Cook’s Corner

‘Tunnel’ cakes an enduring favorite


Sleuth’s Corner

Q. Can anyone share a recipe for thin chocolate nut bars? They are a three-layered bar: crust, chocolate, and finely chopped nuts. The key is that these are not the usual thick brownie or bar cookie.


Main Dish

Blue-Cheese-Crusted Steaks with Red Wine Sauce

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large shallot, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

3/4 cup low-salt beef broth

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup coarsely crumbled blue cheese (about 2 ounces)

1/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

4 (1-inch-thick) filet mignon steaks (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total)

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic, shallot and thyme about 5 minutes. Add broth and wine. Boil until sauce is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 12 minutes. Set aside.

With a fork, stir together cheese, crumbs and parsley. Heat broiler.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Fry to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Transfer steaks to rimmed baking sheet. Press cheese mixture onto top. Broil until cheese browns, about 2 minutes. Transfer steaks to plates. Pour sauce into skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Boil 2 minutes. Whisk in remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce around steaks and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 473 calories (47 percent from fat), 24.2 g fat (11.3 g saturated, 9.8 g monounsaturated), 165.9 mg cholesterol, 48.5 g protein, 8.1 g carbohydrates, 0.5 g fiber, 515.9 mg sodium.


Coconut ‘Tunnel’ Bundt Cake Filling

3 cups flaked coconut

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Makes about 3 1/4 cups, enough to fill one standard-size cake.

To make a tunnel cake: Mix a dark chocolate cake mix using the pound-cake directions on the package. Pour half the batter into a Bundt or tube pan. Spoon the coconut filling onto the batter, leaving batter on both the inside and outside of the filling. Carefully pour on the remaining cake batter. Bake as directed for a pound cake. Makes 16 servings.

Per serving (filling only): 96 calories (49 percent from fat), 5.5 g fat (4.6 g saturated, 0.4 g monounsaturated), 3.2 mg cholesterol, 1.2 g protein, 11.2 g carbohydrates, 0.6 g fiber, 15 mg sodium.

Main Dish

Patacon Pisao

1/2 cup dried red beans

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large white onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons dried oregano

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 green plantains

1/4 cup high-heat oil, such as safflower

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Fresh cilantro and lemon wedges for garnish

Place the beans and bay leaf in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cumin and oregano; cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the tomato paste, lemon juice and cooked beans. Transfer to a food processor and puree.

Blanch the plantains until they turn brown-black. Cool and peel. Cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch slices. Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat and fry the plantain slices until tender, about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn.

One by one, place slices between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll with a rolling pin to a 1/4-inch thickness to create a plantain patty (or use the heel of your hand to smash it down). Return to the pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side, until edges are crisp, being careful not to burn.

Spread patties with bean puree, sprinkle with cheese and serve with cilantro and lemon wedges for garnish. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 380 calories (34 percent from fat), 15.8 g fat (4.8 g saturated, 5.7 g monounsaturated), 17 mg cholesterol, 10.8 g protein, 54 g carbohydrates, 7.8 g fiber, 156 mg sodium.

Q. Some 20 or so years ago there was a cake mix for a chocolate cake with a coconut filling. It was very good but apparently it was discontinued. Do you know of a coconut filling I could make to use with a regular chocolate box mix?

Jeanne Cleary, Miami

I can’t imagine why those cake mixes disappeared. I hear at least a couple of times a year about Tunnel of Fudge, a Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe that morphed into a cake mix. The coconut filling was one of the variations. My sister gave me the shortcut recipe here, which is much easier than most I’ve seen.

Q. I am wondering if anyone knows a snack from Colombia, something like Cuban tostones, that is made with green plantains, red beans and queso.

R. C.

I did not know this dish, but found a recipe that fits the description in The Healthy Voyager’s Global Kitchen by Carolyn Scott-Hamilton (Fair Winds, $19.99). This is a wonderful snack or main dish, and I’m glad you sent the request.

The cookbook is a fun one, with beyond-tofu vegetarian recipes from around the world. I haven’t been disappointed by any of the recipes, and the lo mein has become a go-to recipe when I need a quick meal. You can hasten the recipe here by substituting a 15-ounce can of red beans for the dried.

Steak and blue cheese

Maria Teresa Vicaria asked for help finding a recipe her husband loved for “meat medallions with blue cheese” that she had clipped from my column years ago. I didn’t remember it, but luckily, Jessie P. did.

“It is expensive to make, so is our ‘go-to’ recipe for birthdays and other special occasions. I’ve been making it since I clipped it from your column years and years ago. I am always asked for the recipe,” she wrote.

The original recipe came from the Redstone American Grill in Minnetonka, Minn.

Send questions and responses to or Food, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Personal replies are not possible.

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