Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gala Parfait: Holiday Party Libations

I love entertaining, I love the holidays, and I love good drinks. So naturally holiday punchbowl concoctions are of my most favoritest things! Egg nog, Gluhwein, you name it, I'll drink it!
Here are several recipes, some traditional, others offering new ideas, or a contemporary update of a classic.

Nathan's Christmas Champagne Punch
I made this impromptu punch for a holiday party last weekend. It was a hit! Not too sweet, with robust dark red fruit. (And I was able to get all of it with one stop).
Serves a lot

Many bottles of inexpensive sparkling wine, 6-10..
One bottle citrus vodka
One bottle cherry cider
One bottle raspberry dessert wine
1-2 bottles sparkling pomegranate or cranberry juice
Two bottles seltzer water
1-2 bottles Lambrusco or other "soft" (semi-sparkling) Italian red wine
One bottle Triple sec
One can frozen lemonade
2 large oranges, sliced into wheels
3 lemons, sliced into wheels
Frozen black cherries
Fresh cranberries

First (4 hours to a day ahead), make an ice float (or two) in a jello mold, or tupperware lined with plastic wrap using the frozen lemonade concentrate, water, and some of the craberries and lemon wheels. Freeze.
I prepared the punch to taste, starting with the frozen cherries, the entire bottle of vodka, about 1/3 of the triple sec, 1/3 of the cider, 1/3 of the dessert wine, 1/2 of the soft red wine, 1/2 the pom juice, one whole bottle of seltzer, and about 3 bottles of sparkling wine (added last just before serving). Add an ice float and garnish the surface with more citrus wheels and cranberries.
As the punch level went down, I added the rest of the ingredients throughout the evening.
Note: There is never too much sparkling wine.... (I asked all of my guests to each bring one bottle).

Farmer’s Bishop
adapted from The Holiday Drink Book, Peter Pauper Press, 1951
Serves 24

6 oranges
around 4 dozen whole cloves
1 bottle apple brandy
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 gallon cider
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
and if you have any pimento dram kicking around, an ounce or so would work wonders here

Stick each orange with 8 cloves, and bake them whole in a slow oven (300F) for 1 hour. Place them in a heated punch bowl and prick them well with a fork. Heat the apple brandy in a saucepan until warm — CAREFUL, especially if you’re using a gas stove — and pour over the oranges; sprinkle with the sugar. While warming the brandy, heat the cider to almost boiling. Take 1/2 cup of the cider and mix the remaining spices in it, then set it aside. Carefully light the brandy — I like to use a sugar cube soaked with a bit of the brandy, place it in the bowl of a long-handled spoon, light it and then stand back while placing the burning cube in the boozy punch. Let it burn for a few seconds, then add the hot cider to extinguish the flames; stir in the cup of spiced cider. You can keep it warm in a chafing dish or on the stove.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Perfect Egg Nog
"I love egg nog, but I can’t stand the thick, gelatinous goop they sell at the grocery store. Even if you were to cut it with alcohol, it’s still so overly-pasteurized and full of preservatives that it would be anything but enjoyable to slug down at a Christmas party. So I set about concocting the simplest, tastiest Egg Nog recipe I could, and here’s what I came up with.
"This recipe can be made in just about any home or bar, since the ingredients are fairly simple. It can be done entirely in a blender, so there are no whisks or beaters or rubber spatulas or stovetops needed. It yields two healthy servings, so you can easily multiply it to serve more. It doesn’t use a ton of heavy cream, so it’s fairly light. In other words, it’s practically perfect."

2 large eggs
3 oz (by volume) granulated sugar
½ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
2 oz brandy
2 oz spiced rum (I use Sailor Jerry’s)
6 oz whole milk
4 oz heavy cream

Beat eggs in blender for one minute on medium speed. Slowly add sugar and blend for one additional minute. With blender still running, add nutmeg, brandy, rum, milk and cream until combined. Chill thoroughly to allow flavors to combine and serve in chilled wine glasses or champagne coupes, grating additional nutmeg on top immediately before serving.
One note about blenders. This recipe works great in home blenders, but the commercial models are designed to heat whatever they’re blending, which can result in scrambled eggs by the time you get around to the sugar. If you’re using a Vita-Mix or similar commercial blender, cut that initial blend time down to a quarter minute or so.

The Good Neighbor
Created by: Toby Maloney (Alchemy Consulting, Freeman's)

2 cups Laird's Applejack (or Calvados)
2 cups rye whiskey
3/4 cup fresh squeezed ginger juice (from any fresh juice purveyor)
3/4 cup sugar
1.5 cups fresh lemon juice
7 dashes of bitters
1 bottle hard cider (dry's best)
Large, cold ice cubes

Combine everything but ice/cider in a large bowl. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Put in fridge for a couple of hours. Add ice/cider at last minute. Garnish with apple slices and lemon wheels.

Gluhwein (Hot Mulled Wine)
Serves 12-15

4 quarts dry red wine (zinfandel, Côtes du Rhône, burgundy, etc.)
1 pint brandy
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
5 cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom pods
5 black peppercorns
10 cloves, whole
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp mace
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
2 oranges, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
Special equipment: a 6- by 4-inch piece of cheesecloth; kitchen string

Wrap cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and cloves in cheesecloth and tie with string. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 5-quart heavy pot, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then add the wine and begin heating over low heat. As it begins to warm, add brandy, vanilla bean, allspice, mace and spice bag. Heat thoroughly, but do not allow to boil! Add the lemon and orange. Steep for about 1 hour over low heat. You may add more sugar during this time if desired, stirring well so it disolves. Serve hot and garnish with orange slices. A stick cinnamon could also be used.

Negroni Punch
Serves 8

4 cups assorted fresh fruit (such as cranberries, pitted cherries, sliced apricots and oranges)
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1 cup Campari
1 cup sweet vermouth
1 cup gin
2 750-ml bottles chilled Prosecco
Ice cubes

Place fruit in large punch bowl. Sprinkle with sugar to taste, if desired; stir and let stand 10 minutes for sugar to dissolve and juices to form. Add all remaining ingredients except ice cubes. Divide punch among 8 tall ice-filled glasses and serve.

Empire City Punch
from “Bartender’s Guide by Trader Vic” 1947
serves 50

2 oz. maraschino liqueur
2 oz. Curacao liqueur
2 oz. Benedictine liqueur
1 qt. Jamaican rum
1 bottle cognac
4 bottles Tokay wine
2 bottles Madeira wine
4 bottles claret
4 lemons
2 oranges
½ pound sugar cubes
2 bottles club soda
Large block of ice
1 pineapple, diced
12 oranges, thinly sliced
1 box strawberries, sliced
6 bottles champagne, chilled

Mix together all liquids except champagne and club soda and chill.
Rub the lemons and oranges with cubes of sugar until all color has been absorbed by the sugar. Dissolve sugar in a punch bowl with club soda.
Add ice, fruit, and liquid mixture.
Just before guests arrive, add chilled champagne. Serve in punch glasses or champagne goblets.

English Christmas Punch
This recipe makes 27 individual drinks when served in white wine glasses. As with any drink that is flamed, caution should be taken when making English Christmas Punch and igniting the ladle filled with rum.

750 mL bottle dark rum
750 mL bottle dry red wine
3 cups strong tea
1 lb superfine sugar
juice of 1 large orange
juice of 1 lemon

Heat, but do not allow to boil, the wine, tea, lemon and orange juices in a saucepan or chafing dish. Pour the heated mix into a heat proof punch bowl. Place as much sugar as possible into a large ladle and any excess sugar into the punch bowl.
Saturate the sugar in the ladle with rum. Ignite the rum and sugar in the ladle and pour it while still aflame into the punch. Stir well and extinguish the flames.
Pour the remainder of the rum into the punch. Stir well.
Serve in white wine glasses.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Polvorones (Mexican Wedding Cakes)

I know my blog has been very RECIPE-HEAVY lately, but 'tis the season folks - I'm broke and I'm nesting, so you bet I'm cooking away in my little kitchen! That said, I hope some of these recipes are helpful or enlightening.

Known by many names (Polvorones, Wedding cakes, Pecan Sandies, Russian tea cakes, Italian Butter Nuts, Southern Pecan Butterballs, Viennese Sugar Balls, Snowballs..), these little melt-in-your-mouth-and-in-your-hand buttery cookies get made every single year at Christmas in my kitchen. They are simple, delicious, and always a crowd-pleaser. The secret is using the best quality butter and pure vanilla extract you can find. You may also experiement with different nuts (walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts all work well), and also small additions of cocoa powder or cinnamon. Though I haven't tested them, these Pistachio and Cherry Mexican Wedding Cakes sound delicious.

Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Toast Nuts: Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Cool. Once the nuts have cooled completely, place them in a coffee grinder (or in a food processor with a little flour) and process until finely ground (but not a paste). Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the remaining flour and salt and beat until combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about 1 hour or until firm.
Roll the dough into 1 inch balls between your palms and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, line another baking pan or tray with parchment or wax paper. Sprinkle the remaining powdered sugar on the bottom of the pan and then place the slightly cooled cookies on top of the sugar. Gently roll warm cookies to coat. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool. Repeat the process once the cookies have cooled completely.
Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gala Parfait: Throwing a Perfect Holiday Brunch

Sunday brunch is, in my humble opinion, the best part of the week. Add the cozy rush of the holidays and you've hit my ultimate soft spot. Bright morning light, a crisp winter chill, steaming mugs, rich savory food, sparkling wine and merriment.
Last year I condensed all of these things I love so much into a successful holiday open-house-style brunch the Sunday before Christmas, where friends were invited to stop by throughout the morning for some good food, drink and conversation.
Due to a maxed-out calendar, my brunch is taking this year off, but follow this easy guide and you can throw a perfect affair, and even enjoy it while it's happening. The secret KEY to this menu is that you can make almost ALL of it the night before, with just light preperation in the morning before guests arrive.

Night Before:
1. Prepare both of the casseroles and refrigerate
2. Halve and segment the grapefruit
3. Peel and slice citrus for salad
4. Juice oranges and grapefruit for mimosas
Day of:
1. Broil the grapefruit, then set aside to cool
2. Lower the heat on the oven and bake the Sausage Egg Breakfast Casserole as directed
3. Mid-way add the French Toast Casserole to the oven and bake as directed
4. Prepare citrus salad and set table
5. Set up mimosa station (ice buckets for prosecco bottles and juice carafes)
6. Brew tea and coffee, and heat milk for café au lait on stovetop as guests begin to arrive

Panettone French Toast Casserole with Apples

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon water
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pounds granny smith apples
6 1-inch slices panettone
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (for serving)

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add brown sugar and water until combined. Spread this mixture over the bottom of a 9x13-inch glass baking dish. Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon, set aside. Trim the bottom crust of the panettone. Starting at the bottom end of the panettone, cut it crosswise into 6 (1-inch thick) round slices (reserve the top piece for toast!). Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4 inch thick slices. Heat remaining butter over medium heat. Add apples and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until apples are cooked but not mushy. Spread apples over the bottom of the baking dish. Cover apples with the panettone slices. Pour egg and cream mixture over panettone, coating all slices. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat over to 350°F. Bake French toast uncovered for 35—40 minutes until lightly golden. Dollop the mascarpone atop French toast when serving.

Sausage Egg Breakfast Casserole

16 oz day old bread, cubed
10 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups light cream or whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1 pound sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained
1 bunch scallions, chopped

Butter 9 -by 13-inch baking pan. Place cubed bread in the pan. Sprinkle with cheeses. Combine wet ingredients, and pour over the bread and cheese. Top with sausage and scallions. Cover tightly and refrigerate over night.
In the morning, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the casserole, and bake for an hour, or until golden brown.

Bruléed Ginger Grapefruit

1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
6 large pink grapefruits

Preheat broiler. In an electric coffee/spice grinder combine sugar, ginger, and vanilla and grind fine. Halve each grapefruit crosswise and run knife around each section to loosen membranes. Arrange grapefruits, cut sides-up, in a flameproof baking dish or baking pan just large enough to hold them in one layer and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Broil grapefruits about 1 1/2 inches from heat until sugar melts and tops begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve grapefruits at room temperature.

Maple Citrus Salad

4 navel oranges
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cinnamon

With a vegetable peeler remove a 2 by 1-inch piece of zest from 1 of the oranges, being careful not to peel off any of the white pith. Cut into thin strips and set aside.
Cut about 1/2 inch off of the top and bottom each piece of fruit. Remove the peel and pith from each piece of fruit by standing it on its end and cutting down along the curve of the fruit. Slice the fruit into 1/4 inch thick rounds and arrange on a platter.
In a small bowl combine the maple syrup, lemon juice and cinnamon. Pour the dressing over the fruit, garnish with the zest and serve.

French Market Style Café au Lait
Once you have brewed a pot of Cafe Du Monde Coffee and Chicory (available at World Market), just add an equal amount of steamy hot milk for Café au Lait.

1 part hot Coffee and Chicory or French Roast Coffee
1 part hot milk

To heat milk, scald over low heat in a sauce pan just until a thin film forms. Pour equal parts hot scalded milk and hot coffee into a large mug. Or, as in some New Orleans establishments, provide a pitcher of scalded milk and a pitcher of hot coffee on the table so that your guests can pour their own, exactly as they like it.

Prosecco mimosas with fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juices

Christmas Morning Tea

Ask your guests simply to bring christmas cookies or their other holiday baked goods and have a platter or tiered server available. Whole clementines are always a nice touch too, aesthetically as well for light snacking with tea after the meal.

Happy Brunching!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Recession: Gifts From Your Kitchen

If there has ever been "A year" in recent times for making gifts, this would have to be it. I've perused the magazines, websites and blogs and these are the batch of goodies I am whipping up for some lucky boys and girls this year.
Another tactic I am using this year is wrapping some of my favorite "Super Bon!" food items in festive cellophane as gifts. Most of these items are all under $10 and a fine addition to any food lover's cupboard.
(Note: Though it's now too late to start the limoncello in time for the holidays this year, BOY is it fun and easy - and a crisp delicious treat any time of the year, especially come summer!)

Rosemary Limoncello
(From Sunset Magazine, December 2007)
Italy's Amalfi Coast and adjoining Sorrento Peninsula are the regions most famous for this intensely lemony liqueur, traditionally served ice cold as an after-dinner drink. Here, it is enhanced with a subtle note of rosemary.
Prep and Cook Time: about 1 1/2 hours, plus at least 2 weeks and up to 80 days of infusing time. Notes: Either Meyer or Eureka lemons work in this recipe (the fragrant Meyer is especially good, though). To speed up the process, shorten the infusing time in steps 2 and 4 to 1 week each, and you'll have a fine although less intense liqueur. Limoncello keeps indefinitely in the freezer.
Makes 10 2/3 cups (ten 8.5-oz. bottles) (serving size: 1 oz.)

18 Meyer lemons, washed and dried
One 4-in. rosemary sprig, washed and dried
2 bottles (750 ml. each) 100-proof vodka, such as Stolichnaya
4 1/2 cups sugar

1. Peel lemons with a microplane or sharp peeler, taking only the zest (top layer) and avoiding any white pith. Put rosemary in a 1-gal. glass or ceramic container with a tight seal. Add zest to jar. (Juice the lemons and freeze for future use).
2. Pour 750 ml. vodka over rosemary and zest; seal container. Let sit undisturbed in a cool, dark place for 40 days.
3. In a saucepan, bring 5 cups water to a boil and add sugar. Cook, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Let sugar syrup cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
4. Pour syrup and remaining 750 ml. vodka over lemon-vodka mixture, stir, and seal container. Let sit in a cool, dark place for another 40 days.
5. Pour limoncello through cheesecloth into a large spouted pitcher and divide among gift bottles.

Ginger Sandwich Cookies
(From Food&Wine, December 2008)
World-renowned pastry chef Nick Malgieri adds a puckery note to his gingersnap cookies by sandwiching them with a fresh lemon cream.
Makes 20 three-inch sandwich cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (You'll have plenty of this around if you made the limoncello!)

Preheat the oven to 350° and position racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Make the cookies: In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and molasses. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl.
Working in 2 batches, drop scant tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, 3 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, until risen and fallen and slightly firm; shift the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking. Let cool slightly, then transfer the parchment paper to racks and let the cookies cool completely. Bake the remaining cookies.
Make the filling: In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the lemon juice.
Arrange the cookies in pairs on a large work surface. Spoon or pipe 1 rounded tablespoon of the lemon filling onto the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with the remaining cookies, pressing them together so the filling spreads to the edge.
The sandwich cookies can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to 1 week.

DIY Flavored Pistachios
The beauty of pistachios are their diversity. So to flavor them, don't be afraid to get creative with the ingredients.. You're not limited to "chili-lemon". Bourbon-maraschino.. tequila-black pepper-lime.. salt & vinegar.. cayenne-clementine... (liquid) smoke-cinnamon!? Get nutty.
Start with bulk pistachios. First dry the nuts a little more than they are when you buy them. To do this, put them in a large pot in the oven on low heat for a few hours.
After that add about 1/2 cup of Kosher salt per 5 pounds of nuts, spices or liquors to season them, and then water to dissolve the spices (no water if liquor).
Let them soak for 2 or 3 days to absorb the flavors, agitating them at least once a day and adding more liquid or spices if the nuts dry. The nuts will be soggy after this.
Then roast them by putting them in an oven with as much surface area as possible in contact with the air and dehydrate them at about 150 - 200 deg for 4 - 5 hours. Then roast them at about 300 deg or slightly more for about 1/2 hour to 45 min.
It helps to spray them with olive oil, or butter. This brings out more nutty flavor.
ginger cookie photo by quentin bacon

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Panettone French Toast

For this recipe it's best to leave the panettone slices out and unwrapped, under a tea towel, to dry overnight. This will prevent them from soaking up the egg mixture too quickly and becoming mushy.

6 large eggs
1 1/2 cup milk or cream
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh clementine zest
8 slices panettone, about 3/4 inch thick
3 tablespoons butter for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Lemon curd
Real maple syrup

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. In a large, shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk or cream, salt, vanilla extract, cinnamon and clementine zest. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large non-stick frying pan or griddle. Working a few slices at a time, dip panettone into the custard, turning to allow both sides to absorb the custard. Grill the soaked panettone slices until they are golden brown and firm to the touch, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer the French toast to a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining butter, panettone slices, and custard. Transfer the French toast to plates. Dollop lemon curd atop each. Lightly dust with the powdered sugar. Drizzle maple syrup over and around the French toast and serve immediately.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Super Bon!: Mexican Hot Cocoa

Screw gourmet "drinking chocolate"! Ibarra is still my favorite!
Abuelita instant packets are great for lazy evenings (or a as a quick additive to other drink recipes), but cinnamon-spicy Ibarra tablets in the red-and-yellow hexagon-shaped box are the tastiest.
To prepare, use approximately two wedges for each cup of milk or water. Heat the milk until it is near boiling, then blend the milk and chocolate in a blender until the chocolate is completely dissolved, and serve hot. Ibarra can also be prepared on the stove by dissolving the wedges in hot milk, then whisking the cocoa with a wood or wire whisk. In Mexico, in the traditional Aztec and Mayan form, Cayenne pepper is added to make it a spicy chocolate drink.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Super Bon!: Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

Behold.. The only bitters you will ever need (or desire?) ever again!
I scored the last bottle from Barkeeper the other night, where the staff collectively oooed and ahhed as the glass clinked; the final bottle lifting from the shelf. I turned to see the owner give me the "you know what you're doing, friend" eye. I grinned back.
Why such a fuss?
For starters, this premium bitters is extremely difficult to get - A strictly limited edition item, aged in the Fee Brothers' own front window and only bottled once a year in the spring. Barkeeper said they can only place one order (for only one case) per year.
The Fees age these aromatic bitters in freshly emptied oak whiskey barrels from Tennessee, interiors charred and soaked with aged whiskey. The result of mingling these great flavors is spicy and bold, with cinnamon and clove notes, smoke, mint, sharp bark and citrus oils. This product is interestingly the *only* bitters commercially available in U.S. that contains real angostura bark as a bittering and flavor component (Yep, Angostura bitters does not!). The small addition of this original ingredient makes a huge difference.
So how does one use these special limited edition bitters?
"Use it in anything that your fertile mind comes up with," says Joe Fee, part of the current generation of Fees. Brilliant! But use sparingly, even a drop can shape up a drab Manhattan, or even I am told a Margarita! I have added the product to my drink-o-the-season, the Appalachian which perfected it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Beer Soup!

'Tis the season for hearty soups and packing on our winter layers (yes, I mean pounds). Beer piques our palates as the weather grows colder, and what better way to enjoy it than as added depth of flavor in seasonal stews?
Here are a few rich a tasty options, from Eastern Europe to Mexico to the Midwest.

Bratwurst and Beer Stew

3 (12-ounce) bottles dark beer
2 pounds fresh bratwurst sausage links
4 slices bacon, sliced crosswise into thin strips
4 cups sliced onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup chicken stock
1 pound small red potatoes, halved
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch sticks
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Crusty bread, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour 2 bottles of the beer into a medium (oven-proof) Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Using a small knife or fork, pierce each sausage link several times. Add bratwurst links to the beer, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the sausages from the pan and set aside to cool slightly. Reserve the sausage-cooking liquid. Slice the sausage links into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
Add the bacon to the Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add the sliced bratwurst to the bacon drippings and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring often, until lightly brown and wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Stir in the reserved sausage-cooking liquid, the remaining bottle of beer, chicken stock, potatoes, carrots, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaf to the pot. Bring mixture to a boil, and cover.
Place the Dutch oven in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig. Stir the crispy bacon into the stew and serve hot with crusty bread.

Sausage 'n Stout Cheese Soup

4 potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups water
2 (12 fluid ounce) bottles cream stout beer
2 pounds kielbasa sausage, sliced thin
4 green onions, diced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1 pound shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups milk

Bring potatoes, water, and beer to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the sausage, green onions, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, mustard powder, and liquid smoke. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are completely tender, about 15 minutes.
When the potatoes are tender, stir in the Cheddar cheese until completely melted, then add the milk. Heat through, stirring until cheese has melted but do not boil.

Mexican Sausage Stew

1 tb Canola oil
1 Bottle Mexican beer
1 lb Beef brisket; cut into
1 c Water
1/2 lb Hot sausage; cut into chunks
1 Sweet potato; peeled, sliced
1 c Sliced onion
1 Box (10-oz) frozen corn
2 Cloves garlic; chopped
2 tb All purpose flour
1 ts Ground cinnamon
3/4 c Shredded Monterey Jack
1/2 ts Ground allspice
2 tb Chopped cilantro
1 cn (13-oz) beef broth

Heat oil in large dutch oven. Working in batches, saute brisket and sausage until browned, approx. 10 minutes. Transfer to plate. Add onions and garlic to drippings in pot, cook until tender, about 8 minutes, being careful NOT to burn the garlic. Stir in cinnamon and allspice, cook 1 minute. Return meat and sausage to pot. Reserve 1/4 cup beef broth. Stir in remaining broth, beer and water. Cover and simmer until meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Sitr in potatoes, cook until potatoes are tender, 15 minutes, stir in corn, heat through. Whisk flour and reserved 1/4 cup brothe in small bowl. Stir into pot. Cook stirring until thickened. To serve.... ladle stew into bowls. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons cheese. Garnish with cilantro, accompany with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Super Bon!: il Panettone

This famous Milanese Christmas cake is one of my favorite delicacies of the season!
It is available at most Italian markets/delis (and World Market), and keeps remarkably well. More of a sweet leavened bread studded with raisins and candied orange and lemon peel, Panettone is delicious alone, toasted with butter or lemon curd, ideal for french toast, or even used in turkey stuffing.. It is versatile and adds a festive punch to any recipe.

This year, I think I would like to try making my own with this recipe from ItalianMade, served the traditional way with Crema Di Mascarpone. Yum!

Keep an eye out for various Recettes Secrètes of mine throughout the season using Panettone!