Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Beth's Corn Puddin'

My cousin Beth might be one of the funniest people I know. She also mans a Thanksgiving kitchen like nobody's business. The several years I've spent Thanksgiving at her brother's home up the road in Sherman Oaks have been some of my tastiest. Turkey wrapped in woven bacon is truly a scrumptious sight to behold (and taste!), not to mention candied sweet potatoes with melted See's butterscotch kisses on top...

Apparently my sister's good friend Abby has even adopted one of Beth's famous side dish recipes and makes it every year the night before Thanksgiving at my sister's home, a tradition they now refer to as "Pies, Puddin' and Wine". The puddin' refers to Beth's Corn Puddin' - what she calls "major comfort food!" And what better time of year for it?

Corn Puddin'

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 beaten egg
1 stick melted butter
1 each- canned cream corn and canned kernel corn (liquid included)
8 oz sour cream

Mix all together. Pour into a lightly sprayed casserole. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. May have to cook longer if you use a deeper dish. Will be a bit soft in the middle but will set up upon cooling a bit.


P.S. I check the temp of the pudding in the middle with a knife and my finger...if it isnt really hot, I sometimes bake another 5-10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Buvare?: Chewable Cocktails

Could it be true? A revival of solid booze?
Bless Tasting Table New York and NY Times for tipping me off on this trendy new movement. But we're not talking your average dimestore jell-o shot.. From absinthe-flavored gummi bears and Ramos gin fizz mashmallows (Eben Freeman of Tailor's "Solids") to strawberry-flavored vodka and Chambord jam on warm baguette ("French Toast" by Thierry Hernandez of Benoit) I would say the emerging examples raise the bar a notch. Or three.

The best part? Here's a recipe for you to attempt the much-lauded Pumpkin Pie Shot concocted by Eric Hara of davidburke & donatella - just in time for Thanksgiving! I'm definitely trying it.. Let's swap notes after the holiday on whose grandma got more wasted!

Pumpkin Pie Jell-O Shots
Makes 8 pies

8 Keebler mini graham-cracker piecrusts
1 envelope Knox gelatin
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 tablespoon cold heavy cream
Fresh whipped cream, for serving

1. Arrange the piecrusts on a baking sheet. Place 1 cup cold water in the top of a double boiler and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let stand for three minutes.
2. Heat the gelatin mixture over a gentle simmer until the granules have dissolved. Add the pumpkin, sugar and spices and heat, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin and sugar are completely melted. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the vodka with 1/4 cup cold water and the heavy cream. Whisk in the pumpkin mixture and immediately divide it among the piecrusts. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours. Slice the pies into wedges, if desired, top with whipped cream and serve.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Beer Brussels Sprouts

Just in time for Thanksgiving!
Cook time: 20 minutes
6 servings

2 tablespoons good olive oil
6 ounces Italian pancetta, or applewood-smoked bacon 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 12oz can lager beer

Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan and add the pancetta. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is golden brown and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Meanwhile heat the beer and about a cup of water in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, add the sprouts and quickly return to a boil. Cook uncovered for 3-5 minutes. Drain.

Add the Brussels sprouts, salt, and pepper to the fat in the saute pan and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the raisins and brown sugar. Lower the heat and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. If the skillet becomes too dry, add a little water. Return the pancetta to the pan, heat through, season to taste, and serve.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Buvare: Applejack

Last Halloween, saddled up at the cozy bar inside Freemans, I fell in love. My drink contained Applejack, a colonial "cyder spirit" from Laird & Company that Johnny Appleseed himself once taught his congregations along the Ohio River Valley how to produce. Technically an apple brandy, when mixed Applejack can take on more of a caramelly bourbon role. Try it on the rocks with rye whiskey, in place of brandy in your favorite cocktails or on its own. Lately I've been enjoying mine like this..


2 oz Applejack
2 oz Knob Creek Kentucky straight bourbon
2 dashes Fee’s Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters
¾ oz unpasteurized apple cider

Pour the Applejack and bourbon into an old fashioned glass, add bitters, then two or three ice cubes, and top with apple cider. Stir gently.

Other delicious Applejack cocktails from some inspired mixologists..

New York Trading Company
from William Tigertt, owner of Freemans (NYC)

2 oz Applejack
½ oz simple syrup
¾ oz Velvet Falernum
¾ oz lime juice

Shake together all ingredients and strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a bitters-soaked apple wedge.
“Applejack is a great fall liquor that blends really well. We mixed it up a bit and added Velvet Falernum, which is a sugarcane liquor that gives it some spiciness and complexity. The bitters on the apple slice soak into the drink as you sip it, adding more complexity.”

Northern Spy
from Josey Packard of Alembic (San Francisco)

2 ounces Applejack
1 ounce fresh apple cider (flash-pasteurized is okay, but no preservatives!)
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
¼ - ½ ounce apricot brandy, to taste, depending on brand*

Shake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass that’s been rimmed with cinnamon sugar. Top with champagne, if you like (be sure to goose up the sweetness a little to compensate for the extra acidity), and for the holiday go ahead and garnish with a cranberry.
* or pimento dram, or ginger liqueur, or ……

Applejack Old Fashioned
from Misty Kalkofen of Green Street (Cambridge, Mass.)

1 tsp (or to taste) real maple syrup
2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Aromatic Bitters*
2 ounces Applejack

Build in an old fashioned glass. Give a little stir, a big chunk or two of ice, another little stir, then garnish if you like.
* If you can’t find the barrel-aged bitters, then Fee’s Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters will do (or, Angostura in a pinch). But really the Whisky Barrel Aged Bitters is an exceptionally fine product. If you can’t find it where you live, give the good folks at Fee’s a call and see if you can order some — they’re really worth the effort.

Another delicious apple brandy comes from Clear Creek Distillery in Portland (be sure to stop into their tasting room when in NW Ptown), which my favorite bartender utilized in nailing the perfect Fall cocktail..

Autumn Leaves
from Jeffrey Morgenthaler, head bartender at Bel Ami (Eugene, OR)

¾ oz Wild Turkey rye
¾ oz Clear Creek apple brandy
¾ oz Carpano Antica Formula vermouth
¼ oz Strega
2 dashes cinnamon tincture*
1 large strip orange peel

Stir ingredients over cracked ice. Strain into an ice-filled old fashioned glass and garnish with orange peel.
*To make cinnamon tincture, soak 4 ounces whole cinnamon sticks in 16 oz grain alcohol for three weeks. Strain solids and bottle.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Los Días de la Vida

El Dia de los Muertos may just be my favorite holiday. The sentiment surfaced when I was living up in the NW where my withdrawl of Sonoran Mexican culture would pang most around the Day of the Dead. Every year since then I have tried to do something to celebrate the life in death, the Mexican way - be it an all-out fiesta or a simple altar of ofrendas in my home. Since living in LA, I've discovered the rich and vibrant cultural events that span the first several days of November, which seem more like Los Días de la Vida than Los Muertos to me.
While I attended Hollywood Forever's massive festival on Saturday Nov. 1 for the second year in a row, I found the crowds and queues more daunting than the rewards of the event. The vibe is invigorating and the costumes incredible, but it was the exceptional food and art of Festival de la Gente on Sunday afternoon that hit the spot for me.
It was there that I enjoyed the best pupusa I've ever had - spicy carnitas covered a seasoned pork and cheese pupusa, fresh from the grill and then topped with spicy marinated cabbage, cilantro, several salsas and crema Mexicana. INCREDIBLE!
A festive display of aguas frescas, but I went with a strawberry horchata to tame the fire from the carnitas.
An ofrenda of a Virgin Mary Pan de muerto.
And what luck - the 4th Annual East LA Tamale Festival was happening the SAME DAY. So, I popped down to MacArthur Park where the café-cum-community-building-project and self-proclaimed "tamale capitol of the world" Mama's Hot Tamales hosts the event.
Still full from the pupusa, I enjoyed a delicious champurrado and a "scenic" stroll along MacArthur Lake to attempt working up an appetite.
I stopped at the first tent where smiling ladies sold me a delicious steaming chicken tamale with mole negro, then headed over to Mama's to see what International delights she had on the menu.
Mama's angle, rather than focus on one region's cuisine, is to showcase recipes from the women who have come through her program from all over Latin America. Mama trains these pupils how to serve fresh food to the public, and thus helps create jobs in the community (read more here). Of the variety offered Sunday, I tried the decent El Salvador chicken which had a mild red sauce, bell peppers and potatoes inside a white masa tamale. It was the Honduras tamale though, made with chicken, olives, raisins, potatoes and rice that tantalized my tastebuds.

I already can't wait until next year. To tide me over, I think I may need to attempt my first-ever tamale making assembly line this New Year's Eve.. I'll keep you posted on that!

Recettes Secrètes: Pumpkin Choco-chunk Bread

2 c. flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 c. mashed cooked fresh pumpkin
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. oil
6 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices until well blended; set aside. Beat eggs, pumpkin, sugars, milk and oil in large bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Add dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Stir in chopped chocolate.
Pour into greased 9x5-inch loaf pan.
Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack. Cut into 18 (1/2-inch thick) slices to serve.

For easier slicing, wrap bread in plastic wrap and store overnight before cutting into slices.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

En Vitesse: In the Hamburger Patch

I've said it before and I'll say it again.
I love a perfect burger.
Yes, I love hamburgers SO much, I would steal them.
Sooo I had to be this guy for Halloween:

But if you REALLY want to be scared, check this out!
WTH!?! (Thanks for the tip Marni!)