Friday, February 6, 2009

Cinnamon buns

Half of the programs on the Food Network drive me crazy! But there are a number that I do enjoy, and get some inspiration from. This past week on the Barefoot Contessa, Ina was making a quick version of cinnamon rolls using puff pastry dough. Mmmm!

I decided to make 24 mini rolls, rather than 12 standard. Good idea in theory, but it ended up not being so swift in practice. I overfilled the muffin tins with the brown sugar & butter mixture, and in the course of baking, their cups raneth over, and burning sugar became smoke and filled my kitchen, causing the smoke detectors to go off. Whoops! Well, at least I know they work, seeing how I was in Morocco when the time changed, and didn't install new batteries. Needless to say, the cats did NOT like all the noise, and I still have a couple windows open and ceiling fans going, an hour and some later. At least it's a warm February night....

So if you're inclined to bake, take a look at the recipe. Here's what I did differently. Walnuts instead of pecans and instead of raisins. Added a about 2 tablespoons of mini chocolate chips to the filling. And if I had to do it all over again, I'd use about half to two-thirds of the initial butter & brown sugar that you put in the bottom of the muffin tins (at least for the minis). These baked in about 18 minutes. After the smoke, I turned the oven off and let them sit in there for about 5 minutes.

Yummy! Very nice and sugary/glazed on the outer part, and still very squishy in the middle. Can't really go wrong with a little chocolate. I would put them on a tray before putting them in the oven. Fortunately, I have an oven liner on the bottom rack of my oven, which should make this cleanup process much easier. I would make these again! No yeast, no dough rising. Almost no fuss, no muss!


I had dinner at the interior Mexican spot Sazon last Friday night, and admittedly, I should have written this post when the food descriptions were a little fresher in my mind. I arrived just after 8pm to meet a friend. There was a guitarist playing music near the front door. As it was a Friday night, it was packed. And loud. And the musician. Great.

There's no formal host(ess) stand, so patrons just kind of wait inside the door. There didn't seem to be one person in charge of hosting, because at least three of the waitstaff came by and said there was seating available on the front patio, but as it was colder out, I said I'd like to wait for an indoor table. Other people came in, most of whom did go out to the patio which apparently has space heaters. Again, there's no one in charge of the seating, so to someone who does not frequent Sazon, it seemed completely disorganized. I had probably only been there 5 minutes (though it seemed much longer) when my friend arrived. We waited probably another 5 - 10, before getting seated, though the man who was clearing the table went first to a group that came in after us. (They politely said we had been there first, though I would have politely told the man that we had been there first if they had not... again, no one in charge...)

The physical space inside is not huge, and there is a bar that takes up about a quarter of the interior space along the back wall. There were maybe 15 - 18 four-top tables; didn't go out on the patio, so not sure how big it is out there. There's papel picado and sombreros lining the walls, and I think a neon beer sign on or near the bar. Casual atmosphere, appropriate decorations. The food is decidedly interior (as in authentic) Mexican, as opposed to Tex Mex. Looking on the back of their menu, they actually have a mission statement and a bit about their food, something that you usually don't see, and I find a nice & educational touch.

Turned out my friend had eaten a huge late lunch, and wasn't hungry. I had an early lunch and was starving. Chips (tasty, not greasy) & salsa (basic red, fresh, but otherwise fairly non-descript) arrived as we sipped on Mexican beers. I ordered one of their house specialties, the Cochinita Pibil, which is pork mixed with achiote and spices, and baked in banana leaves; it was served with grilled red onions, rice, black beans, and what they refer to as plantain chips. When the waiter asked what kind of tortillas (flour or corn) I wanted, I asked his preference, and he quickly responded that they make their corn tortillas there. If you can tell from my (ooops!) blurry picture, it's an attractive looking plate. There's no real complaints about it, but I think the pork was lacking in major flavor. Their plantain chips were thicker cut (half-inch in diameter) than what I would consider a normal "chip" in terms of bagged potato or even plantain chips, and to me it wasn't mashed and fried enough, at least how I like them! The tortillas were made with white corn, and were extremely tender, almost like flour tortillas. No real problems with the dish, but I am not sure that I would order it again.

I've been to Sazon maybe 2 or 3 other times, and I've always enjoyed it. I was glad to see they were packed on a Friday night in January (though it made parking more difficult), and hope that they will survive a slow economic period, though there were no indications that anyone in there was concerned about the local economy. It's a place I would gladly go back to, and explore other regional dishes. (And if you look at the contacts page on their website, you can see a much more focused picture of the cochinita pibil.)