Whoopie!

1 May

Did you know there’s a season for whoopie pies?

Wind

Neither did I until yesterday. A bunch of my co-workers are obsessed with a brand of packaged “cookies” called “cakesters.” I hesitate to give you a link, as I’m afraid it will only fuel the mania, but, since I can hear you asking, here it is.

They’re so obsessed that they went out and bought a case of the ooey, gooey treats. I find this terrifying. Why? Because I cadged one, and seriously people, these aren’t soft, pillowy Oreos. They’re whoopie pies. And whoopie pies are something I hold very (very) dear to my heart.

Reflection

I’ve long suspected (like, since I was in junior high long) that there is a correlation between Oreos and whoopie pies, and this new development, of the “cakester,” serves, to me, as a confirmation. Growing up, the family that lived at the bottom of the hill in our neighborhood was from Lancaster Co. The mom was a champion baker, and her specialty was, of course whoopie pies. I loved (lovedlovedloved) going to their house because she always had some on hand and because they had a gigantic Old English Sheepdog who was the most awesome dog ever.

So, I can understand my co-workers’ obsession with tender chocolate cookies and sweet, fluffy filling. But only to a point. What I can’t get over is their fetishizing of a product filled with chemicals and high-fructose corn syrup, when as well paid, sentient adults they could be fixating on something worthy. Like the whoopie pies, baked fresh in Lancaster Co., and brought to the Union Square greenmarket a block away from our office a few times a week.

Chelsea

I’m passionate about food, something you’re probably aware of. But what you might not know is that I’m also kind of loud. So it’s easy for me to come across as a bit strident and bloviating (known to some as annoying), especially when I insist on say, harranguing every person that walks past my desk with a “cakester.” “Whoopie pies are better you know!”

Luckily, people still like me despite this minor personality quirk and put up with my abuse, but only up to a point. I could tell that it was time to stop talking and start acting on my whoopie pie assertions.

Shadows

So, despite being desperately late to work yesterday, I dashed into the greenmarket, no mean feat as they’ve changed the layout (p.s. I hate it), and found the stand I was looking for. I glanced around. Meats. Check. Scrapple. Check. Stone-ground corn. Check. Lots and lots and lots of plants. Check. Whoopie pies? Uhhhh… So I asked the guy, “Where are the whoopie pies?” “Oh, they’re seasonal, fall and winter only.”

Whaaaaaa? I had no choice but to believe him. I mean, you can’t argue with someone who doesn’t have whoopie pies. So I turned away, and slunk off to the office with my metaphorical tail between my legs. Getting my co-workers off the “cakesters” just may take a bit more effort than I had initially assumed.

Swoon

But, there’s a reason I bring this up, and that’s seasonality. Who knew that there was a season to whoopie pies, and who knows the reason why? At Pegasus, our favorite Greek-Cypriot spot in the neighborhood, the owner make the world’s best avgolemono, but, much like the whoopie pies, only in fall and winter.

The soup I can understand. So much whisking and standing over a hot stove, no one wants to do that in the middle of summer! But whoopie pies? I mean, wouldn’t the machines and stoves do most of the work?

Saint

But really, the point I’m trying to make is that this is a tough season for eating. The weather can’t make up its mind and the culinary standbys of the past season are gone while fresh, new vegetables that make spring so exciting are only just beginning to make an appearance. It was one of these vegetables that I was obsessing over this past Saturday. Asparagus.

As I lay napping on the couch, I dreamed of supping on lightly pan-roasted asparagus topped with a gently poached egg and pillows of lemon and black pepper flecked fresh goat cheese. Then I woke up. At 5.30pm. In Bay Ridge. An hour’s subway ride from Union Square. It was never going to happen. So I rubbed my eyes, shook the cobwebs out of my brain and snapped to attention. If we were going to have a delicious dinner, I needed to act fast.

Shadows

I roused Isaac, slipped on my shoes and dashed out the door. We headed to the fish monger. Isaac had seen that he had halibut fillets earlier in the day, but they were gone, so we settled on flounder and some colossal shrimp. We ran across the street to the Korean market and grabbed leeks, mint and lemons. They had asparagus, but it was flown in from somewhere that wasn’t upstate New York, so I left it there. I can wait for local asparagus.

Copper

The meal was composed entirely on the fly. I made a quick shrimp stock from the shells and then melted the leeks. I decided pretty late in the game that the dish needed bacon. It was a good move.

This meal is seriously delicious. And the leftover sauce was exceptional a few nights later as a post-work dinner with pasta, a dash of sherry vinegar and a flurry of grated cheese.  And, in it’s way, being based on wintered-over leeks and citrus, it is in fact seasonal.

Flounder Smothered in Melted Leeks

I know it’s kind of a cruel turn, to start with whoopie pies and end with flounder, but I hope that, like my co-workers who put up with my occasional tirades and bursts of vulgarity, you’ll forgive me. It is my birthday after all.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Flounder Smothered In Melted Leeks.

Flounder Smothered in Melted Leeks

prep time: 20 minutes ~ cooking time: 1 hour

  • 3 medium size Leeks, cut into half moons and rinsed of sand
  • 4 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • 4 Colossal Shrimp, de-veined and sliced, shells reserved
  • Dry White Vermouth
  • 1 slice Bacon, chopped very, very fine
  • 1 Lemon, zested and halved
  • 1 bunch Mint, leaves picked off and washed
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 or 2 Flounder fillets per person
  • Flour
  • 1 c. Corn, frozen or fresh

Heat a large sautée pan over a medium flame. Add a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter. Cook gently until softened then add garlic then continue cooking, stirring from time to time, until golden and melted looking, at least 30 minutes. Add the bacon and cook an additional 10 minutes.

Simultaneously, add the shrimp shells to a a small sauce pan and cover with vermouth. Bring to a boil and cook until fragrant adding water as necessary about 30 minutes. Reduce to about 1/4 c. of liquid. Turn off the heat.

Add the juice of half the lemon to the leeks, then strain the shrimp stock into the pan. Bring to a boil then turn down to a bare simmer. Allow to cook this way about 10 minutes. Season lightly with salt.

Add the minced garlic, mint and a teaspoon or so of the lemon zest to a mortar & pestle of food processor. Add a big pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil and process to form a pesto-like sauce.

Season a bit of flour with salt & pepper. Rinse the flounder, pat very dry and very, very lightly coat the flounder in the seasoned flour. Push the leeks to one side of the pan and gently lower the flounder into the remaining juice to cook for 2 minutes per side. Carefully remove the flounder to a plate, turn the heat to high and add the shrimp, corn and about 1 tsp of the mint pesto. Cook until the shrimp turn opaque.

Serve the flounder smothered in the shrimp sauce with rice, pasta, vegetables or big chunks of bread and a fruity white wine. Enjoy!

27 Responses to “Whoopie!”

  1. mary May 1, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    I forgive you the bate and switch, and I’m sure everyone else will too. This looks delicious. Did you say birthday? Happy Birthday!

  2. whereimcookingfrom May 1, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    Birthday?! Of course we forgive you, especially since you’ve given us such a glorious flounder recipe! Sounds like someone could use a homemade whoopie pie to celebrate. I’ll dig around for my recipe. Did your little amish pamphlet have one?

  3. Christina May 1, 2008 at 5:17 pm #

    Happy birthday, woman! That’s the best news of the day–someone wonderful is having a birthday. I hope this is your best year yet (and it sounds like it will be, with all the “dressing for the career you want” pay-off, KitchenAid mixer, and series of long, fascinating walks happening lately). Enjoy the day.

  4. OES Webmaster May 1, 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    Just saw your mention of the best dogs in the world (Old English Sheepdogs) and thought I’d point you to a place where you can see some of them!

    My website :D
    http://www.oes.org
    There’s a forum and pics too.

    Thanks for the drool over whoopie pies… now where can I get one? I’m thinking… Boston’s North End! Lots of great bakeries there.

    Thanks again.

  5. shelley May 1, 2008 at 7:38 pm #

    Ha! Another series of beautimous photos (especially the grafitti), clear days, cakes both lacking and full of promise… and an incredible meal on the fly!

    Happy birthday, birthday girl! Hope you will do something even more amazing this weekend. You deserve it.

  6. shelley May 1, 2008 at 7:39 pm #

    ps, pumpkin whoopie pies totally kick ass, as well.

  7. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) May 2, 2008 at 5:09 am #

    On your birthday you are forgiven anything! Happy birthday, Ann, and may the coming year be filled with whoopie pies!

  8. Anne May 2, 2008 at 9:08 am #

    Hope you have a happy one filled with all kinds of whoopie! SMACK! Oh no I didn’!

    Love the smothered fish. Mmmmm. Adding mint and lemon is a perfect way to welcome spring.

  9. radish May 2, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    Oh Happy Birthday!! We share the same birthday – that is very cool. I hope it’s a wonderful year for you!

  10. izzy's mama May 2, 2008 at 8:32 pm #

    Whoopie Birthday to you! But how could you do that to us? If I weren’t in the midst of Izzy’s birthday creations I would have to search for a whoopie pie recipe myself.

  11. Julie May 2, 2008 at 10:04 pm #

    While haranguing your co-workers is generally considered obnoxious, haranguing them about whoopie pies is completely and totally lovably eccentric so you should feel free to keep on doing it.

    From whoopie pies to asparagus and goat cheese to (finally!) fish. What a trip! Happy birthday to you. Your birthday dinner looks delicious, and I’m looking forward to hearing about the asparagus when you finally get your hands on it.

  12. ann May 3, 2008 at 8:00 am #

    Mary — Thanks! Based on your last birthday cake post, I asked for a lemon cake for my party at work. They couldn’t find one, but the fact that they even looked was awful sweet :-)

    wherei’mcookingfrom — Oddly enough there is no whoopie pie recipe in the booklet. Strange. I wonder if that means they’re a more recent addition to the Amish cooking canon?

    Christina — Thanks! That’s a really nice birthday wish :-) So far it’s been so good, so I’m totally optimistic!

    OES Webmaster — Yay! Thanks for all the wonderful sheepdogyness! That’s fantastic! Not sure where you could find whoopie pies in Boston… Maybe Fanueil Hall?

    Shelley — I’ve never had a pumpkin whoopie pie, but I’ve located someplace within walking distance of the house that specializes in them, so I’m sure we’ll be doing that walk very very soon!

    Lydia — Thanks! That ranks up there as one of the best birthday wishes ever, too!

    Anne — L.O.L. Awesome! You went there. I can always count on you!

    Radish — Right back at you. I love having birthday buddies!

    Izzy’s Mama — I know, I felt like such a charlatan… But I was struggling for a concept… And well, it just happened. I’m glad I had a good kicker with a solid excuse otherwise they might have taken my journalists badge away ;-)

    Julie — I work with a pretty eccentric lot, so my whoopie whoopassing is probably actually barely noticed. Thanks for the birthday wishes. We’re (hopefully) going to have the asparagus for dinner tomorrow night. I’m very excited!

  13. Robin May 3, 2008 at 3:29 pm #

    Happy Birthday, Ann! What a run rollercoaster of a blog post. And that flounder looks just as… well almost as… good as whoopie pies! :D

  14. Will B May 3, 2008 at 8:45 pm #

    A very happy birthday to you! But seasonal whoopie pies??!? Never heard of such terrible news. I am terribly spoiled – my wife makes the best! And for those particularly awful days when nothing seems to go your way, she will turn out a whoopie pie CAKE! YUM! I know it might not be for the purists among us, but sometimes a single whoopie pie just doesn’t cut it. I will try to cajole the recipe from her.

    PS – Cakesters? Only for the uninformed.

  15. French Laundry At Home May 4, 2008 at 9:46 am #

    As someone who grew up in the Amish country, I can attest to the fact that yes — whoopie pies are a seasonal thing. Because whoopie pies have no preservatives, the humidity and heat takes a toll on the batter and the filling, as well as the finished product, so they’re usually only made in the fall and winter. Something to look forward to, I suppose. Although, I hate that people are trying to be all creative and make pumpkin whoopie pies or chocolate chip. Knock it off, wannabes.

  16. Mary Coleman May 4, 2008 at 1:55 pm #

    I grew up in the land of GooGoo clusters, so I don’t know from whoopie pies. But I do know that flounder dish sounds and looks absolutely fabulous!!!!!

  17. ann May 4, 2008 at 4:14 pm #

    Robin — I think so too! Thanks for the kind wishes!!

    WillB — Holy crap! Whoopie CAKE!!! That’s got to be the most wonderful thing I’ve ever heard of! Wow… The mind reels!

    Carol — Ah! I thought that might be the case. Thanks for clearing that up. I guess if I had actually thought about it, that would have been clear, but, well, I’m sometimes irrational when the belly is expecting, uhm, whoopie, and uhm, doesn’t get it? Man, I’ve been hanging out with Anne too much ;-)

    Mary — GooGoo Clusters? *runs off to google* Holy crap! Those sound almost as awesome as a whoopie cake! I’ll have to keep my eyes open, I mean, New York has everything right? I should be able to find a GooGoo Cluster somewhere in this town!

  18. lobstersquad May 5, 2008 at 1:35 am #

    Hi Ann
    I tried to email you but it kept bouncing back, so the message must go here: I´ve finally found the mushroom drawing!! All yours if you still want it. Email me your address at ximena at ximenamaier dot com
    very intrigued by whoopie pies btw

  19. Ann May 5, 2008 at 5:24 am #

    Happy (belated) birthday! And I actually went and looked at whoopie pie recipes over the weekend, thinking I should make a batch. Trouble is, the most authentic recipes are made with crisco, which I try to stay away from. Still, it’s mighty tempting…

    … um, I thought you were iffy on fish?

  20. ann May 5, 2008 at 5:50 am #

    Lobstersquad — Ooooh! Thanks! Wow, that’s so cool! I’ll definitely email you!

    Ann — Ewh, crisco? Blegh! I’ll try to find one without it. Fish, yeah, I’m not big on fishy fish.. But every now and then I go through a fish phase where it’s all I want, kind of like this month! I ate fish nearly every meal this weekend, so weird.

  21. Lisa (Homesick Texan) May 5, 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    I go offline for a week and see what happens–I miss your birthday. Happy, happy belated birthday! Cakesters have invaded our office as well–my colleagues are not amused when I read out loud the list of ingredients.

  22. Christine May 5, 2008 at 12:53 pm #

    Happy belated birthday! And I guess you could always whip up a batch of whoopie pies. Right? I mean, they can’t go bad since your coworkers will see the error of the cakester ways and finish off the pies right quickly.

  23. Toni May 6, 2008 at 11:57 am #

    Fortunately, I’ve never heard of cakesters. Whoopie pies? Yes, of course. (I’m originally from New York). But I never mind a good read (or rant), followed by a great recipe. What I DO mind is missing your birthday! So belated happy birthday to you, Ann! And never ever ever stop speaking your mind – loudly and clearly. There are those of us who LOVE what you have to say!

  24. ann May 7, 2008 at 5:39 am #

    Lisa — Noooo! It must be some kind of insidious plot against the media ;-) I suspect Ann Coulter is behind it for some reason.

    Christine — Thanks! I am thinking of “whipping up a batch…” Someday. When I find the time. And get around to buying chocolate… And… And… I’m kind of lazy when it comes to stuff like this :-)

    Toni — Thank you!!! I don’t think I could ever stop speaking my mind if I tried :-)

  25. Sandie (Inn Cuisine) May 7, 2008 at 11:30 am #

    Oh, I just discovered your wonderful blog through a link on Redacted Recipes and I’m hooked. And just in time to wish you a happy birthday as well!

    I have to tell you–I read through every word on your blog’s front page and it’s entirely intoxicating. What an enjoyable read. It just sucks you in, and the photos…so beautiful. In this post especially, it was almost like taking a walk right alongside you.

    I hope your birthday is wonderful, as all birthdays should be. Thanks for sharing your notes and observations, it’s great for someone like me as my maternal side of the family hails from NYC and I miss visiting.

  26. Mary Coleman May 8, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    Wow,
    Happy birthday! I’m such a moroon, totally missed that in the post.
    Mary

    Knew you’d like the idea of a googoo. keep ’em in the freezer. will blow your mind! Do let me know if you can’t find them. I’ll get some to you.

  27. ann May 9, 2008 at 6:42 am #

    Sandie — Welcome and thank you for the lovely compliments! I’m so happy to help to help spread the NYC love.

    Mary — Thanks! I’ll keep an eye out for them and let you know if I can’t find them. Apparently Isaac is a fan of them because of some family connections down South.

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