaine — all drenched in marinade and aioli — atop a warm, toasted baguette. Just thinking about how good the baguette is makes me want to cry. A side of sweet, buttery corn-on-the-cob accompanies the sandwich. (Be sure to request the corn if you’re ordering the sandwich for take-out; they only serve it by default if you dine in.) I always make a huge mess eating this sandwich, but it’s so finger-lickin’ good that you give up using napkins after running through the first two or three. Food at Paseo is served on chinese-patterned melamine plastic plates, which I think adds to the charm of the hole-in-the-wall feel of the place.

I’ve made it out to Paseo only about once a year — sadly, not often enough. It’s changed a bit every time I’ve gone back. Some changes good, some bad. The good: the place is not as dingy as it once was, and it was also given a little face lift. The bad: Paseo used to serve an amazingly good rice pudding with the sandwich and corn, but they got rid of the pudding a couple years back. Also, the last time I was there, just a few weeks ago when my sister came to visit (she’s also a huge fan of Paseo), they had changed the name, “midnight cuban,” to “cuban roast”. Now, a sandwich containing pulled pork AND ham and swiss bears the name of the midnight cuban. Whatever its name, though, the pulled pork sandwich that I have come to love has not changed at all…and with that, I am perfectly satisfied.

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“Mm…buttery. Yesss.” – Paco

My sister was visiting for the weekend, and on her list of things-to-do was to make cupcakes with me. The flavor of choice this time was blueberry — vanilla or chocolate cake with blueberry filling, paired with blueberry buttercream. The resulting blueberry cupcakes were tasty; together my sister and I consumed half-a-dozen of these. (Self-control does not run in my family!) There were, however, many glitches along the way: my attempt at “yellowfying” a white cake recipe gave us smaller cupcakes that didn’t get to rise beyond the cupcake liners, injecting the filling turned out to be a greater challenge than I thought, and the buttercream was splotchy and runny.

No worries, though…it was yet another reminder for me that experiments don’t always work the first time. To that, I say, “HA!” So I repeated the experiment, using a yellow cake this time around, and changing practically every part of the recipe. Troubleshooting? Oh, yesss.

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Yellow Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
5. Measure out milk and vanilla together.
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the milk/lemon juice mixture and beat until combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Scoop into cupcake papers about all the way full (there’s a lot of batter – cupcakes will have “overflowing” tops).
10. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Blueberry Jelly Filling

Mash a handful of thawed out frozen blueberries (frozen blueberries are a lot easier to break up than fresh blueberries) through a wire mesh strainer. Only the skins should be left in the strainer – discard. Cook blueberry juice/pulp over med-high heat and add about 1 tsp cornstarch. Continue heating and stirring until the solution thickens. Take it off the heat and allow to cool.

Blueberry Buttercream

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
3-1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
Blueberry reduction (In another pot, cook a handful of thawed out frozen blueberries over med-high heat, crushing the blueberries with a spatula. Continue cooking and stirring until it reaches a thick, jelly-like consistency. Another lesson I learned is that while adding lemon juice brings out the flavor of the fruit, it causes the frosting to fall apart. That is why I skipped the lemon juice this time. My sister suggested adding lemon zest instead.)

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar bit by bit while beating, alternately with milk until the mixture is creamy and smooth, beating well after each addition. Beat in the blueberry reduction.

Assembly

Here’s where I got scientific, sort of. Using the thicker end of a chopstick, I stabbed each cupcake in the heart to create deep, narrow wells. I then used a 10 ml syringe to inject the blueberry jelly into each well. (This is where straining out the blueberry skin comes in handy. No clogged syringes! I had to learn this the hard way.) You may have to repeat the injection, depending on how thick the filling is, as the filling may seep into the cake. Pipe on blueberry buttercream (I used a closed star tip) and top each cupcake with a fresh blueberry.

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