A is for Apples and Alcohol

I think I’ve mentioned here at an earlier time that in grad school one of my guilty pleasures was a glass of Camas Winery Palouse Gold Mead and a sliced apple. It was a perfect dessert, so I completely understand why our wonderful host for Sugar High Friday, Andrew of Spittoon Extra, chose a theme of apples and alcohol. I was fairly certain, however, that I wasn’t going to get by with a simple fresh apple and mead pairing! 😉

A week or so ago I was making cider slushes for the kids — just drop some ice cubes in the blender with some apple cider and zap it until it’s thick and smooth. As I was serving the drinks, it occurred to me that a little cointreau added would make a tasty drink. Not for the 3 – 10 yr old crowd I was serving, of course, but something to make later for The Husband and I.

It does, in fact, make a tasty drink. I added 2 oz of Cointreau to ice and cider to make about 3 cups of drink. Of course, the alcohol doesn’t freeze like the rest so you taste Cointreau right away, but it’s a nice drink.

Still, I was fairly certain our host was looking more for something to be baked. Since I was out of town and without a car this weekend, I ended up making my concoction at the last minute but I’ve been planning it for some time.

I only wanted a small dessert, so I made it in a disposable 4″ pie shell.

Apple Mead Pie

pastry:
scant 1/2 c. flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 + Tbsp. half and half

Cut butter into flour. Add just enough half and half to form a ball. Divide into two slightly uneven balls. Roll out, using the larger one for the base.

filling:
1 Honeycrisp apple, sliced
1 scant Tbsp. flour
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. mead
1/2 t. brown sugar

Stir together apple, flour, cinnamon, and mead. Layer neatly in the pastry lined pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Cover with top layer of pastry.

Bake at 375 F about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

PS. Andrew has the roundup posted. The variety in desserts and alcohols is amazing! Go check it out.

Jiggety Jig

We’re home again from the northeast. We swept through Niagara Falls (I tried waving to Bri on the other side, but I’m not sure she could see me 😉 ) and the Adirondacks and then spent a few days in Acadia National Park before descending like locusts on the BIL and SIL in Boston and finally coming home. I’m sure their house seems much larger now that we’ve gone! 😀

No major food experiences to report. I had a lobster roll in Maine which was nothing like what I was expecting . . . somehow I was picturing a bread/pastry wrapped around a lobster filling, not a New England hot dog bun (and yes, they ARE different there) filled with seasoned lumps of lobster. It was tasty, just not what I was expecting for $10.95. If you go to a Lobster Pound, just go with the lobster dinner. The SIL made some lovely salads — greens with orange flavored dried cranberries, green onions, pistachios, walnuts, and feta cheese. Very tasty and pretty.

The Husband now has the oven fixed again and I made a batch of muffins this morning, but they were repeats, so no recipe there either. Instead, I’m going to share an old favorite. Back when I was a grad student in the Northwest, a college buddy came to visit for a weekend. She was of the more adventurous and high class type so she took me to a local winery, something I probably never would have done in my three years there. I am forever grateful for that little afternoon excursion.

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We went to Camas Winery in Moscow, ID. It’s not the stereotypical winery out on a lush hillside; it’s in the downtown of a rather small college town. There I was introduced to mead. I bought a couple bottles of their ‘Palouse Gold’ and drank them in the evenings with some crisp Granny Smith apples — a decadent treat for a grad student! On my most recent trip to the Northwest, I came home with a half case of bottles — some were Palouse Gold and others were Huckleberry mead. Tonight I opened our last bottle of the huckleberry mead. There is one bottle of Palouse Gold remaining for another day.

Shameless unpaid advertising: If you happen to live near Moscow, ID drive over and try out their wines (they have lots of things other than mead) and take home a bottle of mead. If you live where you can get it shipped to you, order a few bottles.

Canned Cassoulet

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Today we’re having ‘blizzard conditions’. These are the views from the upstairs window and the front door. I hate snow. So, it seems like a perfect time to stay inside and make a little soup. I call a soup a ‘canned soup’ when I open cans to make it — not just a can of Campbell’s condensed crud.

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From my limited understanding, a cassoulet means meat (frequently sausage) and slow cooked beans. I hadn’t heard about the pork skin before. This is what I made today:

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
3 large carrots, quartered and chopped
4 chicken Italian sausage links (I took the ‘natural pork casing’ off b/c, frankly, I’d rather eat plastic than pig intestine), quartered and chopped
chicken/vegetable broth
2 (15 oz) cans northern beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
liberal serving of red wine (I’d guess 3/4 – 1 c.)
basil
thyme
black pepper
sea salt

I sauteed the onions and garlic in the olive oil and added the sweet potatoes, carrots and sausage. I dumped in the beans and what was left of a box of vegetable broth and some chicken broth to cover the solids and simmered it for an hour or so. Then I added the tomatoes, wine and seasoning and let it simmer for another hour or so.

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Thing 1 thought it tasted a little less spicy (and therefore less tasty) than it smelled and suggested the addition of a few splashes of Tabasco to each bowl. It was a great suggestion. It was perfect then!

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Think Spring!!

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Hazelnut Encrusted Crab Cakes with Berry Sauce

If you read yesterday’s post on stuffed mushrooms, you may have wondered why I talked about *cans* of crab meat (as in multiple) but used only half a can for the mushrooms. Here is the reason. The rest were used to make crab cakes.

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This is probably one of my top three favorite recipes ever. It came from my Grandmother, who loved to putter in the kitchen and try new things, not Grandma Smith.

I was out of celery and white pepper so they were left out but it’s still good. I wish there were leftovers for lunch today but it only made 14 small ones and people were fighting over the last one at dinner. Also, huckleberries are particularly difficult to get in the Midwest and I used all the huckleberry jam I got for Christmas in 2005 (side note of praise — this company was so great that when I called them to cry that one jar had arrived broken, they sent me another right away, no poking through the glass slivers to salvage the huckleberries!!) 😛 So, I used some seedless Marionberry jam (not to be confused with Marion Barry who was in a jam) 😉 I had a bottle of wine that was given to us as a gift and I knew nothing about it but I was a surprised to find it a fizzy sweet wine. Sauce still tasted good.

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Crab Cakes with Huckleberry Sauce

2 cups or 1 lb Dungeness crab, flaked
1 egg
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 Tablespoons finely chopped celery
4 Tablespoons bread crumbs
1 ½ teaspoon Old Bay Spice
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
Huckleberry Sauce (recipe below)

Whip the egg and add all other ingredients, except the nuts. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for 15 minutes to one hour. Form into 1 inch balls, flatten and roll in hazelnuts. Saute in virgin olive oil about 2 minutes on each side.

Serve with Huckleberry Sauce.

If you wish, you may refrigerate overnight and reheat to eat or serve cold. After sauteeing, drain on paper towels.

Huckleberry Sauce:
½ cup huckleberry jam or syrup
½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons dry or semi-dry white wine

Heat jam over low heat, add lemon juice and blend. Add wine just before serving.

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I like to use the same basic recipe to make salmon cakes from leftover baked or grilled salmon.

Recipe of the Day — Chocolate Cheesecake (with White Lasagna) *** Updated recipe with photos

Tonight I made two experimental foods and invited over a couple I can always use as guinea pigs . . . a nameless, blogless people who are game to try many of my creations at least once. They declared both to be worthy of repetition!! Yeah!!!

I guess I’ve had a lasagna fixation since I catered the rehearsal dinner last week (lasagna was the main dish) b/c I kept thinking how interesting it would be to make the mushrooms and chicken in the fridge into a lasagna. So I made a white lasagna with chicken, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts (I know, you think I have some sort of chicken, mushroom and artichoke heart fetish or something, and maybe I do — but I really like the combo). I made a white sauce with some riesling (we drank the rest with dinner), milk and Parmesan. The cheese layer used ricotta, feta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses with an egg and some parsley — the feta was sadly swamped and I couldn’t really taste it distinctly. If I make it again I would probably want to add more feta. Still, it made for a good dinner. I have two really deep 10 x 13-in dishes so I made it in one of those with three layers of cheese & meat sauce and a fourth layer of noodles on top — nice, thick lasagna!

White Lasagna with chicken, mushroom and artichoke (after reheating in the mircowave):

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The second thing I made was a mental experiment that got out of hand. I still had some extra ricotta (when you buy it at Sam’s in a 3 lb container, it’s easy to have extra!) and I also had some phyllo dough and I started by thinking I could make some lovely little cheesecake bites in phyllo dough and then I started thinking, oh, and I could make it chocolate cheesecake . . . but even though I’m not from TX, I can’t seem to keep myself from making everything *large* so I started mixing up my batter and then I looked at my nearly full Pampered Chef bowl and thought — man, this will make something like 100 cheesecake ‘bites’ . . . um, let’s think of something else . . . so I whipped out the Pampered Chef springform pan (which had a couple of rust spots on it 😦 ) and started putting together a graham cracker crust but I wanted it chocolate-y so I added cocoa.
I was doing this at 3 PM with my dinner guests coming at 6:30 so I really should have thought ahead (reading a recipe or two might have helped too!) — I didn’t give myself much time for it to cool, etc. It was no longer warm when I served it, but it was kind of gooey, which at least one of the guests prefers — he doesn’t like true cheesecake and said he never would have thought it was cheesecake if I hadn’t told him b/c the texture was nothing like it. I sat down and tried to remember what I did, so this may, in fact, be totally wrong . . . I think if I were to make this again, I would use one less egg — it ended up with something between cheesecake and molten lava cake texture . . . Molten Cheesecake?? But it tastes mighty fine.

Man, I wish I had the camera tonight . . . The Husband and Kids are back, so I *do* have the camera now:

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Chocolate Cheesecake

Crust:

1 sleeve graham crackers, crushed

1/4 c. sugar

5-6 Tbsp. melted butter

2 Tbsp. cocoa (this is totally a guess, I just opened the container and shook some into my bowl)

Filling:

~ 1/4 c. whipping cream

1 1/2 – 2 c. chocolate chips (I used a partial bag of dark and a partial bag of semi-sweet)

3 c. ricotta cheese

1 c. sugar

4 eggs (try 3 if you make this recipe!)
Method:

Stir together the crust ingredients and press into the bottom of the 9-in springform pan, bringing the crust up the side slightly. Bake at 350 F for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

In a heavy saucepan, over low heat, stir together the whipping cream and chocolate chips until melted and smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat together the cheese, sugar and egg until well mixed. Stir in chocolate mixture and beat 1 min. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 325 F for 50-60 minutes. Cool completely.

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I thought about making a ganauche to go over the top of this, but it was clearly soft already so I skipped that (it did form a ‘crust’ top). If I were prepared, I would have whipped the rest of the cream to serve with it, but instead I was on the phone talking to the Husband so I didn’t 😉 I’ll try to reserve at least one piece of this until Saturday night when the Husband returns with the camera and I’ll update the post then! Done! 🙂 I *still* didn’t add the whipping cream garnish for the Husband but he really liked it with his glass of milk, which is a *must* for him with a sweet chocolatey dessert.

Riesling Review

Generally I prefer my Rieslings to be slightly sweet with peach/apricot flavors but rieslings can vary broadly. Last week the Husband and I were priviledged to have a date night (unlike some couples, we do NOT do this on a weekly basis and some years we’ve struggled to have one annually!) and after dinner I convinced him to wander the World Market with me. Sometimes I find interesting wines in there that I’m not likely to find in the grocery (my usual up-scale source of wines! 😛 ). This week I picked up a Bridgeview Blue Moon Oregon Riesling 2005, from the Bridgeview Vineyards of Cave Junction, Oregon (www.bridgeviewwine.com — call me old-fashioned, but I wish wineries did not put a URL on the label). Why did I pick it up? Well, it’s in a blue bottle which is attractive (a cut out moon in the label gives it the ‘blue moon’ — I just think blue bottles are pretty) and it’s from Oregon and I don’t think I’ve had a wine from Oregon yet and on the label it says, “This elegant riesling, from selected grapes grown in the cool Oregon climate, presents an intense aroma of ripe apples and a fresh honey-spice bouquet. Drink by the light of the silvery moon.” I don’t know that I’ve had a riesling that tasted of apple, so why not?

It does have an apple aroma and a taste of spice — like ginger or cloves, with that ‘bite’ to it. It isn’t particularly sweet, but it was a perfect pairing with a garlic/herb goat cheese and crackers. I’d certainly buy it again for that purpose but not as an after-dinner drink. It would probably also be a good accompaniment for salmon or crab.

Recipe of the Day

Egana, Mrs. Potter and I had a good time tonight hanging out and chatting. It’s definitely something to repeat. The wine cooler was good too — worthy of repetition as well as space on this page. After my friends left I tried some of the fruit down at the bottom; the oranges were yummy but the peaches were significantly less so.

On Rieslings . . . I have my favorites which include the Chateaux St. Michelle (Patterson, WA) Johannesburg Riesling as well as the Schmitt Sohne (Smiling Sun — Blue bottle with yellow sun, from Germany) Riesling Spatlese — both have produced good riesling in the last few years. I did not enjoy a Moselland Riesling I had earlier this year. For tonight’s recipe I used a bottle of Jacob’s Creek Riesling, from Australia, which I have not tried before and did not taste on it’s own, only as part of this recipe. The added sugars and fruit juices would certainly affect the wine and I wonder if a ‘poor’ riesling might still yield a decent cooler?? Better living through chemistry! 😉
This recipe came from a Food Network show I watched when we were in Florida in the spring.

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1 orange

1 (750 ml) bottle chilled white wine, such as Riesling

1 (15-ounce) can sliced peaches in heavy syrup

1/2 cup orange flavored liqueur (recommended: Cointreau but I had Grand Marnier on hand so that’s what I used)

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup sugar

Slice orange and set aside. Add wine, peaches and their syrup, liqueur, orange juice, and sugar to a large pitcher (2 qt), and stir to combine. Add orange slices to pitcher. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 1 hour. Pour into 6 wine glasses and serve immediately.