Jim Dandy to the Rescue

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As we all nurse little hangovers this morning–whether from too much booze or too much chocolate –I have to wonder why everyone gets so annoyed with Valentines Day. I love red, booze, chocolate and the ridiculous, decadent, INeedAnExcuseToEatThis food. To hell with the Hallmark version–though there are some funny Valentines out there that deserve some props–but I have to say: I love the love day.

It gives me a reason to hang out with Jim Beam on a Thursday–what’s not to love?

I wandered through Whole Foods last night giggling while the entire male population of Queen Village panicking as they looked for the perfect flowers, the perfect chocolates, cheeses, cookies, cakes and last-minute gifts. All I wanted was meat. (insert joke) Something that would suck up the smokey sweet flavor of my drink and serve as a quick, easy dinner. Happy Valentines Day to me. Love, Turkey.

I picked up a Turkey Tenderloins since they are relatively healthy, cheap, easy to cook and tasty. The tenderloin on a turkey seems like an odd thing to think of but it’s just the all-white piece that comes from the rib side of the breast. They never run the risk of being dry or lacking in flavor like the Thanksgiving bird sometimes can.

Turkey makes me think of cinnamon and cinnamon (for some reason) makes me think of bourbon. And that’s how a recipe gets born in the birds and bees of my head.

I escaped the Valentines consumer mob relatively unscathed–only a chocolate bar and a cookie courtesy of Matt (yes, you can have a piece!)–and got straight to my date with Jim Beam.

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Turkey Tenderloin with Jim Beam, Cinnamon, and Rosemary

  • 1 lb Turkey Tenderloin
  • 1 C Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In large frying pan, heat olive oil on high. Dust turkey with cinnamon, salt and pepper. Sear tenderloin, 2 minutes each side or until the skin is nice and brown. Pour 1/2 C of the Jim Beam Bourbon over the tenderloin and add rosemary. Cover and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Remove lid/covering, cook 10 minutes more.

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Remove from oven, let meat rest before cutting. While meat is resting, deglaze the (fuck out of the) pan. Pour remaining bourbon into the pan and, using a wooden spoon, use the liquid to scrape the brown remains from the bottom of the pan. *You can add more bourbon or chicken stock to make a thinner pan sauce.* Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Slice turkey, add sauce and enjoy over veggies, potatoes or rice. Or noodles. Noodles are always good.

No reason you can’t get your booze in as many places as possible. Especially on a holiday. Happy Valentines, Valentines. Hope your heads feel better.

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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

Quick Wine Poached Salmon

Since I work pretty long hours and get home well after what some people consider “dinner time”– I get it, Mom. I’m sorry for all of the times I gave you crap for dry chicken and one-pot meals.

At the end of the day: simple is the best option. Finding bread that’s not moldy for a PB&J sandwich at 1am after a 14 hour day is pretty close to nirvana for me these days. When I’m hungry and tired and I just need something to eat so I don’t turn into a gremlin (which I readily admit happens if I don’t eat on a regular basis), I remember to just keep it simple.

And I work from there.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve prayed in front of the refrigerator door before. Wishing and willing food to have withstood time, warded off mold, slime and freezer burn is perfectly reasonable, right?

Frozen or dried foods would seem to be the answer but I can’t stand the thought eating my dinner from a plastic tray. Or from the microwave. And I like things that are actually green and taste like what they are supposed to.

So I’ve been grabbing flash frozen, vacuum sealed pieces of wild caught sockeye salmon from the grocery store and packing them away for desperate times. Wild caught fish is never really going to be cheap but it’s definitely tastier than the stuff in a can, will keep for a couple of weeks when going to the fish market is not an option (or you get home after it closes–I do!) and makes me remember why I love salmon in the first place. This isn’t the oily, petal pink crap you might think of when salmon comes to mind. It’s almost red. Like when someone says “that’s not pink, it’s salmon.” It’s really supposed to that dark.

With a little olive oil and a few cloves of crushed garlic, I seared the outside of the fish–careful to not leave any behind when flipping and searched my produce for some citrus only to find that my only lime looked like a kiwi (read: brown and furry and required tongs to get to the trash can).

Knowing that the wine I had planned packed enough punch, I dumped the contents of my glass and the some more from the bottle when that burned off. It was light, very crisp, almost grassy and full of the crazy citrus needed to dampen any fishiness from the fillet. Sauvignon Blanc in general is a great wine to use because it hits all of the light citrusy notes you’d want with fish but I really like the Sea Glass Saugivnon Blanc for poaching  because it’s pretty inexpensive (less than $10) AND it’s delicious. I’m not much of a white wine drinker so finding one that I like is a big step.

My version of simple food is a little different from the pasta dishes I ate as a kid but the heart is still there. It’s quick, clean, healthy and easy.

White Wine Poached Salmon

  • 6 oz Portion of Flash Frozen Sockeye Salmon (Whole Foods/Wegmans/Trader Joes are all awesome)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3/4 C Sauvignon Blanc
  • Fresh Dill to garnish
  • Mixed baby greens
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 T Italian Salad Dressing

Thaw fish in refrigerator over night (if possible) or thaw under running water (don’t nuke to defrost!!) In large frying pan on med-high, heat oil and garlic for about 1 minute–stirring to prevent garlic from burning. Place fish in pan and cook for about 2 minutes or until beginning to brown. Carefully, flip with a spatula and cook 2 more minutes until brown.

Lower heat, add wine (if you forget to lower the heat, you’ll know why I said to do it), and some dill, cover and cook on medium for about 8 mins or until fish flakes easily when pushed with the side of a fork.

In the meantime, rinse off your lettuce (I like to chop mine and put in a bowl of ice water to let it get crispy, but to each his own), cut up tomatoes and other salad accoutrements and pick your dill. I also like to toss some herbs in with the lettuce (dill, cilantro, mint are great surprise bites) if you have them readily available. Toss lettuce with dressing, top with fish and serve. High protein, low carb, and one dirty pan…nothing better than that!

Tasty Lil Cow Pie

The beauty of working in a restaurant is that I get my days off during the week and I have time to cook instead of foraging in the refrigerator and cabinets. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig around and make things from what I have. The difference is that on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, my dinner won’t be between two pieces of bread.

I stared into the depths of drawers, cupboards and shelves last Wednesday trying to figure out what to do with one steak — it had to feed two people. With not enough vegetables for a stir fry and not enough anything for fajitas, I pulled the single NY strip from the shelf and looked back and forth from it to the smattering of possible partners. “Do we have any potatoes?” I asked my brother without looking up from the refrigerator.

“Did you look in the drawer?” he yelled from the couch.

“…no.”

Sure enough, they were there and along with a sad-looking bag of carrots, I hatched a plan. I’d had a staff meal of shepherd’s pie at work a few weeks before and — while I’m not really keen on lamb — the delivery was genius. The sweet, rich meat, roasted vegetables and gravy all stuck to the whipped mashed potatoes making every bite the perfect bite.

I grabbed the potatoes, peeled and cubed them and put them on the stove to start the mash. With a bag of frozen peas, it was a meal that really began coming together. But what to do about a sauce?

The chef at work used Guinness but we didn’t have any. The beer — with its roasted malt, coffee and bitter chocolate flavor — was the center of the dish. A stout was what I needed. A Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout was what I had. “Hey, Matt–do you think I could use this Chocolate Stout for this?” I asked.

“Um…that’s my dessert beer,” he answered with sadness in his voice “And it’s out of season so I can’t get any morebut if it means you’ll cook and I’ll have food soon, go ahead. If you must.”

Satisfied with the plan, I sliced and browned the meat with some onion and garlic, added in the beer and waited. I leaned in to see if what I was doing was working and my whole face was filled with the sweet swirls of singeing beef, earthy chocolate, and garlic.

“How’s it going in there?”

“I think you’re beer would be pleased with how it’s being sacrificed.”

With meat braising (read: to cook by browning in fat and then slowly cooking in a covered pan with a some liquid), I mashed the potatoes with butter and cream and layered the ingredients in a casserole dish — meat, carrots, peas and potatoes — covered and put in the oven. I pulled the lid off for the final few minutes to get a good crust on the potatoes and to make it look as I’d seen in the weeks before at work.

We dove in to find the meat dissolving to the lightest bite, full of the deep, woody, bittersweet chocolate of the beer. The creamy mashed potatoes held onto the gravy for dear life; the carrots and peas little life boats of respite from the richness.

Matt looked at me in disbelief. You just made this up?

I shrugged. I was hungry, he was hungry and I was afraid the meat was going to go to waste if we didn’t cook it. “Yea?”

You can make stuff up any time you want to, ok?

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout Shepherds Pie

  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 C cream
  • 1 8 oz NY Strip Steak, cut into strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 bottle Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
  • 1 C Baby Carrots, chopped
  • 1 C Baby Peas

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Peel and cube potatoes. Place in 4 qt. stock pot with enough water to cover them and boil until potato is tender to fork — about 20 mins.

While potatoes are cooking, dice carrots and onions and set aside. Remove large portions of fat from outside of NY Strip. Slice steak into 1/4″ strips. In a frying pan, heat olive oil and garlic on high, stirring to ensure garlic does not burn. Add meat — cooking until lightly browned. Add onion and 1/2 bottle of beer. Cover, cook on low until potatoes are ready.

When potatoes break easily when pierced with a fork, remove from heat and drain. Return potatoes to stock pot and mash until no lumps are visible. Add butter and cream. Beat with electric mixer until smooth.

In casserole dish, layer meat, carrots, peas, the rest of the beer and the potatoes. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Remove lid and broil for 5 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

*The only sad thing about this dish is that Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is only released in the winter — it’s a bit heavy for the summertime. BUT so is this dish…enjoy!

next to of course pb&j chili i

love you.

The high heat, full mouth fire that burns into my nose and smoulders in my belly warms me to the core and fills me right up. It’s also a meal that requires one pot and very little attention. So, what’s not to love?

The difficult thing with chili is to narrow down exactly what I put in it — it’s a gut-feel kind of meal. Sometimes, I only put one type of kidney bean or only a green pepper instead of an assortment of colors. I have, on occasion, completely forgotten onions. Sometimes, my guts are feeling risky and I add a few more chili peppers.

Oh, the chili peppers.

When I first asked my mom how to make her chili, she rattled off the ingredients and instructions. Meat, onion, chili powder, kidney beans, tomato paste. I was shocked. She used McCormicks Chili Powder. No actual peppers were invited to her pot. Finally, I knew then why toed the line of being a spicy Hamburger Helper with beans. I’d head chili that made me sweat and my stomach burn for days. That’s what I was looking for. So, I took the basics from her recipe to create my own.

My chilis of choice: Guajillo, Chili de Arbol and Chipotle peppers, respectively. The guajillo peppers add a very light touch of sweetness but have a slap-in-the-face of heat once swallowed. Chili de arbol provide more spice up front that fill the entire mouth, give that tongue tingle and burn up into your nose and eyes (in a good way). And the Chipotles — well they just give the whole thing a greatsmoke. The chipotle pepper is really just a smoke dried jalapeno, but the smokiness is bolder than any hotness of the pepper. If you don’t like it really hot, you can split the peppers and remove some or all of the seeds. Taking them out of the pot after a few minutes also helps if you don’t want to sweat.

My gut also tell me that whatever I’m drinking, the chili pot should, too. My favorite addition to a chili pot is a IPA (Dogfish Head 60 Min to be exact) for it’s slight bitterness and lemony notes that slice up some of the spice and pull at the zip from the bell peppers.

I start with ground turkey meat — some fat here is needed, so a 93% lean is what you want — a big stock pot and some olive oil. Once it starts to brown up a bit, in goes about half a bottle of beer, the chilis, and some cayenne powder for good measure. I let them sweat for a bit while I chop (and open) up everything else. A few different types of bell pepper, some onion, kidney beans, diced tomatoes and voila!

Now here’s the only hard part: not diving in right away. The chilis need a while to release all of their oils and get the spice to cook into everything. I add the rest of the beer, cover and drop the heat to low to cook for about an hour until it looks more like it should…might not be so pretty, but its sure to get folks hot and bothered.

Spills Chili

  • 1 lb Ground Turkey, 93% lean
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
  • 1 Guajillo Pepper, split down the center, seeds removed if desired
  • 2 Chili de Arbol peppers, split down the center, seeds removed if desired
  • 3 Chipotle peppers, split down the center, seeds removed if desired
  • 2 T Cayenne Powder
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15.5 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • Grated chedder cheese to garnish

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil. Add ground turkey. Once almost all meat is browned, add chili peppers, cayenne powder and 1/2 of the beer. Simmer 15 minutes. Add diced onion, bell peppers, kidney beans, cannellini beans (with liquid from can), diced tomatoes and the rest of the beer. Cover and simmer 45-60 minutes or until desired thickness is achieved. Top with cheese and serve.

“Miles Away from Ordinary” Shrimp

With 80 degree days in the middle of March this year, my itch for bare feet and beers in the sunshine is strong — and the bizarre flip back to normal chilly, rainy spring days has me looking for summer anywhere I can find it. Wearing flip flops on days when my toes turn blue is not working out so well though.

So I started looking for summer at the market. Reading Terminal Market is my go to for great meats, fish and vegetables — and I get a student discount on Wednesdays to boot. I like to go in the morning, after the 9-5’ers rush in and out for breakfast — it’s quiet, everyone is still happy since their days’ haven’t had much chance to be bad yet, and navigating the stalls is managable. Forget about going at lunch time.

With my craving grumbling, I made my way over to John Yi Fish Market and eyed up their case for some ideas. And there they were…

Glorious piles of shrimp. I was raised on this stuff. Pink foods were my thing for a while — shrimp and salmon were all I wanted. When picking my poison, I asked why some were pink and others blue. The answer: different species–but they all will turn pink when cooked. I’ve worked with both before and find that it’s easier to tell when the tiger shrimp (read: blue shrimp) are cooked because they turn pink…so I ordered a pound and headed home.

With the shrimp split up the back and cleaned, and Corona in hand — because I deserve a beer after that process — I readied my double boiler and jumped up on the counter in search of some Old Bay. I spotted red lid, caked with remains of crab boils past and muscle memory took over; the salty, peppery chili spice watered on my tongue.

I grabbed the can and jumped down, excited that in a few minutes I would be feasting…but something was off — the can was too light.

The Old Bay was gone. Why else would it be in the back of the cabinet? This is what living with your little brother is like.

I had to try something else. So I dumped the remains of my beer into the bottom pot of the steamer in place of the water, squeezed the juice of half a lime and crossed my fingers.

Like shrimp, Corona and lime make me think of summer time.This might just work, I thought to my self as I placed the top pot with the shrimp over the beer and set my timer for 8 minutes.

And work it did. The green, citrus cut the fishiness and gave most of the flavor (kind of like it does with the beer) but grain and corn flavors from the pale lager just made it to the meat. My intention was to put these shrimp onto a salad, take a new beer out to the back deck and listen to the hum of I-95 — which, if you close your eyes can be confused with the sounds of the ocean — but I never made it.  My brother came home and we ate them all out of the pot, right off of the stovetop. Just like we used to in the summer when we were kids.

Miles Away from Ordinary Shrimp

  • 1 lb Fresh, Raw Tiger Shrimp, cleaned and de-veined (if possible)
  • lime, cut into slices
  • 1 bottle Corona

If you are able to get cleaned and de-veined shrimp, do it! Otherwise, cut the shrimp along the back with a paring knife or pair of kitchen scissors and clean the black vein out. In the top/steamer pot of a double boiler, rinse all of the shrimp well. In the bottom/sauce pot, pour the beer and juice of 1/2 of a lime. Stack pots, cover and cook on med-high heat for 8 minutes. Shrimp will be completely pink when they are finished. Remove from heat and serve, squeezing extra lime to taste.