Category Archives: Uncategorized

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: South by Far East(SXFE) Lineup Announced

Music.  It makes the world go round.  It’s the voice of a culture that echoes for generations.  It can encapsulate a moment in a way we could only dream of articulating.  Subtle riffs to make our worries go away, and heavy timpani to get us fired up.  For me, music is as primal as food and water.  

Like cooking, music draws from a myriad of sources for inspiration.  It is an avenue for the voices of suppression, and it is a lion rejoicing in a victory.  Anything can inspire, be it a python satchel or the writing on the wall. For me, more often than not, I find my inspiration in a bass line.  Whether the music guides me to the dish, or the dish dictates the music, the two are symbiotic.

Currently suffering through a dry spell as far as live music is concerned, I’ve had to get creative to fill the void. Whether I’m crooning to the Stones between bites of Shepard’s pie or it’s meatballs with a side of Sinatra, it helps alleviate the pain.  Nothing quite beats a session at Red Rocks under the stars, but it proves distracting.

My day gig entails hours of mandated presence in front of a dimly lit computer screen.  At times this leads to an existential crisis, and at others it leaves me to sift through the lineup of yet another musical event from which I’ll be excluded.  In recent times, this means I’ve been perusing the endless list of performers at Austin, Texas’ annual South by South West(SXSW) Festival. 

I’ve never been to Austin and I’ve never been to Texas.  For a while, I only knew Texans as a breed that would descend upon the slopes of Colorado in springtime like locusts.  Donning ten gallon hats, ski poles tucked towards the sky, and emitting a broken record of “Yips” and “Yee-haws” while careening at high speeds down the mountain, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them.  

I’ve come to learn a good bit about the city of Austin, and my curiosity has been sparked.  It’s the birthplace of my one true love, Whole Foods (an amazing gourmet/organic food market), and a city slogan is “Keep Austin Weird.” It supposedly has a thriving music scene, and a laid-back ambiance to rival that of Boulder.   Also lying in close proximity to our neighbors to the South, I can only assume the city has a healthy presence of Tex-Mex culinary delights. 

The lineup

With all this, I was left inspired, still in Korea, and with cans of black beans and sweet corn at my disposal.  What I came up with is a taco/fajita filling of sorts.  It struck all the right chords when paired with a flour tortilla and some streaming Grace Potter. 

The dish is given a Korean flair by the addition of Korean chiles, fire roasted over a tiny apartment hot-plate.  Not to worry, the propane essence dissipates in the finished dish and they add just the right amount of kick.  If you can stand it, I think this dish was even better the next day, but either way it’s an easy one-pot meal. 

"Fire" roasted

South by Far East(SXFE) Chicken

Serves 4-6

Tex-Mex vibes

5 large green chiles, sliced lengthwise and deveined

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bell pepper, diced

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chile powder

1 can diced tomatoes

3/4 can black beans

1/2 can sweet corn

1 chicken bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 C. water

salt and pepper, to taste

tortillas or nacho chips, to serve

1.  To roast the chiles, I like to first cut off the stem and slice down the center to devein.  I find this method easier than leaving all the cleaning to the end.  Next, over a medium-high flame on a gas range, roast the chiles skin-side down until the skins have become almost entirely black.  Remove the chile from the flame and transfer immediately to a paper or plastic bag.  Twist the bag closed to allow the steam to loosen the skins.  When the chiles have cooled, easily scrape off the charred skins with your fingers.  Dice the chiles and set aside.

Flavor bass

2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper, then transfer to the hot pan.  Brown the chicken and set aside. 

3.  Lower the heat and saute onion and garlic until beginning to turn golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add bell pepper and diced chiles, saute another 2-3 minutes.   

A nice golden color

4.  Add spices to onion mixture, and stir to mix.  Next, return the chicken to the pan and add all remaining ingredients.  Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken, shred, and return to mixture.  Simmer uncovered another 5 minutes to allow to thicken. 

5.  Serve with flour tortillas or nacho chips.  Tip: Instead of heating my tortillas in the microwave, I like to throw them on the stove over the open flame for a more authentic flavor.  Heat for a few seconds, and when the tortilla begins to bubble, flip and repeat.  Serve immediately. 

Buen provecho

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Underage Cake-ing

It was a day that would forever change the course of history.

A few years back, I arrived home for my yearly visit.   The Mountain Standard to Eastern Standard time change kindly put my flight in around midnight. My parents’ smiles gleamed as I exited the airport tram, and I was quickly escorted home to devour the contents of a fully stocked fridge.  After eating cold pizza and finishing off the mashed potatoes, I put my fork down to rest.  I’d about had enough when my Dad perked up with excitement.  He could have just as soon suggested we go down to the barnyard and feed the pigs before I would have seen this one coming.

In my youth, my mother had spearheaded a movement which isolated my grandmother and I.  Cast off to a corner with our double chocolate cupcakes and our triple fudge sundaes, she would incessantly state the need to maintain a balanced diet. So what if chocolate was the axis of our diets?

My father on the other hand was a different story.  Always watching his cholesterol, he seemed to stick to his guns when it came to by-passing dessert.  All the way through his third helping of frozen yogurt, he would stick to his guns. His idea of a balanced diet was doubling the quantity to even out the losses of fat-free.

With one parent touting everything in moderation and the other sneaking sugar-free snack cakes, you may understand why I had resigned myself to lonely late-night sessions with a tube of uncooked cookie dough.  Just me, the moonlight, and a peaceful lack of judgement.

With this is mind, you can imagine my surprise when my father looked towards my mother and she unveiled the next course.  It was then that I first laid eyes on it.  The seductive bundt-cake curves, the rich and glistening texture.  There it stood.  The Kahlua Cake. 

Before this moment, cakes had been reserved for birthdays and extra-special celebrations. This baby was a game changer. All of a sudden, every occasion was an excuse!  Daughter home from college? Kahlua cake.  Housewarming for the neighbors? Kahlua cake.  Lawn mower started on the first try?  Kahlua cake. This cake throws all morals out the window. 

Last week we were all graced with the addition of one extra day in the month of February.  Besides the opportunity this provides to procrastinate your taxes a little bit longer, a leap year also means an actual birthday for one of my closest friends.  Seeing as her official day only comes around once every 4 years, we thought she deserved the best.  I decided to recreate the Kahlua cake for the occasion, Korean style. 

The original recipe starts with German chocolate cake mix and instant chocolate pudding, so this was going to be a bit of a challenge.  Match the lack of ingredients with the rarity of a bundt pan, and I was shaking in my boots.  What had I done?  How could I make anything to hold a candle to the one and only?  I talked myself off the ledge, tightened my apron and reached for my whisk. This was going to happen.

GMB: Genetically Modified Batter

Everything starts with a chocolate cake.  I did some research and found a promising recipe.  The one I chose relies on beating margarine with the sugar to begin rather than the more traditional butter.  Knowing the amount of additives that go into the gooey yellow stuff,  I was a little reluctant.  On second thought,  it might work.  Nobody likes to gamble on a dry finished product.  Surely in this day and age scientists have perfected the compounds necessary to ensure a moist outcome.  A little creepy, but I decided to embrace it.

I also knew that a pecan topping was indispensable.  I sought some out at Home Plus and sprinkled them in the bottom of the 8-inch pan before filling it with batter.  We were looking good. 

An ample sprinkling

The final piece of the puzzle was the finishing glaze.  Butter, sugar and Kahlua [soju] are simmered together and poured right over top of that sucker.  As I’ve always said, butter makes it better.  Match that butter with a bit of Kahlua and I’ll just  let your imagination run wild. 

Oozing appeal

Normally, 7th birthdays are reserved for Barbie dolls and princess-themed parties.  While tiaras are age-appropriate across the board, this cake might only be warmly received by one with their 7th birthday falling on a leap-year.  Since I know you’re toying with the idea,  you might as well just go ahead and black list this cake from your niece’s party.  Showing up with a booze soaked masterpiece might not fly with Auntie Miranda (even though Uncle Lenny would be singing your praises).  Just sayin, because if your impression’s anything like mine, you’ll be digging for excuses.

Happy 7th!

The Next Best Kahlua Cake

Recipe adapted from Best Moist Chocolate Cake from allrecipes.com

1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup margarine

3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons white sugar

1 egg

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

—————-

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 stick butter

1/8 cup water

1/4 cup Kahlua [soju]

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8- inch cake pan. Sprinkle pecans on bottom of pan. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  4. While the cake bakes, prepare the topping.  Boil butter, sugar and water in a sauce pan for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in Kahlua.  While cake is still hot, pour mixture over the top and allow to absorb.  Try to resist about 20 minutes, then enjoy.

Note: I have found that this cake freezes extremely well.  It works great to freeze the whole cake, or if you’re a chocoholic like me, divide it up into sections, wrap in waxed paper and foil, then freeze.  Each time your craving strikes just zap a piece (or two) in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

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(Cue creeper) “Are you Russian..?”

The first step to healing is admitting you have a problem.  I think we might have a situation. 

Somewhere between the attempts of Marlboro to capitalize on the inner cowboy of teenage boys and Abercrombie’s convincing “If you buy our clothes, you WILL end up with a sexy hunk” campaigns, I fell for Starbucks.  They’re pretty much equivalent to Big Brother in their grasp of our society, and their [corporate] sins rival those of Charlie Sheen. I don’t even recognize myself anymore! What am I doing amongst their converts? 

We’re in trouble.

Everyone has their vices, right?  It could be SO much worse.  I could be ducking into the clothing racks of Neiman Marcus  to dodge the debt collectors.  I could be living in an apartment filled with cats! Or even worse, filled with a lot of nothing in particular! I could be a hoarder. No no, I’ve chosen my poison.  I prefer a nice deep roast finished with a bit of soy milk. Starbucks’ just happens to be fresher (on this side of the world).  And bolder. Crap.

Regardless, the guilty culprit in all this, and thus the one who shall endure the fury, is our friend caffeine.  The track of life just doesn’t play the same without a mild case of the shakes and a cupful at hand. I find myself today between a rock and a hard place.  And so it is. 

I’m not quite sure at what point the addiction began.  Maybe it was when I first acknowledged the cool factor of  “Don’t talk to me until after I’ve had my coffee (sneer).” How very emo.  Perhaps it was in attempts to get the attention of that dark-haired guy from Philosophy? (Aside: HE most certainly wouldn’t have chosen Starbucks! What is WRONG with me!!??)  How have I ended up here!?  

In all honesty, I think most likely my 6am job in the river rafting industry is to blame.  I mean, really I was just being safety cautious.  Nobody’s aware enough to heed all stop signs and mind the yellow line at that hour unless caffeine snaps them into action.  And the drive to work was AT LEAST 10 minutes.   It’s not my fault.

While I’m coming to terms with my existing situation, let’s shift the blame a little and start pointing the finger.  Shall we start with sexual predators?  Or maybe you’d rather look first to alcoholics? Let’s start with alcohol and save the best for last!

As I’ve mentioned before, this country has quite the drinking habit.  There’s nothing  like watching your superiors belt out their rendition of “Material Girl” then hang their heads in a drunken stupor.  As a friend warned me before embarking on this journey, if you choose to drink with them, be prepared.  And after you do, be ready to acknowledge the badge of honor you’ve earned in everyone’s hearts when you stumble into the office the next morning. 

Bottles of the spirit of choice, soju, are available on every corner for about $1.  With a flavor profile similar to jet fuel, it’s a steal of a good deal.  At this point, you may be beginning to understand  why I’ve pretty much sworn off the stuff.  Seeing as I’ve just signed another year of my life away, however, I’m feeling like I need to give it another chance. 

With coffee and addiction drifting through my head, an idea occured to me. A genius idea. I have an old roommate whose mother once sent her a batch of homemade Kahlua.  At the time, my roommates and I were battling the post-college blues, and this bottle was something of a savior.  It added little drops of happiness to our Sunday cups of coffee  and was even better in White Russians.  Who knew you could make Kahlua on your own? Reflecting fondly, I thought of it. Kahlua SOJU. 

Here’s what I came up with.  This recipe is incredibly easy, most ingredients are either on hand or may be grabbed from the corner shop, and it WILL change your life.  Nothing like pooling your resources and making lemonade out of lemons. Don’t be shy, you’re welcome to kiss my feet.

Pantry staples

Kahlua Soju

 3 Cups Freshly Brewed [Starbucks] Coffee

3 Cups Light Brown Sugar

3 Cups Soju (About 1.5 small green bottles.  If you’re feeling frisky, go ahead, pour in that extra  half-bottle!)

3 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract or 3/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Powder (I had extract at my disposal, but you can find the powder at pretty much any Korean grocery store)

Brew coffee, then pour into a pan on the stove top.  Add sugar and heat over low-medium heat just until dissolved.  Allow to cool, then stir in soju and vanilla.  Enjoy. 

Next, I was faced with the task of determining just how best to enjoy my creation.  I could drink it straight (I did.).  But that’s kind of boring.  I could put it in my coffee. That just sets me up for a double dose of dependency, so let’s evade that one.  At this point, my mind drifted to Russians.

As with any country (except for perhaps Thailand, which harbors HOARDS), you can find a few bad eggs here. That’s right, it’s time to discuss sexual predators!  Usually they’re found, or rather they find you, at only the most inopportune times.  Thanks to a weekly boat from Vladivostok and a shaky economy, Korea has been graced with the presence of a few economic migrants who don’t have English as a native tongue.  These migrants count on their curves for job security and apparently are in high demand.  It takes only a few days before any light-haired girl receives her first proposition from aforementioned predators.  And what a cautious, delicate proposition it is. “Are you Russian..?” Yes, and I’ve been waiting all day to go home with you.  Bug off.

Either way, I decided I was onto something with the Russian thing.  I stirred  in some milk and enjoyed.  It was dangerously delicious.  It needed a name.  As obvious as it might be, what with WHITE Russians and BLACK Russians, I decided to side-step the racial slur.  It took a minute, and then I had it.  The Russian Hunter.

They “creep” up on you.

 

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Pretty Pretty Pancakes

As part of the acculturation process with my English friends, I have fully embraced the holiday Pancake Day.  Known more prominently as Fat Tuesday in the States, this is the last day before Ash Wednesday – signifying the start of Lenten.  According to my tea-guzzling, history buff source, the holiday came about with Brits needing to use up leftovers in their pantry before the start of fasting.  Before I go any further, let me point out a few things that I have learned in my compulsory cake revision (from English revise, meaning “to study”).

1.  All pancakes are not created equal.

American pancakes tend to be light and fluffy and English pancakes are denser, flatter,  and more similar to a crepe.  Both have a  “doughy” quality, but the English version is much more chewy and dense.  

2. Pancakes aren’t just for breakfast (and midnight runs to Denny’s) anymore.

Smothered in butter and syrup, American pancakes bridge the gap between savory and sweet.  Generally, their presence  is reserved for morning time, with the exceptions of “breakfast for dinner” concept  meals and liquor-fogged trips to the diner.   English pancakes are generally thought of as a dessert item, or an extra-special sweet start to your day.

3.  Pancakes are best paired with a cuppa. 

Americans: forget Joe and befriend Elizabeth.  Cuppa – English for a cup of tea.  Preferably unflavored, black tea, served with a bit of COLD milk and sugar if so desired.

4.  There’s not just one way to flip a pancake.

In my experience, pancakes were always accompanied by the flicking of wrists and the swift movements of a spatula.  On my first Pancake Day, however, I was introduced to the idea of pancake accountability.  In order to enjoy the calorie dense delight, each person must in fact flip their own pancake.  The spatula plays only a supporting role – – it’s in the wrists and a carefully orchestrated  airborne technique.   Like, the one I thought only profession chefs could master. 

In my case, this brought back  flashbacks of that time on a friend’s  boat in Missouri when I was forced to abide by the Bagby Family  “You’re not coming back on this boat until you stand up on those water skis!” Policy.  It ended about 3 hours later in disgust with a  lot of water up my nose.  With this springing to mind, I was immediately overcome with anxiousness.  I think Jeanette’s face about sums up the sentiment. It’s not as easy as it looks!

A little bit frustrated

5.  When living in Korea, disregard everything you thought you knew.

One of the peaks of my schedule last year came Thursday afternoons at one of my elementary schools.  As part of their after school program, the mothers of a couple  students would come in to teach grades 3-6 cooking lessons.  After lurking around, I managed to wriggle my way into one of the assigned cooking groups.  I enjoyed learning the Korean recipes as much as my 8-year-old counterparts, but let me tell you, this was not smooth sailing.  5th graders are much more critical of  technique than any Le Cordon Bleu trained chef.  They made me prove my worth on more than one occasion to avoid dishwashing duty.

In class, we learned to make an assortment of items, ranging from sweet and sour pork to kimchi.  For our last class, I was told excitedly by my students that we would be making “American hot cakes.”  I thought this was a little bizarre but didn’t really think much of it until class time.  Until now, I hadn’t really been aware of a Korean familiarity with “hot cakes” but who knew?  

To begin, we mixed up our packaged batter and slowly drizzled it into a greased up frying pan. Innocent enough.  With the first pancake hot off the griddle, my group moved along to start frying up another.  One from our group scurried off to fetch an allotment of jam and various fresh fruits. This wasn’t really standard, but I figured it all still fit loosely into the category of “breakfast foods.”  It was when the Cool Whip became involved that I grew suspicious.  

Nervously spreading among hawking group members

I watched my group evenly spread the jam between layers of stacked pancakes.  When all the pancakes were layered, I observed (a bit horrified) as they slopped on the Cool Whip.  Suddenly,  it clicked.  We were  making a pan-CAKE.  DUH! Why hadn’t we thought of this!?  It just seemed so OBVIOUS! So THIS is how they make cakes in the land without ovens!!

It's Cool Whip time!

When fully frosted, my group took their time delicately arranging each wedge of fruit in careful symmetry.  Upon completion, they summoned over the teacher. Our creation was unlike any hot cake I had ever encountered.  I was silently praising my ability to take it all in stride and commend my group members on their grasp of an American stand-by. When the garnish came along, however,  it all fell to pieces.  With pride, the teacher scurried over with the finishing touch.  Digging in her apron pocket, she pulled out a  sprig of fresh rosemary and stuck it right in the middle.  Glory be! 

Our glorious panCAKE

When it came time to devour our creation, my reluctance quickly turned a bit ravenous.  It worked.  It was truly delicious.  In the land of sugar sprinkled garlic bread and sweet potato lattes, there is a lesson to be learned.  While it generally is not in your best interest to disregard all rules of food pairing, when done correctly,  it works. I’m still a bit skeptical of chocolate-covered bacon, but I guess now I must give it a try.  We’ll save that for next time. 

This Pancake Day, our celebration converged with the birthdays of two friends.  In the spirit of things, we broke out the chocolate hot cake mix, jam, and added a special twist with Nutella and candles.  It was spectacular. Here’s to a new tradition.

PanCAKE heaven

I think he liked it.

English Style Pancakes

8 Heaping Tbsp Flour

1 Pint Milk

2 Eggs

1 Tbsp Oil

Combine first three ingredients in mixer until blended.  Melt oil in pan on medium to high heat.  When pan is hot, pour in only enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of pan.  Cook about 1-2 minutes or until browned, then flip (to each his own!) and repeat.  To serve, place chocolate squares, jam, fresh lemon juice and sugar, or filling of your choice in center and roll.

English style-large and flat

Special thanks to Sally for this recipe, my first cup of proper tea,  the addition of twat to my everyday vocabulary, and for her patience and encouragement throughout the learning process.

Sally

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A Shameful Confession

A travesty has occured, and I’m scorned to admit I’ve played a role. 

I forgot to get Ranch dressing.  As in, I consumed my share (my arteries will concur)…but….the cupboard…stock…

Words cannot express my sorrow.  

…volunteers? Assignment, anyone?

Debriefing Before the Final Hour

Alas, I write again.  Responding to the urge to explain my long absence, I’ll just give it to you straight. Duty rang. Spice duty.  After a trip to India, the arsenals are stocked and I’m ready to season.  The report is pending and will become available subsequently.

I write to you only in a short lull before the most serious assignment of them all.  One part reconnaissance and one part active duty, I am plotting my plan of  attack.  I’m venturing into the motherland.  Indeed, the home of buffalo sauce, potato skins, “bottomless” mimosas, and BIG GULPS.  Not to mention the brave.

An opportunity has presented itself and I’ll be jet-setting to Hawaii for a quick trip.  I’m taking it by storm. Anticipating a greedy frenzy, my moves may not be calculated, but, a heavy looting WILL take place.  Scoff and call me Gaddafi, but this tyrant’s making it out alive.  And with gummy worms.

As I sit here, the adrenaline surges at the thought of the bountiful supermarkets, and my tongue sweats at what I’ll soon devour. I make a vow to you, readers, and with you as my witnesses, I hold myself responsible to:

-Savor the statewide delights at every presentable opportunity

-Embrace the addition of a fourth  “flex meal” to my daily consumption regimen

-Moan and groan only in earnest appreciation of the joy my mouth is experiencing rather than in detest of my stomach’s discomfort

Upon my return, the tactics will be analyzed, the gains will be archived, and I will be ready to file a synopsis.  Commander of curry here, over and out.

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Put Your Nog Into It

Ahhh, Christmas.  The time of year when you brush up on your white lies to ensure that Grandma is satisfied with the praise for each pair of  underpants.  Likewise for that throw pillow you ended up with after the gift exchange.  “I loooove it….!”

(Note: If you’re confused by now, I am of the “Cashew” faith.  That is, one part Catholic and one part Jew.)

A couple of years ago, when I tasted the first sip of my uncle’s eggnog, I did not have to draw upon this arsenal.  It was delicious.  “How had I gone this long in life without it?” I asked myself.  Thankfully someone had welcomed this chap into our family! On one occasion around the age of 13, I remember picking up a carton of the mass-produced stuff  from the local supermarket.  After years of reference in Christmas movies, I was wondering what all the fuss was about.   One sip, and I wrote it off.  Its flavor profile channeled cough syrup.  I’ll just take hot cocoa… Today,  thanks to my uncle, I have learned a valuable life lesson.  Having an open mind is priceless.  Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  Oh, baby. 

Amidst a plethora of non-Americans harboring a curiosity similar to my own, I decided to take it on this year.   Because this decision was made Christmas Eve in the midst of a craving fueled frenzy, I did not have time to request my uncle’s standard recipe.  But, let’s get real people, like he would have passed it along anyway.  I’m sure that baby has been passed down for centuries under lock and key.  After perusing allrecipes.com, I found one that seemed to suffice.  Most ingredients were on hand, and a fellow ring leader lent me her imported whole nutmeg.

 

Whisk away

 

With a hand mixer being MIA, I once again called upon my leadership skills. I lined up the recruits and chose the finest biceps for whipping duty.  After some negotiation, we agreed to rotate the responsibility.  We couldn’t have those muscles cramping before we’d even opened presents.  A number of frustrated sighs later, the egg whites reached “peak” quality (ha-ha).  It took stern voices and a fly swatter to keep salivating friends at bay, but with promises of tasty bliss in just a short while, we were able to set the batch outside to rest.

When we tapped into it, I wish we would have had a string quartet.  Bells should have rung up from the valley to the hilltops above.  Next year I’ll just have to work on finding a larger bowl to double the recipe.  Happy Holidays!

Finishing touches

 

Eggnog

Serves 10
 
Ingredients
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pint whiskey
  • 12 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg

Directions

In a large bowl, blend the milk, cream, egg yolks, vanilla and whiskey using a hand mixer until smooth and creamy. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the sugar while continuing to whip until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, and pour into a punch bowl or large pitcher. Serve in mugs or cups garnished with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

View full recipe on allrecipes.com

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Browned Butter Makes It Better

Use recklessly

A bit of a mantra for me,  I  really do believe that “butter makes it better.”  Anything.  Making fried potatoes?  Move aside oil, bring on the butter.  Having a slice of toast with strawberry jam?  Spread on a healthy dose before that  jam and you’ll thank me. 

Other mantras have come from my friends at Seinfeld.  While I was less than thrilled at the comparison to George after realizing my work pants were the source of  the quiet “swish” with each step,  there are times when the comparison is appropriate.   For example, I have a tendency to over eat. On occasion, I have found myself rescuing the last piece of  pizza from the trash after I’ve had my share and disposed of the excess. In this situation,  “It was on top!” provides just the rationalization I need.  On other occasions,  I remember the frozen yogurt incident.  If anything claims to be low-fat despite groan-inducing richness, I summon Kramer’s skepticism.  Let’s admit it folks, fat-free feta just doesn’t compare. As is the case with butter.  Bring on the pudge.

Inspired by Jenna over at EatLiveRun.com, I decided to try my hand at some homemade gnocchi last night.  A serial dough-seeker for quite some time now, I have always found gnocchi’s chewy al dente texture to be just divine.  Despite months of working with an Argentinian who insisted incessantly that homemade was “superrrrrrrr simple,” I had yet to give it a whirl.

A logical substitute

Since pumpkin is the closest thing to butternut squash in these parts, I decided to use her recipe and make the substitution.  The sage I could do without, but the butter would not be compromised. Surely butter trumps sage anyway, so we wouldn’t miss our absent friend.  After subbing the pumpkin and bypassing the sage, I followed the recipe exactly and the results were insane.  Subtly sweet, strikingly delicate–little pillows of love. 

At first glance, I hadn’t thought much about the browned butter.  Butter, heat…brown–right? Well, after selecting only the finest salted butter for the job (and paying the comparative price), I cut off a chunk and threw it in the pan.  I turned on the heat and moved away to continue cutting my little pumpkin pillows.  Suddenly overwhelmed by a rich scent, I turned to behold my efforts.  I wasn’t far off in my estimates – – it WAS most certainly brown.  I was not quite sure, however, if the deep brown color and gritty texture were in fact strong attributes.  After a taste test (and an excuse to dive into the freshly cooked batch) I assessed that I had indeed surpassed the “nutty” threshold.  While teetering still between brown and black, I think we wanted more of a sun-kissed glow. 

I summoned my smart phone, let the air out of my ego, and found a few tips that I’d like to share with you.  First off, it’s best if you begin by slicing the butter into uniform pats rather than chucking a whole stick in the pan.  This allows the butter to melt at a more uniform rate and cook evenly.  Second, while you may have a glass of Mint Chocolate Bailey’s waiting on the other side of the room, RESIST!! Do not walk away from that pan! The butter tends to reach its browning point rather quickly, and when it does, you need to keep whisking to avoid it burning.  When perfectly cooked, the butter has a golden brown color and a nicely ripened nutty flavor to it.   Lesson learned.

Find Jenna’s recipe for butternut squash gnocchi with browned butter and (a teaser of) fried sage here.

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A Latke Just for Me

As the lone Jew in our region, I take my responsibility to bring the Jewish holiday cheer very seriously.  Somebody has to counter the Christmas carols with a L’chiam!  I intended to host a get-together to observe Hanukkah  – – Korean style.  Following a discovery this weekend, I had just the thing to elevate our celebration.

This past Sunday was my birthday.  My day was shared with a fellow redhead, so we decided to give our joint potluck party a “ginger” theme.  For the occasion, my best friends came through by finding just the recipe – – Gingered Carrot Latkes.  Latkes, fried pancakes traditionally made from potatoes, are key to any Hanukkah celebration.  As if my personal existence was not a stellar enough example of the superb combo of  ginger and Jews, I now have a tasty counterpart to rest my case!

Fusion

With our taste buds taken care of, I next had to turn my attention to the menorah.  A candelabrum of sorts, the menorah holds 8 candles representative of each night and one more prominent candle used to light the others, the shamash.  Thanks to this country’s healthy soju habit, I found disposable shot glasses readily available.  8 shot glasses paired with a regular paper cup for the shamash suited the bill perfectly.  Completed with birthday candles and Santa overseeing the whole ordeal, we had a prime example of inclusiveness.   Hoards of discrimination lawyers would be proud.  For the last piece of the puzzle, a few unsuspecting  attendees were assigned the task of fashioning a  dreidel out of a print-out template, cardboard and a pencil.  A few paper cuts later, we had a little gambling in the mix and were good to go. 

All and all, I’d say my work here is done.  While I may not have won them over with sing-a-longs of  “The Dreidel Song,” I am sure I secured an endearing place for ginger and Jews in everyone’s heart.  Now, if only I could find a way to dodge the blame for fixing a broken record in everyone’s subconscious.   Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay…

Gingered Carrot Latkes

Gourmet  December 2004

Yield: Makes about 15

6 cups coarsely grated peeled carrots

6 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

7 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger

3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Canola oil (for frying)

Place carrots in large bowl; press with paper towels to absorb any moisture. In another large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and pepper to blend. Mix in carrots and ginger, then eggs.

Pour enough oil into heavy large skillet to cover bottom and heat over medium heat. Working in batches and adding more oil as needed, drop carrot mixture by 1/4 cupfuls into skillet and spread to 3 1/2-inch rounds. Fry until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer latkes to rimmed baking sheet. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 350°F oven until crisp, about 10 minutes.)

From Epicurious.com

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A Side Trip to Suwon

With snow mounded in the streets, I’ve been summoning my inner Betty Crocker for ways to make the  evenings a little more toasty in my abode.  An earlier mission for cooked pumpkin (sans my good friend Libby) left me with some extra and, as a by-product, I came up with this tasty stew recipe. 

If you’ve been paying attention, by now you’ve heeded my suggestions and Ma and Pa have put the inaugural care package in the mail. If you missed the memo, or, for those of you who are a little hesitant about indenturing your contact list, here’s an alternative.  You can find most of the rare ingredients called for in a sketchy back alley just across from Suwon Station.  No, I’m not saying 3 hairs from a Thai ladyboy’s back are the secret garnish.  I was referring to the lentils and spice.

After winding through the maze of market streets, if you persevere like Sir Edmund Hillary, on the second floor of a dimly lit building you’ll find the Swoyambhu Restaurant. Run by a transplanted Nepalese family and serving Indian and Nepalese favorites, this place really delivers.  As if the luscious butter chicken and delicate samosas weren’t enough of a draw, next to the counter you’ll find a stash of ingredients that will have you feeling light-headed.  Curry and lentils are plentiful, and they even have dried chickpeas to boot. The packages are large enough to curb at least a couple months of cravings, and once you taste this recipe you’ll be glad you decided to ration.   

Curried Chicken and Pumpkin Lentil Stew

Serves: 3-4

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 Onion, diced

2 Chicken Breasts, cooked and shredded

1 Cup Lentils of any variety (I used green), rinsed

1/2 Can Diced Tomatoes

1 Tbsp. Curry Powder

1/2 tsp Paprika

1/4 tsp Ground Coriander

1/4 tsp Tumeric

2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes

3-4 Cups Hot Water

1 Small Pumpkin, cooked (I sliced the pumkin in half, scooped out the seeds, then cooked in the microwave until soft about 6-8 minutes.  Once cooked, I scooped out the cooked flesh and roughly chopped it.)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and sautee until translucent.  Next, add the chicken, lentils, tomatoes, and spices.  Cook just enough for flavors to meld together and to heat through. Dissolve the chicken bouillon in hot water and add to pot.  Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer for about 15 minutes or until lentils are fully cooked.  Stir in the pumpkin to finish and season to taste.

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