Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DIY Bitters: Part II

A few weeks ago I posted about the first step to making bitters at home, which involved making extracts. Now I am going to detail the second step, which entails combining all of the extracts you've made into different-flavored bitters. After using up all my extracts, I actually ended up filling only 11 of the 12 dropper bottles I'd purchased, and I am pretty sure this was due to the fact that the dried fruits I'd used for the fruit extracts took up a good amount of volume in the 4 oz mason jars, so they weren't actually filled with 4 ounces of liquid extract once the fruit pieces were removed. In fact it was more like 2 ounces of apple extract and 2 ounces of date extract. But after doing some calculating from various websites, you can find a better deal buying in bulk with a dozen dropper bottles than buying 11 individually, so if you did buy a dozen then congratulations! You now have an extra dropper bottle to do whatever you would like with, the possibilities are endless!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Roast Turkey with Pears & Sage

My friends and I like to have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with one another so we can enjoy each other's company and that of our families. It is also a great excuse to have two separate Thanksgiving dinners and prolong the delightful leftovers twice as long. I decided to go all out on the turkey this year and spent the entire week leading up to the dinner party researching various turkey-roasting methods. I decided to brine the turkey and roast it at a high temperature for the first 30 minutes of cooking to seal in the juices, then lower the heat a bit for the rest of the cooking time. I don't know if it was the brining or brief high cooking temperature or both, but everyone remarked on how juicy and moist the white meat was, which made me very, very happy. I really loved the pear aspect of the meal, it was slightly sweet but not too sweet, complementing the turkey meat in just the right way. And the pear-laced pan drippings made, honest to God, the best gravy I've ever had. I was also able to finally give my new Wusthof knife set a run on a solid block of meat, and...just...whoa. These made carving the turkey so, SO much easier. And chopping the onions was a dream! I just had to push down gently and it went right through them, no nasty sawing back and forth for eons with my old target brand knife set and using all my body weight to get the knife down though root vegetables which, looking back, could have resulted in the loss of many a finger if I wasn't more careful. Now that I have a quality set of knives and recently got a large sharpening stone, I'm never going back to the days of dull-blade cooking. It makes my prep and carving work faster, safer, and much, much less frustrating.

Now that I've wrapped up my knife-rant, I want to wish all of you the happiest of Thanksgivings and let you know that the thing I am most thankful for this year is you. Thank you for continuing to read my little side stories and participate in my life through your readership and comments. It is deeply appreciated.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rosemary Pork Chops with a Cranberry Juniper Balsamic Glaze

Life has been busy lately. I made the mistake of painting my entire bathroom myself this past weekend (save for the tippy top corners which I had Jeremy fill in since my 5-foot frame couldn't reach them even on my step ladder) which left me sore and exhausted going into the work week. Looking back I should have spread it out over a couple weekends, but sometimes my enthusiasm for new projects overwhelms my better judgement and I put myself in less than ideal situations. So as of right now, I am pretty pooped. Too pooped to cook, even! But luckily I'd made this recipe a couple weeks ago and kept it tucked away in my back pocket because I like to hoard recipes from time to time (like ya do) and am pulling it out now for a nice and timely pre-holiday post. I had never had juniper before this recipe and was surprised by it's ticklishly wintery flavor. It tastes almost pine-like, but slightly sweet. I used a juniper-flavored balsamic in the glaze as well as actual dried juniper berries. The dried juniper berries are like peppercorns, insomuch as you don't want to actually eat them whole. I left them floating around in the sauce, but it you want to avoid telling your guests not to eat the little black balls you can just wrap them in a piece of cheesecloth, tie it off with kitchen twine, and place that in the pot while its cooking to let the flavor seep into the sauce. Just remember to remove it right before serving so that no one ends up biting down on a mouthful of bag.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chocolate Pecan Pie & A Giveaway

The fall season has arrived in true southern California fashion here in North Hollywood, and by that I mean that it's come irritatingly late. The time has come where I can no longer shower comfortably without shivering, and where I dread walking across the cold hardwood floors in the morning on my habitual trek to the bathroom. This is our first fall in our new triplex unit, and while I love the antique feel of this 1950's abode, I can definitely feel the age of the building in its insulation, insofar as there is none. We're definitely going to invest in a space heater, but in the meantime I made not one, but two pies to warm up the place this weekend (hurray oven heat!!) I made this tasty chocolate pecan pie and a chocolate chess pie, the latter of which I'll post about next month (got to spread out the pie lovin'!), and the former of which came out rich, warm, gooey, and full of exquisite chocolatey pecans. There's something soothing about a hot piece of pie in cold weather, like a soft blanket that wraps you up and warms you from the inside out, and that also happens to taste simply delightful. For this reason, I plan on eating a slice of pie (or two) every day until our heater arrives...and maybe making a few more pies if my current batch runs out. You know, for the oven heat.

Monday, November 5, 2012

DIY Bitters: Part I

I have slowly been building a little bar cabinet of sorts over the past couple years, and while we have most of the basic liquors needed to make most mixed drinks, we do not have any bitters. Bitters are very concentrated liquor flavorings that are added to cocktails to give them deeper and more complex flavors. They used to be used as medicinal tonics back in the day, but slowly became more a part of a bartender's cabinet than a doctor's. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a large set, and I was very interested in making my own so that I could have more control over the types of bitters I had, so I did some internet research and found a very detailed article about making bitters here from a Lexington newspaper.

Essentially, bitters contain three flavor components: a dried bitter root or bark, dried fruits or vegetables, and dried spices or herbs. I got my bitter root and bark ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs, which I would recommend since you can get all three types of bitters used in this recipe from them and they're very affordable. The rest of the ingredients can be purchased at normal grocery stores or made at home by drying out various sliced fruits or vegetables on a baking sheet in the oven at very low heat.