Monday, January 23, 2012

garden and gun, I'm talking to you

A note to bar reviewers: recommending the vodka martini at your favorite bar is like praising the Heinz ketchup at the local steakhouse.
The atmosphere at Sunset Grill and Tap is loud, young, and collegiate (much like the web page), but I don't care - their beer list is amazing. The burgers were better than they needed to be - when the menu goes on for that many pages, you figure they serve too many things to excel at any one of them, and that the food is mainly there to have lots of options to go with the literally hundreds of beers served.

I got to try a few beers I either hadn't been able to find (Lindeman's Faro, the lambic with added Belgian candy sugar instead of fruit - the only Lindeman's lambic I hadn't tried before) or wasn't sure I wanted to commit to a whole bottle of (Stone's 2011 Vertical Epic, brewed with cinnamon and chiles - neither of which was actually very prominent, as it turned out; and Dogfish Head's Hellhound on My Ale, an IPA that I liked, but not as much as a lot of their other offerings).

The highlight, by far, was Duchesse de Bourgogne, one of the best beers I've had ... maybe the best. Sour, but not like a lambic - the sourness is predominantly acetic (vinegary), not citric or malic, and it's more noticeably yeasty. Just an incredible beer.

That was Saturday night. The night before, I spatchcocked and roasted a chicken (rubbed with butter mixed with this Eastern European spice blend from Bazaar; 50 minutes at 450), and while it rested, cooked turnip greens in the pan drippings, along with a lot of ginger and garlic. Roasting by me, photos by Caitlin:

Chicken and greens Turnip greens Mmmm, chicken skin

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 Whiteboard

Pre-Lent 2012 whiteboard.

Not included on the whiteboard: cooking things from the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, which Caitlin gave me for Christmas. So many recipes for sweetbreads, duck, and shad roe!

Also not included on the whiteboard: finding more candy bars with recipes on them:

Cherry Mash recipes
Mr Valomilk, Ms Skor, Generalissimo Mountain Bar, if you're out there, I am available to develop your recipes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

carbonated custard

Odds and ends. Lunch:

Lobster sandwich
Lobster sandwich - the bread was really a little too crusty for this, there's a reason lobster rolls are on hot dog buns: kimcheese, kimchi, lobster tail and claw meat ($4 in a post-New Year's sale), scallions, sesame oil.

Carbonated boiled custard:

Carbonated boiled custard
Don't mind the poor lighting, I tried to get a shot under my desk lamp so you can see the bubbles. I took the aforementioned boiled custard and carbonated it! It's ... like a thicker, silkier egg cream, sort of. And sort of like whipped cream. And the almond flavor is much more pronounced than the flat custard.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

here's to the golden moon

I really wanted a carbonated cocktail. Partly because everyone mentions them in their "best of 2011"/"what's coming up in 2012" rundowns, partly because that's just how I do. I don't have a SodaStream or anything else actually intended for carbonating liquids, but I regularly carbonate fruit in my iSi cream-whipper by using a CO2 cartridge instead of a nitrous cart. Liquids are a little trickier because it's not an ideal-sized vessel for them, but is just about right to carbonate 1-2 servings. I've done homemade grape soda, for instance, which was almost entirely fresh-pressed Concord grape juice.

See, the benefit to carbonating a cocktail - or any other liquid - is that you're adding fizz without diluting anything. Normally to make that grape soda, you would either add club soda - watering down the juice - or cook the grape juice into a syrup and reconstitute it in club soda, changing the flavor significantly by cooking it. (Think of the difference between the way a fresh strawberry tastes and the way cooked strawberries taste in jam, sundae topping, pie, etc.)

Unfortunately for you, I did not note proportions while building this cocktail, I eyeballed it.

That may not matter since I used Charbay's Whiskey Release II, which isn't exactly a home bar staple.

But the basic idea is easy - grapefruit juice, maltiness, and bitters.

Unnamed carbonated cocktail

In order from most to least, I used:

Fresh-squeezed white grapefruit juice (1 grapefruit);
Charbay's Whiskey Release II (which is hopped, going well with the grapefruit);
Campari (about 1/4 ounce);
Peychaud's bitters (also about 1/4 ounce - which is a lot, yeah).

It's bitter, hoppy, and malty - sort of like beer, especially once you add those bubbles.

boiled custard

Boiled custard

Boiled custard is sort of like cooked eggnog, and as much as you'd think that'd appeal to Yankees afraid of cackleberry cooties, it's pretty exclusively a southern thing. Google recipes and the more popular the site you find one on, the more likely you'll have commenters angry that the custard "didn't set" or was "soupy."

That's because boiled custard is a beverage, not a pudding cup.

The egg is enough to thicken the sweetened milk, but it pours, it spills, it sloshes. You can use it as a sauce - I recommend fresh fruit and poundcake or meringues - but you're meant to pour a glass of it, and maybe add a shot of bourbon or Jack Daniels.

It's rich - this beverage is as much a dessert as those Mud Pie milkshakes at Bennigan's or what have you.

For half a gallon and some lagniappe (you can pour it back into the milk jug for refrigeration and have a few glasses of the excess still warm):

Heat half a gallon of milk and two cups of sugar in a double boiler - or just over medium heat, being careful.

If you have an immersion blender, you don't even have to be that careful - whizzing the custard after it's cooked will take care of lumps.

Add a couple vanilla beans, a cinnamon stick, or some orange peel if you like. I added some cherry, peach, and almond kernels along with vanilla beans, for a sort of New Orleans nectar flavor.

Beat 10 eggs in a separate bowl with plenty of excess room, so probably your large mixing bowl. When the milk is steaming, add a few cups of milk - a cup at a time - to the eggs, beating it in in order to warm the eggs up to temper them, so they don't cook as soon as they hit the hot pot of milk.

Add the warmed eggs to the pot.  Fish out whatever solids you've been steeping (I didn't fish out the kernels, because I was using an immersion blender - do not try to blend a vanilla bean, though).

Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until it's thick enough to coat a spoon.

Remove from heat.  Continue to stir until it has cooled down at least a little, to prevent the custard from overcooking on the bottom of the pot where the metal is still hot.  Less necessary if you used a double boiler.  This is also when you use an immersion blender to get rid of lumps, if you like.  You can also strain the custard.

Let cool and refrigerate.  It's actually best after a couple days in the fridge, for some reason.