DOTW: Gilded Pear

Posted by Anita on 12.15.06 6:49 AM

gilded pear (C) 2006 AECI’ve had the idea in my head for this drink for a while, but never got around to putting it together. For one thing, I was at a bit of a loss as to how to get all the various flavors I wanted to combine into alcoholic form.

I wanted to create a drink that offered the lushness of pears with the punch of ginger — a classic combo, to be sure. Although I knew I could make (or buy) ginger-flavored simple syrup, I was worried that so much sugar would push the cocktail in a sicky-sweet direction… definitely not my style, especially as I wanted to build off the flavors of my favorite Belle de Brillet pear cognac.

I consulted with my friend Sean — who knows his way around infusions — but he confessed that his sole attempt at ginger vodka turned out rather blah.

While browsing the baking aisle in the last few weeks before Christmas, an idea struck me: What about infusing vodka with candied ginger, rather than fresh? The flavor’s already concentrated by the candying process, and the little bit of sugar coating the chunks would dilute in the final mix.

So, I took about 3 ounces of candied ginger chunks, and covered them with a cup of vodka in a lidded jar. After the first day, I was worried — the ginger smelled like pine-scented kitchen cleaner, and the vodka tasted sharp and acid. Ugh. I set the jar aside, and resolved to try another route, after the holidays.

The next morning, I shook the jar, mostly out of idleness. And what do you know: As I rattled the ginger against the glass, I noticed dark, syrupy threads diluting into the vodka. Hm! A quick taste test showed we were definitely making progress. By yesterday morning — 3 days after starting the infusion — the mixture actually tasted like something you’d want to drink.

Last night, I decided to try a test run: Belle de Brillet and candied-ginger vodka stirred with ice, then strained into a tasting glass. Both the pear and the ginger seemed overpowering… but what about that bottle of bubbly in the fridge? I poured the mixed liquors into a small cocktail glass, and topped them with a float of the sparkling wine. Success! The dryness and effervessence neatly cut the sugar and the strong flavors, making for a lovely cocktail with a hint of sweetness and a kick of spice.

The Gilded Pear
1-1/2 oz. Belle de Brillet pear-cognac
1 ounce candied-ginger vodka
sparkling wine

Stir the cognac and the ginger vodka in a bar glass with ice; then strain into a small cocktail glass. Top with the sparkling wine.

Drink of the Week, preserving & infusing, recipes, wine & bubbly


Blissful bubbles

Posted by Anita on 12.13.06 6:37 AM

toast-200px.jpgWhen I heard that this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday would tackle non-Champagne sparkling wines, I realized that we had the perfect excuse to crack open a bottle of bubbly this week.

Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the evening when That Cute Bald Guy asked me to marry (…with dinner) him. I’m sure we drank plenty of sparkling wine that night, although the details of its origin are lost to the mists of time. But I do have one particular memory of that winter’s wedding planning.

As we sorted through all the wedding details, we realized we had no idea which bubbly we could afford to serve to a crowd without sending our wine-snob friends rushing for the exits. So, we did what any budding foodies would do: We bought a few dozen bottles of under-$20 sparklers, whipped up some nibbles, and invited a gaggle of friends over to help us taste.

As you might expect, we had a blast. In the end, there were plenty of very nice bottles consumed, but a clear winner emerged. And so, the bubbly with which our friends and family toasted our vows the next summer was the Roederer Estate Brut ($17 at BevMo). As an added charm, this bubbly’s made with grapes grown in Sonoma’s Anderson Valley, right around the corner from the vineyards where we were married.

And although it’s affordable enough to serve to scores of your nearest and dearest, it’s also become our house sparkler, a little touch of luxury that’s fun to keep on hand just for ourselves. It’s delightful with a thimbleful of liqueur as an aperitif, mixed into Mimosas for brunch, or as a little splash of holiday sparkle all on its own.

Keep a bottle on hand, and I’m sure you’ll find something lovely to celebrate…

holidays & occasions, other blogs, wine & bubbly


Menu for Hope

Posted by Anita on 12.11.06 7:00 AM

menu for hope prize (c)2006 AECNo need to book a plane ticket, or shop for an expensive hotel room. As part of this year’s Menu for Hope food blogger charity raffle, “Married …with Dinner” will send one lucky winner everything she needs to take a foodie’s tour of the San Francisco Bay Area from the comfort of her own kitchen!

Your “Armchair Food Tour of the San Francisco Bay Area” includes taste-tempting treats from four Northern California counties.

The first stop on our tour is San Francisco, where we pick up:
- a copy of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market cookbook
- a 4.25-oz holiday ornament filled with assorted Ghirardelli chocolates

We cross the bay to Berkeley, and sample:
- a 3/4-pound bag of Peet’s Coffee limited-edition Holiday Blend
- a 13.5-oz. jar of Scharffen Berger Pure Dark Ganache Chocolate Sauce
- an 8-oz. pot of June Taylor Blackberry Conserve

Then over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Wine Country, where we find:
- a 1-pound bag of Rancho Gordo “Ojo de Tigre” heirloom beans
- a 12.5-oz. bottle of Sonoma Syrup Company’s Eureka Lemon simple syrup

The total value of this gourmet gift basket is more than $75! Your winning bid includes FREE shipping to any address in the continental US. [If you live beyond the 48 states, we'll foot bill for shipping up to $25. Please contact chef (at) marriedwithdinner (dot) com and we'll estimate shipping charges for you, if you're interested.]

This raffle prize is CODE UW-34. (Write that down… you’ll need it later.)

Enough of all that!! How do you qualify to win this glorious prize? It’s SOOO simple:

Menu For Hope logo

  1. Check out the other cool items available on Becks & Posh, and Chez Pim. (We know you want OUR prize, but you might want to bid on others, too … you generous foodie, you.)
  2. Go to the donation page for Menu for Hope III. This year, funds raised will go to support the United Nation’s World Food Programme.
  3. Make a donation! Each $10 pledge will give you one virtual raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. Don’t forget to mention how many tickets you want to allot per prize, and please use the prize code — for example, a donation of $50 can buy 2 tickets for UW-01 and 3 for UW-34 (our prize, natch).
  4. If your company matches your charity donations, please remember to check the appropriate box on your submission and fill in the information so Menu for Hope can claim the corporate match.
  5. Please also check the box that allows the contest gurus to see your email address so that they can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
  6. Check back on Chez Pim on January 15, when Pim will announce the result of the entire raffle. (We’ll also announce the winner of the Armchair Food Tour here.)

Good luck to all! And thanks for helping support a worthy cause.

cookbooks, other blogs, shopping


DOTW: Eggnog

Posted by Anita on 12.08.06 7:49 AM

eggnog (c)2006 AECThe Spirit World’s hosting this month’s edition of MxMo, with the theme of “cocktails for a festive occasion” — holiday-themed drinks that, ideally, can be made in bulk, ahead of time, and that guests can pour themselves.

This one’s easy: I love eggnog, and I don’t even mind the stuff that comes in a carton at the megamart. When winter rolls around, I keep a quart on hand in the fridge, and it makes a good option (minus the strengthening shot of booze, of course) for those mornings when I don’t have time for real breakfast.

The custardy eggnog below is a variation of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. It’s a little more complicated than a standard eggnog where you simply whisk everything together, but it yields a more luscious drink… and one that’s a lot less prone to grossing out your guests than eggnogs that use raw eggs (and leave slimy dregs in your glass).

I’ve halved the original recipe, which made 12 exceedingly rich servings. (I like eggnog, but not with every meal for a week…) Even so, the recipe is still good for a small crowd; feel free to double it, should your guest list require.

MxMo10-FestiveVelvet Eggnog
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup + 1T granulated sugar
pinch table salt
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup spiced rum or brandy
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus extra for garnish
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks, plus extra for garnish

Whisk the eggs, yolk, sugar and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir in the milk gradually, blending well. Turn the heat to low and stir contantly until custard thickens and lightly coats the back of a spoon, approximately 25 minutes.

Pour the custard through a fine seive into a large bowl. Cool to room temperature by stirring gently, preferably over a cold-water bath. Stir in the booze and other seasonings. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

Before serving, fold the whipped cream into the custard mixture. Serve, garnished with a dollop of whipped cream and grated nutmeg.

Makes six 1/2-cup servings.

Note: Feel free to make this recipe ahead for parties — the eggnog keeps in a well-chilled fridge for up to 3 days, and the flavors improve with time.

Drink of the Week, drinks, entertaining, holidays & occasions, Mixology Monday, other blogs, recipes


21st amendment

Posted by Anita on 12.05.06 6:59 AM

repeal flagNo, not the brewpub… The constitutional thingie.

As described by The Cocktail Chronicles, tonight’s the night to celebrate Repeal Day…

…the fabulous new drink holiday proposed by Jeffrey Morgenthaler to commemorate the end of the “noble experiment,” the 13-year drought known as Prohibition. On December 5, 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed and Americans could again legally tipple for the first time since 1919. [...] Celebrate Repeal Day this December 5 by drinking — well, whatever you like, if for no other reason (as Morgenthaler says), “just because you can.”

Might we suggest a 1930s favorite, such as the Aviation? (Please, no bathtub gin…) Or perhaps cocktail based on rye, the American whiskey that Prohibition nearly killed off? Or, as suggested in this month’s newsletter from the Zig Zag, the Scofflaw, a drink named after those who scorned enforced abstinence?

bar culture, drinks, holidays & occasions, other blogs
1 Comment »


A tale of two salads

Posted by Anita on 12.03.06 9:02 PM

babbo salad (c)2006 AECOver on My Life as a Reluctant Housewife, Gabriella invited us to share favorite autumn salads. When I read her post, my first thought was of Autumn Vegetables with Goat Ricotta, a complicated concoction I’d seen in the Babbo Cookbook featuring an array of fall veggies tossed with prickly lettuces and garnished with a both a dressing and two flavored oils.

We hunted the farmers’ market for sunchokes, celery root, parsnips, and golden beets (to substitute for the squash neither of us likes), then tackled all of the mise en place — making sage oil, braising the beets, and roasting the sunchoke slices with cumin — over the course of a few evenings. Imagine our letdown when we tasted it, and found the flavors rather blah.

It wasn’t a total loss: The cumin-roasted sunchokes are good enough that I’d make them separately as a side dish. And crostini smeared with Cowgirl Creamery sheep’s ricotta… what’s not to like? But this is a tease of a dish: A ton of work for relatively little payoff; a gorgeous, show-stopping plate with no soul.

The next night, I was casting about for a way to use a tiny smidge of guanciale from Fatted Calf, too small to be used in a main course, but too large to waste. Flipping through my recipe clippings, I noticed an appealing salad from the September issue of Gourmet. Substituting pecorino for the ricotta salata, and replacing pancetta with guanciale, I actually had everything on hand that I needed to make this delicious autumn salad… one that’s hearty enough that you’ll enjoy eating it on a chilly evening, and simple enough to make on a whim.

arugula salad (c)2006 AECPear and Arugula Salad
1 T Champagne vinegar
1 T honey
1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice
salt & pepper, to taste
3 T olive oil

2 oz thinly sliced guanciale
1 T olive oil
1 firm-ripe pear
4 cups baby arugula
3 oz. pecorino romano, thinly shaved

Whisk together vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a salad bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well emulsified.

Cook guanciale in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning frequently, until just crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and crumble into bite-size pieces.

Halve the pear lengthwise, core it, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add pears to dressing along with arugula, cheese, and guanciale, tossing to coat.

Serves 4.

cookbooks, magazines, other blogs, recipes
1 Comment »


Pie from the past

Posted by Anita on 12.02.06 8:10 AM

Grandma Anne with Angel PieApparently, Mom’s been keeping secrets from me.

I never knew until a few years ago, when Mom gave me a few of his carbon-steel knives, that her grandfather, my Great-grandpa Vivaldelli, had been a chef. And, although I knew that Mom’s mom, my Grandma Anne, was a dedicated cook, I never knew a thing about Angel Pie.

Mom and I were sitting around after Thanksgiving, talking about pies in general, and old-fashioned pies specifically, when she first mentioned it.

“Auntie Pat makes it all the time,” she said. “I need to get the recipe from her.”

And then, almost as an afterthought: “I have a newspaper clipping somewhere with a picture of Grandma and that pie. It was her specialty.”

Sure enough, the next morning, a yellowed clipping from the Glendale News-Press appeared at my place at the breakfast table. And there’s Grams, in a shirtwaist dress, cutting a slice of her popular — but, one must admit, rather homely — Angel Pie. The iron trivets now in my mom’s kitchen (and my own) are hanging on the wall behind her, and familiar glass canisters line the counter.

November 14, 1959
No Weighty Problems for Reiks

Imagine a family with no weight problems that can eat all the dessert it wants. This is the case of the Robert C. Reiks and their four children, Nancy, 18; Toni, 15; Bob, 13; and Patty, 12.

Mrs. Reik (Anne), whose father was a chef for leading hotels in Chicago, has taught her three daughters to cook … any one of them can prepare a meal. Mr. Reik, an amateur chef, confines his art to the backyard barbecue.

Mrs. Reik’s current hobby is making braided woolen rugs. She has always collected recipes, and says her Chocolate Nut Angel Pie hits the jack pot [sic]. She keeps copies to offer friends because once a person tastes this dessert, he wants the recipe.

I have to suspect the author took a few liberties. I can’t imagine that Grandma never taught my Uncle Bugs to cook. And — at least by the time I was around — Gramps certainly never confined himself to the barbecue… he was quite an accomplished cook!

But, at least she got the recipe right:

Chocolate Nut Angel Pie
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 T hot water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
Butter a 9-inch pie plate, and set aside.

Sift sugar and cream of tartar together. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Add sugar gradually, while continuing to beat until smooth and glossy.

Line the prepared pie plate with this mixture. Keep center hollowed out to 1/2-inch thickness, and do not spread meringue on rim of plate. Sprinkle with nuts.

Bake in slow oven, 275º F, about 1 hour, or until delicately browned and crisp to touch. Cool thoroughly.

Melt chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water. Add 3 T hot water to the chocolate, and stir; cook until thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add vanilla, then fold in whipped cream. Turn into meringue shell. Chill 2 to 3 hours, or until set.

baking, dessert, family, recipes