Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dabbling in the Art of French Cooking: Week One

My sister is (approximately) 1,401 miles away: Minnesota to Boston. Google Maps informs me that there are tolls AND road construction on the 20+ hour drive out east, or that there's a lovely 2 hour and 40 minute flight I could hop on for a few hundred bucks.

Distance is never fun (particularly when you're separated from the one other person in the world who speaks the exact same dialect of faux-Masterpiece Theater British Worrywart as you), and when the drive is too long or the flights are too expensive, you've got to do something to feel connected to one another.

Enter the sister-sister adventure of "Dabbling in the Art of French Cooking".

1. We're cooking through bits and pieces of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Each week, we'll select 2-3 recipes to try- sometimes as a composed 3-course menu, other times...not so much. We haven't discussed an end date or a goal number of recipes to complete, but I would assume our challenge would not be complete until we've successfully made at least Boeuf Bourguignon and Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba Cake).

2. I've been instructed to inform you by my dear sister that this is most decidedly nothing like the Julie and Julia challenge. We're nowhere near that ambitious, though one of us does blog about cooking and the other one does live in tiny apartment where it would be considerably difficult to de-bone a duck. But that's not the point.

3. While I will share an occasional recipe, I think if I attempt to type out all three Julia Child recipes each week + a blog post, I will develop carpal tunnel by Thanksgiving. I would encourage you to either buy Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or check out the Google Book link above.

So, with that all said- Week One!

Potage Veloute aux Champignons (Cream of Mushroom Soup), page 40 - which there are no pictures of because it was a last minute change!

Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons (Breast of Chicken with Mushrooms and Cream), page 268/269

Tarte aux Pommes (Apple Tart), page 636

Bostonian Chef is on the left, Minnesota Nicely on the right.  

While our tarts turned out mostly the same (save for a bit more browning on the professional baker's tart. Harumph.), we did totally different things with our Supremes. It's a delicious dish either way, but I couldn't be bothered to make any sides that night so I decided to incorporate my chicken, mushrooms, and sauce into one insanely good sandwich. A bit of dijon, baby Swiss cheese and some peppery arugula really rounded this dish off nicely!

The tart will be getting it's own blog post shortly because it is just so lovely and would be a delightful new twist on Apple Pie as we head into the Thanksgiving season. Stay tuned!

And if you want to cook along, here's next week's dishes! (Don't cook them all together for the same would be a rather pale -though tasty!- affair.)

Aigo Bouido (Garlic Soup), page 46
Filets de Poisson Poches au Vin Blanc (Fish Filets Poached in White Wine), page 208
Tarte au Fromage Frais (Cream Cheese Tart), page 646

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Six Things You Could Be Doing Right Now to Get a Jump on the Holiday Season

Did you feel that?

There's a chill *just* starting to settle in the air.

Typically, that means I write a recipe post dedicated to some form of stew or some variety of pumpkin sugar-this-or-that, but this year we're going to kick off fall a bit differently.


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Just kidding. But really- doesn't it seem like the holiday season creeps up faster and faster each year? One minute I'm debating whether or not it's time to pack up my shorts for the season, and the next minute I'm mulling over options for Ugly Sweater parties.

So, before you're caught off guard by Jingle Bells playing in a department store while you're shopping for a Halloween costume, let me help you get a jump on the most wonderful time of the year.

Here are six things you could (and should!) do before November 1 in order to have a holly, jolly holiday season.

1. Start Making a List (checking it twice can come later)

This is really something I do year-round, but better late than never! I keep a list on my phone of anything that gets mentioned as a "want". Sister posts some ridiculous beauty product on Facebook that she OMG TOTALLY WANTS? Check. Friend longingly mentions a kitchen accessory she's always wanted? Amazon & Save For Later. Little Bro mentions a new show he's obsessed with? Jot it down and start researching fan-gear. Hubs says it would be "really cool" to have a random gadget that you've never heard of? Put it on the list and Google it later. Do you have to get the stuff that people mention? No, but at least this way you have a running list of hobbies and interests that should give you a good starting point for gift-giving. (P.S. This list is useful year round for birthdays, anniversaries, or rando-gifting!)

2. Make Some Bomb-Ass Eggnog

Did you know you can age eggnog? Yeah. Last year for Christmas I made Alton Brown's Aged Eggnog and holy cow was that stuff divine. Ours only matured for a week or two before it magically disappeared. Now would be the perfect time to whip up a batch and stash it in the back of the fridge. Come holiday time you'll have a great cocktail for tree-trimming or spontaneous guests. You could even portion it out into mason jars and give out some holiday cheer to friends and neighbors.

3. Determine Your Travel Plans

This might be difficult in September, but doable by October. Figure out if you're headed to Aunt Mildred's for Thanksgiving, or if your whole family is cruising around the Caribbean for Christmas. The sooner you know where things are happening, the sooner you can schedule time off work, make travel plans, and settle any other arrangements. If you have pets and need to board them over the holidays, you should already know that kennels fill up fast and that setting up a reservation now will guarantee you an easy, breezy, beautiful holiday.

4. De-Clutter

Spring cleaning is for fools. Fall de-clutter is the real deal. Think about it....Thanksgiving leftovers, Black Friday loot, Season's Greetings cards from friends and family, Christmas Cookie swaps, presents, wrapping paper from said presents....the holidays do a number on storage space. Take some time to clean out the fridge (you've gotta make room for that eggnog, anyhow!), donate clothes, throw out junk, and organize that random pile of stuff that's been sitting on your dining room table since March.

5. Get Addresses

If you're planning on sending out Christmas cards, you're going to discover that you need actual, physical addresses. The USPS does not, to my knowledge, accept e-mail address or cell numbers as a valid delivery address. Sorry. Now is the time to start harassing your mother for Great Uncle Skippy's address, and to begin pestering your friends for theirs. People will forget and need to be reminded, so give yourself the buffer time. And please, for your sanity, SAVE these addresses for next year. (Note: if you're doing this step, you might as well also start to figure out your Christmas cards/pictures/etc)

6. Nail Down Your Holiday Recipe/s

Contrary to what most women's magazines say, rich food is a huge part of the holiday season. So please- don't be that person that brings a salad to Thanksgiving, or brings raisins to the holiday cookie swap. This is the time of year for butter, sugar and flavor. Set yourself up with one or two awesome recipes that you can whip up to share- preferably one savory appetizer/side-dish and something sweet. Need some inspiration?

Blue Cheese Crostinis (apologies for the picture quality- those were the dark days of camera phones)

Slow Cooker Cranberry Meatballs

Bacon Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

Burgundy Mushrooms  - bonus, these will make your house smell AMAZING all day

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans - perfect for gift giving, or to keep in a snack dish for munching

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies - the best cookie I've ever made

My parting words with #6? If mashed potatoes are your responsibility, make them taste delicious with or without gravy. Don't skimp on salt, pepper, garlic powder, butter, cream cheese (yes! trust me!) and heavy cream (alright, alright- half and half OR whole milk. Touch the skim and I'll ex-communicate you from the holidays.)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Harvest Infused Whiskey and Harvest Fashioned Cocktails

Let's play a round of "Guess What's In the Mason Jar!"

Week 38: Acid - Harvest Infused Whiskey (lemon and blood orange)

Weird lemonade? No.

Sun tea? Wrong.

Sangria? Getting closer.

This baby is full of what I'm calling "Harvest Infused Whiskey"- and no, it's not being infused with pumpkins, corn stalks, or gourds. 

Ingredients (from Thrillest)
  • 750ml Whiskey*
  • 1/4 of a lemon, cut into chunks and seeds removed
  • 1/4 of a blood orange, cut into chunks (yes- you can use a regular orange)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, split (but not scraped!)
  • 18 dried cherries
  • 4 dried Turkish apricots, halved 
  • 4 whole cloves
Add all ingredients to a large jar, give a good shake and let steep covered for 5 days. After 5 days, strain and discard solids. 

For the Harvest Fashioned Cocktail (a play on the traditional sugar, spirits and orange of an Old Fashioned):
  • 750ml Harvest Infused Whiskey
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup peach brandy
  • Orange rind
Warm the honey in the microwave until very liquid. Pour into strained, infused whiskey and add in 1/3 cup of peach brandy. Shake well to ensure the honey is dissolved. Serve on the rocks in a short glass, and garnish with a twist of orange rind.

Note: you can decrease/increase the honey depending on how sweet you'd like this cocktail to turn out. If you don't have honey (or don't want to use honey), you can use sugar- HOWEVER- sugar will not dissolve well in room-temp/cool liquid, so make a simple syrup in a saucepan using equal parts sugar and water, stirring on medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved. 

You can also forgo peach brandy in favor of regular brandy (which you should stock for eggnog!) or more (un-infused) whiskey, but the brandy adds a nice warmth and the peach brightens up the flavors and brings out the apricot. 

*Any whiskey will do, though Revel Stoke makes a Pecan Flavored Whiskey that really amps up the 'warm' fall flavor of this infusion.