TV's Al Roker seems to have found a second career as a cookbook author.
Last year, the NBC's Today show weatherman published a book on barbecue. Now he turns his attention to holiday fare with Al Roker's Hassle Free Holiday Cookbook (Scribner, 2003, $27.95).
Roker includes menu suggestions not only for the big celebrations, but also for lesser holidays, such as Ground Hog Day, Boxing Day and St. Lawrence Day, in honor of the patron saint of barbecuing.
The 125 recipes, which draw heavily on Roker's family favorites, are easy enough for beginning cooks. There are recipes for make-ahead mashed potatoes, chicken wings, pot roast, glazed baked ham, lemon pie and oven-fried chicken.
Roker's Caribbean Christmas Cake is a port-and-rum-soaked version. Inspired? No, but Roker fans will probably enjoy this opportunity to peek inside his holiday kitchen.
Caribbean Christmas Cake
Makes 12 servings
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup currants
1 cup chopped dried pineapple
3/4 cup chopped pitted prunes
1 3/4 cups ruby port (divided use)
6 tablespoons light rum (divided use)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lime juice
Combine the raisins, currants, pineapple and prunes in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the port and 4 tablespoons of the rum. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. If not baking the cake immediately, cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup port and 2 tablespoons rum in a jar, cover and set aside.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch, preferably springform, tube pan. Line the bottom with a ring of parchment paper and butter the parchment.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. Using an electric mixer or mixing by hand, beat together the butter, brown sugar, eggs, molasses, vanilla and lime juice. Add half the flour mixture and stir well. Add all of the soaked fruit (with any remaining liquid) and stir. Add the remaining flour mixture and stir very well until completely combined. Spoon the batter into the pan and bake the cake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and place upright on a wire rack to cool in the pan for 15 minutes to 20 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the pan and around the tube. Remove cake from the pan and peel off parchment.
While cake is still warm, place it on a serving plate and poke 6 or 8 holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick or a skewer. Slowly pour the remaining port-rum mixture over the top of the cake, letting it seep into the holes.
Cake can be served the day it is made, but it gets better as it sits. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.