A Visit to Glen Garioch Distillery

DSC_0395

Most distilleries in Scotland are situated on fairly open acreage. They might be close to towns and habitation, but they usually have enough large warehouses, winding drives and expansive fields to make them seem set apart. Not Glen Garioch. It’s … Continue reading

End-of-Winter Lentil Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Cabbage

bowl lentil stew sweet potato soup one-pot meal cabbage

I know T.S. Eliot thought April was the cruelest month, but in New York City, it’s March. The winter seems to be over, as daylight savings time kicks in and temperatures finally creep above freezing. You might even get a day or two … Continue reading

Chai Whiskey Ice Pops

George Dickel No. 1 whiskey white corn whisky chai ice pop masala

Y’all, it’s getting hot around here, and since I live in NYC, land of dripping window units and crazy-high Con Ed bills, I try to stick it out in the summer weather as long as I can. This leaves me with more money for food and alcohol, as well as a feeling of superiority at being tougher than my neighbors. This city might be an urban heat island but I grew up AC-less in North Carolina, and I will take July’s heat and humidity over February’s unending polar vortex any day.

Besides, there are few pleasures more childlike than the race against time to slurp-eat an ice pop before it melts all the way down your arm. Although when you’re boozing up said ice pop, childlike becomes a less appropriate adjective, but a tasty treat all the same.

A few months ago, I received a bottle of George Dickel No. 1 White Corn Whiskey from a press event. I knew right away that I wanted to infuse it. I often use vodka or grain alcohol for these purposes and was curious whether the corn whiskey would have any noticeable effect. At 91 proof, it’s not excessively strong, but that was actually a benefit in this case, as I decided to mix in chai spices which take no time at all to make their presence felt.

Since the spices were already ground, a quick infusion was all that the whiskey needed to take on intense chai flavors. (If you’re hearing “chai” and thinking “tea bag,” see this post for a quick lesson on masala.) After only one hour, voila! A tasty chai whiskey that could easily accommodate some simple syrup for a chai liqueur.

So back to the hot weather. I found some darling ice pop molds at Ikea this week for $2 and that was all the inspiration I needed. I mixed the chai whiskey with a little milk and some leftover sweet tea and popped those suckers in the freezer for a few hours. And then, at the hottest point of the day, I went to town.

Chai-Infused White Corn Whiskey
Ingredients:
– 1 cup white whiskey, e.g. George Dickel No. 1
– 1/2 tsp. ground chai masala

Directions:
Mix whiskey and masala in a glass jar and let infuse for one hour, agitating once or twice. Strain through a coffee filter and store unrefrigerated in a glass jar indefinitely. (If there are no stray chai bits in, this should last at least six months to a year.)

Optional: Blend with simple syrup to taste for chai liqueur.

Chai Whiskey Ice Pops
Note: Measure the amount of liquid your ice pop tray can hold. If more or less than what is called for here, adjust accordingly. Adding a higher proportion of alcohol may alter your mixture’s ability to freeze fully.

Ingredients:
– 1 cup+ sweetened iced tea (the stronger the better)
– 2 Tbs chai whiskey
– 2 Tbs milk

Directions:
Mix ingredients and pour into ice pop molds, topping off with more tea if needed. Chill for 3–4 hours.

Thanks to Taylor Strategy for the bottle of George Dickel No. 1.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cranachan

dessert trifle parfait cranachan Scottish whisky honey oats whipped cream strawberry rhubarb brown sugar

There are many things to love about Scotland but, people always point out, the cuisine is not one of them. These always tend to be people who have never actually traveled to Scotland and bothered to try anything that seemed scary and unfamiliar. I pity these people, not only because they end up missing out on an authentic and pleasurable cuisine, but because they likely suffer from their culinary close-mindedness in other ways, too. (Imagine how dreadful they must be to dine with!)

The truth is that Scottish cuisine might be simple and somewhat unadorned, but when it’s well-made, it can hold its own. It surprises me that in this era of trendy nose-to-tail restaurants, no one in the US seems to have discovered the beauty of haggis, a dish that combines multiple kinds of offal with humble oats, suet, and spices and truly does taste delicious. Perhaps because the haggis emerges from its pudding-bag (aka sheep’s stomach) an ugly, crumbly mess — but that certainly hasn’t stopped chefs in Scotland from plating it up in elegant towers or stuffed in bacon-wrapped chicken breasts.

I digress. Besides the haggis, Scottish cooking offers other dishes that incorporate the most basic ingredients into satisfying and tasty meals. Cullen skink, possibly the best name for anything ever, is a haddock and milk soup: sounds horrible, tastes divine. A good scotch broth is nothing more than barley, vegetables, and a few shreds of meat, and yet you’ve never tasted anything more suited to the wet, windy days of January in Edinburgh. And what about shortbread? It’s flour, butter, and sugar — three ingredients become one divine treat.

My absolute favorite Scottish dish also incorporates only a few basic items. Cranachan is basically trifle made with fresh berries (usually raspberries), whipped cream, and oats. (Oh, oats! The Scots can do about a thousand things with oats.) A little extra flavoring comes from heather honey and, naturally, whisky. It’s a simple, beautiful, wholly satisfying dessert and one upon which you can riff endlessly.

So, since it’s springtime and here in New York that means rhubarb, I decided to whip up a cranachan that’s a little more tart and syrupy than normal. You don’t have to include the whisky, although I obviously recommend it since it provides that little bit of depth the dessert would otherwise lack. I used Compass Box Great King Street, my go-to blend, but feel free to choose a whisky suited to your taste. (A cask strength Glenmorangie or even a sweet-and-salty Old Pulteney would really kick things up.)

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cranachan

Ingredients: 
– 1 heaping cup of rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 heaping cup of strawberries, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. brown sugar
– 1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. whisky
– 1 pint heavy cream
– 1 tsp. honey
– 2 Tbs. oats

Directions:
1. Toss the rhubarb and strawberries with brown sugar and heat over low in a saucepan. Allow the mixture to gently simmer, stirring often, until the rhubarb breaks down and the liquid becomes syrupy. Remove from heat, and stir in 1 Tbs. whisky. Let cool and then move to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to one day.

2. In a skillet over low heat, dry-toast the oats until they’re brown and nutty. Sprinkle on the brown sugar right at the end of cooking and remove from heat, stirring thoroughly to incorporate. Let cool.

3. Using a whisk, stand mixer, or hand mixer, whip the cream until very stiff peaks form — nearly overwhipped. Fold in the whisky and honey.

4. In glasses, bowls, or ramekins, spoon the fruit mixture and layer the whipped cream over it. Top with the toasted oats and garnish with a sliced strawberry, if desired. Serve immediately.

When you dig in, you’ll want to mix up the layers — and you should! This syrupy fruit base mixes especially well with the whipped cream, and the toasted oats remain crunchy to the last bite.

Cold Beet, Daikon Radish, & Carrot Salad

beet daikon carrot grated root vegetable cold salad radish

I didn’t know I liked beets.

At least, not until this past winter. I didn’t have anything against them—I’d just never eaten them growing up and my only experience theretofore had been encountering those gelatinous maroon cubes in the dining hall salad bar. ICK. But when I joined a winter CSA, beets abounded, and I had to come up with something to do with them all because I sure hate wasting food (and money—CSA’s ain’t cheap!).

I probably would have roasted the whole winter’s share once I discovered how amazing warm, sweet beets taste, but my husband got a little tired of that format, so: onwards. My final share also included a boatload of daikon radishes which—although I pickled a solid pound—never seemed to diminish in volume.

How to use up these sturdy roots, especially at the end of a long, snowy winter when oven fatigue has set in? Optimistic and cheerful thanks to the first stirrings of spring (50 degree days, omg!), I banished the thought of cooking with heat and decided that a cool, crunchy salad was in order. Rounding out the daikon’s peppery sharpness and the beet’s earthy sweetness, I threw in mild orange carrots and concocted a tastebud-popping dressing. If you prefer more or less of one of the vegetables—or even something else altogether—go wild. Substitute mint and basil for cilantro, lime zest (or juice) for lemon, and use a fish sauce at your preferred pungency.

I used a food processor to grate all the vegetables, thank God. Doing this on a box grater would take forever and the beets would stain your hands Lady Macbeth style—not recommended. DO use a microplane for both your lemon zest and your ginger though, and don’t worry about peeling the ginger—I promise no one will notice the teeny bits of skin.

grated beet daikon radish carrot salad cilantro sesame oil fish sauce vinaigrette

Cold Daikon, Beet, & Carrot Salad

Ingredients:
– 2 cups beet, grated
– 2 cups daikon radish, grated
– 2 cups carrots, grated
– 1/3 cup vegetable, corn, or canola oil
– 1 Tbs sesame oil
– 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
– 1 Tbs fish sauce
– 1 tsp soy sauce
– 1″ knob of ginger, finely grated (use a microplane!)
– zest of 1/2 lemon
– 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Directions:
In a large bowl, whisk both oils, vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and lemon zest until emulsified. Stir in grated vegetables and allow to macerate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to two hours. Just before serving, stir once more and garnish with cilantro.

 

 

PSA: I’m Blogging Beer at the Village Voice

Magic Hat brewery pistil spring beer psychedelic label

For the first day of spring, check out my post on Fork in the Road about the best beers for this flighty weather. And let me know what you’re drinking today—or looking forward to drinking as the temperatures rise.

In Defense of Flavored Whisky: Crown Royal Maple Eggnog

Crown Royal Maple Finished Canadian whisky whiskey eggnog creamy winter cocktail

At long last, it’s March. The snow mountains have receded to mere hillocks, the days are growing longer, and spring is just around the corner. Someday in the not-too-distant future, we’ll break out the fresh fruit for sangria and cucumber slices for a Pimms Cup. I can almost feel the warm sunshine now.

But—it’s March. In like a lion, and all that. I’m still enjoying rich, wintery cocktails. And since it’s sugaring season here in the northeast, maple syrup has become a focal point for my experimentation. Truth be told, I could eat straight maple syrup with a spoon, but instead I decided to highlight its clean sweetness with a creamy eggnog. Sure, it’s not Christmas, but who says you have to confine yourself to one month a year to enjoy eggnog?

Here’s where it actually gets unorthodox. I created this recipe with bourbon and maple syrup in mind as the main flavor elements—but then I received a sample of Crown Royal Maple Finished Canadian Whisky. I can hear the gasps—flavored whisky?! Can it be true? Sacré bleu!

Hear me out. This is not a spirit I would drink by itself. It’s quite sweet, and more of a liqueur than anything else. For that reason, it makes a great cocktail and an excellent mix-in for eggnog, particularly if you want to cut back on the added sugar. The maple flavor doesn’t overwhelm the palate and actually comes through cleanly without cloying or saccharine notes. In this eggnog, it’s bolstered by a rich undertone of molasses and some earthy allspice.

You can still make this recipe with bourbon or rye and maple syrup, but if you’re pressed for time, or want to save the real stuff for your pancakes, this makes for a very workable compromise. Bonus: it makes four to six servings, enough for a small gathering or a particularly thirsty evening.

Crown Royal Maple Eggnog
Ingredients:
– 4 large eggs
– 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
– 2 cups whole milk
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1/2 cup Crown Royal Maple Finished (alternatively, 1/2 cup bourbon or rye plus 1-2 Tbs. maple syrup)
– 2 Tbs. molasses
– 1/2 tsp. allspice, plus more for sprinkling

Directions:
1. Separate eggs. (Try this method!) Using an electric mixer, beat the yolks thoroughly in a large bowl, then add in the brown sugar, beating until dissolved.

2. Stir in the milk, cream, alcohol and allspice and set aside.

3. Use the electric mixer to beat the egg whites just until soft peaks form; then, gently and quickly incorporate the molasses.

4. Whisk the egg white mixture thoroughly into the creamy base and chill for at least half an hour. The whites may separate and rise to the top, so stir well before serving. Sprinkle with allspice if desired.

Thanks to Christina at Taylor for the Crown Royal Maple Finished sample.