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Archive for 2016

TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Salads

As we close in on Christmas, we like to “Christmas-ize” our food, adding red and green garnishes to everything from scrambled eggs (green and red bell peppers or jalapeños) to desserts (mint leaves and raspberries).

We have fun looking for a different red and green combination at every meal.

  • For sandwiches, we add a plate garnish of lettuce, baby spinach or baby arugula and cherry tomatoes*, which can easily be moved onto the sandwich.
  • For an olive garnish, we use the bright green Castelvetrano olives and bright red peppadews.
  •  
    Last year’s red and green food recipes include:

  • Christmas tartare: salmon or tuna
  • Christmas scallop crudo
  • Christmas sushi
  • Goat cheese rolled in dried cranberries and pistachio nuts
  • Pinwheel sandwiches
  • With cocktails,red and green pinwheel sandwiches
  •  
    Today, we suggest a red and green “Christmas salad.”

    The popular Caprese Salad is certainly red and green enough, but in the winter, when conventional tomatoes are out of season, you need to substitute: cherry or grape tomatoes, marinated sundried tomatoes, peppadews, pimientos (jarred red peppers), red bell peppers, etc.

    You can serve something as simple as a beet and avocado salad. No prep is required, beyond slicing the avocado. The peeled, cooked ready-to-eat beets from Love Beets and other brands are terrific.

    Then, just assemble the first three ingredients and drizzle the dressing (or place the dressing on the plate first).

  • Beets
  • Avocado
  • Mozzarella balls (ciliegine, perilii or other size
  • Balsamic vinegar and good olive oil (you can blend them into a vinaigrette)
  • Optional garnish: microgreens
  •  
    Or, make a green salad from:

  • Cherry or grape tomatoes, whole or cut in hale
  • Radicchio or red endive
  • Radishes
  • Red bell pepper, sliced horizontally (we also use the mini bell peppers, bagged in mixed colors)
  • Red chile slices:
  • Red lettuce, chard, mustard greens
  • Red chile slices, from mild to hot
  •  
    Whatever salad you choose, take this tip from KBlog: cut slices of toast into star shapes with a cookie cutter, and top your salad with a big star. Starfruit (carambola) also works.
     
    SALAD HISTORY: WHY IS IT CALLED “SALAD” IF THERE ARE NO SALAD GREENS?

    The original meaning of salad in European cuisine referred to a cold dish consisting of vegetables—lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers—topped with a dressing. Sometimes it containing seafood, meat, or eggs (think egg salad, tuna salad, etc.).

    The modern word, which entered Middle English around 1350-1400, derives from the French salade, which dates back to the Latin salata, salty. Since Roman times, vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings.

    The ancient Greeks and Romans alike ate mixed greens with dressing. Salads, both layered and dressed, were made popular in Europe by Roman imperial expansion (27 B.C.E. to 284 C.E.)

    In the 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. (You can still find reprints in hardcover and digital versions.

       

    Beet Salad

    beets-avocado-ricotta-radish-marsalareduction-bar-eolo-230sq

    Star Crouton On Salad

    Christmas Salad

    [1] Beet salad with red pickled onions and green accents (photo Sarsmis | IST). [2] Another beet salad, green with avocado and a balsamic reduction (photo courtesy Bar Eolo | NYC). [3] Kathy Patalsky of KBlog.LunchboxBunch.com tops her Christmas Tree Salad with a star-shaped toast crouton. Here’s her recipe. [4] Red endive and leafy lettuce with candied walnuts, from Gordon Ramsay.

     
     
    MODERN SALADS

    In the U.S. and Europe, salads of mixed greens salads (“green salads”) became popular in the late 19th century, and the concept expanded to Asia and other regions of the world.

    The term “salad bar,” referring to a buffet laid out with salad-making ingredients so customers could make their own, seems to date to the 1960s. Restaurants in different parts of the country lay claim to its invention, including New York City’s Steak & Ale and Hawaii’s Chuck’’s Steak House. The attraction was the ability to customize one’s salad—and eat as much as you wanted (more history).

    In truth, for centuries inns and boarding houses placed the food on a buffet for guests to help themselves (the “board” from “room and board”).

    ________________
    *When tomatoes are out of season, cherry and grape tomatoes, raised in hothouses, have the best flavor. You can Substitute marinated sundried tomatoes, pimiento, red bell pepper, etc.

    †The phrase is found in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra at the end of Act 1, when Cleopatra regrets her youthful dalliances with Julius Caesar: “…My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…”.

     

    Red Mustard Greens

    Peppadews

    Castelvetrano Olives

    [5] Look for specialty salad greens like red mustard greens and chard (photo courtesy Good Eggs | SF). [6] Peppadews (photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese). [7] Castelvetrano olives (photo courtesy The Maiden Lane | NYC).

     

    Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587) enjoyed salads of boiled celery root over greens. covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil, and slices of hard-boiled eggs.

    The phrase “salad days,” meaning a “time of youthful inexperience,” i.e. a young person who is “green,” was coined by Shakespeare†, in 1606.

    Today, salads range far beyond the green salads (garden salads) of the 20th century—a concept so prevalent that in the U.S., the word salad unmodified (i.e., corn salad) refers to a green salad with torn, bite-size lettuce and other ingredients cut into small pieces.

    But there other options that are rightfully called “salad”:

  • Various dishes made with beans and legumes, bread, cheese, eggs, fruit, meat, pasta, seafood, vegetables and starches (green beans, potatoes, grains) and more; in any combination; tossed, topped or “bottomed‡” with a dressing and served cold.
  • Ingredients cut in different shapes: sliced, diced, chopped, shredded, etc.
  • Dressings range from vinaigrettes and creamy dressings, seasoned with everything from mustard to sriracha.
  •  
    Most salads are served cold, although warm vegetable salads are not uncommon, and classics such as German potato salad have always been served warm.
     
    Salads can be served at any point during a meal:

  • Appetizer salads: Light salads that stimulate the appetite serve as the first course of the meal.
  • Side salads: These can accompany the main course as a side dish, or be served after it as the “salad course.”
  • Main course salads: Served for lunch or a light dinner, these containing a protein: cheese, hard-boiled egg, sliced beef, chicken breast, ham, or a combination, like Chef’s Salad or Cobb Salad.
  • Palate cleansing salads: Refreshing ingredients lime citrus segments, herbs or a combination can be used to “settle the stomach” after a heavy main course. Sorbet is another effective palate cleanser.
  • Dessert salads: Mixed fruits, gelatin with fruit, whipped cream or mascarpone and other ingredients can be garnished with cacao nibs, fruit coulis (a light purée), pomegranate arils, sweet dressing (e.g. honey-based, lemon poppyseed), sweet herbs (basil, lavender, mint, rosemary, star anise), toasted coconut, etc.).
  •  
    MORE CHRISTMAS SALAD IDEAS

    Salad Snack Tree

    Christmas Stuffed Avocado

     
    ________________
    ‡Instead of topping the salad with dressing, it’s trendy to cover the plate with dressing and place the salad on top of it.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Cookie Spread, a.k.a. Cookie Butter

    Biscoff Spread Jar

    Speculoos Spread

    Cookie Butter

    Tumbador Cookie Butter

    Nuts & More Cookie Butter

    [1] The original Biscoff Spread, used for filling cookie sandwiches at Picky Palate. [2] The European name for Biscoff Spread is Speculoos (photo courtesy Dutch Shop). [3] Trader Joe’s three private label versions include original, crunchy and cocoa swirl (photo courtesy Baking Bites). [4] A favorite flavor, from Tumbador Chocolate. [5] Even health food stores sell cookie butter—as a protein boost (photo courtesy Nuts & More).

     

    Where did the cookie butter craze originate? In Belgium!

    THE HISTORY OF SPECULOOS SPREAD (CALLED BISCOFF SPREAD IN THE U.S.)

    Cookie spread or cookie butter began as an entry in a contest sponsored by Belgium-based Lotus Bakeries.

    Lotus is the maker of Speculoos (spice) brand cookies, known the world over (and called Biscoff in some countries). Els Scheppers, a contestant on the reality show The Inventors (De Bedenker), pulverized the cookies and mixed them into “the original speculoos pasta*.”

    It wasn’t that far-fetched an idea, but it was a great one. Belgian parents (including Scheppers) were already making sandwichs of buttered bread, the butter topped with crushed Biscoff cookies.

    She didn’t win the contest, but Lotus Bakeries approached her to obtain the exclusive rights to sell the Biscoff spread.

    They are actually called speculoos (spice) cookies in Europe, but the name was deemed too hard for Americans to pronounce. Because the biscuits were so popular with coffee, the cookies were rebranded as Biscoff for the U.S. market. (It may look like peanut butter, but it’s nut-free.)

    After its arrival on these shores, companies large and small jumped on the bandwagon. Home cooked created Biscoff cupcakes with Biscoff frosting (here’s the recipe).

    Hershey’s and other large companies made cookie spreads. They were made in conventional cookie flavors, plus Chocolate Macaroon and Pumpkin Spice.

    Even health-oriented stores sell it, manufactured from Nuts & More, a company that got Shark Tank funding. Their “High Protein + Peanut Spreads” include Toffee Crunch and White Chocolate, among other flavors.
    ________________
    *Pasta is derived from the Latin word for paste. In Europe it is used to describe foods from spaghetti (a paste of flour and water) to meat loaf (a paste of ground meat and fat to the fruit squares (pâte de fruit) that we call fruit gels.

     
    COOKIE SPREAD/BUTTER VERSUS NUT BUTTER

    Before we go further, let us emphasize that cookie butter is not a substitute for peanut [or other nut/seed] butter.

    They may be touted as alternatives to nut butters, but that’s only in spreadability, not in nutrition. They are better compared to chocolate spreads. To avoid confusing consumers, all of the cookie-based spreads should be called cookie spreads, not cookie butters.

  • Natural nut butters are simply ground nuts and a bit of salt. Supermarket brands often add caloric sweetener, vegetable oils and stabilizers (mono and diglicerides
  • Nut butters have protein and fiber. Cookie butters do not—unless they so specify.
  • Large brands of nut butters have been headed in the direction of cookie butter (actually, it’s vice versa), with chocolate swirl and other flavors.
  • Nutella, a hazelnut and chocolate spread, is not much more nutritious than cookie butter. It has some protein fiber from the hazelnuts but lots of sugar. On their website, sugar is listed as the first ingredient, followed by palm oil. The two “good” ingredients, hazelnuts and cocoa powder, are third and fourth.
  •  
    MAKE YOUR OWN COOKIE SPREAD

    You can use any cookie that can be ground into a powder. This leaves out oatmeal raisin (but plain oatmeal is OK), chocolate chip, anything with nuts or a filling. Don’t despair if this eliminates your favorite: You can add these “textured” ingredients as mix-ins after the butter/spread is blended.

    Some options:

  • Biscoff or other spice cookies
  • Famous Chocolate Wafers or bake your own
  • Ginger snaps
  • Graham crackers
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Peanut butter cookies
  • Sugar cookies, snickerdoodles
  • Swedish thin cookies (Annas Swedish Thins, Cookie Thins, Moravian Cookies, etc.)
  • Vanilla wafers
  •  
    You can add in anything else that can be smoothly blended or ground:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Flavored extracts
  • Nuts (chopped is better)
  • Purées (e.g. pumpkin for the holidays)
  • Small candies and baking products, e.g. mini chips, mini M&Ms
  • Spices
  •  

    RECIPE: COOKIE SPREAD OR COOKIE BUTTER

    You can keep the spread in the fridge for 14 days, maybe more. If you’re giving it as a gift, note the expiration date on the label.

    If you want to make a homemade version of Biscoff Spread, here’s a recipe.
     
    Ingredients Per 14-Ounce Batch
     
    For The Spread

  • 2 cups (8 ounces) cookie crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons white granulated or light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more if desired
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla or other extract
  •  
    For The Mix-Ins

  • 1/2 to 1 cup of whatever you like
  •  
    For Serving

  • Assorted cookies, biscuits, toasts, whatever
  •  
    You can serve just one type of cookie; but a selection is more fun.
     
    For Gift-Giving

  • Mason jar or other tightly-lidded container
  •  
    Preparation

    1. GRIND the cookies in a food processor until very fine. Measure out 2 cups.

    2. ADD the crumbs back into the food processor along with the cream, butter and sugar; process until well combined. If the dip is too thick for you, add cream a bit at a time to thin it.

     

    Oreo Cookie Butter

    Biscoff Cupcake & Frosting

    [6] Make cookie spread gifts and party favors (photo courtesy The Cottage Market). [7] Consider double-cookie-spread cupcakes. Sweet As A Cookie went all the way and created this recipe with Biscoff spread in both.

     
    3. BLEND in your choice of mix-ins. Put in a jar in the fridge. To serve, bring to room temperature spreadability.

    We couldn’t sign off without showing you this Biscoff Cheesecake.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: White Chocolate Polar Bears

    White Chocolate Bears

    White Chocolate Polar Bears

    Mom, dad and the kids are adorable…but not too adorable to eat! Photos courtesy Woodhouse Chocolate.

     

    They may be too old for Teddy bears and Winnie The Pooh, but no one is too old for these chocolate polar bears from Woodhouse Chocolate of Napa Valley, one of our favorite chocolate artisans.

    Give just one bar or the whole family—all with your choice of red or blue snowflake medallions around their necks:

  • Five-inch tall chocolate bear, $12.00
  • Ten-inch tall chocolate bear, $32.00
  •  
    To get a bear, point your mouse to WoodhouseChocolate.com

    John Anderson of Woodhouse Chocolate was a vintner for 20 years before he became a chocolatier. So next up:

    WINES TO SERVE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE

    From California

  • Fruity Chardonnay
  • Muscat
  •  
    From Europe

  • Gewürtztraminer: (Alsatian and German varieties have more sweetness than American versions
  • Liqueurs: cream liqueurs, creme de cacao, or fruit liquer
  • Mas Amiel: Vintage Blanc, from southwestern France
  • Muscat: (French) or Moscato from Italy
  • Riesling:: Alsatian (late harvest) or German Riesling: Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein (ice wine)
  • Sherry: Amontillado, Brown, Cream or Pale Cream, East India, Moscatel, Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez (PX)
  •  
    DON’T FORGET THE SWEETER BUBBLIES

  • Asti Spumante, a sweeter sparkler from the Piedmont region of northwest Italy
  • Brachetto d’Acqui, an Italian sparkling rosé from the Piedmont region Italy
  • Champagne labeled sec, demi-sec or doux
  • Prosecco and Valdobbiadene from the Treviso area of northeast Italy
  • Other Italian sparkling wines labeled dolce or amabile
  •  
    If you need assistance in the wine department, don’t hesitate to ask one of the staff. That’s what they’re there for.
     
    CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLE ON PAIRING WINE WITH CHOCOLATE.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Jewish Chicken & Matzoh Ball Soup Soup

     

    In the 1970s, one of the most beloved subway advertising campaigns in New York City was, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish rye.”

    Each poster or print ad in the campaign featured African-Americans, Asians, choir boys Irish cops, Italian grandmothers and WASPs, enjoying a slice of the rye bread (see photo #4 below).

    The pitch was successful in getting non-Jews to buy—and become fans of—the style of rye bread loved by the Jewish community: a light rye bread with caraway seeds.*

    It was so popular, that some 45 years later, it is referenced by advertising professionals, professors, journalists and consumers. You can purchase full-size posters of your favorites from AllPosters.com).

    We’d like to adapt the rye bread campaign to chicken soup.

    While Campbell’s chicken noodle soup is the #1 canned soup in the U.S., often tied with Maruchan chicken ramen noodle soup, in our humble opinion there’s nothing like Jewish chicken soup.

    The latter is not easily found in cans, except for Manischewitz Matzo[h] Balls in Chicken Broth, which we assure you, can’t hold a candle to the recipe below.

    So our tip of the day is: Step beyond your usual chicken soup and go for the gold.

    RECIPE #1: CHICKEN SOUP WITH MATZOH BALLS

    Make the soup a day in advance so the flavors can meld. We increase the amount of vegetables to enjoy larger portions of them in our soup.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 3-1/2 to 4 quarts water
  • 1 large onion, sliced (or chopped if you prefer)
  • 5 large carrots, in 1/2-inch coins
  • 4-5 large celery ribs, chopped (we prefer chunky)
  • Optional: 3 turnips, in 1/2-inch coins
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill‡
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley‡
  • 1 4-5 pound chicken, quartered or cut into 8-10 pieces, skin removed†
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  •  
    ________________
    *Food trivia: Dark, unseeded rye bread is called pumpernickel. It is made from coarse rye flour and has a very long baking period, which gives the bread its characteristic dark color.

    †Removing the skin cuts down on much of the fat, which most people have to skim off later. Also, boiled chicken skin is not a particular treat.

    ‡We often tie a half bunch of dill and a half bunch of parsley with kitchen string and add them to the pot. We pull them out when the soup is done, and then use the rest of the dill and parsley to snip onto the bowls of soup as a garnish.
    ________________

    Preparation

    1. ADD the water to a 6-quart pot, filled by the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, skim any foam, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 3 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings.

    2. REMOVE the cooked chicken from the pot and cut off the bone. You can shred it or slice it, as you prefer. Refrigerate.

    3. MAKE the matzoh balls per the recipe below (you can also do this a day in advance).

    RECIPE #2: MATZOH BALLS

    We were brought up with light-as-a-feather, soft matzoh balls. Our mother referred to firm matzoh balls as rocks.

    But it’s a matter of preference.

    If you only have one large pot, make the matzoh balls first. You can store them in another container in the fridge, and the pot will be free to make the soup.
     
    Ingredients For Soft Matzoh Balls

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  

    Jewish Chicken Soup

    Matzoh Ball Soup
     
    Italian Matzoh Ball Soup

    You Don't Have To Be Jewish To Love Levi's Real Rye Bread

    [1] The way we like it: lots of vegetables, lots of chicken and matzoh balls (photo courtesy Food Network, from an Andrew Zimmern recipe). [2] Some gourmets add wild mushrooms and truffles instead of carrots and celery and serve crostini with pâté de foie gras, but we’re happy with these chopped liver crostini (photo courtesy David Burke | Fabrick | NYC; here’s the recipe). [3] From a Jewish Italian grandmother: pasta, of course. Our grandmother (not Italian) and others often added fine egg noodles (photo courtesy Lincoln Ristorante | NYC). [4] One of several beloved posters of a 1970s ad campaign for Jewish rye bread (photo courtesy AllPosters.com).

  • 4 tablespoons melted schmaltz (chicken fat; substitute canola oil)
  • 1 cup matzoh meal (unsalted)
  • 1/4 cup seltzer water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives or scallions
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill‡
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley‡
  • Optional spices‡‡: 1 teaspoon each of dill or parsley, dry or fresh; 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
  • Optional: chicken broth of stock for reheating (we use Swanson’s
  • ________________
    ‡‡Some cooks add onion salt or garlic salt. We don’t like them in our matzoh balls, although we’ve personally added ground chipotle (although most guests opted for the fresh-herbs-only version).

    Chicken In The Pot

    Chicken Soup With Chickpeas

    Grandma's Chicken Soup

    [5] Chicken in the pot refers to an entire chicken cooked with the same ingredients as chicken soup (photo of AllClad stock pot courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [6] Want variety? Check out the list of variations at the right (photo courtesy Good Eggs |SF).[7] You can even send a chicken soup gift by mail, from Grandma’s Chicken Soup.

      Ingredients For Firm Matzoh Balls

    Use the above ingredients and:

  • Add 4 tablespoons water or broth.
  • Omit the baking powder.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY BEAT the eggs and add the remaining ingredients until well blended. Do not over-mix or you’ll get tough matzoh balls. Cover and chill for 45 minutes to 1 hour to set. Meanwhile…

    2. BRING a 6-quart pot of salted water (1 tablespoon salt per 4 quarts water) to a boil. Scoop rounded tablespoons of the matzoh ball dough into 1-1/2-inch balls—larger as desired, but two smaller matzoh balls are easier to slice and eat in the soup. (We use a cookie dough scoop; Mom formed hers by hand.) Add to the water, one at a time, with a slotted spoon. When all the matzoh balls are floating on the top…

    3. LOWER the heat to a rolling simmer for 40 minutes. AVOID the temptation to stir! Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a serving dish.

    3. STORE in the fridge. An hour or two before serving, bring them to room temperature and warm them in the pot of soup.
     
    CHICKEN SOUP ADDITIONS

    While we love classic Jewish chicken soup and eat it often, we also like to have fun by varying or adding ingredients. For example:

  • Asian greens: bok chtoy, Chinese/napa cabbage, Chinese broccoli/gai lan, snow peas/shoots/leaves, water spinach.
  • Beans or lentils.
  • Challah or pumpernickel croutons.
  • Chicken cracklings/gribenes, recipe below.
  • Chicken gizzards (Mom had to buy extra because the kids fought over them).
  • Chicken sausage (cooked with the soup and then sliced, or pan-fried and sliced as a garnish.
  • Eggs: beaten eggs for Jewish egg drop soup or stracciatella; egg yolks and lemon for Greek-style avgolemono soup; poached egg or sliced hard-boiled egg for novelty.
  • Fine egg noodles or fideo.
  • Green vegetables: garden peas/pea tendrils, snap peas, spinach and the Asian vegetables above.
  • Garnish: chicken sausage, mini chicken or turkey meatballs, parmesan ribbons, thin-sliced jalapeños,
  • Kreplach or other dumpling.
  • Mushrooms: wild or other
  • Other herbs, e.g. basil, cilantro, ginger root, thyme.
  • Pillow pasta: ravioli, tortellini, wontons
  • Rice or other grain (we really like wild rice).
  • Soup pasta: ditalini, orzo, pastina
  •  
    Any other suggestions? Let us know!

     
    RECIPE #3: GRIBENES

    The by-product of rendering chicken skin for fat (schmaltz) are cracklings: crispy pieces of chicken skin. They’re a prized treat to eat on potatoes or anything else.

    In Yiddish they’re called gribenes (GRIH-beh-ness) or grieven (GREE-vin), which means “scraps” in Hebrew.

    When a whole chicken is being used for soup and the skin isn’t needed (it just adds fat that needs to be skimmed off later), it can be cut into strips for gribenes. Cooked with sliced onions, the result is memorable.

    Ready to render?

    Ingredients For 1/2 Cup

  • 8 ounces chicken fat and/or raw skin, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the chicken fat and any skin in a small saucepan, along with the thyme, garlic and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat.

    2. COOK until the fat has rendered (liquefied) and the skin pieces are crispy, about 35 to 45 minutes. As liquid fat fills the pan, drain it into a measuring cup or other vessel; the gribenes will take longer to get crisp.

    3. EAT the gribenes as soon as possible after they come out of the pan. Don’t refrigerate; they’ll go limp. These delicious cracklings can be eaten with potatoes, garnish a salad or chicken/turkey sandwich, grits or polenta, etc. Both Nana and Mom ate them straight from the pan.

    4. COOL the chicken fat slightly, then strain it into a lidded jar. It will keep for up to one week, maybe longer.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spiked Hot Chocolate

    Tomorrow, December 13th, is National Hot Chocolate Day, a drink that’s not just for kids.

    A few days ago we published an article on Christmas hot chocolate, to be enjoyed by all.

    But today’s recipes are for adults only. Turn your cup of hot chocolate into an adult drink with a touch of schnapps—or any spirit you prefer.

    And, if you like impromptu get-togethers, you can have an after-work hot chocolate cocktail party. You can even ask each participant to bring a favorite spirit.

    You can create pitchers of your favorite recipe(s) and microwave each cup (45-60 seconds at room temperature, test in advance) to order, before garnishing (we moved our microwave to the dining room buffet).
     
    WHAT TYPE OF LIQUOR GOES WITH HOT CHOCOLATE?

    Anything that goes with chocolate will work. That covers almost everything, except perhaps some very herbal liqueurs like Bénédictine. Start with whatever you have on hand:

  • Brandy or eau de vie
  • Gin, whiskey, etc.
  • Rum, regular or spiced
  • Vodka and tequila, regular or flavored (including hot chile)
  • Liqueur (anise, banana, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, coffee, hazelnut (or any nut), Irish cream, orange, peppermint, raspberry, vanilla, etc.)
  • Holiday-theme liqueur (e.g., cranberry, pumpkin)
  • Red wine (medium body, moderate tannins)
  •  
    In fact, you can gather your friends, ask everyone to bring a different flavor (whatever they have on hand) and party!
     
    HOW TO MAKE SPIKED HOT CHOCOLATE

    We’ve got recipes for your consideration below, but there really is no wrong.

    Here’s an easy template for an 8-ounce cup:

  • 5 ounces prepared hot chocolate
  • 2 ounces* spirits (e.g., 1.5 ounce vodka and .5 ounce liqueur)
  • Optional rim: crushed crystallized ginger, hot chocolate/cocoa drink mix (with sugar), sparkling sugar, spice mix (e.g. apple pie or pumpkin pie blend, sweet-and-spicy (e.g., sugar and cayenne, ground ancho or crushed chile flakes)
  • Garnish: foamed milk (i.e. cappuccino foam), holiday spices (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise), matched to spirit (e.g., cinnamon stick with cinnamon liqueur), notched strawberry on rim, steamed milk (for a cappuccino-like topping), whipped cream or flavored whipped cream
  • Cookie side: for the holidays, serve a traditional Christmas cookie, gingerbread man or cutout, pfeffernusse, snickerdoodle or other favorite
  •  
    *You can add much more, if you want to turn the drink into a hot chocolate cocktail.

    Don’t see what you want below? There are countless spiked hot chocolate recipes online.
     
    RECIPE #1: BASIC, WITH FLAVORED VODKA/TEQUILA

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 1.5 ounces flavored vanilla vodka
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
  • Garnish: whipped cream and chocolate shavings or cinnamon, crushed star anise, nutmeg or other spice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the spirits in a cup and add the hot chocolate. Stir, garnish and serve. How easy is that?
     
    RECIPE: CANDY CANE “MARTINI”

    Prepare as per Recipe #1, above.

    Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces flavored vanilla vodka
  • 1 ounce crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce crème de menthe
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
  • Garnish: whipped cream and crushed candy cane
  •    

    Spiked Hot Chocolate

    Hot Chocolate With Flavored Vodka

    White Hot Chocolate With Spiced Rum

    Grand Marnier Hot Chocolate

    [1] Irish cream liqueur and hot chocolate are a match made in heaven, here with a topping of steamed milk and cocoa mix (photo courtesy Polka Dot Bride). [2] Regular vodka is fine, but flavored vodka adds an extra layer of flavor (photo courtesy Smirnoff, which used its whipped cream-flavored vodka). [3] Don’t forget white chocolate, with spiced rum or RumChata, a rum-based cream liqueur (photo © Cheri Louglin Photography). [4] Grand Marnier hot chocolate (photo courtesy Sweatpants And Coffee).

     
    RECIPE: GRAND MARNIER/COINTREAU HOT CHOCOLATE or MARGARITA HOT CHOCOLATE

    Our second favorite, after Irish cream liqueur. Prepare as per Recipe #1, above.

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 2 ounces Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
  • Garnish: whipped cream and grated orange zest or candied orange peel
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    Variation: Margarita Hot Chocolate

  • 2 ounces Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
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    Mexican Hot Chocolate With Tequila

    Chocolate Cocktail

    [5] Mexican hot chocolate with tequila, of course (photo courtesy Creative Culinary). [6] Try a matching rim. This one is a blend of cocoa drink powder and cayenne for Mexican hot chocolate (photo courtesy X Bar | Hyatt Regency | LA).

     

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE GRASSHOPPER

    This one’s for you, Rajesh Koothrappali. Prepare as per Recipe #1.

    Ingredients

  • 2 ounces amaretto liqueur
  • 2 ounces crème de menthe
  • 5 ounces hot chocolate
  • Amaretto- or mint-infused whipped cream (recipe below)
  • Garnish: mint leaf
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    LIQUEUR-FLAVORED WHIPPED CREAM.

    You can use any liqueur. To use an 80-proof spirit such as bourbon whipped cream, you can add 1-2 extra tablespoons of sugar for a sweeter whipped cream. (personally, we prefer it with less sugar).

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 ounces liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients and whip with beaters or use a whipped cream dispenser like iSi.

    Here are more flavored whipped cream recipes.
     

    FOOD 101:

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOT COCOA & CHOCOLATE

    There is a difference between cocoa and hot chocolate. After you read it, you may prefer the latter (we do!).
     
    THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CORDIAL, FRUIT BRANDY, LIQUEUR, EAU DE VIE, LIQUEUR, SCHNAPPS

    While many people use these terms interchangeably, and they are all flavored spirits, there are differences in terms of sweetness and color—and in the case of fruit brandy, the base alcohol.

     

  • Liqueur (lih-CUR, the French pronunciation) is made by steeping fruits in alcohol after the fruit has been fermented; the result is then distilled. Liqueurs are typically sweeter and more syrupy than schnapps.
  • Schnapps (SHNOPS) is made by fermenting the fruit, herb or spice along with a base spirit, usually brandy; the product is then distilled. This process creates a stronger, often clear, distilled spirit similar to a lightly flavored vodka. “Schnapps” is German for “snap,” and in this context denotes both a clear brandy distilled from fermented fruits, plus a shot of that spirit. Classic schnapps have no added sugar, and are thus less sweet than liqueur. But note that some manufacturers add sugar to please the palates of American customers.
  • Eau de vie (OH-duh-VEE), French for “water of life,” this is unsweetened fruit brandy—i.e.,schnapps.
  • Cordial has a different meaning in the U.S. than in the U.K., where it is a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink. In the U.S, a cordial is a sweet, syrupy, alcoholic beverage: liqueur.
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    In sum: If you want a less sweet, clear spirit, choose schnapps/eau de vie over liqueur. For something sweet and syrupy, go for a liqueur or cordial.
     
    Fruit Brandy Vs. Liqueur

  • Liqueur is sweeter, and typically made from a grain-based alcohol.
  • Fruit-flavored brandy is made from a grape-based alcohol. Be sure to buy one that is all natural, i.e., made with real fruit instead of flavored syrup. With a quality brand, the fruit is macerated in the alcohol, then filtered out prior to bottling.
  • There are a few Cognacs-based liqueurs such as Chambord (raspberry), Domaine De Canton (ginger) and Grand Marnier (orange). Cognac is a higher-quality brandy made according to the stringent standards of the Cognac commune of southwestern France.
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