Tag Archives: drinks

In case you were wondering…

.this is what I look like at my most relaxed.

There’s that moment in cooking process when you’re no longer focused on the mechanics of cooking, you’re just doing.

corned beef

Sort of.

If I’m being completely honest, about two hours before this photo, I was on the phone with my mother asking for more precise instructions. I had never cooked corned beef before, and I was hours away from hosting a crowd of fifteen. The chicken soup you see off to the side was my Plan B.

I should know better.

After all, this isn’t the first time, I’ve done such a thing. So, rather than cooking as a form of meditation, this was baptism by fire. Wait—that’s a poor choice of words.

Moving on.

I’d say there’s not much to it—and to a certain degree, that’s true. But, I think that has to do with good instruction. With having someone to guide you. Largely the point for me of cooking the nostalgic foods, in fact.

Really, though, there isn’t much to making corned beef well. Just two essential steps: the first boil, designed to get rid of a lot of the impurities, and the final bake, which gives a nice crust. Then, there’s the waiting. It’s worth it, not least if you have a crowd of fifteen waiting hungrily to eat…

Corned Beef

1 beef brisket, fat trimmed (4-6 pounds)
pickling spices (if you buy packaged corning beef, use what’s included. Otherwise, you should use a combination of red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, garlic, and black peppercorns)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup grainy mustard

Place the beef brisked in a large pot and fill it with water. Bring to a boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, strain the corned beef from the pot, rinsing it off. Refill the pot with water and corned beef, adding in the picking spices and bay leaves. Boil for 2-3 hours depending on the size of the beef.

In the last half hour of boiling, preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the honey and mustard together.

Remove the beef from the pot, pat dry and place in a baking dish, fat side down. Using a pastry brush, cover the corned beef with the honey mustard mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a crust has formed. Allow the meat to rest for ten minutes before slicing.

Serve with rye bread and mustard.


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We Interrupt The Previously Scheduled Recording…

.For this emergency broadcast.

Ok, fine, I might be getting a little melodramatic. But, now that I have your attention: my recaps from the Second Annual Indian Summer Picnic will continue shortly. Bear with me in the meantime, this one is good. And, actually, came about directly as a result of the Indian Summer Picnic.

Remember the Concord Grape Vodka Lemonades I told you about last week? Well, although I have a closet filled with more beer than I know what to do with and bottle after bottle of wine lining the floor of my closet—mind you, I’m not complaining, here. In fact, I’m plotting my next event—the whole bottle of Concord Grape Vodka went quickly. So quickly, in fact, that after an hour or so, Abbey (of pig-vented apple pie fame) was diluting it with plain-old-vodka to keep the cocktails coming.

Luckily, since Concord grapes are still in season, and I’m determined to consume as many as I can while that’s the case, I had some frozen grapes on hand. Which meant that could make more. And, since I was making a trip to the liquor store to get more cheap vodka anyway it seemed like a good idea to get a handle, in order to continue on infusion making kick.

This time, I had my sights set on Limoncello, a logical progression following the lemonade making of the day prior. Naturally, as I was zesting this batch of lemons, it occurred to me that, had I planned this better, I could have started the process the day before, when I was making the first batch of lemonade. This is really a convoluted way of saying that Limoncello calls for the lemon zest only, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. lemon Bars or lemon curd are both good options. Or, you could make another batch of Concord Grape Vodka Lemonades.Personally, I’m going for the latter.

Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiss

10 lemons
750-ml or 3 cups of vodka (Cheap vodka is fine here)
3.5 cups water
2.5 cups sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.

Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.

Makes 7 Cups

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We Break for Drinks

I’m afraid that the picture below is the best that you’re going to get of the recipe that follows.

It was taken during the frantic part of the evening—guests were arriving and, well, you already know time management skills when it comes to event planning. So, I was trying to pull pork and greet my guests and get them drinks and well, you get the idea. I was also trying to seem relaxed. After all, no one likes a harried hostess (least of all the hostess herself).

Luckily, my usual cast of characters is used to this. And, somehow all end up serving as, much appreciated co-hosts. So, this past Saturday, after Andrea had helped me cook, and Rajni started handling greeting guests, Abbey joined me in kitchen, with simple statement, Drinks. I can do this!

She could, and with aplomb, taking my originally idea, and tweaking it so that it was so much better. When she discovered that there were frozen concord grapes, those went into the glasses as inspired ice cubes. Then she cut squeezed in a lime wedge. The acid of the brightens the drink, she said. Or something like that.

Honestly, none of us cared what it did. It just made the drink that much better.

Included below are recipes for homemade lemonade—if you’re going through the trouble of infusing your own vodka, then you might as well make everything from scratch, I think. And for a single cocktail. You can tweak the alcohol to your liking, based on how strong you want the vodka’s flavor to be (and how lethal the drink). This recipe is easy to make in batches, so perfect for a party.

Concord Grape Vodka Lemonade
1 oz Concord Grape Vodka
6 oz Lemonade (recipe follows)
1 lime wedge
2-3 frozen concord grapes

Mix well, and garnish with a squeezed lime and 2-3 concord grapes.

Serves One

Recipe courtesy of All Recipes
1.75 cups white sugar
8 cups water
1.5 cups lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Remove seeds from lemon juice, but leave pulp. In pitcher, stir together chilled syrup, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups water.

Makes 9.5 cups

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Only the Best

Did you know that there are ordinances in New York City governing when a building must turn on the heat?

I once called 311 about this, many years ago, when I had just moved into a new apartment. I know, it sounds like a punchline, and, yet, I’m embarrassed to admit, it’s totally true.

For the record, here’s the official law:

Heat (During the heating season, October 1 through May 31)

  • Between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., heat must register at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees

  • Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., heat must register at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees.

See? I supply you with recipes and lessons about New York City law.

Only the best for you, my friends. Only the best.

And, so, once again I find myself in that awkward part of the season when it’s not quite cold enough for sweaters but too warm for heat. I’ve taken to walking around my apartment in my ugly—but very, very warm—polka dot slippers. And, if it doesn’t get warmer soon, or cold enough to warrant heat within my building, I may break out my tie dye snuggie (It was a gift from a friend, I swear.)

This is a very long way of saying that I think the temperature in my apartment may, in fact, be colder than outside. Naturally, this makes me long for the blissful days of summer and early fall.

Although the weather is long gone, I’m pleased to say that, this year, I planned ahead so that I could preserve the flavors. And, while I haven’t attempted canning, yet, mostly due to a fear that I’m accident prone enough to afflict my friends with botulism, there is something that I can do:

Infuse alcohol.

I’m operating under the theory that alcohol kills most everything. Except flavor. So, now I have grand plans—Singapore Slings with sour cherry gin, Concord Grape Cocktails. There may be come limoncello in my future, too. It’s too late to get the sour cherries this year, but concord grapes are still in season. And, be honest, doesn’t Concord grape vodka seem so much more appealing that jam, or even focaccia.

Actually, on second thought, get enough grapes to make the perfect happy hour cocktail and snack.

Infused Spirits
Technique from About.com

This is more of a method than a recipe, and, as such infinitely adaptable. My biggest suggestion is to use cheaper, more mildly flavored spirits while you’re trying new flavors so that, in the event that they don’t work out, you haven’t spent a fortune.

Concord Grape Infused Vodka

750 ml vodka
1 cup fresh concord grapes

Crush the grapes and place them at the bottom of an infusion jar. Top with vodka, and allow to infuse in a cool, dark place for 5-7 days. Shake the jar periodically as the vodka is infusing. Once the infusion is ready, strain the concord grapes from it, using either cheese cloth or a coffee filter. Return the vodka to a serving container.

Sour Cherry Infused Gin

750 ml gin
1 cup fresh sour cherries

Pit the sour cherries and place them at the bottom of an infusion jar. Top with gin, and allow to infuse in a cool, dark place for 5-7 days. Shake the jar periodically as the vodka is infusing. Once the infusion is ready, strain the concord grapes from it, using either cheese cloth or a coffee filter. Return the gin to a serving container.

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Coming Attractions

I’m back! And, very, very jet lagged.

In other words, there are still piles of clothing to be put away, gifts to be handed out, emails to be attended to. All of the demands of regular life beckon. A little too loudly.

Did I mention that I was jet lagged?

I’m also aching to share some of the sights of Zurich, Lugano and Alsace with you (and, embarassingly several recipes from the days before I left for vacation.) So, there will be more to come. With recipes and stories that are both charming and more smartly articulated than I can promise at the moment.

Consider this a small preview for the time being. Or, better, yet, an apéritif.

Appropriate enough, given that I’m leaving you with a recipe for my new favorite drink—an Aperol Spritz.

Before we go on, let’s get this out of th eway: Aperol is, in fact, an Italian bitter.

I read about a few months back, on Orangette. At the time, it felt too cold for something that seemed, to me at least, so summery both in color and flavor profile. So, the craving was filed away for summer. And then, it was summer. And, I arrived in Switzerland and saw it on offer throughout the cafés of Zürich and, later in the week, just a hopskipandajump away from Italy, in Lugano.

As for the drink: It’s quintessentially Swiss. Or, maybe not, but the friends who I visited told me so, and that’s good enough for me.

Think Campari but without the rough, bitter edge. Instead, it’s just got a slight bitterness rounded with the floral notes of rhubarb that keeps it from veering into the “drinks I drank when I was seventeen” range. And, when mixed with prosecco or seltzer, it is a vibrant shade of orange.

It’s positively celebratory, if you ask me.

Just the right kind of drink to enjoy on your vacation. Or, perhaps, the rest of your summer.

Aperol Spritz
Recipe courtesy of Aperol

2 ounces Aperol
3 ounces Prosecco
Splash of Seltzer
Orange Slices, to garnish

In a wine or highball glass, add ice and pour in Aperol. Top off with prosecco and seltzer, and then garnish with a thin slice of orange.

Makes One

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