Monday, January 18, 2010

A fishy story...with a sweet ending

Yesterday my dad planted himself in front of me with a solemn look (which nearly always means a joke is coming) and asked, “Remember the tuna fish?” Ah, the if I could forget.

Maybe you've already heard this story. Actually, chances are you have, considering how often he tells it. (I swear if I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 573 times.) But just in case you haven't:

Imagine me, about five years old. I think that was a fairly cute stage. Oh, actually, I have a picture. Here you go:

Rocking that '80s hair, huh?

Anyway, back to my story. Now, my four-year-old palate is still rather…oh, what shall we call it...underdeveloped? Delicate? (Picky.) On this particular day, my dad is making short work of a tuna salad sandwich, and he gets the brilliant idea that now would be a good time to introduce Little Amber to the joys of tuna. The following ensues:

Dad: “Here, booger, try a bite of this.” (Sidenote: Yes, my dad called me “booger.” Still does. Sometimes “boog” for short. Gross but affectionate.)
Me (eyeing the sandwich suspiciously): “Nuh-uh. I don’t like it.”
Dad: “You’ve never had it. How can you know you don’t like it? Just try a bite.”
Me (whiny): “I don’t like it!”
Dad (annoyed): “Amber Marie. One bite. You’re being ridiculous.”
Me (screwing up my face): “’s yucky!!”
Dad (very annoyed, thrusting the sandwich under my nose): “You WILL take a bite of this sandwich, young lady. EAT IT!”
Me (with a sudden gush of half-dramatic/half-genuine tears): “Nooo!”
Dad: “You WILL eat a bite of this sandwich. Right. Now!”

Not one of my shining preschool moments. (And not one of Dad’s A-plus parenting moments, either, I think.) From that day on, I vehemently hated tuna fish, and for twenty-plus years I’ve maintained that it’s because of the above scenario.

Now, the interesting thing is that taste buds change. They say you get a new set of taste buds every, what?, seven years or something. I won’t claim to know whether that’s scientifically confirmed or just something “they” say, but the fact is that now, at 26, I’ve discovered that I like tuna quite a lot.

This tells me a couple of things:

(1) Though Dad may believe otherwise (and though I may enjoy making him think so), he didn’t scar me for life with that tuna sandwich. At least not totally.

(2) Dad’s taste in food, while often questionable (ketchup on that? really?), occasionally is spot-on.

For instance, he and I agree on the joys of lemon cake, green tea, and my mom's chicken and dumplings (not, however, all together). We also unquestionably agree on the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. And so I give you the Buckeye Cake.

You know Buckeye candies? The peanut butter balls coated in chocolate? This is the cake version. Here are some pics…and the recipe. Oh, and I warn you: make this one a night you intend to splurge. It’s RICH. But despite the extravagant look/taste, it’s not that hard to make.

Start with one 8-inch chocolate cake, whatever recipe you want. (My recipe makes two, so I use one and put the other in the freezer for later use.)

Bust out the Jif (or, in my case, the grocery-store brand peanut butter)...

And mix up a peanut-butter candy topping (3/4 cup creamy peanut butter mixed with 1/4 cup softened butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and a splash of milk--just enough so that it's very thick but spreadable). Spread/shape it over the top.

Refrigerate the whole thing while you mix up some super-decadent ganache frosting. (Heat a cup of heavy cream to boiling; then remove it from the heat and stir in a 12-oz. bag of chocolate chips. Let it sit a few minutes, and then stir it until it's smooth and satiny. Refrigerate it until it's at a good, spreadable consistency. Mine took about 45 minutes.)

Once the ganache is spreadable, gloop it on top of the cake (yes, I said "gloop"). Just look at that goodness:

Spread it out nice and smooth...

Then top it with a ridiculous amount of chopped Reese's cups.

Need to see that up closer?

Chill it, slice it, serve it (with milk or ice cream). And then collapse in a sugar coma.

Hope you approve, Dad.