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Archive for Christmas

TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Eggnog!

Eggnog or egg nog is a descendant of milk-and-wine punches that had long been part of European celebrations when colonists arrived in the Americas. Rum, a New World distillation, enabled a spirited substitution for the wine.

Eggnog became a popular wintertime drink throughout Colonial America. Then as now, people loved the rich, spicy, alcoholic brew. President George Washington was quite a fan of eggnog. His own recipe, which included rye whiskey, rum and sherry, was reputed to be so stiff a drink that only the most courageous could down it.

Brandy joined rum in the basic recipe much later—as part of a book promotion! In the 1820s, Pierce Egan wrote a book called “Life of London: or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne, Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthina Tom.” You can pick up a copy on Amazon.

Just as today’s mixologists and publicists know how to generate buzz with a new cocktail, Egan created a variation of eggnog he called the “Tom and Jerry.” The half ounce of brandy he added to the basic recipe furthered egg nog’s popularity—and fortunately, the original name prevailed.
 
FROM THE BEGINNING: A PARTY DRINK

The research site InDepthInfo.com notes that “Egg nog, in the 1800s, was nearly always made in large quantities and nearly always used as a social drink. It was commonly served at holiday parties and it was noted by an English visitor in 1866, [that] ‘Christmas is not properly observed unless you brew egg nogg for all comers; everybody calls on everybody else; and each call is celebrated by a solemn egg-nogging…It is made cold and is drunk cold and is to be commended.’”

Baltimore initiated a tradition where young men made the rounds of their friends on New Year’s Day, enjoying a bracing cup of eggnog at each home. The more homes one visited, the more “braced” one became. It was considered a feat to actually finish one’s rounds. How times change! Aside from today’s attitudes toward moderation, would anyone give up football to continue the tradition?
 
HOW EGGNOG GOT ITS NAME

   

Cup Of Eggnog

Glass Of Eggnog

TOP PHOTO: Eggnog served old-school, in a fancy punch cup. Photo courtesy AllWhitesEggWhites.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: No punch bowl? Serve eggnog in a juice glass, rocks glass, Martini glass or whatever you have.

 

As with most things in the murky past, there are different stories on the origins of eggnog. The “egg” part is easy: There are eggs in the recipe (along with sugar, rum, milk, whiskey/bourbon/rum/brandy, heavy cream, vanilla and ground nutmeg).

The two contenders for the “nog” portion:

  • In England and Colonial America, grog* was slang for rum. Thus the description of the beverage, “egg-and-grog,” could be corrupted to egg‘n’grog and then to egg nog and its more modern spelling, eggnog.
  • A nog is a small mug or cup. It was used to serve drinks at table in taverns (while drinks beside the fire were served in tankards). It is much easier to see how an egg-based drink in a noggin would become egg nog.
  •  
    Regardless, the unusual charm of the name only enhances the rich charm of the beverage. Now if we only could do something about those calories!

     
    *The term grog is named after Old Grog, the nickname of Edward Vernon (1684-1757), a British admiral who ordered that diluted rum be served to his sailors. The nickname is derived from grogram, after his habit of wearing a grogram cloak—a coarse fabric made of silk, mohair, wool, or a blend of them. Isn’t etymology fascinating?

     

    Egg Nog & Cookies

    A glass of eggnog served with eggnog wreath
    cookies
    . Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.

     

    EGGNOG VARIATIONS

    Conventional eggnog recipes vary by type of spirits used, or how elaborate they get, from topping with simple whipped cream to ice cream and chocolate shavings. If you don’t have a family eggnog recipe, ask your friends. Or take a look at these:

  • Classic Rum Eggnog Recipe
  • Chocolate Eggnog Recipe
  • Coconut Eggnog Recipe
  • Diet Eggnog Recipe
  •  
    If you don’t want classic eggnog, how about an eggnog cocktail? Here are two:

  • Eggnog Martini Recipe
  • Eggnog White Russian Recipe
  •  
    EGGNOG FOR BREAKFAST

  • Eggnog French Toast Recipe #1
  • Eggnog French Toast Recipe #2
  •  
    EGGNOG FOR DESSERT

    For the holidays, serve one or more eggnog desserts. Start with eggnog ice cream from your grocer, and continue on to:

  • Eggnog Crumble Bars Recipe
  • Eggnog Mini Bundts Recipe
  • Eggnog Mini Cheesecakes Recipe
  • Eggnog Panna Cotta Recipe Recipe
  • Eggnog Pound Cake Recipe
  • Eggnog Truffles Recipe
  • Eggnog Whipped Cream Recipe
  • Eggnog Wreath Cookies Recipe
  • White Chocolate Eggnog Fudge Recipe
  •  
    If you have a favorite eggnog recipe, please share!

    And HAPPY NEW YEAR from THE NIBBLE.

      

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    RECIPE: Pandoro Tiramisu

    Pandoro Tiramisu

    Bauli Pandoro

    Use pandoro instead of ladyfingers or sponge
    cake to make tiramisu. Photos courtesy
    Bauli.

     

    If you received a pandoro for Christmas, or see them marked down after Christmas, don’t let them sit: Turn them into dessert.

    Pandoro is a lighter version of sponge cake, sometimes accented with lemon zest. You slice it and eat it, warmed briefly in the microwave. You can toast slices and top them with ice cream and chocolate or caramel sauce.

    Or, you can turn the cake into a sophisticated tiramisu.

    Tiramisu is traditionally made with ladyfingers or sponge cake. In this recipe, Chef Fabio Viviani turns it into Tiramisu for Bauli.

    RECIPE: PANDORO TIRAMISU

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 Pandoro di Verona (35.2 ounces_
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 containers (8-ounces each) mascarpone*
  • 4 oz. sugar, divided
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-1/4 cups brewed espresso, cooled
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine†
  • 3 each Pandoro, cut into medium size sticks
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Garnish: 1/3 cup grated dark chocolate
  •  
    *If you can’t buy mascarpone, use the recipe below for a substitute.

    †Marsala is a fortified wine, a category that also includes Madeira, Port and Sherry. It is produced in the region surrounding the Italian city of Marsala in Sicily, and has a D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) protected status. It is an ingredient in the desserts Tiramisu and Zabaglione, as well as Chicken Marsala and Veal Marsala. It is also enjoyed on the rocks. If you can’t get hold of it, you can substitute a sweet sherry.

     

    Preparation

    1. BEAT the egg yolks with 2 ounces of sugar until creamy. Place the mascarpone in a large bowl and using a wooden spoon, press out any lumps. Then add the egg mixture and mix until well combined.

    2. BEAT the egg whites, salt and the remaining sugar in a separate bowl, until fluffy and the egg whites hold their shape. Incorporate into the mascarpone mixture.

    3. MIX together the Marsala and the espresso. Dip the pandoro fingers briefly in the mixture, making sure to not let them soak for too long. Lay them flat into a 7″ by 11″ Pyrex baking dish. Once the first layer has been laid out, spread the mascarpone mixture on top. Dust with half of the cocoa powder. Repeat the same process again with remaining pandoro, cream and cocoa.

     

    RECIPE: MASCARPONE SUBSTITUTE

    If you can’t get mascarpone locally, you can make an easy approximation of it with readily-available dairy products.

    Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND all ingredients until smooth.
     
    TIRAMISU HISTORY

    Tiramisu means “pick me up,” a reference to the caffeine from the espresso liqueur and the energy from the eggs and sugar. While there are many variations of the recipe, tiramisu is typically composed of layers of sponge cake or ladyfingers, soaked in espresso liqueur, coffee syrup or marsala, and layered with a mascarpone cheese and custard mixture. It is dusted with cocoa or shaved chocolate.

     

    Mascarpone With Biscotti

    Mascarpone can also be served with biscotti. Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

     
    For what is a classic Italian dessert, tiramisu is a relatively recent creation. The origins of the dessert are highly contested, but a strong claim has been made that the recipe was invented in the 1960s at the restaurant Alle Beccherie in Treviso, Italy, by pastry chef Loly Linguanotto. The restaurant’s matriarch, Alba Campeol, got the idea for the dessert after the birth of one of her children.

    Weak in bed, she was brought a zabaglione spiked with coffee, to give her energy. When she returned to work, she and her pastry chef worked on the “pick me up” layered dessert.

    The original Becchiere recipe did not contain alcohol because it was served to children as well as adults. Today, a good tiramisu is redolent of espresso liqueur or Marsala. You can read the full story, plus competing claims to the invention by another Treviso restaurateur, Carminantonio Iannaccone, in this Washington Post article.

      

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    MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    kiwi-reindeer-orange-snowman-zespriFB-230

    Photo courtesy Zespri | Facebook.

     

     
    Merry Christmas
     
     
    Merry Whatever You

    Celebrate
     
     
    From All Of Us At
     
     
    THE NIBBLE

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Make Cranberry Mimosa cocktails or mocktails. Photo courtesy Ocean Spray.

     

    There’s still time to create a signature drink for Christmas: a Cranberry Mimosa cocktail or mocktail. It combines cranberry juice with sparkling wine (or ginger ale), instead of the orange juice of a traditional Mimosa.

    Or use cranberry liqueur for a Cranberry Kir Royale, a.k.a. Kir Royale à la Canneberge (if you haven’t guessed, canneberge [can-BERZH] is French for cranberry). Note that using liqueur instead of juice creates a stronger drink.

    You can also serve a Mimosa mocktail with cranberry juice and ginger ale, and a diet version with diet cranberry juice and diet ginger ale.

     
    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MIMOSA, CRANBERRY KIR ROYALE OR CRANBERRY MOCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces cranberry juice or cranberry liqueur
  • 4 ounces sparkling wine*, regular or rosé, chilled
  • Optional garnish: lemon curl, strawberry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cranberry juice/liqueur and the sparkling wine in a Champagne flute or wine glass. Add the juice first. If you need to stir, do so gently, once, so as not to collapse the bubbles.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
     
    *Well-priced sparkling wines include Asti Spumante and Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, Crémant from France and our Top Pick Of The Week, Yellow Tail Bubbly.

     
    THE HISTORY OF THE MIMOSA COCKTAIL

    The Mimosa, a cocktail composed of equal parts of orange juice and Champagne or other dry, white sparkling wine, was invented circa 1925 in the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, by bartender Frank Meier. Served in a Champagne flute, it is believed to be named after the the mimosa evergreen shrub (Acacia dealbata), which bears flowers of a similar color to the drink.

    The optional addition of a small amount of orange liqueur like Grand Marnier complements the juice and gives the drink more complexity.

    Because of the juice component, the Mimosa is often served at brunch. A Grapefruit Mimosa with grapefruit juice is a popular variation. A related drink, the Buck’s Fizz†, has two parts Champagne to one part juice—and sometimes a splash of grenadine. Created at London’s Buck’s Club by bartender Pat McGarryhe, the Buck’s Fizz predates the Mimosa by about four years.

    If you’re making Mimosas, fresh-squeezed orange juice makes a huge difference. One expert recommends trying different types of orange juice: The sweeter Navel juice vs. the more acidic Valencia, for example. Blood oranges, with their rosy color and raspberry notes, will provide a different experience entirely (and a wonderful one!).

    [Source]
     
    †Buck and mule are old names for mixed drinks made with ginger ale or ginger beer, plus citrus juice. They can be made with any base liquor. Why buck? Why mule? That answer is lost to history, but here’s a detailed discussion.
     
      

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    RECIPE: Eggnog Martini

    For Christmas or New Year’s Eve, how about a fun and flavorful Eggnog Martini?

    You can buy eggnog in the supermarket and mix multiple portions in a pitcher.

    RECIPE: EGG NOG MARTINI

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 3-1/2 ounces eggnog
  • 1-1/2 ounces vanilla vodka (make it or buy it)
  • Splash of cinnamon liqueur (see below)
  • Garnish: dash of nutmeg or rim of crushed graham crackers
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FILL a 5-ounce Martini glass with ice to chill it.

    2. COMBINE the eggnog, vanilla vodka and cinnamon liqueur in a shaker with ice, and shake to blend.

    3. DISCARD the ice in the glass and strain the cocktail into it.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve.

       

    Eggnog Martini

    An Eggnog Martini with a rim of crushed graham crackers. Photo courtesy Cedar Mill Liquor.

     

    Goldschlager Cinnamon Liqueur

    Dramatic and delicious: Goldschläger
    cinnamon schnaps with gold flakes. Photo
    courtesy Global Brands.

     

    MAKE VANILLA VODKA

    Infusion method: Add a vanilla bean to a bottle of decent vodka. Cap tightly and let the vanilla infuse for 1-2 weeks in a cool, dark place. Gently shake the bottle every other day.

    Quick solution: Add vanilla extract to vodka, 1/4 teaspoon per two ounces. For a 750 ml bottle of vodka, that’s 3 teaspoons. Shake well to blend.

     
    CORDIAL, EAU DE VIE, LIQUEUR, SCHNAPPS:
    THE DIFFERENCE

    Cinnamon liqueur can be added to coffee and tea (hot or cold), made into adult hot chocolate, sipped on the rocks, drunk as shooters and mixed into cocktails. If you buy a bottle for this recipe, you’ll find numerous opportunities to use it

    Some brands are meant to burn like Red Hots candy. You want something more elegant. Our favorite is Goldschläger cinnamon schnaps with gold flakes. It looks magical in shots and clear cocktails.

     
    So what’s the difference between cordial, eau de vie, liqueur and schnapps?

    While many people use these terms interchangeably, and they are all flavored spirits, there are differences in terms of sweetness and color.

  • 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.
  •  
    In sum: If you want a less sweet, clear spirit, choose schnapps/eau de vie over liqueur. For something sweet and syrupy, go for liqueur/cordial.
     
    FOOD 101

    THE HISTORY OF EGGNOG

    THE HISTORY OF THE MARTINI
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Strawberry Wreath

    No matter how many pies, cakes and cookie platters were served at Christmas dinner, our mom always put out one more dessert: fresh fruit salad.

    It always had takers, from calorie counters to healthy eaters to people avoiding lactose, gluten, refined sugar, whatever, to people who were too full to eat something rich.

    But as much as we treasure memories of mom sectioning all types of citrus for her fruit salad, this strawberry wreath is an even better idea.

    Buy four or more pints of strawberries with fresh green crowns (your grocer may have jumbo value packages). Wash and pat dry, leaving the crowns intact. If the crowns are dried out, remove them and accent the berries with some green grapes instead.

    Lay the berries out in a wreath shape on a tray or cutting board. Cover with plastic wrap to keep in the moisture until you’re ready to serve the wreath.

    Provide a low-calorie yogurt dip, such as:

  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt sweetened with agave and a pinch of cinnamon
  • Siggi’s Icelandic Style Strained Nonfat Vanilla Yogurt*
  •    

    Strawberry Wreath

    This is the easiest Christmas fruit dessert. Photo courtesy California Strawberries.

  • Dannon Oikos Nonfat Yogurt in Strawberry or Strawberry Banana
  •  

    Strawberry Heart

    For Valentine’s Day, make a strawberry
    heart. Photo courtesy WeHeartIt.com.

     

    You’ll get oohs and aahs plus voices of appreciation.

    If the berries aren’t sweet enough, provide a bowl of sugar and noncaloric sweetener, or a squeeze bottle of agave or honey.

    We actually sprinkle Splenda over the berries before plating them, which solves the problem. But not everyone likes the idea of artificial sweetener.

    We wish you a berry happy holiday!
     
     
    *You can use any vanilla yogurt, but Siggi’s is one of the lowest sugar vanilla yogurts on the market.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Bacon & Sweet Potato Biscuits

    Bacon Biscuits

    Cooked & Raw Bacon

    TOP PHOTO: Bacon and sweet potato biscuits from PorkBeInspired.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: When you cook bacon for the biscuits, you can make extra for your eggs.

     

    Is there a better breakfast bread than warm biscuits? This recipe, from PorkBeInspired.com, seems especially right for Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings. If you want, you can use a biscuit mix instead of combining everything from scratch.

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 45 minutes. Split leftover biscuits in half horizontally and add sliced ham or other sandwich fixings.

    RECIPE: BACON & SWEET POTATO BISCUITS WITH HONEY BUTTER

    Ingredients For 12 Biscuits
     
    For The Biscuits

  • 6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 medium or 2 small orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (14 to 16 ounces total), peeled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder*
  • 1 tablespoon sugar*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda*
  • 1 teaspoon salt*
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
  • 1 cup buttermilk (regular or lowfat)
  •  
    For The Honey Butter

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Salt
  •  
    *You can substitute the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda and salt for 3 cups of biscuit mix.
     
    Preparation

    1. WRAP the sweet potato with a damp paper towel and microwave on high until very soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, mash with a potato masher and set aside to cool. Meanwhile…

    2. COOK the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, then set aside to cool. Carefully set aside 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings from the skillet.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    4. COMBINE the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, salt and allspice in a food processor, and pulse a few times. Add the cubed butter and pulse to make a coarse meal with a few pea-sized pieces. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and gently mix in the bacon, buttermilk and 1 cup of the mashed sweet potato (save any remaining potato for another use—including folding into an omelet to go with the biscuits).

    5. TRANSFER the mixture to a floured work surface and knead a few times to form a dough. Pat the dough to about 1-inch thick, then gently fold in half. Gently repeat 4 more times. Roll the dough out to 3/4-inch thick, then use a floured 2-1/2-inch biscuit cutter to cut dough into biscuits, arranging them on the prepared baking sheet. Gather the scraps and repeat to make a total of 12 biscuits. Bake until the biscuits are browned and a tester comes out clean, 15 to 18 minutes. While the biscuits bake…

    6. COMBINE the softened butter, honey, and reserved bacon drippings, mixing until smooth. Add salt to taste. Serve the biscuits with the honey butter on the side.

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Yellow Tail Sparkling Rosé

    If you’re buying sparkling wine for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, you may be tempted to buy Champagne. But unless your guests are wine connoisseurs, you can have just as pleasant an experience with other sparkling wines, for a third to half of the price of the least expensive bottle of Champagne.

    Champagne is a name-protected sparkling wine that is made only in the Champagne region of northeast France. Every other wine that has bubbles is called sparkling wine.

    You can find sparklers from other regions and nations in the $10 to $12 range that are very satisfying in the glass. When mixed into a cocktail, no one can tell the difference.

    But the difference in price is substantial. The most affordable Champagnes tend to be in the $35 range. If you’re buying several bottles, do the math.

    We do buy Champagne and look for values—both the houses we know, like Pol Roger Brut Reserve, $35, and smaller houses that the wine clerk recommends. Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and Jacquart are $35, the better-known Mumm is $40.

    A number of years ago, on a recommendation from wine expert Robert Parker, we purchased and went crazy for the $35 Egly-Ouriet, a smaller producer we’d never heard of. Today you can find bottles from $38 to $65, depending on the vintage and the retailer.

       

    Yellow Tail Bubbles

    We buy Yellow Tail Bubbles Sparkling Rosé by the case! It’s also available in Sparkling White. Photo courtesy Yellow Tail.

     
    WHEN YOU NEED A LOT OF BUBBLY…

    When multiple bottles are required, we turn our sights elsewhere, to sparkling wine varieties that are $8 to $15 a bottle. Prices will vary by retailer, but keep an eye out for:

  • Asti Spumante from Italy: Martini Asti is about $12; the sweeter Cinzano Asti, $13, is great with dessert.
  • Australian Sparklers: Our favorite is Yellow Tail Bubbles in regular and rosé, $10.
  • Cava from Spain: For $8, look for Cristalino Brut and Cristalino Brut Rosé; Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut is $12 and Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada Semi Dry (sweeter) is $9.
  • Crémant from France: Numerous labels of this Loire Valley sparkler sell for $12-$15.
  • Prosecco from Italy: Good sparklers are available for $9-$10.
  • California Sparklers: In the lower ranges, look for Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Brut, $10 and Moet et Chandon’s Chandon Brut, $17.
  • Other American Sparklers:: Domaine Ste Michelle Brut from Oregon ($10) and others from New York to Texas.
  •  

    NOTE: If you’re checking prices online, make sure they’re for standard 750ml bottles, not half bottles or splits.

     

    Moet et Chandon Champagne

    Yellow Tail sparkling wine from Australia
    (photo at top of page) is $10. Moet et
    Chandon Champagne from France (photo
    above) is $40. Photo via Pinterest |
    Facebook.

     

    WHY IS CHAMPAGNE SO EXPENSIVE?

    It’s a question of supply and demand. The supply is limited because by law, Champagne can only be produced in the Champagne region of northern France. There’s no more land that can be planted with grapes.

    The demand began around 1715 in Paris, when Philippe II became the Regent of France. He liked sparkling Champagne and served it nightly at dinner. The cachet was taken up by Parisan society. Winemakers in Champagne began to switch their products from still wines—the majority produced at the time—to sparkling.

    Throughout the 18th century, new Champagne houses were established. Moët & Chandon, Louis Roederer, Piper-Heidsieck and Taittinger were among the major houses founded during this period.
     
    Is Champagne Better Than Other Sparkling Wines?

    Champagne has the most complex flavors among sparkling wines, and the greatest aging potential, which deepens the complexity.

    Its unique flavors—toasty and yeasty—are due to the layers of chalk underneath the region’s soil.

     
    A vast chalk plain was laid down in the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago (it’s the same huge expanse that created the White Cliffs of Dover in England). The chalk provides good drainage and reflects the heat from the sun, two factors that influence the flavor of the grapes.

    Champagne makers perfected the méthode champenoise, adding a dosage of sugar that generates a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This creates the bubbles.

    While producers the world over use the méthode champenoise to make sparkling wines, only the vine roots in Champagne grow down into the chalk, creating the prized flavors and body.

    However, not everyone likes yeasty, toasty wines. Other regions produce lighter bodied wines with citrus and other fruity flavors and floral aromas. The only way to discover what you like is to taste, taste, taste.

      

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    RECIPE: Peppermint Mocha Coffee

    peppermint-mocha-coffee-tylerscoffee-230r

    Peppermint Mocha Holiday Coffee. Photo courtesy Tylers Coffee.

     

    You could spend $5 at Starbucks for a Peppermint Latte, or make this over-the-top cup from Tylers Coffee, a Tucson-based specialist in USDA organic, acid-free coffee.

    It’s one of Tylers* most popular seasonal recipes.
     
    WHAT IS MOCHA?

    The culinary term mocha refers to a mixture of coffee and chocolate flavors. But the original mocha did not have have anything to do with chocolate.

    It was a term that referred to the fine coffee (what we now call arabica) that was traded in the once-vibrant port of Al Mokha on the Red Sea coast of Yemen.

    Al Mokha was the major marketplace for coffee from the 15th century until the early 18th century, selling beans that were grown in the central mountains of Yemen.

    By the early 19th century, Yemen been supplanted by Ethiopia as the principal trader of coffee. (The coffee plant originated in the highlands of Ethiopia.)

    THE PEPPERMINT MOCHA

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 5 ounces espresso or French Roast coffee
  • 1 ounce chocolate shavings
  • 1 ounce candy cane powder (grind up candy canes or striped peppermints)*
  • Garnish: whipped cream
  • Optional garnishes: mini candy cane, chopped candy cane, holiday sprinkles
  •  
    *In terms of why Tyler leaves the apostrophe out of is name: You’ll have to ask them!

    Preparation

    1. POUR the coffee into an eight-ounce glass or mug. Add the chocolate shavings and stir until dissolved.

    2. STIR in the candy cane powder. Finish with whipped cream, a mini candy cane and/or chopped peppermints and holiday sprinkles.
     
    *If you don’t want to grind candy canes you can use a drop of peppermint oil.
     
    Here are recipes for other peppermint-mocha beverages.
     
      

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    RECIPE: The Best Fried Calamari (Squid)

    Every year on Christmas Eve we have a Feast Of The Seven Fishes. We’re not of Italian descent, but our mother believed in celebrating every holiday that had good food.

    We’ve previously shared some our past menus:

  • 2014 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  • 2010 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  • 2009 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  •  
    This year we’re adding a new dish to our feast repertoire: fried squid (calamari). Why such a basic preparation?

    We love cornmeal-crusted fried calamari. Sadly, we haven’t seen it on a restaurant menu in several years. Even eateries that are more creative with their food use all-purpose flour.

    So, much as we’re not keen on deep frying in our apartment kitchen with no exhaust fan, we’re jonesing for some cornmeal.

    Our favorite flour for frying is cornmeal; our favorite breadcrumbs are panko, which we use instead of the fresh breadcrumbs in the original recipe. We also use the cornmeal-panko combination for fried chicken.

    If you have corn flour instead of cornmeal, use it. The difference is that corn flour is ground to a much finer texture than cornmeal.

    RECIPE: CORNMEAL CRUSTED FRIED SQUID

    Ingredients 6 Servings

  • 2 pounds small squid, cleaned
  • 1 cup plain or cornmeal flour
  • Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups breadcrumbs (see recipe below to make your own)
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Optional garnish: minced fresh parsley (highly recommended)
  • Condiment: sriracha aïoli or other flavored mayonnaise, sriracha ketchup or other flavored ketchup, marinara sauce, tartar sauce or cocktail sauce
  •  
    Before you start preparation, here are two important tips from the Sydney Fish Market to fry superior squid:

       

    fried-calamarii-sydneyfishmarketFB-230

    Cornmeal-Crusted Squid

    Fried Calamari

    Top photo courtesy Sydney Fish Market. Middle photo courtesy CB Crabcakes. Bottom photo courtesy Bull & Bear.

  • Removing the membrane on the inside of the squid tubes is the key to tender squid.
  • If you’re frying squid in batches, let the oil temperature recover between batches. Otherwise, the coating will absorb too much oil and will become soggy. You can alternate between two fryers as a solution.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the squid tubes into two or three sections, turn them inside out and wipe firmly with a clean, damp cloth to remove any membrane. Then slice into rings. Cut the tentacles (a delicacy we love!) in half.

    2. SEASON the flour well with salt and pepper and place in a bowl. Place the eggs in another bowl and the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.

    3. DUST squid in flour, shaking off any excess. Then dip into the egg, drain well and coat in breadcrumbs. Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    4. HEAT the oil oil in a wok or deep-fryer to 360°F/180°C. Deep-fry squid in batches, for 1-2 minutes, until golden and crisp (frying for more than two minutes will toughen the squid). Drain on paper towels. Cool the oil between batches; skim it to remove any loose crumbs.

    5. SPRINKLE the cooked squid with salt and optional parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.
     
     
    MAKE FRESH BREADCRUMBS

    1. PULSE day-old (or stale) bread in a food processor until finely crumbed.

    2. STORE in an airtight container in the freezer to use whenever breadcrumbs are required. You can mix crumbs from different types of bread, and always have a crumbs on hand while finding a good use for old bread.

     

    raw-squid-w-tentacles-ultimate-guide-to-greek-food.com-230

    Raw Squid

    calamari-raw-eatandrelish-230

    Top photo: Don’t discard the tentacles;
    they’re delicious. If you don’t want to fry
    them, save them and blanch them later.
    Photo courtesy Ultimate-guide-to-greek-
    food.com/.

     

    SQUID VS. CALAMARI: THE DIFFERENCE

    In The Beginning: Taxonomy

    While “calamari” has become a culinary term that encompasses calamari, squid and even cuttlefish, they are “different species,” as the popular term goes. Literally, they are in different orders; and below the order level are hundreds of genuses of “squid” worldwide, differing in size, skin color and other features.

    If your eyes are starting to glaze over, skip to the next section, “The Source Of The Confusion.” Otherwise, soldier on:

    One step down from the top taxonomy, Kingdom (here Animalia) is the phylum Mollusca.

    Remember your high school biology? After kingdom and phylum comes class, and there are two tasty ones that comprise most of the seafood we eat. Squid and calamari are members of Cephalopoda class; clams, geoducks, mussels, oysters and scallops are in the class Bivalvia. Lobsters, shrimp and other crustaceans differ one level up, at the phylum levele Arthropoda.

    Squid, calamari and cuttlefish are known as cephalopods, mollusks that have lost their hard shells in the evolutionary process. They are members of the class Cephalopoda and subclass Coleoidea. The Coleoidea subclass also includes octopus. They then fall into different families, then species, then genuses within the species.

    After Class is the Order level, where there is a parting of ways: squid and calamari to the order Teuthida and cuttlefish to the order Sepiida. Food geeks who want to know more can check out the full taxonomy.

    Treat cephalopods with the respect they deserve: Scientists believe that the ancestors of modern cephalopods diverged from the primitive, externally-shelled Nautilus (Nautiloidea) some 438 million years ago. This was before there were fish in the ocean, before the first mammals appeared on land, before vertebrates crawled from the sea onto land, and even before Earth had upright plants.

    Cephalopods were once one of the dominant life forms in the world’s oceans. Today there are only about 800 living species of cephalopods, compared with 30,000 species of bony fish. [Source]

     
    The Source Of The Confusion

    Calamari are plentiful in the Mediterranean Sea; Italians call the live and cooked versions calamari (the singular is calamaro). Since most people in English-speaking countries first encountered dishes called calamari in Italian restaurants, the word is used interchangeably.

    Truth to tell, Italian restaurants in America may well have been selling squid. Wholesalers and retailers blur the lines. Given the scientific complexities, it’s best to let this one lie and use the words interchangeably. Most people couldn’t tell the difference once they’re cleaned and cooked.

    However, if you’re buying raw squid/calamari, you can tell the two apart by the fins:

  • Squid have fins that form an arrow shape on the end of the squid’s body (the body is also known as the tube, hood or mantle).
  • Calamari fins extend almost all the way down the hood.
  •  
    Yes, it’s that simple.

      

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