Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday spirit, eggnog and peppermint cocktails:

Legend has it that when David was a child, he had a memorable encounter with store bought eggnog. While shopping with his mother during the holidays, he spied a carton in the dairy case, and asked if they could purchase the stuff. "You're not going to like it". She told him. David, feeling contrary, pestered her relentlessly while she attempted the rest of her shopping.

She finally gave in, but made him promise to drink all of it if he was so sure he wanted it.

After they got home, she poured him a nice big glass of eggnog. He took one swig, and decided that she was right; he didn't like it after all.

He tried to beg off drinking the rest, but his mom was not having it--she reminded him of the conditions under which she bought the carton. David decided that he wasn't going to drink it, even if he had promised. So he just sat there, staring at the glass of gradually warming eggnog. David can be very patient. I imagine he thought he could wait this out.

His mother's solution? To set the kitchen timer for half an hour. By the time it had gone off, she said, David had to finish his glass, or he would be in big trouble. It ended with a sorry scene of David, tears running down his face, trying in vain to choke down now lukewarm eggnog.

This was in the '80's, where consumers and companies were not nearly as conscientious about additives, preservatives and stabilizers, so I don't doubt that whatever eggnog David spied really was vile. And no, his mother had a heart and didn't make him finish his glass once the timer was up.

However, not all eggnogs are created equal.

Horizon makes a great eggnog that you can probably still get on the shelves if you are quick. With real nutmeg, great flavor and zero chance of food poisoning from raw egg (yay), it's perfect to make an eggnog cocktail. We also added caramel alcohol infused whipped cream, which Maureen thoughtfully gave us for Christmas.

eggnog cocktail:

1.5 oz. 100 proof bourbon

1.5 oz. Frangelico

3 oz. Horizon eggnog

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake like crazy. Pour into martini glass and garnish with caramel cream and nutmeg.

And what to do with your abundance of leftover candy canes? Why not take some of those leftover holiday frustrations and pulverize them to create a refreshing rim on a candy cane concoction with rumplemintz, vodka, white chocolate liqueur and half and half?

Pulverize candy cane with mortar and pestle. Coat the rim of a small glass in the candy cane dust.


1 oz. vodka

1 oz. white chocolate liqueur

1.5 oz. half and half

1 oz. Rumplemintz

Combine ingredients in cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Garnish with mini candy cane and a little vanilla whipped cream.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Four Roses:

Kentucky is a bourbon mecca. A menagerie of distilleries and bourbon bars. A bourbon mountain, if you will. Though the options were plentiful, we decided to focus our energy on one distillery in particular--Four Roses.

I was first referred to Four Roses through Cork N Bottle's management, who have some of the finest bourbon selections in their store in the area. For a long time, Four Roses was export only, but now, we're lucky to have full access to almost all their bourbons.

Though we've used the small batch as a mixer, we are pretty partial to the single barrel. I've used it in everything from drinks, to panna cotta, to mashed sweet potatoes. The single barrel takes a unique barrel's characteristics and presents them beautifully. While Four Roses marries their small batch from a variety of single barrels to obtain the optimum balanced flavor, the individuality of the single barrel is what we love about it.

We'll be posting about some holiday bourbon cocktails next (including an anecdote about David's first and traumatic experience with store bought eggnog as a child), but here's some pictures of our jaunt through Four Roses distillery on vacation.

As Four Roses was exported for a long time, signs in multiple languages welcome foreign visitors. Our tour guide was very amused at myself and a tourist from Switzerland, with our Canon and Nikon, snapping away furiously during the distillery tour.

I felt bad for a few people from Atlanta. Even though the temperature was near freezing, the man of the group for some reason decided to wear shorts that day. It was hot and steamy in the distillery, though, which offered some reprieve for those used to warmer climates. The tourist from Switzerland, of course, was dressed appropriately for the weather.

Finished product

Wild Turkey warehouses across the street

watch your head, David

heads and tails

I wore my goofy hat all around Louisville, including our trip to the distillery

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

If you wish to make an Italian feast from scratch, you must first invent the universe:

I was six hours into cooking, and I still had 3 recipes left to go. Frowning at the recipes taped on the cabinets in the kitchen, I crossed another off the list and set the dish aside. I sighed and looked at the cat. In that second, the pot of milk and heavy cream I was heating became possessed and started to boil over. I ran it over to the sink and tried not to burn myself. I looked back at the cat, who was looking suspiciously amused as he sniffed the spilled dairy on the floor. With only 3 recipes to go, I was too far in to turn back now.

The plan

When David takes his monthly trip up to Michigan for his job, I usually take the time I have to myself to relax for a few days, and make a nice dinner for his return. I'd already tackled an Indian meal, an elaborate dinner from Findlay Market, and a from scratch pizza.

I wanted to up the ante a little and make something more involved. After a few hours on tastespotting, I decided I wanted to revisit the Italian theme. But this time, I was not stopping at pizza. David likes Italian, but his main complaint is that at some restaurants the giant brick of lasagna that's served is simply too heavy. So the solution there? Italian, tapas style.
In addition to making lots of small dishes, for some naive reason I began to regret later, I enthusiastically decided I was going to do things the hard way. As I compiled recipes and made a Gantt chart, I realized that I simply didn't have enough time to make them all once I got home from work.

So I did the logical thing. I scheduled a personal day.

Fortified with a large dose of caffeine, I began the first recipe candying the orange peels for dessert--a layered bourbon vanilla nutella panna cotta made with kefir accented by candied orange.

I started the panna cotta next, to give it plenty of time to set. I adapted this recipe for kefir panna cotta to make it, making the vanilla bourbon layer first, then the nutella layer and using the freezer to set one layer before adding the next.

presenting: vanilla bourbon nutella panna cotta with kefir
Next, I cut tomatoes and prepped them for roasting for the roasted tomato marinara sauce for the lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan.

Yes, I used David's Global chef knife. Don't tell him, OK?

After roasting, I combined the ingredients and left them to simmer for most of the afternoon, while babysitting my orange peels.

I made ricotta cheese. It was actually very easy, but I was still absurdly proud of my accomplishment. While the cheese was draining, I made Parmesan meatballs and stuck them in the oven.

I then started on the pasta. We don't have a pasta roller, but I figured a rolling pin would do the job. Wrong. Making pasta without a pasta roller is a real pain. Roll until you think it's thin enough, then keep rolling. And then roll some more. It was still rather thick pasta, but it had a nice texture.

Next, the oven went up to 450 to roast chickpeas.

I discovered the cat loves chickpeas. Just plain out of the can. He goes absolutely bonkers for them.

The lasagna itself is made in the jumbo muffin tin, adapted from this recipe. It makes nicely sized portions that can be frozen and are perfect for leftovers.

As the lasagna cooled, I started the chicken Parmesan nuggets, and prepped the mozzarella zucchini bites, which David declared to be the best zucchini appetizer ever.

Even with the small sizes of the dishes, we had a ton of delicious leftovers all week. At the end of the evening, I was left with a new found appreciation of how difficult it can be to cook from scratch. No wonder lasagna prep used to be an all day event. It really takes all day to make.

My day of cooking really highlighted to me how lucky some of us are to have the luxury of going out to the store and buying those things (if we so choose), and how easily we can take something simple, like pasta, for granted. I never will again.
My arms were sore from rolling out dough for days.

the simplest dish like the concept of lasagna, has an elaborate recipe underpinning