Maple syrup sidecar

The sidecar is my favorite go-to cocktail. Or rather, go-to cocktail where I can tell there is a decent bartender — at shitty places, my go-to is a glass of cheap sparking wine. (This comes from having a horrifyingly bad sidecar made with cheap brandy and no sweetener from Brasserie Margaux a couple years ago. *shudder*)

Aaaanyway, why am I mixing cocktails at 3:07 on a Friday? Because it’s my Sunday, baby, and it’s almost Christmas, and I vacuumed and swept and mopped up a storm and made banana bread out of the worst bananas ever, AND we needed to use up some lemons.

It should go without saying that this drink is better with the highest quality ingredients — I use Cointreau because it really does taste better than other cheaper Triple Sec type options. My brandy this time around was Raynal VSOP, but I would welcome recommendations of other good ones to try. I use organic lemons and organic Grade B syrup — it has a stronger mapley flavor than Grade A.

Maple Syrup Sidecar
2 oz VSOP brandy or cognac
1 oz Cointreau or equivalent
2 oz lemon juice, strained
1/2 oz Grade B maple syrup

Combine all and shake well with ice, pour directly into glass, or strain into chilled glass if desired. Skip the sugared rim unless you need it for the aesthetics; if you must sugar the rim, reduce syrup in drink by 1/4 oz, grind your sugar to superfine using a (well-cleaned!) coffee bean grinder or food mill, and use maple syrup to make the sugar stick to the rim.

Indispensable tools for the job: shakerstainless steel funnel with strainer, mini measuring cup

Cheers!

Experimentations with iced coffee

I’d been hearing about “toddies” and “cold-brewed coffee” for some time, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. Word had it that cold-brewing produced a more flavorful blend with less acid, which would be perfect for me since coffee acid definitely upsets my stomach. (Also helpful that our hot-brewing coffee maker died a week after we received it as a wedding gift, so we exchanged it for a Bodum pitcher that better lends itself to cold.) I Googled around and settled on a 24-hour room-temp brew choice, thanks to smitten kitchen and America’s Test Kitchen.

Well, this morning I got to crack into my new brew, and I have to say I’m a bit disappointed. It’s definitely true that you taste the beans more than the roasting process, which is nice I guess (roasting flavor = yum!), but there’s still a pungently acidic note to my coffee. I actually think it’s a symptom of the beans — my beans are a weird blend of Victor’s and Zoka house decafs, and I’ve noticed an overly acidic note to them when brewed via heat methods, too. Perhaps I’ll give this iced coffee thing another whirl with a different decaf someday. (WHY can’t they make decafs as snobbishly well-curated as regular beans?)

For now, it’s a reasonably nice pick-me-up, especially if you add cream and maple syrup like I do! Using cream instead of milk means the maple doesn’t curdle the dairy, and maple syrup adds a lovely depth of flavor that’s yummier than agave or other low-cal sweeteners, but lower on the glycemic index than sugar. Try maple syrup in a plan latte sometime, too — it’s amazing!

Brunch for TEN!?

My lovely friend Jen emailed me the following question today:

If Ginnie was serving brunch for 10 this Sunday, what would she make? :)

And being me, I over-replied. But I realized this might be a heck of a useful post!

For TEN!? What have you gotten yourself roped into?

1) Meat: I’d do ham steak/s instead of bacon or sausage because it’s easier to cook (just sear in pan & voilà) and doesn’t make the house stink like meat for vegetarians. Make ’em look fancy by doing grill marks if you have the requisite apparatus and time and sanity. I don’t like putting much of any kind of sauce or glaze on ham, but something orangey would be nice if you felt like dressing them up. Another plus is that since ham is pre-cooked/cured, you’re not likely to accidentally undercook meat or give anybody a food-borne illness.

2) Sweet: I’d make the Blueberry Pecan French toast recipe from Epicurious since you can prep most of it the night before. Throw in a bit of cinnamon too and use real vanilla bean if you can. Also make sure you use full fat milk or even half and half — nobody eats French toast to be healthy & it’ll taste better. :) I like making it with strawberries instead of blueberries too, but definitely shell out for fresh fruit, not frozen. You could probably sauté apple or banana if berries are too scarce. Use Grade B maple syrup for maple-ier flavor — Trader Joe’s has good prices. You could whip up some cream for a festive addition to this.

3) Egg: Then you can do a big easy vegetable omelet (arugula & fancy mushrooms like oyster or chanterelle?) or scramble, and fancy it up with drizzlings of truffle oil — but keep that part optional on the side if you have kids or other picky eaters to feed. Maybe truffle half of it and stick a little shroom on top to distinguish the truffled half. Go very easy w/ that stuff!

4) Drink: Do a big pitcher of mimosa on ice; more people like those than Bloody Marys or other AM cocktails, and people can always wander into your kitchen to tweak the ratio. (Maybe leave out some decent brandy on the counter if they feel like spiking their version.) Cristalino cava is usually $7-9 per bottle and works great; the normal kind is best but Extra Brut works too. Don’t get the pink. Fresh squeeze the oranges and have extra pre-squeezed from the night before so the fun keeps flowing. I like to use blood oranges if available for a fun look — but don’t fret over orange selection because the reddish peel coloration rarely corresponds to the color of the flesh. Just grab & go and know that any oranges will be delish. :) If you have an opaque pitcher use that instead of clear, because the pulp residue makes clear pitchers look unnecessarily dirty/icky after just one pour.

GOOD LUCK!!! Oh, and this may also be of service.

Thanksgiving 2010

I decided to host Thanksgiving this year with my mum, hubby and five friends — this would be the first time we cooked for anyone else since our July wedding! Eek! It was a wonderful affair, though — I got to use literally every single wedding/engagement gift we had received, and all the foods turned out delicious (if not perfect). This post is hecka long and detailed, so read on if you’re brave or hungry! Continue reading “Thanksgiving 2010”