Archive for the ‘recipe’Category

Sonoma Cider stands out in heart of wine country

The 20 or so downtown wine-tasting rooms in Healdsburg are almost an embarrassment of riches. Sometimes there’s just too much of a good thing. That’s what the folks at Sonoma Cider thought when they opened Taproom (44F Mill Street, Healdsburg, 707-723-7018, sonomacider.com) in a former warehouse about a block south of the plaza last October.

There’s a no-nonsense air to the building that houses several 3,000-gallon and 6,000-gallon fermentation tanks, a bar with a giant screen TV, and a casual restaurant. Father/son duo David and Robert Cordtz launched Sonoma Cider in 2013. They take their cider seriously, but Taproom is free of pretense.

Cider on tap at Sonoma Cider Taproom“This is less upscale than wine-tasting,” says Taproom manager Kole Christen. “People can try something crisp and fresh. This is a place where people can cut loose. And,” he adds with a smile, “we’re open later than wine-tasting rooms.”

Many customers opt for a six-cider flight (shown at top of post) from the multitude of choices. Sonoma Cider’s basic hard cider starts with a blend of five apples grown organically in Washington State. Simply fermented, it’s called The Hatchet. It’s clean, refreshing, and apple-y. The same juice is blended with bourbon flavoring and fermented in bourbon barrels to produce The Anvil. It can also be sweetened with eucalyptus honey and fermented in whiskey barrels for six months to produce The Imperial. (At 10.3 percent alcohol, The Imperial could be classified as apple wine or apple mead.) The cider makers also blend the fermented juice with selected flavors (like blackberry juice) to create flavored ciders.

Delving into nuances


Cider glass at Sonoma Cider taproomHard cider is traditionally made from a blend of apples, but the folks at Sonoma Cider have been exploring the possibilities of single-varietal ciders. Their Gravenstein is tart and fresh, their Winter Banana light and spicy, and their Dry Golden Delicious bone dry and a little tart. With such distinct characters, they offer real potential for food pairings.

The single varietals are often made with Sonoma County apples. One of our favorites of this group was an old-fashioned orchard blend called Westcider. The orchard sits on Westside Road, southwest of Healdsburg. Fermented from a mix of Pink Permain, Winter Banana, Macintosh, Mystery, Crispin, and Baldwin Striped Gentlemen, Westcider has a balance of sweetness, fruitiness, and slightly ashen bitterness characteristic of good French ciders.

In addition to the taps of standard ciders, reserve ciders, and micro-releases, Taproom also crafts cocktails, many of them using Sonoma Cidery Apple Brandy. This 85 proof barrel-aged spirit is distilled from the same base blend of apples used in The Hatchet. Since the production facility had just received a fresh batch of juice, we did a taste test of juice, hard cider, and brandy—sort of vertical tasting of rising alcohol levels. The flavor is remarkably consistent in all three. It makes a good base spirit for cocktails, but it’s also smooth enough to drink neat or on ice. Unlike “applejack,” it has no added neutral spirit so the apple flavor is very pronounced.

Cider with food


Chef Josh Schauert at Sonoma Cider TaproomExecutive chef Josh Schauert has devised a menu to complement the ciders. “When I’m designing dishes, I keep the ciders in mind,” he says. “But this is not your typical bar food.”

He points out that pairing cider with meals is new territory in the restaurant industry, but relishes the challenge. Compared to wine, he says, “cider has a broader flavor structure.” That opens the door for more pairing options beyond the usual “red meat calls for red wine” mindset. Moreover, there are fewer preconceptions about what might be appropriate.

Schauert also finds lots of opportunity to cook with cider. “Cider has a very similar flavor profile to vinaigrette,” he says. “That makes it easier to cook with.”

His menu during our visit was Exhibit A. The seafood ceviche of shrimp, octopus, and salmon was marinated in Crowbar cider, which is flavored with habañero peppers and organic limes. The green beans accompanying baby back ribs are sauteed in garlic butter and deglazed with Apple Cider Brandy.

The brandy is also a key component in Schauert’s take on French Onion Soup. He caramelizes the onions in butter, then deglazes the pan with brandy before adding a housemade bone-broth beef stock. The sweetness of the onions and the fruity richness of the brandy make this winter warmer an surprisingly elegant soup for a casual tavern. By substituting large croutons for the conventional toasted baguette slice on top, he makes the soup much easier to eat. Schauert generously shared the recipe.

SONOMA CIDER FRENCH ONION SOUP


Makes 1 gallon
Prep and cooking time 1 hour

Ingredients


1/4 cup butter
3 lb yellow onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled/chopped
2 bay leaves
1 quart Sonoma Cider Apple Brandy
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 quarts fresh beef stock
2 quarts water
salt/pepper to taste
croutons, toasted light brown in 425°F oven
2 cups mixed shredded Gruyère, cheddar, and jack cheese

Directions


Melt butter in stock pot. Add sliced onions and cook down to caramelize (about 15 minutes). Add garlic and bay leaf, cook until aromatic.

Deglaze pot with Sonoma Cider Apple Brandy, scraping fond (black bits) off of bottom of pot. Add herbs and cook until aromatic. Add Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, and water. Bring to low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes until reduced about 20 percent.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with toasted croutons topped with mixed cheeses. Enjoy!

10

12 2017

Buy top foodstuffs at SHED, or sit and be served

exterior of SHED in Healdsburg

“This is a chef’s dream,” Perry Hoffman said as he surveyed the busy scene in SHED (25 North Street, Healdsburg, 707-431-7433, healdsburgshed.com), the self-described “market, cafe, and community gathering space” that opened in Healdsburg in 2013.

Perry Hoffman of SHED in HealdsburgHoffman knows what he’s talking about. His grandparents founded The French Laundry restaurant in Yountville. Hoffman grew up working beside his grandparents and parents in the family business. After Thomas Keller purchased the restaurant in 1994, Hoffman worked in several other kitchens until he became chef at étoile restaurant at Domaine Chandon in Yountville in 2007. Three years later, he was awarded his first Michelin star. When étoile closed in 2014, SHED was just gathering steam. Hoffman jumped at the chance to embrace the more casual side of California cuisine.

That same year, the James Beard Foundation honored SHED with an award for restaurant design. Much has been made of the architect’s use of steel and glass to create the dramatic, light-filled space and of the clever use of denim as insulation. But design is only a starting point. Within those glass walls, SHED celebrates all things edible and the power of food to bring people together.

DIY or chef-made food


Coffee bar at SHED in Healdsburg It’s safe to say that a foodie can find everything he or she could need or want at SHED. There’s a coffee and juice bar (right), produce from 20 farms, a pantry with products from about 600 makers, a small flour mill, a bakery, a housewares department, and a larder with cheeses, smoked fish, charcuterie, and housemade pickles. Cooking classes and other events take place on the second floor.

We weren’t able to sign up for a cooking class, but we got plenty of new ideas simply by grabbing a table in the cafe and ordering lunch. Food is prepared in a big open kitchen with a wood-fired oven. The menu changes daily and always emphasizes the best of the season. In mid-November, that meant such dishes as Brussel Sprout Gratin with pickled cauliflower; Golden Acorn Squash Salad with cranberries, bee pollen and honey; and Petrale Sole with shiitake mushrooms, eggplant and greens.

“This is different from fine dining,” Hoffman acknowledged, “but we can do good food.” That’s an understatement.

Hoffman kindly shared the recipe for one of our favorite dishes, Wood Oven Roasted San Marzano Tomatoes with goat cheese, rosemary, and roasted oranges. (The recipe calls for tangerines, but a thin-skinned sweet orange like Cara Cara also works.) Now we have to find an acceptable substitute for the dense, crusty olive bread that was served on the side. You can order the olive powder—a favorite vegan umami punch—from SHED Pantry. Or you can make your own by dehydrating well-drained Kalamata or Niçoise olives on a baking sheet in a 250°F oven. It takes three hours or a little more for the olives to become dry, crispy, and ready for pulverizing.

roasted San Marzano tomatoes at SHED in Healdsburg

ROASTED SAN MARZANO TOMATOES
WITH TANGERINES AND DRIED OLIVES


Serves 6

Ingredients


2 lbs fresh San Marzano tomatoes, each cut into 3 rounds
4 tangerines, seeded and sliced into half moons retaining skin
10 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 cups of chopped yellow onions
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
4 bay leaves
1 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of goat cheese
1 tablespoon olive powder (from SHED Pantry or homemade)
sweet alyssum and fennel flowers to garnish

Directions


Set oven to 450°F.

In an ovenproof dish (SHED uses ceramic cazuelas), add tomatoes, tangerines, garlic, onions, rosemary, bay leaves, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with goat cheese, Return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and garnish with olive powder, sweet alyssum, and fennel flowers and serve with toasted bread!

06

12 2017

‘Stir Crazy’ makes simple, fast, tasty Chinese

Stir Crazy Front Cover US

Rarely does a new cookbook so readily insinuate itself into our weekly menu planning. Stir Crazy by Ching-He Huang (Kyle Books, $24.95) is the latest volume of make-at-home Chinese cooking by the prolific Taiwan-born chef and host of Cooking Channel shows. The subtitle—“100 Deliciously Healthy Stir-Fry Recipes”—speaks volumes. The recipes for two servings include estimated prep and cooking times along with calories and grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Few dishes exceed 400 calories per serving, yet every one is a satisfying one-dish meal, especially if paired with rice or noodles. It’s no secret how she keeps them in nutitional bounds. Wok cookery uses very little oil, and cooking times are brief. Most ingredients are readily available in most supermarkets.

Once we embraced the book, we did have to change a few habits. First, we stocked up on a few seasonings we don’t usually keep on hand—oyster sauce, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, and an upgrade to our usual soy sauce. Ching mostly uses peanut or canola oil; we found a grapeseed-canola blend with a little higher smoke point. After trying some wok recipes in conventional frying pans, we relented and bought a good wok at C-Mart in Boston’s Chinatown.

Once we were appropriately equipped, it was surprisingly easy to incorporate some of these recipes into our menus. Ching uses somewhat larger portions of meat than traditional in most Chinese cooking. Beef might be 4 ounces for two servings, chicken is almost always 7 ounces. (We suspect that the original British edition of the book gives those measurements as 150 grams and 250 grams, respectively.) What has so far impressed us is that Ching’s proportions produce perfectly balanced flavors.

Here’s one of our new favorites.

beef and spinach fried rice

BEEF AND SPINACH FRIED RICE


If you have some cooked basmati rice to hand, this dish is incredibly quick to make. If you want to make it carb-free then omit the rice and add some add some broccolini or Chinese cabbage to make the dish go further.

Preparation 20 minutes (includes cooking the rice)
Cooking 6 minutes
Serves 2
cal 429 carbs 43.7g protein 19.4g fat 20.7g

For the beef


4 ounces beef sirloin, fat trimmed off, sliced into thin strips
knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
pinch of sea salt flakes
pinch of ground white pepper
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry

For the fried rice


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
7 ounces spinach leaves
1½ cups cooked basmati rice (¾ cup uncooked)
1 tablespoon low-sodium light soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
pinch of ground white pepper

Directions


Combine all the ingredients for the beef in a bowl, then set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat until smoking and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds to release its aroma, then add the spinach and cook for 5 seconds. Add in the cooked rice and toss with the spinach for 30 seconds.

Push the rice to one side, then heat up the center of the wok and pour in the remaining canola oil. Add the beef and let it brown and sear for 10 seconds, then flip it over. Stir-fry until all the beef has coated the rice, then season with the light soy sauce, oyster sauce, and toasted sesame oil. Sprinkle with some ground white pepper and serve immediately.

CHING’S TIP
Work quickly so the spinach doesn’t become mush.

Reprinted from Stir Crazy by Ching-He Huang, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Tamin Jones.
Here’s the link to buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stir-Crazy-Deliciously-Healthy-Stir-Fry/dp/1909487678

26

11 2017

Chocolate and bourbon make best of friends

Erika Chavez-Graziano offers bourbon balls at Mesa in New Albany

We were glad to see Andy Embry behind the counter at the cookware store and demonstration kitchen Mesa (216 Pearl Street, 812-725-7691, mesachefs.com) in New Albany. Mesa offers an ambitious schedule of cooking demonstrations led by local chefs. We had signed up for the bourbon and chocolate tasting program that is usually offered once a month, according to Mesa owner Bobby Bass.

Embry had been remarkably engaging and knowledgeable when he guided us through the Evan Williams center in Louisville (see this post). And he had offered some good pointers on tasting bourbon. So we were curious to see how he approached pairing bourbon with chocolate. His partner in the demonstration was Erika Chavez-Graziano, founder of Cellar Door Chocolates (cellardoorchocolates.com), which has three shops in Louisville.

“Chocolate brings out the sweetness of bourbon,” Embry told our group as the tasting began. We each had three small glasses of bourbon and three of Chavez-Graziano’s confections in front of us. “Take a bite of chocolate and let it melt in your mouth,” Embry advised. “Then take a sip of bourbon and let the flavors blend in your mouth.”

Whiskey tastes with chocolate

Bernheim Wheat and milk chocolate


We began with Bernheim Wheat Whiskey. At 90 proof, it was the lightest and the softest of the Heaven Hill whiskies. Embry and Chavez-Graziano had paired it with a 38 percent milk chocolate truffle. Embry prefers milk chocolate with bourbon. “It pairs better because it is smoother,” he said. “It brings out the best in bourbon.” The milk chocolate was light enough that it didn’t step all over the toffee and spice of the wheated whiskey

Elijah Craig and salt caramel


Next was Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon. This is one of our favorite bourbons. The nose has sweet fruit, fresh mint, and vanilla notes. The taste is woody with a hint of nutmeg and smoke. It’s one of those bourbons with a pronounced “Kentucky hug” in the finish—warming all the way down. Pairing it with a bourbon-barrel-smoked sea salt caramel gives the caramel a slight toasted note, while the caramel accentuates the wood and spice in the whiskey.

Henry McKenna and cinnamon truffle


Finally, we tasted Henry McKenna Single Barrel with a cinnamon truffle. The McKenna is bottled in bond with the barrel number on each bottle. The nose shows caramel and vanilla, while the taste is a swirl of oak, toasted spices, and honey. The cinnamon in the truffle plays especially well with the sharp spices in the whiskey.

Make your own bourbon balls


Chavez-Graziano is a self-taught chocolatier who is so serious about her craft that she imports and roasts her own cacao beans. She participated in the tasting with great enthusiasm, but also managed to make a batch of bourbon balls to share with the group while Embry was talking.

Erika Chavez-Graziano makes bourbon balls at Mesa in New AlbanyShe began by melting chocolate and cream in a double boiler behind the counter. For best results, she said, use couverture chocolate rather than compound chocolate. Couverture contains cocoa better, while compound chocolate substitutes another oil.

For every pound of chocolate, Chavez-Graziano adds one-half cup of whipping cream. She also stirred in a little sea salt and a generous splash of bourbon. Then she removed the pot from the heat and set the mixture aside until it was cool enough to roll into small balls. For the final touch, she rolled each one in dark cocoa powder. Do not use Dutch-processed cocoa, she told us, because the processing alters the flavor by removing the natural acids.

Chavez-Graziano passed the tray of truffles to all the guests. “The most selfless way to express love to people,” she said, “is to feed them.”

We were only sorry that we had finished our bourbon.

22

11 2017

NABC proves brewpub grub can be healthy, too

With its working-class-hero graphics and its no-nonsense approach to craft brewing, the New Albanian Brewing Company (NABC) has been providing the suds of choice for thirsty folks in New Albany, Indiana, since 2002. In 2009, the original pizzeria brewery, now called NABC Pizzeria & Public House (3312 Plaza Drive, 812-944-2577) was augmented by the downtown NABC Café & Brewhouse (415 Bank St., 812-944-2577, newalbanian.com).

Stacey serves meal at NABCIn 2015, Stacie Bale took over as café operations manager. Serving both lunch and dinner, the café bustles, even outside the normal evening hours when brewpubs do their biggest business. Bale’s approach to the grub has something to do with that. She aims to make brewpub fare as healthy as possible both for the customers and for the local agricultural community. With those goals in mind, Bale sources most of her raw ingredients locally, makes a point of using non-GMO corn, cornstarch, and local oil (no mean feat in corn country), and offers a range of plant-based meals. Bacon, chicken, and beef are all free range and pasture-fed from nearby Hensley Homegrown.

One of the most impressive innovations Bale introduced to the menu was greaseless air frying. She keeps an array of small air fryers lined up in the kitchen so several fried dishes can be produced at once. Most are used for crispy waffle fries, onion rings, or the occasional catfish special.

NABC beerThe beers show a great range from agreeable session ales (like the one shown here) to the extremely hopped and high-alcohol Hoptimus. That’s an IPA with 10.7 percent alcohol and 100 IBU (international bitterness units). Bale uses the Community Dark (3.7 percent alcohol, 13.2 IBU) to great effect to make Beer Mac & Cheese, one of the favorite side dishes. She was kind enough to share the recipe. If you don’t have NABC handy, use your local brewery’s brown ale.

NEW ALBANIAN BEER MAC & CHEESE


NABC mac and cheeseServes 4 as main course, 8 as a side dish

Ingredients


2 cups uncooked macaroni
12 ounces NABC beer (Community Dark or 15-B)
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar
2 teaspoons chili powder
cayenne to taste (start with 1/8 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Directions


Boil a large pot of salted water. Once boiling, cook the macaroni until tender (8-10 minutes). Stir occasionally. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour beer in a second large pot. Place the pot over high heat, and add the cream cheese. As the beer starts to simmer, break the cream cheese into pieces with a whisk and whisk into the beer. Add the 2 cups shredded cheddar. Warm and whisk until completely smooth.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, pour it into the cheese sauce. Reduce the heat to low, then stir and cook another 3 minutes to thicken. Add spices and mix in thoroughly.

15

11 2017

Fine distractions at Louisville’s Red Herring

Louisville's Red Herring at night

Located next door to the Silver Dollar (see our biscuit post), Red Herring (1757 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, 502-907-3800, redherringlou.com) opened in April 2017 in the 112-year-old Hilltop Theater. It might be the perfect complement to its next door neighbor. Red Herring is far from retro, despite including PBR on an otherwise stellar list of regional craft beers.

Red Herring interiorIf we lived in the neighborhood, they might have to put our names on two of the barstools. For starters, Red Herring is open from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. every day. You can segue seamlessly from breakfast to lunch to happy hour to dinner to evening entertainment without changing seats. The room is huge, as you might expect from a former theater, with seating downstairs and on a balcony above. The entertainers also set up on the balcony.

Crispy fried chicken skins at Red Herring in LouisvilleThe food at Red Herring exemplifies modern bar fare. On one hand, you can order Texas smoked brisket or a six-ounce burger of Black Hawk Farms beef on a housemade brioche bun. The kitchen also does a knockout charcuterie plate with chicken rillettes made in-house, as well as a vegetarian harissa hummus. The dish that made us smile widest, though, was a bowl of crispy chicken skins. The skins are brined in the house pickle juice, soaked in buttermilk, and battered with a locally milled flour. Once they’re deep-fried, the cooks drizzle them with hot sauce aged in a bourbon barrel.

“Southern calamari,” our server deadpanned.

The bar serves 100 classic cocktails and a slew of the staff’s own creations. We enjoyed the house signature Red Herring, which is yet another variation on sweetened bourbon.

RED HERRING COCKTAIL


2 ounces bourbon
1/4 ounce concentrated Demerara sugar syrup
2 dashes Bittercube Orange bitters
1 dash Fee Brothers’ Black Walnut cocktail flavoring
Orange zest

Add first four ingredients to cocktail shaker. Stir. Pour into rocks glass filled with ice cubes.
Flame the orange zest and drop it into the drink as a garnish.

With a bowl of Southern calamari and a Red Herring in hand, we were ready for the evening music. New Albany, Indiana, banjo picker Steve Cooley and some pals gave us several fun sets of bluegrass. Here’s a little sample:

13

11 2017

Le Moo nails the essentials of steak and bourbon

Steer on wall of Le Moo in Louisville

Every city needs an unrestrained steakhouse. From the fiberglass steer in the parking lot to the real taxidermied longhorn on the wall inside, it’s pretty clear that Le Moo (2300 Lexington Rd, Louisville, 502-458-8888, lemoorestaurant.com) does steak without restraint.

Le Moo is a major special-occasion restaurant, and like any good over-the-top place, it has one booth of truly over-the-top seating. The upholstery comes from 17 pieces of vintage Louis Vuitton luggage. There’s a $500 minimum to reserve it, but it does seat four to five people. And Wagyu steaks with top wines will meet the minimum handily. (Actually, the domestic prime Angus is maybe even beefier and friendlier to the wallet.)

Chef Chip Lawrence at Le Moo in LouisvilleWe were visiting with Mint Julep Tours (see the Harvest post), and since it was our second meal of an already young day, we prevailed on our server to split a small steak. Executive chef Chip Lawrence (that’s him on the right) had already planned to serve a four-ounce filet for the culinary tasting, even though the smallest steak on the usual menu weighs in at twice that. But a beef filet tapers from the broad Chateaubriand through the filet mignon down to a narrow tail. By cutting closer to the tail, Lawrence could still get a super-thick steak that was a bantamweight by comparison with the rest of the menu.

Steak and grits, oh my


Steak dinner at Le Moo

Our plate might have been modest, but Lawrence certainly made it special. It was the small-plate version of a Platonic steak dinner. The filet was grilled medium rare and came with brussel sprouts, popcorn grits, and a country ham demi glacé. The grits were cooked with cheese. The distinct popcorn flavor came from popped corn ground up in a blender and added to the grits. It’s a trick we’re going to try at home for sure.

Le Moo carries more than 100 bourbons. The bartenders can make anything you can think up, but we decided to honor the beef with a Central Kentucky classic, the Bluegrass Breeze. At Le Moo, they use a marvelous Austrian liqueur for the apricot flavor. It’s made with apricot eau-de-vie and fresh apricot juice.

BLUEGRASS BREEZE


2 ounces Basil Hayden Bourbon
1 1/2 ounces Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce Demerara sugar syrup
lemon peel

Add ingredients through sugar to cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into white wine glass. Twist lemon peel over drink and wipe lightly on rim of glass. Discard peel.

Cheers!

12

11 2017

Crème de la crème ignites apple crisp

Pouring crème anglaise on apple crisp

On my first visit to London many years ago, I ordered a bowl of apple crumble for dessert in a casual eatery catering to students. It was so good that I went back the next night for another serving. I wanted to figure out why the dish seemed so much better than the very similar apple crisp that I enjoyed every autumn at home in New England.

I finally decided that the difference wasn’t the apple variety or the recipe. It was the custard that topped each serving. Thick, silky, and redolent of vanilla, the delicious custard just seemed so much more elegant than my usual scoop of vanilla ice cream. Even the custard’s more formal name—crème anglaise—lent a certain sophistication to a homey dessert.

It does require a bit more effort to whip up a batch of crème anglaise than to pop open a carton of ice cream. So I don’t make it often. But when I do, I enjoy the little ceremony of pouring the crème anglaise from a pitcher onto each bowl of apple crisp.

Cover of The Wholefood Pantry I may be making crème anglaise more often since I discovered the following recipe in the new book, The Wholefood Pantry by Amber Rose (Kyle Books, $29.95). Rose, who grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Great Britain, offers 175 of what she calls her “essential go-to recipes” for healthy and tasty meals. For the most part, the recipes are quick to make and are not burdened with too many ingredients. But Rose often finds an herb or other seasoning that makes her dishes stand out. That’s certainly true of her very British Vanilla Custard. She introduces what I think of as a taste of New England with the addition of maple syrup. Here is her recipe.

VANILLA CUSTARD


Serves 6

Ingredients


1/2 vanilla bean
2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 extra-large egg yolks
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup

Directions


Put the vanilla bean and milk in a medium saucepan, and bring slowly to a boil. Just before it starts to bubble, remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks and maple syrup in a large bowl.

Remove the vanilla bean from the hot milk, and slowly pour the milk into the egg yolk mix, whisking all the time.

Use the tip of a sharp knife to split open the vanilla bean, and scrape out the seeds into the custard mixture.

Return the mixture to the pan, and stir over gentle heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be very careful not to allow the mixture to boil, or it will split.

Once the custard has reached the desired thickness, pour the custard into a cool pitcher or pouring bowl. (If you leave the custard in the pan, even away from the heat, it can still split from the residual heat at the base of the pan.)

Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent a skin from forming.

Serve warm or cold.

25

10 2017

As frost looms, fried green tomatoes beckon

Red Yeti Restaurant and Red Foot Brewing in Jeffersonville, IN

Jeffersonville, Indiana, is a fascinating little town with a deep history and a lot of good eats. We will soon be featuring several spots there in upcoming posts about our visit to Louisville, Kentucky, and the towns across the Ohio River in Indiana. But right now we’re looking at frost forecasts this week. So we’re busy harvesting everything left in our garden. That includes a lot of tomatoes that haven’t yet shown the first blush of ripening.

Charcuterie board at Red YetiJeffersonville happens to be the home of Red Yeti Restaurant and Red Foot Brewing Company (256 Spring St., Jeffersonville; 812-288-5788, redyetijeff.com). We enjoyed a beer flight with a bountiful board of cheeses from five Indiana and Kentucky creameries and along with sausages and other charcuterie from Henpecked Farm in neighboring New Albany, Indiana. Chef Michael Bowe makes the country breads and the tangy porter whole grain mustard in house.

Beer flight at Red YetiThe beer choices change frequently, of course, but we found the entire flight to be eminently drinkable. The mellow porter had a nice roundness, while the stout was a mild, not terribly bitter version. Of the lighter beers we tried, we were especially impressed with the ginger beer. It managed to showcase the brightness of the ginger without the muddiness that often dampens our enthusiasm for such brews. With a bright carbonation on the tongue, it was like drinking a spicy pilsner.

We could have stopped there. But we wanted to try the macaroni and cheese topped with fried green tomatoes.

Chef Michael Bowe at Red YetiChef Bowe (right) cleverly tops a bowl of sinfully luscious macaroni and cheese with a trio of crunchy, slightly tart fried tomato slices. While fried green tomatoes are a Southern staple (and Jeffersonville is almost in the South), the seasonings in Bowe’s breading elevated these crispy, tasty slabs far above the usual fare. So for all our readers faced with a drawer of green tomatoes, Bowe and the crew at Red Yeti agreed to share the recipe below. Ours is adapted, since the original made around three dozen servings.

fried green tom mac and cheese at Red Yeti

FRIED GREEN TOMATO MAC & CHEESE


Serves 6

For cheese sauce


1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded white cheddar
1 cup shredded Gruyère
1/2 cup shredded Provolone
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water to make slurry
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
8 cups lightly salted water

Heat milk and cream on medium-high heat. When near boiling, add the cheeses. While stirring slowly, add the slurry. Continue stirring until sauce thickens. Add white pepper and salt.

Cook macaroni in lightly salted boiling water until just past al dente. Drain and add to cheese sauce.

For fried green tomatoes

Breading


3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Montreal seasoning (see below or substitute steak rub spices)

Preparation


Mix together to make breading.

1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
18 thickly cut slices of green tomatoes
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
vegetable oil to 1/2 inch deep in large frying pan

Beat egg. Then whisk into buttermilk.

Coat tomatoes with breading, then dip tomatoes in buttermilk mixture. Remove and coat with panko breadcrumbs.

Fry breaded tomatoes in vegetable oil until golden brown.

Divide macaroni and cheese into six heatproof bowls. For each serving, place three tomato slices on top. For added flair, sprinkle each with some additional panko crumbs and a little grated Parmesan cheese and brown in 400° oven for 3-5 minutes.

MONTREAL SEASONING


So-called “Montreal” seasoning employs some of the spices used to cure the famous Montreal smoked meat. They are similar to pastrami spices. This recipe makes far more than you’ll need for the mac & cheese, but the remainder makes a good rub for beef or seasoning for hamburgers.

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons dill or fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
4 teaspoons dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Toast spices in a dry frying pan until aromatic. Crush in mortar and pestle. Makes about 1/2 cup.

16

10 2017

Zee’s complements adjacent Shaw Festival

eating on porch at Zee's

The Niagara peninsula isn’t all about vineyards and fine dining. Many visitors flock to Niagara on the Lake for the Shaw Festival (www.shawfest.com). The theater company occupies a good portion of the east end of the village. It launched in 1962 to celebrate acclaimed Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). That year’s performances were Don Juan in Hell and Candida.

Just as wine grapes have flourished in the Niagara peninsula, so has drama. From those first four performances in a hall in the historic Court House, the Shaw Festival has grown into a major player in the theater world. This year’s April through mid-October season features 11 plays presented in four different venues. (A Christmas Carol is also scheduled for the holiday season.) Shaw, of course, is well-represented with productions of Saint Joan and Androcles and the Lion. But the season intersperses the Shaw among other classic, modern, and new plays.

Before and after the curtain


The theater facility is right across Wellington Street from the aptly named Shaw Club Hotel (www.niagarasfinest.com/shaw). Embodying a relaxed modern sensibility, the hostelry is an alternative to the plush traditionalism of the Prince of Wales. (See earlier post.) The covered front porch, where slowly rotating overhead fans stir the air, is a great spot for a pre- or post-performance bite. An extension of Zee’s Grill, it’s also an excellent perch to watch the comings and goings on Picton Street.

Executive chef Matt Tattrie grew up in the Niagara region and studied at Niagara College. He has a keen appreciation for local growers and producers. At lunch, he makes a mean burger with locally farmed beef and pork topped with pickled daikon, cucumber, carrot and sriracha aioli. He also offers salads and other options for those who prefer to eat lightly in warm weather. We found his chilled Smoked Red Pepper Gazpacho to be the perfect restorative on a warm afternoon. He kindly shared the recipe and it has already become a staple in our repertoire at home. He calls for a liter of roasted red peppers. You can certainly used canned roasted peppers, but we prefer to roast our own either on a charcoal grill or under the broiler. It takes about 10 red peppers to make the volume he suggests. If you roast them yourself, omit the Liquid Smoke.

Red pepper gazpacho at Zee's

SMOKED RED PEPPER GAZPACHO

Ingredients


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
1 bulb of peeled raw garlic
half bunch of fresh thyme finely chopped
1 liter container of fire roasted red peppers (about 10)
1 teaspoon of Liquid Smoke
1 liter of chicken stock (or water to keep it vegetarian)
Salt and pepper

Directions


Heat up a saucepot with vegetable oil. Once oil is hot add your onions and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes at medium heat. Add fresh thyme to pot and sauté for 2 more minutes.
Add your fire roasted red peppers and Liquid Smoke to pot along with stock or water. Simmer for 1 hour.

Let soup cool and blend gazpacho all together. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate.

Serve cold or at room temperature, garnishing with a drizzle of reduced balsamic glaze and a sprinkling of microgreens.

Adapted from Matt Tattrie, Executive Chef, Zee’s Restaurant, Shaw Club, Niagara-on-the-Lake

For an overview of travel on the Niagara Peninsula, see the web site of Visit Niagara (visitniagaracanada.com).

04

09 2017