Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Buvare: Parisian Popper

I am intrigued. I read about this curious shooter the Parisian Popper in a recent issue of the Fader. East Village bar Heathers (named after the owner, not the film) put the drink on their menu after a group of French visitors ordered it one night. The drink involves one can of Sofia (bubbly in a can) and a big shot of Patron silver tequila. You pour the Patron shot in a rocks glass, top it off with a sweet blast of Sofia, then slam the glass down against the bar, causing the whole thing to fizz over. Then you shoot the entire glass..
Takes me back to my college days hitting up some sad sports bar for "Thirsty Thursdays" $2.50 Mind Erasers before dancing the evening away at 80's night down the street..
Yes.. Still, I think the Parisian Popper could be a healthy upgrade!
Je bois a votre sante! (I drink to your health!)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Megan's Albondigas

The day after Christmas, my family got together with my brother-in-law's family to take my niece on a hay ride to view Christmas lights in Tucson's most notoriously lit-up neighborhood, fittingly called Winterhaven. My sister invited us over to their home for a light dinner beforehand, and the Albondigas she whipped up was probably the best I've ever had. Below is how she makes it..

Megan’s Albondigas
Okay- this is kind of a mix between tortilla soup and albondigas. Sometime I make it and just add shredded chicken instead of the meatballs and call it tortilla soup. It can be served over tortilla chips or just with warm fresh tortillas on the side. And any or all or none of the toppings can be used. Adjust everything to taste and add or subtract whatever sounds good to you…
PS… it keeps for at least a week and re-heats well…and freezes really well.

In a large pot…
Olive oil
1-2 white onions chopped (large pieces are fine)
3-4 carrots chopped (large pieces are fine)
Once the above are getting soft:
Add 3-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed or halved
1-2 tsp oregano (Mexican is best)
1-2 tsp (or more) New Mexico chili powder
1-2 tsp (or more) ground cumin
(can add any other Mexican spices if you want…cayenne, pato sauce etc)
Stir a bit more, then add:
½ -1 bunch cilantro (whole, stems and all)- reserve some for meatballs and topping too…
Chicken stock (as much broth as you want)- I do a huge pot and use 8-12 cups
1 can diced (or petite diced) tomatoes (optional)
1-2 limes juiced
Cover and let simmer for 20 min to 2 hours….

In a bowl, mix (but don’t over work)…
1 lb ground beef (or Turkey) – this will make about 4-6 servings, I usually do 2- 21/2 lbs and if I have extra, I can eat them later.
1-2 eggs (depending on amount of meat)
¾- 1 ½ cup dry bread crumbs (homemade, plain from can or Italian seasoned from can)
Ground cumin to taste (1 tsp or more)
Chili powder to taste (1 tsp or more)
Mex oregano to taste (1 tsp or more)
Pato sauce to taste (if you want it spicey)
Minced garlic to taste ( 1-4 cloves)
Minced cilantro and/or Italian parsley ( half cup?)
Lime juice to taste (a squeeze or so)
Salt and pepper to taste (or garlic salt or whatever you want to add)
If you want- make a small patty (a tablespoon or so) of the mixture and cook it up on high heat for a minute or so in a small fry pan to taste and see if seasoning need adjustment.

Once mixed, form into uniform size balls- a few larger ones, or lots of little ones…and place on ungreased bar pan (Stone with sides). Cook in oven at 375 until browned maybe 20 minutes or more. You don’t need to turn them if you cook them in the stone. When done, drain on paper towels.
When stock is ready, strain into a new pot (or bowl and then back into original pot). SAVE the carrots if they are still somewhat hard (if they are mushy-discard). If saving the carrots, dice them into smaller bite size pieces and put back in the broth. If the carrots are mush…dice a few new uncooked carrots into bite sizes and add to stock and simmer till tender.

Soup- add to stock
Black beans (optional- to taste)
Corn (optional to taste)
Zucchini and/or yellow squash cut up (how ever much you want)
1 more can diced tomatoes (strained- or fresh diced tomatoes)
1 small can green chilis (optional- I didn’t have these that night, sometimes I add them)
Cooked rice –
(Now…I usually cook my rice separately before hand and then add it to the soup. You CAN add it uncooked to the soup and let it cook in the soup.. BUT it will use a cup or two of your broh, so if you add it uncooked, you may want to add more chicken stock). Sometimes I will add some of the cooked rice to the meatballs too!
I have also in a pinch used a diced potato or two in place of rice (cooked either before or cooked right in the soup).
Simmer until all the veggies are tender and you are ready to serve. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Add more Pato or other hot sauce if you want more kick.

Optional toppings:
Shredded cheddar or mex mix cheese
Crumbled Cojita cheese
Lime wedges
Sour cream
Minced Cilantro
Pato/hot sauce
Tortilla chips
Warm tortillas
[That's totally not my photo]

Croquer: Babette's Feast

This Friday 1/9, The French Laundry's metropolitan sibling Per Se is recreating the famous indulgent meal from the climax of the 1987 Danish film Babette's Feast for A-list NYC diners (at $3,500 per person they'd have to be - I hear Martha Stewart will be in attendance).
The post about it on Tasting Table caught me by surprise.. For two reasons. One, Babette's Feast was the first foreign film I ever saw, with my parents when I was probably all of 10. I remember salivating when Babette, the Parisian chef in hiding finally served the bleak Danish townsfolk her marvelous [and sinful] meal. So the other day at Amoeba when I saw a used copy of the film I couldn't resist revisiting a classic. The second reason the timing is bizarre, just LAST NIGHT I finally picked up the memoir "Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter" by Phoebe Damrosch which I bought a month or so ago, which documents the misadventures of the first female captain at one of New York Citys most prestigious restaurants, Per Se...
If you do happen to have $3,500 handy, here's the info on the dinner:
Friday, 1/9
6 p.m.
Babette's Feast at Per Se
In what might be the most expensive dinner-and-a-movie ever, Per Se will screen the famous food-lover's film, then re-create the movie's decadent feast. The admission price ($3,500 a person or $6,000 for two) benefits the Allow Theater Company.
Per Se, 10 Columbus Circle; http://www.alloytheater.org/ or call 917-319-8109 for tickets
[via Tasting Table]

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

En Vitesse: Kraft holiday ads circa 1986

Thanks for this Paul, it brought back a flood of memories.. Every year my sister and I would watch our cruddily taped-off-TV VHS copy of Jim Hensen's "A Christmas Toy", complete with these amazing Kraft commercials... Enjoy!

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!