Give Thanks for Leftovers

The dust has settled. Families are back in their respective homes. I’m slowly remembering what work needs to be done in the coming week. And I’m officially sick of turkey.

Post-Thanksgiving days revolve as much around food as the holiday itself does. Why did we make so much? Can we freeze this? How are we going to eat all of this stuff? All are questions I’ve had over the last few days. Once it’s all cooked, we hit the point of no return — it’s time to own up and not let anything go to waste.

Matt (aka: my brobro) works for a fantastic artisanal bakery that on only rare and special occasions allows him access to a Chocolate Sour Cherry Round—a specialty holiday bread so rich and decadent that it easily confuses my taste buds for cake but makes a much more acceptable breakfast than the confection (toasted, dry and with coffee).

When I found one of the coveted chocolatey boules went stale after one too many days of hearing, oh we’re saving that for so-and-so, I had to act. No perfectly good holiday food would meet the Hefty Man on my watch.

It was bread pudding time.

I’d seen chefs I worked with whip batches of it together after someone forgot to wrap and put bread deliveries away. Just because we couldn’t serve the bread for dipping, didn’t mean it was trash. Commonly known as “poor man’s pudding,” bread pudding cites its origins back as far as the 11th century and was made by frugal cooks looking for ways to use every scrap of food including bread that past its prime. By adding a little milk, sugar, eggs and some spices any leavened loaf can be saved. Recipes will vary along with the type of bread used, but the comfort food definitely spans cookbooks around the globe.

Crisis averted, folks!

And of course…to pay homage to our older brother who couldn’t be home for the holiday because he’s out battling pirates and exploring the world with periscopes, we added some in some Sailor Jerry for Sailor Hughie. What’s a little chocolate and cherries without a little rum. 

The SJ worked particularly well because it’s smooth and doesn’t carry the overly boozey baggage that I found with some other spiced rum (that I bought 3 years ago on an island somewhere…) that threatened to take over the flavor party. And let’s be honest…who doesn’t love that label. The intense vanilla and toffee flavors in the rum added a subtle sweetness and tickled the best notes of the luscious chocolate—leaving my head spinning and my stomach ready to burst. You’re welcome and I’m sorry…

Sailor Jerry Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

  • 1 La Brea Bakery “Chocolate Sour Cherry Round”, stale
  • 2 ½ C milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/3 C Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 T unsalted butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Cut bread into 1” cubes, place in a large mixing bowl and pour milk over bread. Allow the bread to soak for about 10 minutes until all of the milk is absorbed. In separate smaller bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, rum, and cinnamon. Gently stir into the bread mixture.

Pour butter into the bottom of a 9” x 9” inch baking pan. Coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well with the butter. Pour in the bread mix and bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, until set. The pudding is done when the edges start to pull away from the edge of the pan and the top gets crispy. Serve warm—with vanilla ice cream if you’re a glutton for punishment.

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Sauce in the Sauce: Cranberries

Here we go again, Thanksgiving, just a few short days away. I love you…I adore you… so, can I ask? What happened to the fall and when-the-heck did you get here? I never seem to arrive in the middle of November well prepared. It’s like I left October without my house keys, a pair of socks or a contact case, Thanksgiving arrived early, my house isn’t clean and I have no food.

Don’t know what I’d do without family to invite me over!

When going to a big family function—foreign or domestic—it’s important to wow the judges. On holidays, we go all out. The table is set with carefully starched and pressed linen napkins and cloth, bone china, antique silver flatware and cut crystal. Everything–the cheese, the bread, the wine, the vegetables and meats–is the freshest, most beautiful that we can find; brought to the table like little gifts.

But while sipping from a glass that costs more than I spend on food in a week, I’m left to wonder: how the hell did that can shaped, gelatinous blob of cranberries get deemed acceptable?

Aside from the fact that they’re delicious and more hysterical than the turkey shaped butter mold that my dad insists on lopping the head off as soon as we sit down, how does the red viscous can-mold manage to make it under the radar every year?

This year, I said I’d take on the task of reinventing the cranberry. Much easier than the wheel…Here are some fun ways to add some sauce to the sauce: that boring canned cran will never be the same!

First comes first: breakfast cooking cocktails! Thanksgiving is always served more as a lunch, so starting early is necessary. In order to stand in the kitchen while others lounge in front of football, a little morning bev is needed. Again I’ll say: it’s a holiday!

 

Poinsettia

  • 4 oz. Champagne
  • 1 t. Jellied Cranberry Sauce (the canned stuff)

Place cranberry sauce in champagne glass and top with chilled champagne. Now, you may enter the kitchen…

Cape Codder Cran

  • 1 14 oz Can Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • ¼ C Vodka

Just like the cocktail! Mix all ingredients in medium sauce pan and heat on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, serve chilled. Lime wedges optional.

Jager Spiced Cranberries

  • 1 14oz. can Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 Persimmon, diced
  • ¼ C Jägermeister

Mix all ingredients in medium sauce pan and heat on medium for 5 minutes, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, serve chilled or warm with dinner or along with cheese platter! This pairs beautifully with Brie, Camembert, Gouda and mild Swiss cheeses.

CranMarnier Sauce

  • 1 12oz. bag Fresh Cranberries
  • 1 C Water
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 Navel orange zest and segments, pith removed
  • 1 Persimmon, diced
  • ½ C Pomegranate seeds (click link for tips on cutting & seeding!)
  • ½ C Grand Marnier

In medium sauce pan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and add fresh cranberries, orange segments, orange zest and persimmon. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add pomegranate seeds and Grand Marnier. Serve chilled or hot (according to your preference) with the holiday bird.

Don’t forget about dessert…

Vanilla Vodka Whipped CranDip

  • 1 14oz. container Cool Whip,
  • 1/4 C Crème fraîche (cheat & buy it…)
  • 2 T Vanilla Vodka
  • 1 14oz. can Whole Berry Cranberries

In large bowl, combine all ingredients and whip with electric mixer until evenly combined and fluffy. Serve chilled with cut fruit or in a pre-fab graham cracker pie crust (frozen or chilled) for dessert.

Thanksgiving cranberries will no longer be the laughing stock of the table. That butter turkey is another story…Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sage vs. SAGE: You be the judge

Nothing the world likes better than a good fight.

I’m sure we’d all like to say that fighting doesn’t solve anything, but it sure seems to be damn entertaining. Otherwise we wouldn’t be watching reality TV, there would be no market for televised MMA fighting and the debates wouldn’t get such high ratings. Competition, tension, and –maybe a little blood—is exciting. If it bleeds, it leads…right?

As the middle child and only girl, I was bred to be competitive and to be fueled by the fire of a fight. So waging a war between my ingredients makes cooking a little more interesting.

In the right corner: fresh sage. Officially salvia officinalis, sage is a perennial, evergreen ground hugging shrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and purplish flowers. It is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region. Flavor-wise, it’s the aftertaste of gravy at Thanksgiving—earthy, woody and slightly bitter.

In the left corner: SAGE, another fantastic herbal libation from Art in the Age. It has the perfumey, piney, minty notes that remind me of gin but lack the throat-closing elements that keep us apart (juniper berries and me–we don’t get along).

I decided on a simple soup where the dueling dragons could really stand out—as one of only 6 things, they didn’t have a choice. Pumpkin, apples, chicken stock, some salt and pepper rounded out the posse in the fight. The battle would determine which was best: fresh, authentic flavor or the doctored, essence.

The chopped sage gave the apple, pumpkin mixture a tastier look while roasting and when they met the blender, produced a richer, darker broth that fit the toasty flavor of the soup. SAGE caramelized on the fruits as they browned under high heat and allowed the vibrant orange of the Cinderella pumpkin to sing. The sweetness of the liquor, pumpkin and apples had to be quelled (for me anyway) with a little extra pepper to become ass kicking…but once it was there, this stuff was incredible.

In the end, if there could be only one, my vote went to the booze (surprised?) since I didn’t have to dig that out from under leaves in my mom’s garden. It was a good, clean fight though and I’ll happily to pit them against each other again soon…just for fun.

Pumpkin Apple Sage and SAGE Soup (as adapted from EatingWell.com)

  • 4 lbs. pie pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 4 lbs. sweet-tart apples, such as Empire, Cameo or Braeburn, unpeeled,      cored and cut into eighths
  • 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground tri-colored pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 C Art in the Age SAGE
  • 6 C chicken broth
  • 1/3 C chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Seed, peel and cut pumpkin into 2” chunks. Be sure to buy a pumpkin that weighs in at 5-6 lbs to yield 4lbs of pumpkin (the junk has weight too!). Core and cut unpeeled apples into eights. Separate pumpkin and apple evenly into two roasting pans. Toss each with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (2 T = 1/8 C, 4 T = ¼ C) and pinch of salt. Roast, uncovered, stirring once, for 30 mins.

Pull one pan from the oven and cover—setting aside so the competitors don’t mingle. In the second pan, toss in fresh sage. Roast 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and transfer one-half of the pumpkin and apples to a blender along with 1 ½ cups broth. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a stock pot on low and repeat for second batch. Season with salt, pepper and heat through over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent splattering.

With first batch of resting pumpkin and apples, add 1/4 C of SAGE and roast in oven, uncovered for 15 minutes. Blend with chicken broth and heat in second stock pot.

Chop hazelnuts and place small dry skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Top competitors with chopped nuts and you be the judge.

Liquor Store Spice Shop

There are a ton of liquors and liqueurs out there that specifically feature spices—things you might not always have or have access to because of seasonality, location or lack of a gourmet grocer. With the flavor living in a bottle though, there is no worrying about shelf life. These leaves won’t turn brown and mushy in the fridge or die on your window sill because you forgot to water them for a few weeks (come ‘on, like it hasn’t happened to you?!).

I put together a little shopping list: all great options to add to your cabinet over the next couple of weeks that can work in place of, or in harmony with, the spices they feature. Some are definite splurges, but can be enjoyed on the rocks while you cook—others are great for mixing or strictly to add to the pot

Art in the Age Suite: Rhubarb Tea, Root, Sage, Snap.

  • fruit chutneys, cookies, soups, cake, icing, stews…and just about everything els

St. Germaine—elderflower.

  • vinaigrettes, cakes, jams, champagne cocktails, fruit chutney

Jagermeister—citrus peel, licorice, anise, poppy seeds, saffron, ginger, juniper berries and ginseng.

  • roasted leg of lamb, gingerbread, chocolate glazes

broVo suite: lavender, Douglas Fir, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Rose Geranium.

  • ham glazes, poached salmon, braised beef, drunken fruit, champage cocktails

Rosolio—rose petals.

  • chocolate truffles, icings, ice cream, sorbet

Kummel—caraway seed, cumin, fennel.

  • MEAT. braising, poaching, searing, roasting, marinades for grilling…

Menta—peppermint.

  • hot toddies, brownies, cakes, with pasta (& garlic!)

Jaan Paan—betel leaf, saffron, cardamom, sandalwood.

  • chicken, salmon, waffles

Goldschlager—cinnamon Red Hots.

  • chili, chicken, pork, sugar cookies.

Ouzo—anise, fennel.

  • seafood, marinades for meats, Greek pastries

Old Liquor Store Ginger Liqueur—ginger!

  • vinaigrettes, marinades, seafood, cranberry sauce, pho

Voyant Chai—chai, cinnamon.

  • whipped cream, icings, tomato sauce, braising meat

Y Chilli—chili peppers.

  • chili, chocolate cakes, salsa

Galliano—vanilla, star anise, Mediterranean anise, ginger, citrus, juniper, musk yarrow, and lavender.

  • beef stew, brisket, braised chicken

Hurricane Survival Candy

Dearest Hurricane Sandy: way to mess up a perfectly good week.

Instead of drinking hot cider, eating an obscene number of FUN-SIZE candy bars and watching Hocus Pocus until my brain reached the consistency of wet bread, I spent most of this last week watching the news. As if the inundation with smear campaigns wasn’t enough; I’m watching the Weather Channel. I hate that about you, Sandy.

I try my best to look on the bright side of things—past the generator that’s still running my parents’ refrigerator from the garage, the houses that are in the middle of highways and the lives that are turned completely upside-down. I had two extra days off and a bottle of red I most definitely deserved (a 70 hr work week does that to a girl).

With the risk of losing power at any moment, I cooked everything that required heat from our electric stove or would be ruined if left without refrigeration. Drinking an excessive amount of coffee helped get me through the milk. “Garbage eggs” accounted for all dead and dying vegetables living in the dark places on the bottom shelf. Chicken and dumplings took care of a frozen bird, some old carrots, potatoes, lemons and the remains of a bottle of white wine I believed to be long dead.

The problem: while we had some great meals to look forward to, we lacked snacks. It was raining far too hard to venture out for anything crunchy and the few pieces of candy we had were still alive for a reason—without naming names, I’ll say that waxy milk chocolate is not my thing. No amount of rainy day boozing would get me to that point…

I started digging and found some chocolate chips. With only butter in house, I couldn’t make myself make cookies but hatched a plan when I found the hidden emergency Oreos, cream cheese and some Triple Sec (we have 3 bottles for some reason). I love the bittery sweet flavor of triple sec because its gives the full flavor of orange without tasting synthetic like some liqueurs can. Plus, together orange and chocolate can do no wrong.

So, I failed miserably at my first attempt to make Oreo chocolate truffles. Apparently chocolate is a touchy substance that does not like liquid. When water, or in this case some delicious orange flavored Dekuyper, came in contact with melted chocolate, the chocolate actually freaked out. Seizing, as it’s called, can’t really be solved but the chocolate can be repurposed. So I tossed the Oreo idea and salvaged the lumpy chocolate with more triple sec and heavy cream to form a ganache. When chilled, rolled and dipped into more melted chocolate – which I was very careful to keep clear of all liquids and liquors—I managed to make some pretty amazing truffles.

So, thank you Sandy, for giving me the time to look around my cupboards, get covered in dark chocolate and have a great reason to log some extra miles as soon as it stopped raining. I love running in the cold anyway…

Sandy’s Triple Sec Truffles

  • 2 C Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • ½ C Heavy Whipping Cream
  • ¼ C Triple Sec
  • 1 C Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • Toppings!

I’ve seen some folks start with the chocolate chips in a regular bowl, but I found that the ganache formed easier with a little heat (maybe it’s cold in my apt?)—so I put my chocolate chips in a double boiler set to low. In a small sauce pan, bring heavy cream to a boil. Add triple sec. Pour cream mixture over chocolate chips and let sit for about 2 minutes. Slowly stir the mixture until smooth and shiny. Refrigerate for about an hour or until hard.

Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out hardened chocolate and form into balls. The chocolate will melt in the warmth of your hands, so don’t mess around with them too much. I kept mine on a plate over ice to keep them cool. Once all of the ganache balls are formed, place in freezer. Melt remaining chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium heat. Once melted, drop heat to low or turn off completely to avoid burning chocolate. Be careful to avoid any water vapors or condensation from getting anywhere near the chocolate.

Prep cookie sheet with foil or parchment. If you have fondue forks, this is a great place to use them. If not regular forks, spoons or corn picks work great for rolling the ganache balls in the melted chocolate. Roll them one at a time and place on tray to dry. I rolled mine in some toppings—salted caramel hot chocolate mix, peppermint hot chocolate mix (W&S fix), and Himalayan pink sea salt—to mix things up a bit. Orange zest, flavored sugars and cocoa powder work great, too! Store in a cool, dry hiding place.