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Archive for March 8, 2012

ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Cocktails And Cookies

Here’s a fun way to enjoy Irish oatmeal on St. Patrick’s Day: with a Baileys Irish Cream cocktail and oatmeal cookies.

The recipe was developed at the R Lounge in Times Square, New York City, a venue listed by USA Today as one of the top 50 “best view” restaurants in the U.S. If you’re in the area, take in lunch (brunch on weekends) or dinner and enjoy the almost-360° view.

The cocktail is paired with cookies. Is this the beginning of a new trend? Does it presage dessert pairings of cocktails and cookies (or cupcakes)?

We hope so!

To Serve As Dessert

To turn this recipe into even more of a dessert, make little cookie ice cream sandwiches with vanilla ice cream.

  • Even better, soften a pint of vanilla and mix in 2 tablespoons (1/8 cup) of Baileys Irish Cream to make Baileys ice cream.
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    Cookies and cocktails: the hot new combo? Photo courtesy R Lounge | Renaissance Hotel
    | New York City.

  • You can either refreeze before making the sandwiches, or make the sandwiches with the softened ice cream and stick them in the freezer.
  • If there’s not enough Baileys flavor in the ice cream for you, you can add more; but beware that with too much alcohol, the ice cream won’t refreeze to its normal solidity.
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    IRISH OATMEAL COCKTAIL RECIPE

    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 1-1/4 ounces / 38 ml Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1 ounce / 30 ml DeKuyper Buttershots Liqueur or substitute*
  • 3/4 ounce / 22 ml Goldschlager†
  • Ice
  • Optional garnishes: whipped cream, cinnamon
  • 3 mini oatmeal cookies (or one large cookie)
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    Preparation

    1. Combine spirits in a cocktail shaker. Pour over ice into a rocks glass.

    2. Alternative: Shake with ice and strain into a Martini glass.

    3. Garnish with a dab of whipped cream and a scant sprinkle of cinnamon.

     
    Need An Oatmeal Cookie Recipe?

    Here’s a classic recipe from Land O’ Lakes. To make mini cookies, use a rounded teaspoon instead of the rounded tablespoon in the recipe.

     
    WHAT EXACTLY IS IRISH OATMEAL?

    Irish oatmeal (as well as Scottish oatmeal) is simply steel-cut oats. The style is chewier and nuttier in flavor than other types of oatmeal. It’s also higher in fiber because it is less processed than rolled oats (and much higher in fiber and nutrients than instant oatmeal). Here’s an explanation from Julie Lanford, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN:

  • Steel-cut oats are the whole oat kernel, which is cut into two or three pieces using steel discs. They are a better source of fiber than rolled oats, but take longer to cook—20 minutes or more.
  • Rolled oats have the bran mostly removed and are rolled flat to make them easier to cook. With the bran removed, they have less fiber than steel-cut oats, and usually cook in 10 minutes.
  • Quick-cooking and instant oats are rolled oats that have been cut into smaller pieces and rolled thinner; thus they cook quickly—5 minutes for quick-cooking and a minute or two for instant oats. They are the easiest option for preparing many oatmeal dishes.
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    Normally one wouldn’t bake with regular steel cut oats, because they remain hard and chewy (that’s the point of using steel-cut oats). But if you want to “keep it Irish,” use McCann’s Quick & Easy Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal.
     
    *Buttershots is a butterscotch flavored liqueur/schnapps. The flavor of butterscotch is a blend of butter and brown sugar.
    †Goldschlager is a clear cinnamon liqueur that has hundreds of tiny flakes of real gold. It’s beautiful to drink in shots.

      

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    PRODUCT: Wallaby Organic Greek Yogurt

    One of 5 varieties of organic Greek yogurt.
    Photo courtesy Wallaby.

     

    Wallaby Yogurt Company, a family-owned producer of organic yogurt, has launched its first line of organic Greek yogurts.

    Greek yogurt—properly called Greek-style yogurt when made outside of Greece—is typically triple-strained, removing much of the water to create a very thick texture.

    Wallaby, based in Napa Valley, California, is known for its creamy, pudding-like yogurts which they call Australian-style, a term we’ve not come across elsewhere. We’d call them custard-style, French-style or Swiss-style (see our Yogurt Glossary for the different types of yogurt). The founders were inspired to make the yogurt while enjoying many a yogurt in Australia.

    A press release notes that “Once the founders had decided [to make Greek yogurt], they tried every brand of Greek yogurt that they could get their hands on. When they were done, they ultimately concluded that there just weren’t any organic Greek yogurts out there that tasted really great. What followed was an intense effort of repeated trial and error, to come up with what they ultimately felt would be a Greek yogurt unmatched in taste.”

     

    While we certainly respect the effort, this is a a different style of Greek yogurt than we’re accustomed to. It’s lighter and less thick, not too removed from the company’s regular lines. Instead of a thick, sour-cream-like consistency, Wallaby’s version of Greek yogurt is silky and elegant.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if you’re an organic yogurt eater who is fond of Oikos* Greek yogurt from Stonyfield—or delight in the Greek-style yogurts from Chobani and FAGE Total—note that Wallaby takes a different approach.

    *The Oikos brand name is also licensed to Dannon, a part-owner of Stonyfield, which produces a non-organic line of Dannon Oikos Greek yogurt. Yes, it is confusing!

    Wallaby Organic Greek Lowfat Yogurt is available in a variety of flavors and sizes.

  • Flavored Yogurt. The 5.3-ounce flavored varieties—Blueberry, Cherry, Honey and Strawberry—are packaged in the same type of two-compartment cup used by FAGE Total yogurt. We’ve never been fans of this cup. The intent is to allow consumers to control the amount of flavor they get. But regardless of the brand, we find that scraping out the last morsel of fruit or honey yields barely enough to flavor the cup—and it’s a lot more work than the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it “fruit on the bottom” alternative.
  • Plain Yogurt. Conventional plain yogurt is available in 6-ounce and 16-ounce sizes.
     
    The Greek yogurt line is now available nationwide in Whole Foods Markets. The 5.3-ounce and 6-ounce sizes are priced at $1.99; the 16-ounce size retails for $3.99. The line is certified USDA organic and certified kosher by the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of San Francisco (K-ORC).
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    Learn your yogurt types in our Yogurt Glossary.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Poach The Perfect Egg

    You need practice to poach the perfect egg, but consider it an important part of your culinary skills. If you listen to television’s Top Chefs, you’ll hear the masters say that their first challenge to a prospective line chef is to poach an egg.

    Today, chef Johnny Gnall takes you through the process. Tomorrow, we’ll present a video.

    Says Chef Johnny: A poached egg is surely the most elegant of egg preparations. Under hollandaise at a Sunday brunch, a Mimosa nearby, all atop a white tablecloth, it promises a silky, runny yolk within a delicate white pillow.

    But getting that perfect pillow at home can be quite challenging if you haven’t mastered the technique. A poached egg requires the most finesse in the kitchen.

    Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do (and look out for) that will make the poaching egg-sperience much easier to master. Your first few tries will probably be learning experiences, but if you use these guidelines, it shouldn’t take long before you hear egg-sclamations of excitement at your breakfast table.

     

    Portabella Eggs Benedict substitutes a grilled mushroom for the English muffin. Get the recipe. Photo courtesy Mushroom Council.

     

    1. Get a large pot. To begin, get a pot of water on the stove. A large pot is ideal because the more space the egg has to get comfortable, so to speak, the easier it will be for things to turn out right. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar and a couple pinches of salt.

    2. Heat the water. Start with the heat on high, as if you were going to bring the water to a boil. You’re aiming for a temperature of 160° to 180°F; but if you don’t have a thermometer, look for little bubbles escaping from the bottom of the pot. The big bubbles from boiling water (212°F) will jostle your egg as it cooks, making it hard to achieve that attractive pillow shape. TIP: I find it is easier (and faster) to get the water to nearly boiling and then lower the heat to attain the ideal temperature.

    3. Crack the egg. Once the water is at the right temperature, watch it for a few minutes to make sure the temperature stays constant. Then crack the egg into a glass, mug or dish (Editor’s Note: We use a Pyrex custard cup). This will ensure that any pieces of shell that fall in can be picked out. The best tool to use is actually a larger piece of eggshell. While fingertips, spoons and other utensils create a game of “catch the egg shell,” pushing the shard away, another piece of eggshell actually attracts the shard—almost magically.

    4. Lower the egg. Give the pot a few swirls with a slotted spoon, then gently drop in the egg by placing the glass or dish close to the water’s surface. The swirling will help the egg white form tightly, as opposed to dispersing bits of white in the pot. Then let everything sit for a bit; if you mess with the egg or the water before the proteins have a chance to coagulate (set), the egg is likely to come apart. Watch and wait for at least ninety seconds before you do anything else.

    5. Check the white. Once the egg looks like it has begun to come together, use the slotted spoon to very gently lift it to the surface of the water. The white is the part you should be checking, as it will cook first. If it is still translucent in some parts, give it another 30-60 seconds and check it again. You want the white to be opaque, and the yolk still runny. You can check the yolk’s consistency by lightly poking it with your finger. If it gives, sort of like a water balloon, you’re in good shape.

    6. Remove the egg. Once the white is opaque (and your yolk is still deliciously runny), you’re ready to remove the egg. Use the slotted spoon to lift it gently out of the water, scooping under it to catch all of the white. Rest the spoon on a towel for a moment to drain as much water as possible (this is why you have been using a slotted spoon). When you plate the egg, you can let it slide gently from the spoon or you can delicately flip it over (a useful move if your topside ended up less attractive than your bottom side).

    7. Season. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper, a necessary finish. The best choice is coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt.

    Now get cracking!

    Need visuals? Watch for a video, tomorrow.

    An eggcellent overview of the different types of eggs.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Irish Breakfast Tea

    That comforting cup of Irish breakfast tea is
    actually Assam, from India. Photo © Olga
    Miltsova | Dreamstime.

     

    Most tea drinkers have heard of Irish breakfast tea. Fewer have heard of Assam (ah-SAHM).

    Yet—surprise!—they’re the same tea.

    The Irish developed such a fondness for the rich, malty black tea from northeast India that they adopted it as their morning cup. Hence, “Irish breakfast tea.”

    Normally we’d advise that, if your palate demands the best, you should avoid products called “Irish breakfast tea.” Unless you already know and like the brands, they’re likely to be more mass market teas, less malty and missing the honey nuances that delight with some Assams. A tea labeled Assam will likely be a better tea. This is a generalization, of course, but it usually works for us.

    However, for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and gift-giving, “Irish breakfast tea” makes good sense.

    Check out our full review of Irish breakfast/Assam tea. Discover how Irish breakfast tea differs from English breakfast tea.

     

    We’ve even recommended a gift box of Assam/Irish breakfast tea and a silvery steel measuring scoop, tied with a green ribbon. It’s a gift you can give to yourself, too.

  • Enhance your tea chops: Take a look at our delicious Tea Glossary.
  • Find everything you need to know about tea in our Gourmet Tea Section.
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    Tea History

    Great tea needs no milk and sugar. It’s always been drunk “straight” in China and Japan, where tea has been brewed for thousands of years.

    According to some sources, the Dutch were the first to add milk to both tea and coffee, in the 17th century. In the 20th century, mass demand in the west and mechanized production techniques (CTC) led to the production of inferior teas, which needed a hit of sugar to provide a pleasing flavor.

    Masala Chai: A Related History

    Due to English influence, today’s chai, or more properly, masala chai (masala means spice, chai means tea), is very different from the original—an ancient Indian ayurvedic beverage, a cleansing spice tonic that did not include any tea.

    When the British began to establish tea plantations in Assam, in 1835, they added milk and sweetener to their tea, as they did at home. The British “recipe” was fused with the original masala chai drink to create what we know today as masala chai. However, tea was too expensive for most Indians and largely grown for export.

    In the early 1900s, the British-owned Indian Tea Association began to promote tea consumption to Indian consumers. Because black tea was still an expensive ingredient, vendors used milk, sugar and spices—the ingredients of today’s masala chai—to create flavorful brews while keeping costs down. The drink’s popularity spread throughout India and became even more popular in the 1960s, when mechanized tea production made black tea affordable for the common man.

    TEA TRIVIA: After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world.

      

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