Showing posts with label megan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label megan. Show all posts

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gala Parfait: Tiki Party

Tiki has become something special to me over the years.
It is not just a kitschy party theme, type of cloyingly sweet drank, or dive bar category. Bizarrely enough it's filed alongside heavyweights like Christmas and New Year's as an important family tradition. Yes, my parents, sister and I do Tiki. And if I do say so myself, we do it damn well.

Initially, the end of summer Tiki Party at my parents' home in Tucson was a heavily-anticipated annual celebration. A break from large family gatherings brimming with kids ("we love your keikis, but this one is for adults"), and the rare party to really have a focus on drinking. Since I was college-aged when the Tiki Party debuted, I was not only surprised by this, but fully on board! Each year seemed to one-up the prior, adding a pit-roasted whole pig, ukelele orchestra, and even tradition hula dancers in full garb. It was a fantastic tradition.

Then one year the invite never went out. Then another year. The masses were restless, when would there be another Tiki Party? I tried to sate myself in California with regular visits to Tiki Ti, Tonga Room, Trader Sam's and with a big fat Tiki episode on my podcast The Table Set, but it wasn't enough. Once I found out my sister Megan missed it as much as me we conspired to convince my parents by any means necessary to bring it back.

Then this year... we finally succeeded.

It's always a whirlwind driving home to Arizona and jumping in to the preparations. It's also always startling opening the fridge in the garage to see Laura Palmer as a pig, awaiting the sacrificial pyre.

Day of, first thing's first - Get that pig going. It takes all afternoon to get a proper tender slow-cooked Kalua-style pig.

The photo opp murals Megan painted are always a hit.

And while the tables are set, I have my hands full with another task.

Shocking, I know - I manage the bar. With the addition of the bamboo tiki hut-style bar this year, things got serious.

Selecting a menu is hardly an easy task. Each year we debate, recounting drink popularity from the previous parties. The true Mai Tai is our collective favorite, but seems to be too boozy for our guests, as we always have the most leftover of it. The Blue Hawaiian is garish, but always a winner. We pre-mix everything in large batches as well, so the recipe has to work in that format - and some ingredients, such as bitters, intensify over time. This year I decided to select all new drinks; Classics that cover very different flavor profiles as well as liquor variety. No need to be rum snobs - It's just not for everybody.

In lieu of the signature Mai Tai I went out on a limb with South Pacific Punch, a potent blend of dark and light rums, fresh orange and lime juices, Falernum and passion fruit syrup. Not for the faint of heart, I think the profile of the spicy Falernum is what set this drink apart.

To satisfy the sweet drink lovers, instead of a neon blue concoction (I just can't get down with Blue Curaçao) I opted for the popular Chi Chi, a vodka-based riff on the Piña Colada with coconut cream, pineapple juice and a dust of nutmeg. Sometimes simplicity is best.

For the first time we introduced a bourbon-based tiki drink, which turned out to be the crowd favorite, the ominous-sounding Polynesian Paralysis. Akin to a Hawaiian-style Mai Tai, this one blends pineapple and citrus juices with orgeat, which marry nicely with the bourbon for a dangerously smooth sipper.

We always try to think of creative ways to keep designated drivers and non-drinkers in on the fun, and this year hibiscus lemonade and tropical iced tea just wasn't going to cut it, so I whipped up a non-alcoholic tiki classic Rainbow Punch. Here pineapple, orange, and lime juices are blended with grenadine, soda, and bitters for a well-disguised virgin.

It was an exhausting night of shaking drinks, so I was happy to have some relief long enough to get in on the Kalua pig and Polynesian potluck before it was all gone.

Perlana, one of the "best dressed" winners enjoys a Chi Chi.

Yes, no matter how much math and careful planning goes into our batch drink making, we always over-do it and have SO much leftover. Not a huge complaint, but it suffices to say that Tiki Party turns into Tucson Tiki WEEK. Aw well, maybe we'll get it right next year... Oh yes, there will be a next year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Croquer: Culver's

I had never heard of Culver's until last week when I was in Phoenix with my sister and their frozen custard came up.
"Frozen woohoo??" I asked, the very combination of the words "frozen" and "custard" making my taste buds wave like a field of wheat. Within minutes we were en route, and Megan gave me the back story.
In 1984, a Wisconsin family - the Culvers - re-opened a former A&W root beer stand and christened it “Culver’s Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers.” They selected only the freshest ingredients, prepared each meal exactly to a guest’s order and delivered it to their table with a great big smile. The concept quickly caught on and they’ve been "Culverizing" people with their midwest charm ever since. Today, the family own six Culver’s and oversee more than 370 franchised restaurants in 17 states - Arizona happens to be one of them (in fact, Phoenix is the only city west of middle America that has Culver's).
Their unique twists on the conventional ice cream/burger stand business are what impress me. Who hungry for greasy sandwich could resist something called a ButterBurger? Who has ever heard of frozen custard? More importantly, what does it taste like??The frozen custard comes traditionally in vanilla or chocolate, with a rotating flavor of the day (and yes, it's different every single day of the month - from Butter Brickle to Double Marshmallow Oreo to Bananas Foster to Georgia Peach). Our flavor of the day - Butter Pecan (yum). I opted for a double scoop of the Butter Pecan and Chocolate. My niece Maddie got a Concrete Mixer (their Blizzard) of vanilla custard and mini m&ms.
The first thing I noticed upon first bite was the incredible texture. This is easily the smoothest frozen treat you'll ever taste. Not as heavy as the name implies, both flavor and body are incredibly light and silky. The chocolate isn't overly sweet, like a creamier Wendy's Frosty. The Butter Pecan had great full flavor with large chunks of fresh sweet pecans.
Ah yes, this is indulgent Americana fast food I can enjoy.
Check out the locator to see if there's a Culver's near you. But I'm afraid for guilty-pleasure frosty treats us west-coasters are going to have to stick with ye ol' Foster's Freeze or Yogurtland..
waiting for ice cream is such a drag...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Carnish Culture: No Reservations

Scoma's Lazy Man's Cioppino
(Serves 4 - 6 people)

1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 cups fish stock or clam juice
6 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
1 lb rock cod cut into 1" cubes
1.5 lbs Manila clams
12oz prawns (deveined and peeled)
1 lb cooked crab meat
8oz bay shrimp
12oz scallops
Salt and pepper

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook garlic for one minute.
2. Add the onions and let them sweat for two or three minutes.
3. Turn heat to high and add the wine to deglaze. Cook for 2-3 minutes (or until reduced in half) then reduce heat to medium.
4. Add fresh oregano and basil.
5. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
6. Slowly add fish, shellfish, and shrimp meat.
7. Bring the cioppino back to a boil and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until all the seafood is cooked.
8. Add cooked crab meat.
9. Thin the cioppino to your liking with fish stock or clam juice.
10. Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper.
11. Serve in a large bowl with fresh sourdough bread and enjoy!

This dish is a natural with most kinds of pasta such as linguine, angel hair, fettuccini or penne.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Buvare: Crawford Malone Wine Tasting

Another great post from my sister Megan! This food-paired wine tasting in Tucson featuring some big California wines (including several from Santa Ynez haunt Fess Parker) made me extremely jealous!
Last Sunday I left the girls with my mother-in-law for a much needed afternoon break. I met Mom and Dad for a fun Sunday afternoon leisurely tasting wines and food pairings at a popular Sunday event at Elle Wine Country Restaurant, one of Tucson’s premier wine restaurants. The tasting was centered around a selection of Crawford Malone wines. Here's what we had!
Swanson Pinot Grigio (lychee, grapefruit, lemon zest, pear) – Paired with petite crab cakes topped with cream sauce and roasted red pepper coulis

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier (ruby grapefruit, pear, lychee, melon, spicy white florals) – Paired with a chilled chop salad of poached shrimp, sweet corn, black beans, red bell pepper and cilantro

Wente “Riva Ranch” Chardonnay (honey, graham, cinnamon, light floral notes) – Paired with a water cracker topped with a wedge of smoked trout with a sour cream aioli

Fess Parker “Ashley’s Vineyard” Chardonnay (pineapple, citrus, pear, vanilla, spice) – Paired with tender bites of spicy seasoned/breaded chicken thighs served with a sweet orange chili dipping sauce
Fess Parker Pinot Noir (black cherry, forest floor, cola, black currant, chocolate, nutmeg) – Paired with a shredded duck, crunchy wild rice, and slivered almond salad seasoned with a hint of Chinese 5 spice, served room temperature
Fess Parker “Frontier Red” (huckleberry, boysenberry, smoke, vanilla, cedar, spice) – Paired with a juicy angus beef slider topped with applewood smoked bacon and fried red onion rings
Wente “Sandstone” Merlot (blackberry, spice, licorice, tobacco) – Paired with slow roasted and caramelized onions and a home made basil chicken sausage
Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon (blueberry, red cherry, coffee bean, caramel, baked fruit, black tea, toasty oak) – Paired with roulade of flank steak and sweet pepper chimichurri sauce, grilled medium rare

Elle Wine Country Restaurant
3048 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85716-5314
(520) 327-0500

Monday, July 27, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Thai Coconut Lime Pops

Here's a goodie from my sister Megan. Her popsicle molds were from Bed Bath and Beyond and have cool little spouts for sipping the melted bits at the bottom. If you don't have molds, just use little cups with wood sticks or simply ice cube trays with plastic wrap and tooth picks or cut-down wood skewers.

14-ounce can of coconut milk
zest of 1 lime
juice of 2 limes
1/4-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (to taste)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup diced pineapple

Puree coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice and sugar in blender. Then stir in 1/4 cup shredded coconut. Pour into molds. Finely dice canned pineapple to equal approx 1/3 cup. Sprinkle the pineapple into the popsicle mixture (in molds) will slowly sink to even distribute itself within the mixture. Insert sticks. Freeze for several hours until firm.

Enjoy on a hot summer's day!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Paper Bag Asparagus

My sister Megan made this interesting preperation of asparagus the other night, so I had her snap some pictures and send the recipe. This method "steams" the asparagus but without water which helps keep its vivid color. So simple and looks delicious!

1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 lemon, sliced paper thin
1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get a paper shopping bag large enough to hold the asparagus comfortably. Place the asparagus inside and drizzle outside of the bag with olive oil (will keep it from burning). Sprinkle the asparagus with salt and pepper and cover with lemon slices and the bay leaf. Close the bag, folding it over several times and creasing the folds well to hold the steam in. Set the bag on a baking sheet and drizzle with more olive oil to saturate. Place the sheet in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove sheet from the oven and set on the stove beside a serving plate. Using a kitchen towel or tongs with a pair of durable kitchen shears, cut the bag open very carefully so as not to burn yourself on the steam. Slide the asparagus out onto the plate. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gala Parfait: Mother's Day Brunch

I had the pleasure this year of spending Mother's Day in my hometown with my family, especially excited to be near my sister and week-old niece. Brunch was the first event scheduled, though I was "informed" that the menu had already been selected by the moms while watching the Food Network the week prior. Though I was happy to prepare the southern brunch spread selected from Down Home with the Neelys, my sister and inspired chef Megan (only a week after giving birth) was DYING to get back into the kitchen. Together we prepared the feast of Peach Fritters with Orange Glaze, Eggs Benedict on a Sausage Croquette, fresh fruit salad, and Morning Glory cocktail (sparkling wine, splashes of Cointreau, cherry brandy and fresh pine-orange juices).

Peach Fritters with Orange Glaze

1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can peach halves in syrup, drained
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish

Heat deep-fryer to 350 degrees F (I used a candy thermometer in a deep saucepan with oil).
Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Remove 3 peach halves from can and cut into small cubes.
In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, butter, cubed peaches, and almond extract. Add wet mixture to dry and stir well until combined.Using a small ice cream scoop, drop batter into the hot oil. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Remove when fritter begins to float.Lay on a paper towel lined sheet tray. Sprinkle immediately with confectioners' sugar. Place on platter and serve with Orange Glaze.
Orange Glaze:

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

In a large bowl add the confectioners' sugar and drizzle in the orange juice while whisking.

Eggs Benedict on a Sausage Croquette
makes 6 servings

1 pound country pork sausage
3 baked potatoes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley leaves
Vegetable oil, for pan-frying

Hollandaise Sauce:
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash hot sauce
2 tablespoons chopped chives

6 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
1-2 large tomatoes, sliced thickly

In a heavy bottom skillet, brown sausage over medium heat. Add a little oil to the bottom of the pan if it sticks, add a little oil and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook until all the pink is gone. With a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the skillet into a bowl.
Remove the inside of the potatoes and place a bowl with the Parmesan. Mash with a potato masher until they are smooth. Add the egg, sour cream, 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, and season with salt and pepper. Add sausage to the bowl with the potatoes and mix well.
With your hands, divide the pork mixture into 1/4 cup portions and flatten so that each croquette is about 1/2-inch thick.
Add 1 cup panko bread crumbs to a 13 by 9-inch casserole dish and add chopped parsley and stir to combine. Dredge croquettes through the panko mixture and repeat.
Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the croquettes and saute until golden brown and crisp, about 6minutes per side. Hold in a 200 degrees F oven while you prepare the eggs and hollandaise.For the Hollandaise Sauce:
Add yolks, mustard and heavy cream to a blender. Blend until the egg yolks look light yellow and foamy about 1 minute. Keeping the blender on, slowly stream in the melted butter, making sure it emulsifies fully. Keep blending and add a pinch of salt and pepper, lemon juice, cayenne and hot sauce. Blend again until fully incorporated, then add chives at very end. Keep warm.

For the eggs:
Poach eggs in shallow simmering water in a wide pan or dutch oven (be sure to add vinegar to water to help eggs hold their shape). When the yolks are set but not firm (about 3 minutes), transfer eggs to a cold water bath in a casserole dish to stop them cooking. Continue until all eggs are set. Return cooled poached eggs to heated water quickly just before serving to rewarm.

Lay a handful of baby spinach on the serving dish and top with sausage croquette. Top croquette with a large tomato slice and poached egg, season with salt and pepper, then ladle over the hollandaise sauce. Garnish with leftover chopped chives.
Serve immediately.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Super Bon!: زعتر‎ (Za'atar)

I've definitely mentioned my sister Megan's culinary prowess before, most recently the menu/recipes for her elaborate Southeastern Asian party spread. Here she guest-writes about her new favorite condiment (which I can't wait to try).

Last season on Top Chef, I remember a specific episode when one of the chefs had to re-create a fish dish that involved a piece of fish “blackened in za’atar”. I had never heard of the spice before (even the chef was not familiar cooking with the spice), but it looked great.
Then, this past weekend I was at the Canelo Hills Wine and Farm Festival in Sonoita, Arizona, where there was a woman selling spice blends that she put together herself. As I browsed of the little baggies of spices, one in particular caught my eye… Za’atar!
After the woman explained to me, all about this Middle Eastern blend and how to use it…I was sold! The next day I started doing some research about it and tried it in simple recipes.
As it turns out, za'atar is a very cool, exotic blend with a great history, that tastes great on just about everything! Here is some more information on what exactly it is, how you can make your own, and most importantly what to eat it on… Enjoy!

Za'atar (Arabic: زعتر‎), also spelled satar, zahatar, zahtar, or zatr, is a condiment made from a mixture of herbs and spices with Middle Eastern origins. Based on Syrian Hyssop which grows wild in the region (likely the hyssop referenced in the Bible; reminiscent of marjoram, thyme or oregano), za'atar has been used along with other spiced salts as a staple in Arab cuisine since medieval times.
Za’atar is also often known for increasing mental acuity! In Lebanon, there is a belief that this particular spice mixture makes the mind alert and the body strong. For this reason, children are encouraged to eat a za'atar sandwich for breakfast or before an exam. Maimonides (Rambam), a medieval rabbi and physician who lived in North Africa and Egypt, also prescribed za'atar for its health advancing properties.
The most common preparation involves using ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt. Some varieties may add savory, cumin, coriander, fennel seed or sumac. Each Middle Eastern country has their signature spice added to the core recipe; for example: Lebanese Za'atar adds orange zest, Syrian Za'atar adds cumin and paprika, North African Za'atar adds marjoram, Jordanian Za'atar has spearmint and Israeli Za'atar adds dill weed. Due to these slight differences in recipe, the taste of a za'atar mixture can be tangy, herbal, lemony, nutty, or toasty.
Za'atar is a spice blend that is incredibly versatile. It is used as a seasoning for meats and vegetables as well as rice and breads. It can be mixed with olive oil to make a spread called za'atar-wu-zayt as a dip for the sesame bread rings known as ka'ak. Za'atar can also be spread on a dough base and baked as a bread, in which case it is called manaeesh bi zaatar. It can be sprinkled on labneh (yogurt that has been drained until it becomes a tangy, creamy cheese). In Israel, it is often used on pizza, and is commonly distributed in packets along with a delivered pizza.
So far my favorite use is to make a slurry of Chef’s Choice salted butter, good olive oil and the za’atar. I then slather it on a piece of Mediterranean flat bread or pita bread, and toast in toaster oven. It comes out hot, bubbly, lightly toasted and oh so good. It is a great way to really taste the za’atar flavors.A few more cooking suggestions include: Blacken chicken with a layer of za’atar and coarse salt; Sprinkle it on salty white cheeses such as feta or Balkan and drizzle with olive oil, add some olives, tomatoes, and eat with a pita; Season fresh salads; Add to bread dough before baking; Rub salmon or halibut with it before grilling; Mix into your bagel’s cream cheese or even your scrambled eggs.

• 1/4 cup sumac
• 2 tablespoons thyme
• 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
• 2 tablespoons marjoram
• 2 tablespoons oregano
• 1 teaspoon coarse salt

Grind the sesame seeds in food processor or with mortar and pestle. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
Store za'atar in a cool, dark place in a plastic zip bag or an airtight container. Usually keeps 3-6 months. Many recommend keeping it in the freezer to increase shelf-life, as many seeds (like nuts) can spoil quickly.