Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Homemade Mustard Stocking Stuffers

I love making condiments, but have always been resistant for some reason to trying my hand with mustard. I grew up with the bright yellow stuff of French's. Not that it did anything for me, but it was the mustard du jour of the 60s. And, of course, there was the classic spicy deli mustard, Ba-Tampte, which was perfect for salami sandwiches, Hebrew National hotdogs and knockwurst, and corned beef and pastrami. Then in the late 80s, there were the inimitable commercials for Grey Poupon. You know, the ones with the two hoity-toity men in their Rolls Royces ever so politely exchanging those rounded glass jars. Mustard became aspirational. Became lifestyle. And within a decade or so emerged new artisinal trends, and soon we had all sorts of flavored mustards--made with raspberry and chilis and honey and garlic--and whatever anyone could think of.

Enter my friends at SoNo Trading Company--Zach Negin and James Magnatta--who launched their company a few years ago, initially selling their luscious flavor-packed mustards at several farmers markets. Now they've eschewed the farmers markets for distribution at places like Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca, Venissimo, and others, narrowing their flavors to three favorites: Whole Grain, Champagne Garlic, and Hong Kong Habanero. They're fabulous. And, the guys are also great teachers. Recently, Zach, who now lives in L.A. and teaches at the Institute of Domestic Technology, spent an evening with my Les Dames d'Escoffier chapter at The Wild Thyme Company, teaching us the secrets and techniques to making both mustard and lacto-fermented ketchup. The class was a blast and turned all of us into mustard- and ketchup-making fiends. Including me.

Around the large grouping of tables were bottles, jars, and containers of all sorts of potential flavorings--molasses, kona coffee, pomegranate syrup, citrus zest, nutmeg, allspice, and even grapefruit bitters. We learned from Zach that Canada is the biggest exporter of mustard seeds and that the easy little secret to Chinese mustard is blending ground mustard (like Coleman's) with a little water. Water brings out the heat, says Zach.

We toyed around with both yellow and brown seeds before getting started with some that Zach already pre-soaked.

The process itself is quite simple--but you can easily get into trouble. You have a proportion of liquid to solids--1 1/2 cups mustard seeds to 20 ounces of liquid. That's not the issue. It's all those flavor choices. Do horseradish and citrus zest really work well together? Maybe. Maybe not. Did we have too heavy a hand with the nutmeg? Did we get carried away and use too many flavorings and muddy the results? In other words, sure, be daring, but be also be respectful of the power of the flavors and combinations you choose. You could have a real winner or something your gift recipients will spit out.

Flor Franco and Maria Gomez mixing up their mustard flavors
So, back to the process. Essentially, you'll measure out your basics--mustard seeds and liquid--along with salt, and other flavorings. They'll soak in a nonreactive mixing bowl at room temperature for a few days to soften the seeds and meld the flavors. Then you grind it all together, transfer to a jar and cover. That's it. You'll want to keep open jars refrigerated.

Marie Kelley with her just-ground mustard.

And my selected flavorings? I went with honey, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, Kona coffee, and chipotle powder. Delicious!

Below is Zach's recipe. He's got a lovely flavor profile here with what I'd call baking ingredients. Use those or sub out your own. And, the beer is a great addition, but you can just as readily use water, wine, or fruit juice if you like.

Zach Negin's Homemade Mustard
(printable recipe)
Makes 2, 6-ounce jars

12 ounce bottle of Guinness Extra Stout (or wine, juice, water...)
1 1/2 cups mustard seeds (10 ounces), brown or yellow
1 cup red wine vinegar (or sherry, infused vinegar, apple cider vinegar -- not distilled)
2 1/2 ounces brewed espresso or 8 grams finely ground espresso beans
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1. Combine ingredients in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for two to four days so that the mustard seeds soften and the flavors meld.
2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and process. Or grind by hand with a mortar and pestle. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula until the seeds are coarsely ground and the mixture thickens, about three minutes. Transfer to a jar and cover.
3. Refrigerate overnight and use immediately or refrigerate for up to six months. (The flavor of the mustard will mellow as the condiment ages.)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Ultimate Adult Holiday Milkshakes

Three adult shakes: (l to r) Chocolate Cherry Pinot Noir, Egg Nog, and Dulce de Leche
One of my favorite holiday treats is eggnog. But I know there are so many people who cringe at the thought of it. So, when I learned that The Counter, the custom-built burger chain, makes "adult" milkshakes, including shakes with wine or with eggnog flavoring, I had to learn more and find out how they do it. Really, wouldn't these be fun to serve at holiday parties?

So, last week I had a mini milkshake seminar with Casey Bushrod, a supervisor and counter server at the downtown restaurant on 6th at G. Casey made me three shakes--and gave me the recipes.

The shakes are simple. No surprise there. And they open themselves up to riffing. So, use these recipes as your template and have fun. And, remember, that the suggested alcohol--both in content and amount--is just that. A suggestion. No alcohol? No problem. A little more or less? Sure, just make sure you keep the ingredients proportional. And, to make the blending easier, let the ice cream soften just a little.

Let's start with the Egg Nog. If you love traditional egg nog, you'll adore this chilly adaptation. You can certainly have a "virgin" version, but the spiced rum adds even more richness to the drink, and a real warmth inside your soul.

Egg Nog Milkshake
Makes 1, 20-ounce shake

12.5 ounces vanilla ice cream
1 cup egg nog
1/2 teaspoon egg nog spice mix or pumpkin pie spice mix (or ground cinnamon)
Whipped cream

If you're adding alcohol, the proportions change:
10 ounces vanilla ice cream
1 cup egg nog
2 ounces spiced rum, like Sailor Jerry

Add all the ingredients but the spice mix and whipped cream to a blender and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour into a 20-ounce glass tumbler. Dispense the whipped cream in a spiral motion. Sprinkle the spice mix onto the whipped cream.

Next up, Dulce de Leche. This creamy, caramel-ly drink is actually rather soothing--no doubt helped by the Baileys. It goes down like a dream.

Dulce de Leche Milkshake
Makes 1, 16-ounce shake

10 ounces vanilla ice cream
2 ounces Baileys Caramel Irish Cream
1 ounce caramel
2 ounces whipped cream

Add the ice cream, Irish Cream, and caramel to the blender and blend until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour into a 16-ounce glass. Pipe with whipped cream and drizzle on more caramel.

And, finally, a stunner of a shake, the Chocolate Cherry Pinot Noir. I actually had this earlier at The Counter with a burger and fries. My friend Trish and I had just little tasters and it was all we could do not to down the tasters in one gulp and then ask for more. It's like the ultimate black cherry soda only a huge leap better. Who knew wine could be so perfect an ingredient in a shake? Surprise your friends with this one.

Chocolate Cherry Pinot Noir Milkshake
Makes 1, 16-ounce shake

8 ounces vanilla ice cream
3 ounces Pinot Noir
2 ounces cherry pie filling (although you can also mash maraschino cherries)
1 ounce U-Bet chocolate syrup
4 ounces whipped cream

Add ice cream, wine, cherries, and chocolate to a blender pitcher and blend until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour into a 16-ounce glass and garnish with whipped cream spiral. Top with a Maraschino cherry.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Smokey Turkey Chile

Comfort food comes in many forms. For some of us it's Mom's chicken noodle soup or mashed potatoes. For others it's roast chicken or mac 'n cheese or chocolate layer cake. For me, at this time of year, comfort comes cradled in a bowl. It could be mushroom barley soup, Hatch chile pork stew, or a batch of turkey chile. Last weekend, I opted for the turkey chile.

This turkey chile is a descendant of a lovely red chile stew created by Alice Robertson of Alice Q. Foodie. I had made some changes to Alice's recipe, as we all tend to do with recipes we love to make them our own. Instead of cubed beef and pork I used ground and then segued to lean ground turkey and eliminated the beer (that whole weight loss thing, remember?), also adding the fresh Hatch chiles I buy annually to roast and freeze, or canned chipotles in adobo.

What I was looking for was a subtle smokiness that both add that could compensate for the flavors lost by eliminating the richer meats and the beer. But what was most compelling about Alice's recipe actually was the spice mixture and that I've pretty much kept intact. The cocoa powder and cinnamon give a lush depth to the chile and there's that smokiness again with the New Mexico (or Chimayo) chili powder.

This is a distinctive regional chili I fell in love with many years ago while visiting Santa Fe one November. In fact, one morning I drove over to the little village of Chimayo just outside of Santa Fe in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains where the chili is grown, and was mesmerized by the sweet, smoky scent that permeates the region when the farmers roast the harvested chilis in their clay ovens. I also took a cooking class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking that week. They sell a line of regional food products, including this rare Chimayo chili powder and New Mexico red chili powder, both of which I continue to purchase and recommend.

The tomatoes also make a difference in the chile's flavor and texture, and this time of year using canned tomatoes is preferable to fresh. I like to use the Muir Glen organic fire-roasted tomatoes to get an even bigger bang of flavor. Use both crushed and diced to mix up the textures.

The chile freezes well. This recipe makes about four servings, but you can easily double it and put some away for a rainy night when you don't feel like cooking.

Turkey Chile
Adapted from Alice Q. Foodie's Red Chile Stew
(printable recipe)
Serves 4

Spice Mixture:
1 tablespoon medium heat Chimayo or New Mexico red chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 - 4 peeled and seeded roasted Hatch chiles or 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
3/4 cup water
1, 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1, 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14-ounce can pinto, black, or kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Mix together the chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon, sugar, oregano, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat a large pot and add the oil. Then add the onion and garlic, and saute until soft. Add the ground turkey, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Let it brown and then add the spice mixture. Stir to coat until the spices are fully incorporated. Saute for about two minutes.

Add the chopped chiles, tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for two hours. Add the beans and simmer for another hour, covered, so the flavors intensify. Stir periodically and add a little more liquid if necessary to keep the consistency as you want it.

Take the pot off the heat and adjust the seasonings to taste. You can serve it now, but it will be even better the next day so, if possible, let cool and refrigerate for a day or two. Remove the fat from the top and discard, then reheat. You can serve the chile with corn tortillas or cornbread, or over chopped lettuce. Top with chopped red onions and sour cream, or shredded cheddar cheese, or crumbled queso fresca. Now you have comfort in a bowl.

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