Friday, January 30, 2009

Accidental Awesomeness

Last night I had a hankering for an Amaretto Sour. As I was getting out the sugar, the container of Tang caught my eye.

Lemon juice is sour. Tang is sour. Sugar is sweet. Tang is sweet. Why not kill two birds with one stone and use tang instead? I thought.

I mixed, added a little more sugar for good measure, then, remembering an article from Imbibe magazine about eggs in drinks being trendy, tossed in an egg white to increase the drink’s frothiness.

I shook and shook. At one point, I poured the drink, but noticed the egg had not combined completely, so I poured it back in and shook again.

When I finally poured it out, it was a lovely light orange. I had made not an Amaretto Sour, but a Creamsicle.

The result surprised me, but it wasn’t entirely unexpected. I’d known from previous fiddling that a key ingredient that gives the Orange Julius its creamy froth was an egg-based product. Of course, if you are worried about salmonella, or pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, or have a compromised immune system, or think the idea of putting a raw egg white in a drink is icky, you can get pasteurized eggs or you can powdered, pasteurized egg white at the grocery store. The powdered egg white will be somewhat gritty, so fresh egg is really best.

The Creamsicle
This really needs to be shaken well
2 oz Amaretto
1 teaspoon Tang
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 egg white (or 2 teaspoons powdered egg white)
cocktail shaker

Put ice in cocktail shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients. Shake vigorously for at least two minutes. Strain into a highball glass.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar Party Time

Cross-posted at my other blog, The Manic Scribe.

Oscar nominees were just announced today.

I'm a huge Oscar fan. Not so much for the movies but for the social aspect.

I usually do an Oscar party with my good friend B. Last year I skipped it. I hope to get back into the tradition this year. I like to realy glam up the food I serve, but this year, I am just about partied out. Not to mention that I should be more budget-consious than I have been due to the current economic doldrums.

However, I've got a turkey in the freezer and half a lamb's worth of meat. And I've got a steady supply of root and leaf vegetables coming in weekly from my CSA. So I think I'll be able to put together a nice spread for my guests that won't break my budget.

Hm. Maybe I'll even ask them to bring some canned goods to donate to charity, make it something more than appletinis and red carpets.

Gratin Fail; Cast Iron Win

Got a slew of root vegetables from the winter CSA that just started on Jan 8. Tried to make a gratin, which would have beek OK, except for a few issues.

One, I had not sliced the veggies thin enough. Also, since I made the gratin in advance and cooked it from the frigde, I wound up undercooking the thing.

Two, I'd forgotten to salt the layers. Now, the layers also contained some bacon, and I salted the liquid that I added halfway through baking. It was just a touch undersalted when all was said and done. Next time I'll use my common sense and actually stick a fork in the damn thing to make sure it's done.

In other news, I seasoned the cast iron skillets I got for Christmas/My Birthday. They're still in the oven, actually. I'm not 100% sure what I will cook in them. I've got a crowd coming over for my birthday this Saturday, but we're going out to dinner. I'll have to think of something really special to break in the pans.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year!

You know it's been a busy year when I don't have time to cook. I LOVE to cook. It's relaxing and therapeutic to me. But I simply haven't had time. Thus, the blog has suffered.

It was a great, but busy, 2008. Several trips out of state for family and for fun, picking up a second job, and getting my first ranking in aikido has kept my life full, but tiring.

I knew on an intellectual level that I was tired for the latter half of the year, but it was only after a good 5 days at my parents, with nothing to do but sleep in late, go shopping, read a book on wine and scarf down Company Potatoes, that I got perspective on how relaxed I felt, and how stressed I was before.

Coming back to reality, I know that I've still got a lot on my plate, but I've tasted the fruits of relaxation, and they will be a part of my diet from now on.

As a symbolic gesture of this, I actually cooked something fancy, from a recipe even, Sunday night. Pears poached in red wine sauce. The lovely thing about this recipe is it's very elegant, but can be broken up into several parts, many of which can be done in advance. It's a good example for me how I can still find ways to cook and relax in 2009 and keep a better balance of work, rest, and play.

Poached pears in wine sauce

large, somewhat shallow, saucepan, big enough to fit all pears
Vegetable peeler
spoon or ladle
measuring cups

1 bottle fruity red wine
1/2 cup fortified wine, such as port wine, or sherry (or 1/2 cup sweet wine plus a shot of something strong like vodka or rum).
1/2 cup sugar
4 pears, the ones with the green skins, slightly underripe if you can get them that way.
2 Tablespoons chai loose leaf tea (emphatically not the powdered stuff. It has to have twigs and pods and nibs in it. Can substitute 2 T mulling spices plus a 1 inch section of orange rind)

Keep stems on pears, but peel them. Cut off bottoms of pears a little bit so they stand upright. Heat all other ingredients in saucepan over low heat until sugar is just melted. Add pears. Heat mixture until boiling, then back heat down to a low simmer. Cook 30-40 minutes, turning pears every 10 minutes or so. Baste the pears with the liquid each time you turn them.

Remove pears, then turn the heat up and cook the syrup down until it is reduced to about a cup. Be careful here to make sure the syrup doesn't burn. When bubbles start to "stack" on top of each other, you're good to go.

Strain syrup, pour syrup over pears in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to room temperature before serving. Serve by placing each pear, standing up, then spoon some syrup around. Can add whipped cream or ice cream if you want.

The coolest thing about this recipe is how the pears turn from pale green to ruby red as you cook. Talk about alchemy. Yum.