Sunday, December 12, 2010

December Decadence

We got invited to the 11th iteration of a party entitled "December Decadence." Attendees were asked do whatever was decadent to them. Dress up, dress down; bring chocolate or chips and dip... Do what you want, but whatever you do, indulge yourself.

I decided to indulge myself in a little cocktail history.

Champagne (California sparkling wine, actually) and Jamaica rum (Appleton Estates):

Making Rocky Mountain Punch

Lemon slices:

Making Rocky Mountain Punch


Making Rocky Mountain Punch

...and you end up with Rocky Mountain Punch, a recipe from Jerry Thomas' 1862 Bonvivant's Companion.

Rocky Mountain Punch

Notice I also froze my own giant ice blocks to fit in the jar. #cocktailnerd, anyone?

As the spigot jar was empty in a number of hours, I'll call this venture a success. If I did it again, I would mix the rum, maraschino, and sugar, and macerate the lemon slices first, then add the sparkling wine; as it ws, my stirring made the champagne go a little flat. Either way, it was fun to build the punch in front of everyone; I think more people tried it than might have otherwise because they got to see me make it.

Here's the recipe for Rocky Mountain Punch as written in the book; try it out at a party this season!

Rocky Mountain Punch

For a mixed party of twenty
From a recipe in the possession of Major James Foster
This delicious punch is composed as follows:

Five bottles of champagne
One quart of Jamaice rum
One pint of maraschino
Six lemons, sliced
Sugar to taste

Mix the above ingredients in a large punch bowl, then place in the center of the bowl a large square block of ice, ornamented with rock candy, loaf sugar, sliced lemons or oranges, and fruits in season. This is a splendid punch for New Year's Day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How was your Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving dinner

With all the leftovers finally gone, I thought I'd look back a week to how I spent my Thanksgiving. And by "how I spent my Thanksgiving," I mean "what I cooked for Thanksgiving."

I think Thanksgiving could easily be my favorite holiday, because it glorifies my two main hobbies: cooking and dining. An annual excuse to cook a large meal to share with friends and family? Yes, please!

This year, I made the same cranberry sauce with orange peel and brussels sprouts with lemon and poppyseeds that I've made the past two years; these dishes are easily becoming traditions. But when it came to the turkey, I wanted to try something different.

The past two years, I've cooked Thanksgiving dinner for four people and chose to roast a turkey breast, rather than a whole bird. It's the right amount of meat and you don't have to worry about overcooking it while waiting on the dark meat. It worked well, but I wanted to be able to try something new this year. And besides, I'm a dark meat girl.

Enter Mark Bittman's braised turkey thighs. With pancetta, cherry tomatoes, and olives, what didn't sound good about this dish?

Braised turkey thighs provencal
The answer is, "Nothing."

Braised dark meat, exotic accompaniments--I was all over this. And I even used some Punt e mes in my cooking liquid. Unfortunately, the recipe isn't especially carefully written, and I didn't really know how long it would take to cook, especially at 200 degrees.

Long story short: two hours later, the meat still wasn't cooked through. I put the dish back in the oven at our hosts' house, but the temperature was higher and some of the meat dried out. I enjoyed the porky vegetables, but ended up not enjoying the turkey itself that much. Everyone else seemed to like it, though.

Braised turkey thighs provencal
At least it looked nice.

I also made pumpkin pie. This was my first time making a pie crust from scratch. It was successful enough to encourage me to try again (but not so successful for me to consider quitting while I'm ahead). I followed both pie dough and filling recipes from Smitten Kitchen--this pumpkin pie filling is really amazing.

Pumpkin pie
Topped with maple-bourbon cream sauce, by the way.

And next year? Well, I'm obviously planning to make the cranberry sauce and brussels sprouts. But when it comes to turkey, I want to try something different again--next year, I want to skip the turkey altogether.

No, I'm not going vegetarian. But I've added myself to the ranks of those who just don't find turkey that appealing. We cook it once a year, which consequently means that we don't really get to practice it. It takes a long time, it's more food than we really need, and the taste just doesn't make it worth it for me.

If we want poultry, really flavorful roast chicken is dead simple. But why not brisket, or ribs? I even saw a tweet from someone who was making porchetta. Seriously, why not?

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!