Wednesday, December 23, 2009

el elevado

For last week's TDN the theme was, well, there was no theme, it was a free for all where you could use any ingredients.  It was called "Retro", I gathered because back when they first started before I began playing along they had no themes.  Here was my first offering:
el elevado
  • 2 oz crema de mescal
  • ½ oz aquavit
  • 1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
  • ¾ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz Cointreau
  • ½ oz yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 dash celery bitters
  • celery stalk for garnish
shake and strain into Nambé Tilt DOF Glass over fresh (large) rock(s), garnish with celery stalk
I based this on the excellent Loop Tonic by Phil Ward of Mayahuel.  (Although I'm ashamed to admit I've not yet made it there, and in fact had the drink at Momofuku ssäm bar, where I am not ashamed to admit I go quite often, and which now has a very nice cocktail program including not only superb new concoctions such as the celery&nori (nori-infused laird's applejack, celery syrup, celery bitters), but pays tribute with some highlights from other notable dens, as well as properly crafted classics.)  The "Loop" reminds me of Chicago, which made me think of the El trains, and the mescal is Mexican, which is how the name el elevado found its way to my mind's egress.  From the link above:
Loop Tonic
  • 2 oz Heradura Silver
  • 1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
  • ¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • ½ oz green Chartreuse
  • Dash of the Bitter Truth celery bitters
  • One celery stalk
Combine all the liquid ingredients in a shaker. Add about 5 ice cubes and shake vigorously for 5–10 seconds. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with the celery stick.
The final version of mine didn't land as far away from the Loop Tonic as I had intended and would have liked.  I was hoping I could cut out the simple and dial back the chartreuse and use the 10% agave in the crema and addition of aquavit to achieve a similar balance of sweetness and herbal complexity, but it needed further tweaking and this is where it led me.  Other than the smoke from the mescal, it has only very subtle differences from the Loop, with perhaps a bit more richness.  But that said, the Loop is great, and smoke is nice, so a smoky Loop is not so bad, just not as original as would be ideal.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rockin' World Go Round

If you liked the sound of the Vieux Gras but don't have any foie gras lying around, you can give the Rockin' World Go Round a try, as it is in fact what I did first.  I had the concept for the Vieux Gras and foie gras-infused Cognac in my mind for a while, but in the meantime I used the idea of the curry caramelized pear sauce as sweetener in a riff on the Old Fashioned in one of my drinks for the "Apples and Pears" TDN way back on Oct 15.  So here it is, using both apples (calvados) and pears:
Rockin' World Go Round
  • 1¼ oz Cognac
  • 1¼ oz Calvados
  • ¼ oz  madras curry-cinnamon-pear caramel syrup
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters
stir and strain into double old fashioned glass with one giant cube, garnish with slice of Cortland apple (they don't brown!). **Make the syrup by muddling or pureeing curry caramelized pear sauce and forcing through strainer, or use more like ½ oz and strain pear chunks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

JAQK Cellars

Disclaimer: shameless plug*

JAQK Cellars is a year old wine company that launched Oct 2008 with a lineup of eight California wines.  The brand has a bit of whimsy to it, with the motto "play a little" and the wines designed and named after aspects of gaming such as cards and dice.  In fact, JAQK was the official wine of the World Series of Poker this year, even though she's only a year old.  The bottle design is very cool, but most importantly I quite like the wine, which is made by winemaker Craig MacLean.

The first vintage is almost gone now, so get it while it lasts; they're bottling now for the next release of the new wines early next year.  I'm particularly partial to the Black Clover Merlot and the Soldiers of Fortune Shiraz.  Here's the whole lineup:

  • High Roller Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Black Clover Merlot
  • Soldiers of Fortune Shiraz
  • Pearl Handle Chardonnay
  • 22 Black Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bone Dance Merlot
  • Her Majesty Chardonnay
  • Charmed Sauvignon Blanc

*JAQK was co-founded by a friend of a friend, and they were raising capital from investors so I invested a small amount.  But I only did that because I like the stuff...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vieux Gras with Foie Gras-Infused Cognac

Mixology Monday November didn't end up occurring, but this Monday will be MxMo December, hosted by Kevin Langmack at Beers in the Shower, with the theme "Money Drinks."  The theme is open to interpretation, and Kevin offers several examples.  The one I'm going with is the indulgent cocktail using special ingredients, in this vein from his site:
Along with what you mentioned, I'm thinking it could include stuff along the lines of "there are some drinks that really prompt you to break out the good stuff", including ways people upgrade drinks for special occasions -- having old friends over, birthday drinks, etc, for example mixing your regular Sazerac, but breaking out the Red Hook Rye and the Jade Edouard absinthe for a Sazerac capable of breaking the sound barrier." - the only rule to this one is you actually have to make it
Before the official announcement post, Paul Clarke mentioned several upcoming events, one of which was this MxMo, but I glanced quickly at it and misread the theme as "Monkey Drinks."  I was anxiously awaiting Kevin's announcement wondering what that meant, and commented thusly about my mistake once he posted it, if you are wondering what Paul was talking about on the MxMo website.  But I guess "Monkey Drinks" is for another episode.  

As you can guess from the title of this post, the indulgent ingredient I'm going with is foie gras.  As in foie gras-infused cognac.  Oh, and 25 year old Balsamic vinegar.  And some Sauternes.  (No, not Château d'Yquem, not even I am that silly.  Ok, well maybe I could be, but I wasn't this time.)  I actually got this idea in my head a while ago, but only made it last week, as it's not often I have foie gras lying around.  This time serendipity prevailed and the timing was perfect, since for the inagural Iron Chef Tribeca we recently hosted I procured an entire foie gras liver, so I finally had my chance.  The idea for the drink was basically to make an Old Fashioned, but using the foie gras-infused cognac for the spirit and a curry caramelized pear sauce for the sweetener.  And a dash of balsamic, since I use that for the actual seared foie dish.  So here's my submission for MxMo:
Vieux Gras
  • 2 oz foie gras-infused cognac*
  • ½ oz  curry caramelized pear sauce**
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • dash aged balsamic to finish
stir and strain into double old fashioned glass with one giant cube***, top with dash balsamic, garnish with slice of Cortland apple (they don't brown!).  ½ oz of the sauce sounds like a lot, as it is sweet, but roughly half is chunks of fruit that will (mostly) stay in the stirring vessel.
*To infuse the cognac, do a simple fat wash with the rendered fat (don't let it burn!) from cooking the foie gras using the same procedure as you would for Bacon-infused bourbon.  This infused cognac is also a damn fine sipper, feel free to drink unadulterated.

**Here's how to make the sauce:
Curry Caramelized Pear Sauce
  • 2 pears (or quince or apples, I used apples for Iron Chef)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (madras is nice)
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 2 oz Sauternes (or other sweet white wine)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Dice the pear. In a thick bottom pot make a caramel with the sugar. (I add a dash of corn syrup, the different sugar molecule helps stablize the caramel.)  When golden brown add Sauternes and stir to dissolve. Add the fruit, cinnamon, and the curry and simmer until the quince is soft.  Keep warm for seared foie or cool to make Vieux Gras.
Simmering Sauce.

Finished Sauce.

Cleaning and portioning the foie.

Plating with the aged Balsamic.

And the finished dish.

***How'd you make that giant ice cube you ask?

Simple, get yourself some of these ice trays from the MoMa store to delight your friends at your next gathering.

(late) UPDATE: Here's the roundup.

Hot Scotty

'Tis the season, so the theme for this week's TDN was Hot Drinks:
As the blood-cracked, icy fingers of winter descend upon the Land of Mixology, we turn to one final respite. One last hope to cope with the cold. Warm cocktails. Toddies, slings, butters, wrinkles, and hoozles. Bring your thermos and join the festivities!
Since I was at first having trouble coming up with something for this week, my mind wandered to my Montgomery Burns cocktail I had made last week and liked very much for the Allspice TDN.  Also it was fresh in my mind since I just got around to posting its write-up, plus one of the first drinks submitted last week using the Dram was hot and the spice worked well in that warm environment.  So taking my base recipe, while keeping the interplay between the allspice, scotch, and benedictine, I swapped the Vermouth for Honey Syrup more typically found in a Hot Toddy and give you the Hot Scotty:
Hot Scotty
  • 2 oz blended scotch (Johnnie Black)
  • ½ oz St. Elizabeth's allspice dram
  • 1 oz honey syrup
  • ¼ oz Benedictine
  • 3 oz hot water
stir; lemon twist garnish

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NyQuil Lightning

'Tis the season, so the theme for this week's TDN  (happening right now) was (is) Hot Drinks:
As the blood-cracked, icy fingers of winter descend upon the Land of Mixology, we turn to one final respite. One last hope to cope with the cold. Warm cocktails. Toddies, slings, butters, wrinkles, and hoozles. Bring your thermos and join the festivities!
After being somewhat at a loss for ideas for origional hot drinks and considering sitting this week out, inspiration struck.  I had read a Paul Clarke post indicating Green Chartreuse paired well with Hot Chocolate, so I decided to simulate the hot chocolate by generously spiking hot milk with Xocolatl Mole Bitters, which led me to this drink I find pleasing and complex:
NyQuil Lightning
  • 1 oz Green Chartreuse
  • ¾ oz Rye (Overholt)
  • 4 oz hot milk
  • 6 dashes Xocolatl Mole Bitters
stir and sweet dreams

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Montgomery Burns

This was my other drink for the Allspice Dram TDN last week.  Obviously based on the classic Bobby Burns cocktail, here I cut back on the vermouth and benedictine a bit to make room for the Dram.  I mixed this up completely on a whim, and was VERY pleased with the results.  It was surprising how well the spice played with the smoke from the scotch and the herbal flavors from the vermouth and benedictine, and the other ingredients had plenty of heft to not be dominated by a full half ounce of the St. Elizabeth's, which is more strongly flavored than most homemade Drams (I'm told).  This might even be an actual improvement on the classic it was based on.  The name derives from the name of the base recipe and the well known character from The Simpsons, Mr. Burns would be old enough the be Bobby's brother, or maybe even father, right?
Montgomery Burns
  • 2 oz blended scotch (Johnnie Black)
  • ½ oz St. Elizabeth's allspice dram
  • ½ oz carpano antica formula vermouth
  • ¼ oz benedictine
stir and strain; garnish with shortbread or butter cookie

My Amazon aStore

I've told you how much I love, right?  Well, I do.  I order everything I can from them, because it's easier and usually cheaper, and I even have a credit card that gives me extra money back from them.  But mostly I HATE standing in line at the nearest Duane Reade because they are unbelievable slow.  One block away from our apartment, and it feels like forever whenever I go in to pick up toothpaste; every time a little part of me dies.  So I now order toothpaste from Amazon.  Ok, end rant.
The point is, since I was recommending lots of stuff I bought there, I made this cool aStore thing, so if you're looking for some cookbook I refer to, or tool I use for making cocktails, or other random gadget, chances are I got it at Amazon and I may have put it in my aStore.  I'll embed one in this post, doesn't quite fit but you can scroll in it, or just go to this link.  (There's also a thing in the sidebar to the right.)  I've put some cookbooks, and kitchen gadgets, and other stuff in there.  It's far from comprehensive (ie no toothpaste), but generally if I order something I like, I'll try to put it in there if I think it may be of general interest.  It's true I get a kickback to use to buy more stuff from them, but I mostly did it because I think it's cool, and it's an easy way for me to go back if I want to pick up a second item I've gotten before.  Anyway, if you're in need of an xmas gift for someone, browse away.

Sous Vide Supreme

 I saw this interesting new product the other day on some blog, and immediately had to order myself a Sous Vide Supreme machine.  Well. pre-order anyway, since they were not yet shipping.

I'm glad I did, because I learned in today's article in the Times:
The first 500 SousVide Supreme machines sold out via the Internet before shipping in November, according to the manufacturers.
So I got one of the first 500, cool.  It was a no brainer for me to buy it because previously I had been very close to buying the full blown lab equipment immersion circulator they use in the restaurants.  Not only would that have been way more expensive, it would have taken up way more space.  I've been busy and have yet to give this puppy a test run, but I've got Keller's bible on the subject, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, so I've got my work cut out for me.  Perhaps this weekend I'll have some time to take her out on the track and see what she can do.  The article made her sound capable of great feats.  I'm quite excited.  What to do first...perfectly soft poached eggs, 24 hour short many possibilities.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Southern Belle

Last week's TDN theme was Allspice Dram.  Allspice Dram, or Pimento Dram, is a Jamaican rum based liquor flavored with, you guessed it, allspice.  (Pimento is what the Caribbean islanders called the allspice berry until English explorers gave it the name we now use.)  St. Elizabeth's brand was the first to be imported into the US after a long absence, and is the easiest to find, if not still the only one available.  It can be a handful as it is quite flavorful stuff, but if poured with a gentle hand or matched with suitable ingredients it can add a nice spicy complexity to a cocktail.  This was one I came up with Thursday:
Southern Belle
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • ½ oz St. Elizabeth's allspice dram
  • ¾ oz lemon
  • ½ oz honey syrup
  • 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
  • tiny pinch salt
shake and strain
Bourbon is from the South, girls are sugar and spice and everything nice, ergo Southern Belle.  I didn't gussy it up and take a proper picture, as with no fancy garnish there was not much to see, but here's a shot of a partially finished one that Pleepleus got his hands on:
He enjoyed it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Xibalba Savior

A couple weeks ago the Thursday Drink Night (TDN) was sponsored by Crystal Head Vodka. My first submission was the Skulduggery, here was my second drink:
Xibalba Savior
  • ¾ oz crystal head vodka
  • ¾ oz dolin blanc
  • ¾ oz Xtabentún
  • ¾ oz lemon
  • 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
Shake, strain, lemon twist garnish
Xtabentún is a Mayan anise and honey liquor, and I picked up this bottle earlier this year when I was down in the Yucatán.  (Best Scuba diving I've ever done was on the Palancar Reef off Cozumel, btw.)  I based this drink on the Corpse Reviver #2.  My line of thinkig was that the anise notes from the Xtabentún could sub for the absinthe, and the honey might make a nice sub for the Cointreau.  Plus I thought the Corpse Theme went with the Crystal Skull name.   Xibalba (shee bal bah) is the Mayan underworld.  After death, the soul was believed to go to Xibalba, a place of fright where sinister gods tested and tricked their unfortunate visitors.  So I figured being saved from Xibalba is analogous to being a revived corpse, sorta, thus the name.  It is a pleasant enough drink, but lacks some of the depth of flavor of the Corpse Reviver #2 it was based upon.  But good enough to mix it up as a change of pace once in a while.  For reference, here's the original recipe:

Corpse Reviver #2
  • ¾ oz gin
  • ¾ oz Lillet blanc
  • ¾ oz Cointreau
  • ¾ oz lemon
  • 2 dashes absinthe
Shake, strain, lemon twist garnish

Iron Chef Tribeca

I mentioned in an earlier post we have been waiting years to do renovations.  To be more specific, those renovations will (hopefully eventually) consist of combining our two adjacent apartments.  In the meantime I just cut a hole in the wall connecting two closets to provide semi-secret egress from one apartment to the other (Which is, admittedly, kinda fun.  Especially when you have first time guests at a party who see person after enter the closet and no one leave, causing them to utter confused queries such as "How big is that closet!?" or "What the hell is going on in that closet?")  But I digress.  Although annoying for us, I'm not going to bitch about the problem of delay because it's not exactly the worst situation to be in, especially when your friends come up with an idea to take excellent advantage of your two separate kitchens (destined to be one giant kitchen.)  That idea?

Iron Chef: Tribeca!

And luckily enough we are friends with the sous chef at Gramercy Tavern, who we drafted to be my opponent.  The theme was chosen by our wives, or actually themes:

The theme was threefold, Mushrooms, Apples, and Eggs

We decided to have three ingredients so we would have more variety in courses just so the tasters, ie everyone, would have a better meal.  The idea was you would have to use at least one ingredient in each couse, but two or three is even better.  This turned out to be foolish.  We were each supposed to make three courses, so everyone would have six things to try.  Not surprisingly, as I tend to get over ambitious, I added an amuse, and an app, and so on until I had more like seven or eight courses.  My opponent had similar ambition, and started with three amuses...and you can see where it went from there.  The cooking went on well into the night, and some guests were too full or too tired to taste the last couple.  So next time (and there will be a next time) we'll stick to one and limit the potential for us to get silly.  Here are how our menus ended up, mine first:
Poached Quail Egg with Beurre Monté, Iberico Ham,
Garlic Chip, Chive, and Porcini Dust

Pisco Sour

Truffled Mushroom Soup with Roasted Shiitake

"Oysters and Pearls:" Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca
with Oysters and Osetra Caviar

Seared Foie Gras with Curry Caramel Apple Sauce and
aged Balsamic on Brioche

Escarole Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Applewood Smoked Filet of Beef Sandwich with
Horseradish Mayo and Granny Smith Apple

Pain Perdu with Calvados (Brioche Bread Pudding)

Chocolate Truffles
And my opponent's menu:
Celery and Apple Juice Shot

Butternut Squash and Asian Pear Custard

Mushrooms Stuffed with a Mushroom Purée

Mushroom Soup with Bay Scallops

Arugula Salad with Stewed Hen-of-the-wood Mushrooms and Poached Fried Egg

Bacon (homemade at Gramercy Tavern) and Egg on Sourdough

Roasted Veal Rack with Mushrooms and Apple-Rutabaga Puree

Did I mention it was a long night?

Poached Quail Egg.  I was particularly proud of this one because a) I had never even worked with quail eggs before and b) I completely made up the idea in my head and had never tried any of it until that night.  I think it worked pretty well, but I need to figure out how to get the doneness of the eggs more consistently soft while cooking and then plating over a dozen of the suckers.  (Note both eggs and mushrooms in this one.)

This was his Celery and Apple Juice Shot, very nice and refreshing and an excellent way to start.

His custard (Asian Pear is related to Apples).  Really awesome, one of my favorites of the night.

Gotta have a cocktail, right?  I went with one of my favorites, the classic Pisco Sour:
Pisco Sour
Dry shake, shake with ice, strain and top with a couple dashes of bitters
I was hoping to do a Calvados Flip (using apples from the brandy and a whole egg) as well but ran short of time.

This is his bacon and egg

The presentation of my team's mushroom soup.  This was all my sous chef's doing, I had no hand in it whatsoever.  It was very good.

A closeup of the soup.  (My opponent had a soup as well but we neglected to get a pic of it.)

My opponent's arugula salad with stewed mushrooms and poached then fried egg.  Check out the technique on the egg.  I attempted this once and it was not nearly as pretty.  (Eggs plus mushrooms.)

My oysters and pearls, from Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook.  This is an absolute killer dish.  IT would have been better if I had gotten my hands on Malpeque oysters like I've used in the past, but still great with the Blue Points I was able to get my hands on.  (Eggs x2, chicken and cavier, if you're still keeping score.)

My foie dish.

His rack of veal.  The richness and smoothness of this sauce is beyond my ability.  Needless to say, we were getting full and fast approaching a wall at this point, but we had to go on.

My salad and applewood smoked filet.  I attempted to make fresh mayo for and extra egg component in addition to the two apple ingredients, but utterly failed.  Not sure Hellman's mayo counts as egg, but I ended up just folding grated horseradish into the store bought stuff.  Always have a backup plan.

My Pain Perdu, spiked with Calvados, ie apple brandy. (Egg + apple).  I was going to caramelize apples and have them at the bottom, but by this point we were starting to lose people so I punted that part for the sake of expediency.  My sous chef-soup maker also made chocolate truffles we neglected to photo to go with this.  (Get it, truffles are mushrooms.)

And that was it.  We had planned to impanel some judges to score everything and determine a winner, but that didn't end up happening with everyone so full and tired.  Instead my opponent and I retired to the deck (it was unseasonably warm) for a well deserved cigar and Armagnac, so we both felt like winners.  I certainly did, because I got to eat all his awesome stuff.  We plan to do this again when Spring brings her bounty of seasonal produce to the greenmarkets.  I'll try to restrain my ambition to some extent next time.

If you are still with me after this epic post, here are a few choice highlights of the prep:

Sawing off the tops of the quail eggs.

Plating the quail egg amuse.

The finished sauce for the foie gras.

Plating the foie.

These are the bitters for the Pisco Sour.

Here's Tesla looking guilty after presumably scarfing up something I dropped.

This Kitchen Art Scrap Trap is a useful gadget I got recently.

Some of the mushrooms ready for use.

Did I mention we ordered these aprons for all the participants?