Sunday, December 29, 2013

Firewater Boilermaker

A shot of chile-infused liqueur dropped in an IPA
Firewater boilermaker
Photograph by A. Schloss
Sweetness and heat are companions and competitors, vying for your attention in an endless cycle of pain and relief. In most recipes the two are kept separate, but when forced to share, they can be a raucous culinary couple. Sweet-Heat Firewater (page 90, Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits) is a case in point. Made from tequila infused with chiles and sweetened with agave (cactus sugar syrup), its perfume arises from an earthy influx of toasted cumin and the volatile aromatic oils in the chiles you choose — woody ancho, floral guajillo, meaty habanero, or acidic pequin.

The process is practically effortless. Just soak the chilies in the booze and wait. Capturing the chile aroma goes hand in hand with the ascendency of heat in the liqueur. In taking time for the flavor to build, you run the risk of producing a tincture of incendiary power. I suggest tasting after a day and deciding how much longer your palate can stand. I usually stop at 48 hours.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

When its the middle of winter and your recipe calls for tomatoes you can always used canned, or you can have something far superior simply by turning on the oven. 

Tomatoes are full of flavor. They're also full of water. Getting rid of the water concentrates and intensifies the flavor, but most of the time roasted tomatoes collapse by the time full flavor develops—think fresh tomatoes cooking down into sauce. A treat, to be sure, but a different way of experiencing the tomato.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Good Ol' Pot Roast

Demi-Glace Pot Roast with Pot Roasted Vegetables and Blanched Beans
Photograph by A. Schloss
A few weeks ago Charlie Linnet wrote:"I have your books on Slow Cooker.. and Cooking Slow. I like everything you write. But in all that, how could you not have a recipe for pot roast?"At first glance I thought Charlie had uncovered a gap in the Schloss archive until I looked more closely. True, Art of the Slow Cooker has nothing called "pot roast," but it does have a brisket or two, which (being raised in the Jewish culinary empire) is the cut of pot roast I grew up on. 

And in Cooking Slow there's a recipe for Hanger Steak Slow Baked in its own Demi-Glace, page 65, which Bonnie S. Benwick calls a "succulent masterpiece" in her review in the Washington Post. It is a phenomenal way of getting true restaurant-chef results with hardly any work, and its magic is easily converted into a pot roast. All I did was switch from hanger steak to chuck roast and cut the vegetables in bigger chunks. Bigger pieces means more cooking time to extract the same amount of flavor so I upped the oven sojourn from 6 to 8 hours.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mia Culpa Pudding

Rice Pudding Set-up
Rinsed rice and raisins in center; counter-clockwise from 6 o' clock - milk, sugar, cinnamon, eggs, salt, vanilla
Photograph by A. Schloss
Among cookbook writers Julia Child is known less for dropping chickens than by her rule for judging cookbooks -"A cookbook is only as good as its poorest recipe." So when one of my most devoted recipe followers (and the designer of this blog) , Denise Avayou, called me last week to tell me that the recipe for Slow-Baked Rice Pudding (page 195) in Cooking Slow didn't work for her, my heart sank. Even though Denise was sure that something was wrong with her oven and that the problem was because she used 2% milk rather than the whole milk the recipe called for, anyone who knows me would not be surprised by my self- deprecating reaction. I take my recipe writing responsibilities seriously and my Mom had raised me on the mantra, "As long as you feel guilty that's all that matters," so involuntary heart-sickness is mother's milk to me. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Quaffable Gifting

(From Left to Right) Double Raspberry, Black Pepper Vodka, Ruut, Lemon-Lime, Blueberry Cinnamon
Photograph by A. Schloss

Of all the potable gifts that one can brew at home, liqueurs are the fastest, easiest, and most versatile. Liqueurs are liquors (distilled spirits) that have been flavored with sugar, and aromatics, like herbs, spices, nuts, flowers, fruit, seeds, vegetables, roots, and/or bark. 

Lemon Drop
Photograph by A. Schloss
Flavoring alcohol is straightforward. Most liqueurs use neutral grain alcohol, such as vodka, as a base, although I use a variety of bases including, rum, tequila, whiskey, vermouth, and wine. Cut or break the flavorful ingredients into small pieces to expose lots of surface area to the alcohol and add sugar syrup. I have found that adding sugar in the initial stages of tincturing slows down the transference of flavor into the alcohol. So when using a flavorful sugar, like brown sugar, agave,or honey that has aromatic elements that need to infuse into the liquor base, I add the sweetener in the first step, but when using plain sugar syrup I add the sugar after the initial tincturing is complete.