Thursday, December 27, 2012
(reposted from 37 Cooks)
I don't have holiday cookie traditions. No tattered pieces of paper or index cards tucked away, scribbled with Great Aunt Peggy's or Grandmas faded handwriting. Truthfully, and part sadly, there isn't a lineage of recipes in my family. So, every Christmas, I make a different cookie recipe. Several ones, even. I say I like to just keep it interesting but, in part, I think I'm secretly searching for a recipe to make my own. One to pass down to my own children some day.
Of all of the cookies I've made over the past decade, this is one of those recipes that I could see making with grandchildren. And I have The Food Network Magazine to thank for it.
No-Bake Cornflake and Chocolate Pralines
1/2 cup pecans
2 cups cornflakes
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup pure cane syrup (such as Steen's) or 2 tablespoons each molasses and light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
Toast the pecans in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; let cool, then coarsely chop.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Toss the pecans and cornflakes in a large bowl.
Make the caramel: Bring the butter, cane syrup, heavy cream and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and comes together into a loose ball, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Once the caramel stops bubbling, stir in the semisweet chocolate until melted.
Pour the chocolate caramel over the cornflake mixture and toss to coat. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets and pack into compact mounds with your fingers. Let set, about 1 hour.
Begin sugar coma.
Monday, December 24, 2012
(photo from SFGate)
The little button of Trou du Cru is the perfect blend of sweet and pungent. Essentially, it's a pocket sized Epoisses cheese, washed with the same Marc de Bourgogne alcohol as it's larger brother. The nose on it is strong, but it's bark is much worse than it's bite. The paste is a combination of butter and straw that lingers long on the pallet. It's size is ideal for a single serving, for those who don't like to share their cheeses, but would be right at home at the end of a cheese plate shared with friends.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
(photo from Fine Food Specialist)
Ahh, the Clochette. If ever there was a cheese that was perfectly dressed for a cheese plate, it is the "little bell." With a white, slightly wrinkly rind, this young French goat's milk cheese is mild and creamy, without much of the barnyard carrying over to the milk. But, because of transport time, we tend to get older, and more wrinkly, Clochettes in the states. This aging can make for a slightly more intense flavor, but takes absolutely nothing away from the sheer beauty of this cheese.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
(photo from Joy of Cheese)
You want to stick your face in it, don't you? C'mon, we're all friends here and, honestly, I wouldn't judge you if you did.
Rush Creek Reserve is this years "It" cheese on all the cheesecentric blogs. The love started two years ago when Uplands Cheese Company released their companion cheese to their multiple award winning, Pleasant Ridge. This one was crafted in the image of Vacherin Mont D'or and, when perfectly ripe, can have it's top rind sheered off and inner paste ladled out. It's paste is dense and its nose and profile is not for those wary of strong cheeses. It shares the same smokey, cured meat flavor that has made cheeses like Vacherin and Winnimere such favored winter cheeses.
Friday, December 21, 2012
(photo from Eats... blog)
So, you think you know what a sharp cheese is? You think it's a 2 year aged cheddar or something cryovaced from Cabot or Cracker Barrel?
Obviously you've never had a 5 year Age Gouda before.
This cheese knocks you in the jaw and doesn't look back to see if you're ok. It's brittle and sweet like a hard butterscotch and riddled with pockets of 'crunchy bits' that people lose their shit over (tyrosine, for those that want to up their geek factor). The texture is dry and crumbly, so don't even both trying to slice this cheese and melting is all but a no go unless you grate it like Parmesan.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Mixed milk cheeses are some of my favorites. To me, it's like having the best of all worlds. With Tres Leches, you have the best of three worlds. You have a slight acidity from the goat's milk, a rich mouthfeel from the denser sheep's milk and the cow's milk is there to make sure everyone keeps it cool. The paste remains firm enough to slice and never gets runny despite it's bloomy rind. This would be wonderful on an after dinner plate with a light honey (Acacia, maybe).
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
(photo from Flickr.com)
My Deadhead friends will know this feeling well. Many of them, even those who have gone to hundreds of shows, have chased a song while on tour. That yearning and deep rooted desire to hear one particular song at a live show. Usually, that song is a rare one, but they don't feel satisfied until they've heard it.
I have found my cheese equivalent.
Belper Knolle haunts me. It does. I purchased the truffle looking cheese about 4 years ago at The Cheese Iron in Scarborough. The price was steep, so I only took home half a knob--but, I savored it. The texture is hard, as it's meant to be grated or shaved, and coated in garlic, black pepper and Himalayan Sea Salt. This little raw cow's milk nugget from Italy tastes like alfredo sauce, through and through. You want to find reasons to break it out and grate it on top of something. It's that good.
Now here's the part where I break your heart.
You can't find it in the US.
I don't know if it was dumb luck, but coming across it in Maine will probably never happen again. I have emailed cheeseshops and importers, to no avail. So, if you happen to be taking a trip to Europe--remember that name. It's worth sneaking a little nub back into the country.
And, bring an extra for me, too.... Please?
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
(photo by Affinage Cheese)
The nose on Ubriaco del Piave is intoxicating. The vibrant purple rind is a literal mash-up of Merlot, Raboso and Cabernet grapes and, unlike it's bastard Spanish cousin, The Drunken Goat, Ubriaco (which means 'drunk' in Italian) actually takes on the flavor of the grapes. Its paste is sharp and sweet, with a good bite coming in from the raw cow's milk. The finish, however, is smooth and pleasant. Finishing the last bite, with both paste and rind, turns it into a pleasant bowl of berries and cream.
Monday, December 17, 2012
(photo from Formaggio Kitchen)
The mental image of blue cheese is a stark white canvas with a smattering of blue-green pock marks across, and through, its surface.
Monte Enebro is not that kind of blue cheese.
This pasteurized Spanish goat's milk cheese is not inoculated with peniciullium roqueforti and then pierced with a hollow needle, leaving room for the air to bloom it's molds. This cheese is enrobed in it, leaving it's spicy blue profile to linger at the end, rather than attack the senses on first taste. The bright paste, when young, is tart and tangy. As the cheese ages, the milk turns bolder and more pungent--the grass traded off for that barnyard 'goatiness' that can alienate people to any goats milk cheese.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
(photo from a random Tumblr)
Pecorinos and Manchegos seem to dominate when we talk about sheep's milk cheese, but little is ever said about Brebis. Yet, you can't have a conversation about sheep's cheese--or ANY cheese--without bringing the French into it. For their contribution, many know of the widely produced Petit Basque. However for those who want a little more age and nuance to their cheese, you can look to Pyrenees Brebis.
As is characteristic of all sheep's cheese, the Brebis is rich in butterfat, with an ever so slight back note of caramel and almonds. I always find cheeses like the Brebis (locally, look for those from Bonnieview Farm and Major Farm in Vermont), carry what the sheep were eating that season a little more upfront. So, don't be surprised if you catch glimpses of clover and mustard amongst the sweet profile of the milk.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
(photo from Cook's Cache)
We're keeping it very local for this one with Sunset Acres ash veined, bloomy rind: Sea Smoke from Sunset Acres in Brooksville, ME. Ash and cheese together is a centuries old tradition. But it wasn't until Humboldt Fog came out, some 20 years ago, that it became popular state side.
But, the Sea Smoke is markedly different from Humboldt Fog. For one thing, the paste stays firm enough to slice and never gets loose or threaten to pull away from the rind. It's also less salty and more crisp than 'the Fog,' finishing on a bright mineral note.
Friday, December 14, 2012
(photo from Murray's Cheese)
I'm going to confess to you that I don't usually enjoy Gorgonzolas. Truth is, every time I eat some, the pungency of the mold seems to attack my sinuses. So, I have a hard time recommending them after such violence. But, then there's Gorgonzola Cremificato.
Much denser than the Mountain or Dolce variety, this is more like someone took a pint of the finest Italian gelato and stirred in a bit of blue cheese. It's more sweet and pepper than tanginess and bite. Pears, honey, caramelized walnuts. Pair what you'd like and cook with the whatever you happen to have leftover.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
(photo from Formaggio Kitchen)
Well, it's that time of year again, kiddies.Cheesemas.
The first in our list is Landaff Creamery's Kinsman Ridge, a raw cow's milk washed rind aged in The Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Kinsman Ridge is one of two cheeses produced at Landaff Creamery, in New Hampshire, the other being their name sake, Landaff. While it ages in the caves of Jasper Hill, it is a true farmstead cheese and, like the Landaff, is truly unique.
The paste is extremely pliable, though it never never gets runny like many washed rinds. This is more akin to Taleggio in it's texture. The flavor, however is much more mild. It has notes of grass, chives and even a bit of brown butter with the rind. I would serve this in matchsticks with almonds. No bread, it takes up too much cheese room.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can´t make it out alone
I´ve built my dreams around you
And the boys of the NYPD choir's still singing Galway Bay
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas day.
--Shane McGowen "Fairytale of New York"
There are two things that signify Christmas time for me. The first is having my alarm clock go off the day after Thanksgiving and hearing Wham's "Last Christmas" playing on the radio. The second is gathering with some fantastic friends and indulging in more bitters and booze in one night than I do in one year. Happy 4th Annual (HOLY SHIT!!) Obscure Holiday Cocktails, kiddies.
The mood was festive as we all had a pretty damn good year in 2012. For us, I received a promotion at work over the summer, that very morning the Missus had officially finished her graduate school program and Maine became the first state to recognize marriage equality via popular vote this past November. We've spent the past month partially dreaming about our ceremony and fretting over where we were going to host about 100 friends and family..and how we would pay for it all.
But, this was not a night to worry, this was the night for all of us to drink beyond the boundaries of moderation. Except for Vrylena, whose due any day. Dave drank her share and she got to sit there, eat cheese and watch as some of us wore our drunk a little more pronounced than others.
To start the evening was my darling Kate, who had a rough go of it in her choice of drink last year. This year she poured:
Ice1 ounce apple brandy3/4 ounce rosé vermouth3/4 ounce Spiced Honey Syrup (See Note)1/2 ounce fresh lemon juiceDash of Peychaud’s bitters1 ounce chilled cava or other dry sparkling wineFill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the cava and shake well. Strain into a large chilled coupe and top with the cava.Notes Spiced Honey Syrup: Wrap 1/2 cinnamon stick and 2 green cardamom pods in a kitchen towel and crush with a mallet or heavy pan. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup honey with 4 ounces water. Add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger and the crushed spices and simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the syrup darkens and the spices are very aromatic, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate until chilled and infused, at least 8 hours. Pour the syrup through a fine strainer into a clean jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 6 ounces
and I paired:
Lady Laurier d’Arthabaska, a triple creme brie from Canada that is infused with vanilla. On the plate I added a bit of Leslie Stowe's Salty Date and Almond Raincoast Crisps.
Maybe it was a subconscious nod to Vrylena, but this trio would be right at home at a baby shower. I'll play into gender norms for a moment to declare: This was extremely girly f'ing way to start off the evening. Kate's drink had a cava float, for God's sake! But, all of it melded so perfectly together.
Professor A. asked why I had chosen that particular cheese and, for me, it was all about the addition of the sparkling wine. If the sparkling element wasn't there, the cheese would have been completely different. But, for general pairings, triple cremes and sparklings are meant to be together.
The butterfat of a triple creme starts at around 72% (for perspective, butter starts at around 80%), so it is complimented by a bubbly because the bubbles help lighten the richness of the cheese. Most triple cremes are so rich that they eat like ice cream. Add in the elements of tartness from the apple brandy and sweetness of the honey syrup, combined with the light vanilla profile, and you have a beautifully sweet marriage. The crackers, there really to act as a vessel for the creamy cheese, added a bit of salt and crunch. There wasn't anything left on the plate, or in our glasses, at the end of round one, so I think we can call it a resounding success.
Our hostess, Dawn, was up next. Because the night fell on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, she dubbed her drink the "Admiral Yamamoto:"
"Wash" a martini glass with a splash of Laphroig single-malt scotch
Pour 2 ounces of Bulleit Rye into a martini shaker full of ice
Add .5 ounce of Cherry Heering
Add .5 ounce of Carpano Antica
Add .5 ounces of Campari
Add 2 dashes of orange bitters
Shake, pour into martini glass. Then, put flame to an orange peel to slight smoke. Add to drink.
Robiola di Capra in Foglie di Castagna.
How's that for a mouthful? I guess it's only fitting, for a WWII inspired drink, that I chose to pair an Italian cheese. The Robiola di Capra is a beautiful goats milk cheese, from the Piedmont region of Italy, wrapped and aged in chestnut leaves. When I saw the list of Dawn's ingredients, I knew I wanted a goat cheese because I enjoy pairing younger style goat cheeses with cherry preserves. I imagined the Cherry Heering would have a pronounced presence in the drink. It did not. In fact, Dawn's drink wins the award this year for "Most Burny." Seriously, my notes simply say:
I'd suffice to say that I am in no way up to Dawn's level of spirit appreciation. But, while the drink was a little too stiff for me, the cheese smoothed it all out. Though it was too young to start being influenced from it's swathing in chestnut leaves, the cheese was probably my favorite of the evening. When eaten in small bites the paste, dense and cakey, did coat the tongue enough to buffer against the burn of the Rye. But, take too big of a bite and the acidity, naturally found in a goats milk cheese, seemed to turn up the flame on my tongue. Both called for restraint and moderation, which was good because there was still a bit of cheese and drinks ahead.Burny. Tangy goat cheese brought up more sweetness in the drink.
Professor A. followed next and his drink was the most anticipated of the evening (at least for me). Because a name was demanded, he went with "Cider House Rules:"
3 oz ice cider, Eden single varietal barrel aged
1 oz single barrel Jack Daniels.5 oz ice extracted tower shot from Speckled Ax2 dashes walnut bittersOrange twist
We nibbled on:
Tarentaise from Spring Brook Farm in Vermont.
This was the only moment of the night where I enjoyed the drink more than the cheese--and I LOVE me some Tarentaise. One thing about this raw cow's milk, Alpine style cheese is that the raw milk can have a very large presence. This will usually translate to a dance across the palate or, if you're not familiar with raw milk cheeses, you can think you're having an allergic reaction to the cheese because your mouth begins to itch. I like to tell people that it's the cheeses way to remind you that its milk is still alive when you eat it. Get past that, though, and you're rewarded with the best thing west of Comte. It's the perfect Swiss: grassy, nutty and buttery, with a smooth texture. This is one of the best domestic representations of the style out there. I picked it for the nutty bite to pair with the walnut bitters in his drink.
And, man, what a drink. If I weren't already growing belligerent and demanding that Vrylena drive us all to Denny's for Hobbit Holes, I would have had another one. But, instead, I plotted with the Missus and Dawn to make this again, serving it over a bowl of anything from Gorgeous Gelato. At first sniff, it reminded me of toasted almonds, but was sweet and syrupy, with notes of dark chocolate when it hit my lips. This was the unexpected hit of the evening all around, and you could tell that Professor A. was quite pleased with his original creation (and I'm going to openly advocate for this to be picked up by Hugo's or Bar Lola for their drink menu. Mostly so I can go there and drink it when I want).
Lastly, we have Adam and his "Pearl Arbor:"
From his email:
exact recipe is in progress but basically, its an eggnog made with spruce infused vodka.
ingredients: cream, egg, vodka, spruce needles, pinenuts, frangelico, nutmeg.
could call it the 'i'm dreaming of a white russian christmas', or since we're celebrating on dec 7, it could be called the 'pearl arbor'.
Our cheese finale was:
Jasper Hill Farm and homemade dark chocolate fudge.
So, um..yea. Spruce needle infused vodka. I have to tell you, it was a bit of a mindfuck. You would think that it would smell very much like Lysol. But, it smells like mint. Yet, tastes of pine.
I love Adam, but I did not like this at all. I think I drank about a 1/4 of my share and called it good. There was just too much happening and to end with this, after so many different alcohols and sugar (on top of more sugar) were consumed. I just couldn't.
I could, however, enjoy some cheese and chocolate. This would have been a better pairing with Professor A.'s drink for the coffee, nut and chocolate layers in it. With this being the first Winnimere batch of the season, you can see that it's not terribly ripe. So, the usual notes of smoke and meat were tame. It was, however, buttery and rich with umami. The fudge, while basic, was a nice note to end on.
And so we end this chapter of Obscure Holiday Cocktails. Let's have a toast to Vrylena and Dave and the little fellow to soon join them. A toast to having health, love, family and good friends. Cheers to you and yours.