So not only did I infuse spirits with food, but I infused a lot of food with spirits this Holiday. From gifts to dinner, nearly every course contained some sort of booze infused food. Ironically the one cookie I did not make this year is my favorite chocolate sambuca crinkles, but I guess I more than made up for it elsewhere. If you get bored before finishing this post, make sure you skip to the bottom to read about (and then run off and make) the BEST THING I EVER ATE.
Vanilla Beer Syrup:
Made with Atwater Vanilla Java Porter (a beer I did not care for), brown sugar, cloves and Cinnamon, (and finished with butter) this heavenly syrup would be delicious on anything from pancakes (how about bourbon blueberry pancakes!) to pound cake. (I left the recipe at home, I’ll put it into the comments later). The taste is lusciously rich, with caramelly overtones and a lovely subtle bitter note thanks to the java in the porter. This recipe came from the Market District Beer Food event referenced in the Duck Fat post.
We also enjoyed a caponata made with an IPA as part of our Christmas lunch (recipe to follow in comments) that also came from the Beer/food tasting at Giant Eagle.
Spiked Egg Nog
Because it really is freaking to-die-for delicious. I had a number of excellent recipes suggested, but I like the one over at A Year From Scratch. The only problem was I couldn’t find pasteurized eggs. (I know they probably had them at Whole Foods or Trader Joes, but I just couldn’t make it over there before Christmas eve.) So I had to resort to this cooked version from epicurious.com called The Ultimate Eggnog. I offered guests a choice for spiking, spiced rum, whiskey, or brandy. I chose whiskey but a sampling of all of them tells me you can’t really go wrong with any of those choices. It has become a Christmas tradition to drink heavenly/heavily spiked egg not while my daughter reads the classic poem The Night Before Christmas. It helps brace me for the 5 hours of wrapping presents that inevitably follows.
Green Peppercorn Sauce aka Brandy Sauce aka Holiday Flambe 2010
I don’t have pictures of the flambe of this sauce because I was all “HOLY SHIT” and “OH MY GOD” when it went up…and I do mean UP.
For those of you who don’t know, I live with a chef. He went to the Culinary Institute of America (though I should mention he didn’t finish…Pittsburgh’s siren call pulled him home). I love to cook and do quite a fair bit, but when I get in trouble in the kitchen I call in reinforcements. So when it came time to flambe this sauce, I called him. Mind you, it has A CUP of brandy in it, so when he did his chefy thing and tilted the pan to catch some flame, that fucker went to the ceiling in the kitchen. Not kidding. It was spectacular! My mother would have been proud, though she probably would have suggested I come up with a better word than “fucker.” But flames to the ceiling seem too spectacular for the more genteel “bad boy”….
Anyway, the green peppercorn sauce for the Beef Wellington stood on it’s own frankly. If you are looking for a rich sauce for meat or starch (my daughter ate it on her mashed potatoes actually) I’d strongly recommend giving this a try.
A word on the green peppercorns though. These are fun little buggers. They have a briny start that makes you think of capers and give a first impression of a lovely pickled condiment. But pretty quickly they show their fangs. They finish with a bite that is a big of a kick in the teeth. Not quite like eating a black pepper corn, but you definitely see what they are going to grow up to be. I put in significantly less than the recipe called for, but I think I’d like to play with them. I’m thinking a vodka infusion, with the brine saved to rim a martini glass or something.
Milk Chocolate Mousse w/ Port Ganache and Whipped Creme Fraiche aka The BEST THING I EVER ATE. Really.
I am not a sweets person. Given my choice between potato and chocolate chips, I’ll take the potato every time. I am the person who orders the cheese plate for desert. That being said, the desert we had for Christmas was without a doubt the BEST THING I EVER ATE. Holy crap it was good. The individual highlight of it was the Port Ganache. I ran around the house w/ a bunch of spoons insisting everyone taste it, it was sooooooooo freaking good.
The entire thing was a little labor intensive. But toooooootally worth it. I cannot hyperbolize the goodness of this desert enough. And even though mine wasn’t as pretty as the picture on Epicurious, it was still a spectacular presentation with lumps instead of quinels.(<—I cannot find the correct spelling of this word! Any one?)
This makes a luscious milk chocolate mousse.
But the real star of the show is the Port Ganache. It includes both Port Syrup made from reduced Port and unreduced Port, along with cream and milk chocolate. It isn’t much to look at, but it is quite possibly the best bite of food I’ve ever had. I love it. I want to drink it by the gallon. I want to fill a bath tub and bathe in it. I want to marry it.
Really, really, really effing good. The complete desert is a warm pool of luscious Port Ganache topped with quinels of Milk Chocolate Mouse and a slightly smaller one of Whipped Creme Fraiche then drizzled with the Port Syrup. It. Is. Decadent. But the unsweetened Whipped Creme Fraiche and the bite from the port really counter balance what could be cloying sweetness and heavy (heavenly) fat content. This is a perfectly balanced dish.
In my next post I’ll tell you about that pancetta on the cutting board and the beef wellington part of the green peppercorn sauce.