Friday, December 30, 2011

cheers to 2012!

(photo via nicole caldwell)

Cheers to you and yours this New Year's weekend! Whether you're dressing up for a night out of dancing, having a dinner with friends, or cozying up on the couch to watch all of the famous countdowns, pour yourself a glass of champagne (or sparkling cider, if that's your thing) and make a toast to all of the fabulous memories of 2011. This past year was pretty huge for us - I mean, we did that whole "getting married thing" and all. We've got high hopes for 2012 and all that it has to offer. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

orange marmalade sour

Josh is a huge fan of orange marmalade. We almost always have a jar in a fridge. It's awesome on toast, fantastic as a sauce over pork tenderloin (just throw in some white wine and chopped thyme and let it reduce on the stove a bit), and addictive over vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of fudge as well (it's that whole chocolate orange thing).

We had a "breakfast dinner" a few nights back with a giant pan of scrambled eggs and toast. Josh came up with this recipe as a sort of "breakfast-y" cocktail. He had something similar a while back at the esteemed San Francisco bar Bourbon and Branch. The result was a fantastically frothy and bittersweet cocktail, which would match up to any dinner or dessert.

Orange Marmalade Sour
makes 1 cocktail

2 1/2 oz bourbon
1 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz egg white - see note below
1 teaspoon orange marmalade
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters (I prefer Reagan's No. 6)
Garnish: orange peel

Note: While the alcohol, citrus, and simple syrup will "cook" the egg whites, I recommend using organic egg whites whenever making cocktails.

Using a Boston shaker, add egg whites to one side of shaker and add remaining ingredients to other side of shaker. Combine both sides of shaker and vigorously dry shake (without ice) for 10-20 seconds so that egg white can be properly emulsified with the citrus and alcohol. If you skip this step, you may end up with scrambled egg whites. Add ice and vigorously shake for an additional 10-20 seconds. Strain into your favorite coup or Irish coffee glass and garnish with orange peel.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

tiramisu truffles

Josh's grandparents have an undying love for tiramisu. Last year we made them a whole sheet of tiramisu for Christmas. The gift was much appreciated, but it can only last so long in the fridge and they couldn't get through more than half of it. This year, I had the genius idea to whip up a batch of tiramisu truffles that would last for at least 2 weeks in the fridge.

After a quick google search, I found this perfect recipe. The result was a wonderful mixture of marsala wine, chocolate, and espresso flavors.

These truffles would be a lovely hostess gift to bring to any New Year's Eve party. Just lay the truffles in gold and silver mini cupcake liners and you're good to go

Tiramisu Truffles
makes 40 1-inch truffles
adapted from Not So Humble Pie

10 ounces white chocolate chips
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 1/2 teaspoons marsala wine
1 teaspoon instant espresso, divided
10 ounces milk chocolate in block form
2 teaspoons dutch-processed cocoa

Melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler. I always use a make-shift double boiler - simply put the chocolate in a heat-safe glass bowl and place over a simmering pot of water (the water should come about 2 inches below the base of the glass bowl). Continuously stir the white chocolate so it does not burn.

Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso in marsala wine.

When chocolate has slightly cooled (it should just be a bit warm), whisk in the mascarpone cheese. Mix in the marsala/espresso mixture and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso. Cover the bowl and refrigerate over night.

The next day, lay out a large sheet of parchment paper (wax paper or foil would work too). Grate the milk chocolate onto one section of the paper and gently mix (use your fingers) with the cocoa.

Using a spoon, scoop up about a tablespoon (just eyeball it) of the white chocolate mixture. Using your hands, roll it into a 1-inch ball and then gently roll it around in the milk chocolate/cocoa mixture until the white chocolate is entirely covered. Repeat for the remaining white chocolate.

Truffles will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

recovering from christmas

This past weekend was lovely. There was lots of time spent with family and pets, lazy mornings in which we actually slept in, creamy chicken enchiladas with chilies and olives, even more latkes, and a little too much champagne.

Josh's beer collection is ever growing. Our family and friends are incredibly generous and contributed a solid 13 rare, barrel-aged, or bacon-infused (yum!) bottles. Our closet floor is quickly turning into a beer cellar.

My favorite tee-shirt made its way out of the closet for its annual wear. Our menorah made the trek home with us so we could light the candles each night.

I hope you had a restful break with plenty of delicious meals and cocktails. Did you get everything you were hoping for?

Friday, December 23, 2011

happy holidays!

As I write this, I'm sitting in the ophthalmologist's waiting room. Josh is getting LASIK eye surgery! The poor boy is practically blind with 2 severe astigmatisms. So the saying "have a merry and bright holiday season" is truly going to mean something to him.

We're looking forward to a low-key weekend of R&R with the family. There are books to be read (I still haven't opened my copy of The Help), more movies to be watched (we watched Midnight in Paris this week and it was fabulous), a trip to Europe to be planned (I cannot contain my excitement!), Christmas Eve enchiladas to be eaten (with mounds of re-fried beans because secretively those are my favorite), and champagne to be toasted (if  this little sore throat would just go away).

Most importantly, there's family to be hugged and endless things to be thankful for. Thank you all for reading our blog. We love living life through our epicurean adventures and telling you about them brings us such JOY!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

lunch at ink sack

Yesterday we stopped by Michael Voltaggio's sandwich spot - Ink Sack - for a lesiurely lunch (oh how I love holiday vacation). We ate at his restaurant Ink (see post here) about a month ago and thought the meal was incredible.

We had high expectations for these sandwiches. He did not underperform.

The sandwiches are 4 inches in size, so we ordered up 4 of them plus the chili lime pineapple and 2 cookies. Yeah, we were hungry kids.

We started off with the chili lime pineapple. Refreshing with just a bit of kick from the spices. There was a sweet spice and a smoky spice - my best guess is cayenne and chili de arbol. I'm envisioning this as a cocktail. Yes, my head is in the right place.

Our clear favorite was the Cold Fried Chicken with homemade ranch dressing, shredded lettuce, and pickles. The chicken was rich, juicy, and crispy. The ranch was tangy and creamy.

The runner up was the Jose Andres with chorizo, serrano, and lomo meats paired with manchego cheese. The best part of the sandwich was the pepper salsa. A sweet and spicy combination of chopped olives and peppers.

The banh mi had delicious cuts of pork butt and shoulder, pickled vegetables, and chicharrones. We've had a few traditional banh mi's with stronger pickling flavors and more spice, but ink sack's version was tasty in itself. The meats were higher quality, the flavors a bite more mild, and the chicharrones added a unique crunchy texture.

The spicy tuna was light and delightful with miso-cured albacore, sriracha mayo, and strips of nori. The miso and nori add a particularly salty flavor, but after 2 bites, I was hooked. The thick cut heirloom tomatoes mellowed out the salty flavors.

We rounded out the meal with the cookies. Ok, that's a lie. I actually started off the meal with the cookies. I completely fail at the mantra "no dessert before dinner" - or in this case lunch. But I only had 1 - ok 2 - bites of each cookie before the sandwiches came out. Our favorite was the Mexican Chocolate Chip with it's flakes of salt and chunks of chocolate. The gooey chocolate was fudgy, rich, and delicious - it's perfect for all you chocolate lovers out there.

We had some cookie leftovers and enjoyed them with our Intelligentsia cappuccinos later on. Yeah, life could be worse.

Ink Sack
8360 Melrose
Los Angeles 90069
Tues - Sat 11a-8p

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

latkes for hannukah

Growing up, my absolute favorite food was a potato (followed by a close second of ice cream). I was obsessed with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potatoes au gratin.....seriously, anything potato.

I looked forward to Hannukah every year because it meant latkes for dinner, which are basically fried potato pancakes of wonderfulness. Plus there was that whole 8 days of gifts thing too. (I was officially informed that I graduated out of the 8 days of gifts this year. I think it's the whole being married thing. Tear.)

Fun fact: did you know there is no wrong way to spell Hannukah? You can spell it starting with a "C" (Chanukah), with two "N's" (Hannukah), or ending with just an "a" (Channuka). The only thing you have to do is make sure there's 8 letters in the spelling (for the 8 days of Hannukah). I'm a wealth of information this morning.

Last night - for the first night of Hannukah 2011 - I made 2 batches of latkes. I went the traditional route because, well, you just sort of have to. They're so good. For the second batch I made zucchini, bacon, leek latkes.

Ok, I know I know. How did I put bacon in a Jewish latke? Our guests asked us that same exact question. I mean, that's just soooo not kosher. Well, I don't keep kosher and bacon tastes pretty awesome. Plus, I was taking "chef liberties," which I've decided is my new response to any sort of "why would you add that ingredient?"

The zucchini latkes turned out a bit flimsy in consistency, but seriously addictive in taste (it's the bacon!). But I updated the recipe below and crosschecked it against Smitten Kitchen's zucchini fritters recipe to ensure that your zucchini latkes are a bit more stable. I'm nice this morning. It's the Hannukah bug.

Oh, one other comment. In regards to the toppings for your latkes -  Hannukah has brought about a strong divide of people. The sour cream people and the apple sauce people. I choose both! There's no other way to do it. Top your latke with a dollop of sour cream and a smidge of apple sauce. You'll never look back.

Traditional Latkes
makes about 10 medium sized latkes

5 russet potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
4 T chopped thyme
1 t pepper
2 T salt
1 egg
about 4 T flour
Liberal amounts of canola/vegetable oil

Peel potatoes. Shred potatoes. Place shredded potatoes in a thin dish towel. Squeeze out all excess liquid. And then try squeezing them again. (You want these potatoes seriously dry). Place the shredded potatoes back in a bowl. Shred onion into mixture. Add thyme, pepper, salt, and egg. Mix thoroughly. Add flour - a tablespoon at a time. You want the mixture to be hearty and stick together, but not gummy. It should take about 3-4 tablespoons of flour.

Pour a 1/4 inch layer of oil in a pan and turn to medium high heat. Once oil is hot, place about 1/2 cup portions of the mixture in the oil. Press down slightly with a metal spatula. Once the latke is golden brown (about 5 minutes), flip to the other side and continue to cook until golden brown (about another 3-4 minutes). Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towel.

Zucchini, Bacon, and Leek Latkes
makes about 10 medium sized latkes

4 medium zucchinis
1 leek
12 strips bacon
1 t pepper
2 T salt
1 egg
about 1/4 cup flour
Liberal amounts of canola/vegetable oil

Shred zucchini. Place shredded zucchini in a thin dish towel. Squeeze out all excess liquid. And then try squeezing them again. (You want the zucchini seriously dry). Place the shredded zucchini back in a bowl.

Cook up the bacon until just slightly crispy. Put bacon on a plate with a paper towel to drain off some oil. Keep remaining oil in the pan. Chop bacon into small bits. Add into zucchini mixture.

Slice leek in half lengthwise. Slice each half into little strips. Rinse thoroughly. Add leeks to pan with bacon oil carefully. Do not turn on the heat. Let leeks slightly wilt (less than a minute). Drain leeks on a paper towel and add to the zucchini mixture.

Add in salt, pepper, and egg. Add flour - a tablespoon at a time. You want the mixture to be hearty and stick together, but not gummy. It should take about 1/4 cup of flour.

Pour a 1/4 inch layer of oil in a pan and turn to medium high heat. Once oil is hot, place about 1/2 cup portions of the mixture in the oil. Press down slightly with a metal spatula. Once the latke is golden brown (about 5 minutes), flip to the other side and continue to cook until golden brown (about another 3-4 minutes). Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towel.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

creamy green chili corn

Alright, alright. I know. I'm a bad person. Who in their right mind posts about creamy green chili corn when there's christmas cookies a plenty and holiday parties with overflowing champagne practically every day? 

I should be posting about salads and veggies and greens, but that would be absolutely no fun. That's what New Year's resolutions are for. For now, embrace the creamy green chili corn.

I served this dish at our little fiesta dinner party last week (see margarita potatoes post here). It's creamy and smoky and cheesy and everything right.

(corn served. and, yes, I still haven't taken the streamers down from the party)

I know several families that have a Mexican food themed Christmas Eves. Josh's family has been eating chicken enchiladas on Christmas Eve since the beginning of time. This would be the perfect side dish addition.

As with every dish I prepare for dinner parties - you can make this ahead of time! The night before: cut all the corn kernels off the ears. All that's left to do is saute the corn with the green chilies and butter on the stove. And then you finish it with cheese and cream. Easy, breezy. 

Creamy Green Chili Corn
makes 6 side dishes

8 ears of corn
2 T butter
2 4-oz cans of fire roasted green chilies
8 oz queso fresco
4 T heavy cream

Cut kernels off ears of corn and saute over medium low heat with butter and green chilies until corn begins to soften (about 20 minutes). There should still be a slight crunch to each kernel, you don't want mush. Mix in cheese and cream and stir until cheese is melted and dish is slightly bubbling (about 5-7 minutes). Serve! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

meatless monday: margarita potatoes

We had some friends over for a Mexican fiesta themed dinner this past week. I made these potatoes as a simple (and easy to prepare ahead of time!) side dish. Josh thinks they taste exactly like margaritas (salty, limey, and a little kick) so they've been deemed my margarita potatoes. I'll admit, it's kinda catchy.

The night before, I prepared the sauce, and I washed, chopped, and parboiled the potatoes. All I had to do the night of was throw the potatoes in the oven to heat and crisp them up. While the potatoes were still hot, I tossed them with the sauce. The potatoes soaked up the crema and all the cilantro/lime/jalapeno flavors. Deliciousness.

Margarita Potatoes
6 side dishes

2 pounds small dutch potatoes
1 jar crema
1 bunch cilantro
1 jalapeno
2 limes
2 T salt
2 T olive oil

Slice jalapeno in half and cut out ribbing and seeds. Place jalapeno, crema, cilantro leaves, juice of 2 limes, and salt in a food processor (or blender). Pulse until creamy and mixed through. Place in covered bowl in the fridge.

Wash and quarter potatoes and place in boiling water until fork tender (about 15-20 minutes). Drain potatoes and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Place potatoes in fridge.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes on baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Bake until heated through and slighty crispy (about 30-35 minutes). Immediately toss with crema sauce (I used about 3/4 of the sauce and served the remaining 1/4 of the sauce on the side).

Note: if you wanted to do this all in one night. Simply drain the potatoes from the boiling water and immediately toss them with olive oil and place them in the oven.