Posts Tagged ‘Culinary Arts’

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January 06, 2016: “Little Night” on “Little Christmas”

January 6, 2016

 

Moo's Minestrone SoupI get this Christmas article done just under the wire: today is the last day of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Today, January 6th, is known as “Little Christmas” or (in Irish) “Nollaig na mBan” otherwise know as “The Feast of the Epiphany” when the wise men, according to tradition, gave the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ-child. It is also the day, James Joyce used to place in time one of my favorite short stories, “The Dead.”

It is quite appropriate that I should publish this on “Little Christmas” as it concerns the Christmas dinner I made for my family, which I called “Little Night.” Swaseys+DogsFor a while now, I have been promising a “Big Night” for my folks. This is a dinner based after one of my most favorite foodie films of that name. The film features some of the most amazing Italian food in cinema, and my idea is to make a number of dishes from the film to serve after my family seeing the film. Christmas, of course, has too much going on to devote all that time to cooking, so I thought I would give my family a scaled-down version to whet their appetite…hence, “Little Night.”

One of our family traditions for some time was developed when, years ago, I made Minestrone Soup at Christmas and it was a universal hit. Even the guys who won’t eat veggies (…and you know who are…Stephen Swasey…oh, did I just type that?!!!) liked it. A tattered copy of my recipe has been hanging around for some time, and the actual dish has been duplicated so well by others, that I haven’t made it at Christmas for years now. Moo did an excellent job with this years’ batch. The rest of the meal was mine, ‘tho. We had:

Moo’s Minestrone Soup Chicken Roasted in Spiced Dough Bow Tie pasta with Greens Fancy Salad Tiramisu Chicken B-Ball

The chicken dish is called “Pollo al Sal” or chicken roasted in a salted dough. The dough spices the meat as it traps all the delicious moisture in. The dough bakes as the chicken roasts. At the end of cooking (dubbed the “chicken basketball” by the guys by virtue of how it looked) and after resting, you break the dough with a hammer and you have the most tender chicken of your life! We decided to substitute fresh herbs (rosemary, and thyme) instead of salt for a healthier, tastier chicken.Hammering Chicken

My next dish was a bit of a flop…this time. I usually make the bow tie pasta dish with broccoli raab, a slightly bitter veggie that looks like broccoli gone to seed. It sweetens very nicely when you saute it with garlic in olive oil and sweet red peppers. Trouble was…I couldn’t find broccoli raab anywhere, so I substituted dandelion greens instead. This ended up a little too bitter for most of my family’s taste. I also made the mistake of grilling the parmesan cheese which ended up hardening the pasta a bit. Microwave always has worked for me in the past. Lesson: stick to what works for the basic dishes.Plated Chicken+Pasta Salad

My salad was nice with a center of lentils cooked in olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and spices. This was covered with exotic greens, matchsticked fennel, fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, clementine sections, all topped with a blood-orange olive oil and wine vinegar. The salad tasted very good, but I need to work on my salad-arranging skills for the next big meal.

My Tiramisu has been perfected over the years, and I love especially it near Christmas. When I found out that Nickki my niece liked it, I had to make it! Most recipes use beaten raw egg yolks. I cook mine with kaluha, beating all the while, to make zabaglionTiramisue, an Italian light custard, which I then cool before whipping in the marscapone (an Italian cream cheese.) I could not find espresso either, so I brewed a strong coffee and concentrated its brewing to get a good substitute. I also could not find spiced cocoa, so I made my own. Then, it’s all assembly: lightly dip lady fingers in the coffee, a layer of the custard, sprinkle of spiced cocoa, and shaved dark chocolate. Cover and chill. I save the top layer of chocolate shaving until just before serving. Steve+Sophie“Little Night” was my gift, but my family spoiled me rotten with gifts of their own, with the charming company of four lovely dogs, as well as their own sparkling personalities!

[Thanks to Stephen Swasey for all photos, except the one of the family (me) and the one of me and Sophie (Nickki)]

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September 27, 2015: Tri-color “Salt” Potatoes

September 27, 2015

Tri-Color Salt PotatoesOne is never sure what will work. Sometimes, what can seem at first mundane, is virtually unheard of to the world at large.

Back in December of 2010, I was stuck for a topic/food/recipe for the blog, and I got a brainstorm: I had never seen a recipe for “Salt Potatoes” in any of the sundry food blogs and magazines I subscribed to. At the time I thought that was because I couldn’t imagine anyone documenting such a common dish.

How wrong I was.

Growing up, salt potatoes were at least a weekly dish. We kids didn’t mind. Salt potatoes are tasty, go well with many meals, and with eight kids to feed…cheap and plentiful! Having an Irish woman as a mom probably added to the frequency with which she added them to the weekly menu.

Writing the original article, what I didn’t consider was how common this dish is to my locale and why. You see, I hail from Syracuse NY, which in an earlier American history was where much of our salt came from. The natural deposits of primeval salt in the local lakes made salt production easy and cheap. One main street of Syracuse is named “Salina Street” due to the impact the industry had for residents.

So, with cheap salt supplies and Irish workers digging the nearby Erie Canal, salt potatoes were pretty common. They are still often sold at open markets and fairs, often replacing french fries as the potato treat of choice.

So, I was pretty surprised when my (to my mind..a very, very basic) recipe was picked up by a national food blog! The recipe was “featured” as best recipe of the day and yielded my best day for the blog, with a total of 125 hits!

My sister Mary Lou, happened to call that day and I was excited to tell her the news. When, knowing my range as a chef, she asked what recipe was featured, and I told her…there was long pause. “WHY?” she asked! Turns out what a native Syracusan considers commonplace was not so for the rest of the world!

Salt Potatoes are indeed so basic, it is hard to improve them, but recently I picked up these tri-color baby potatoes in a local farm stand and these upped the ante! As well as color, each potato had its own individual taste, and I was surprised to find the inner part tinged with a slight color of the outside. The one that appears black, is actually a dark purple like a beet, so the inner potato had light purple color!

A good chef is always looking to improve on even the most basic recipe! Adding this one to my repertoire of cheap, easy, aesthetic, fun, and unusual dishes!

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September 17, 2015: Cucumber Soup

September 17, 2015

Cucumber SoupAs I mentioned in my last article, when my family visited last month we went to the Colonial Inn in Concord, Ma. Cooking for myself like I usually do, I’m very impressed when I go out to eat these days to find almost every restaurant caters to the vegetarian palate to some degree. Sometimes it’s just soup and bread, but I can almost always find something to eat.

Once in a great while I find a restaurant that raises the bar on their vegetarian dishes to the unique and noteworthy. Such was all the dishes we  tried at the Colonial Inn.

My niece ordered the Colonial’s Black Bean Burger. I saw this on the menu as was almost going to order it, but changed my mind at the last second. As she was on the other side of the table, I didn’t hear her order and was very pleased when she offered to share a taste with me.

One problem with black bean burgers, homemade and store-bought, is that they often add just a tad too much cumin in the mix. Cumin is one of those spices that it takes an expert hand (and tasting while tweaking the addition) to keep the balance from interesting that can quickly shift to overwhelming. The Colonial got that balance just perfect. Topped with a tiny corn relish and a fine roll, the taste was easily the best of any black bean burger I’ve ever had. The texture was very close to a meat burger, which shows the skill of the chef, as veggie burgers often fall to pieces when soft like this, but because we’ve never had one with such a delicate texture, both my niece and I agreed that it was rather unfamiliar.

I was pleased to find Truffle Fries on the menu and they were very good at the Colonial and seemed to be fried in truffle oil. But after one taste, I realized the down-side of knowing a master chef like Yoshio. He makes truffle fries and tops them with real grated truffle (which makes the dish far too expensive to make for mass distribution.) Yoshio has forever spoiled me this way, but the Colonial’s fries were a very delicious and welcome second.

I also ordered what the Colonial called their Cucumber Gazpacho Soup. The name was a little confusing (as gazpacho is usually a tomato-based broth and cucumber soup is usually a cream-based broth) so I asked the waitress to describe the soup. She explained that it was a cold, creamy cucumber soup with a topping of salsa. I loved the addition of a tiny bit of heat into the cool, slightly sweet, very smooth, cucumber base and I was inspired to make my version. Again, made for mass-consumption, there was nothing wrong at all with the Colonial’s soup….I just tend to like my soups a bit more on the savory side and I don’t mind a slight amount of texture that the Colonial carefully got rid of.

Cucumber Soup

2 Medium Leeks (washed thoroughly; chopped; green part for stock)

6 Large Cukes (washed; de-skinned (save skins for stock); de-seeded

2C. Baby Kale (washed; chopped)

6 Tblsp. Fresh Dill Weed   2 Bullion Cubes

2 C. Heavy Cream         3 Tblsp. Butter

Make stock of cuke skins, green part of leeks, and baby kale stems. Sauteé veggies in oil until tender. Add 1 Qt. H2O. Add bouillon cubes to fortify. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain.

Sauteé white part of leeks in butter until tender. Add de-seeded cukes (cubed into 2″ pieces) and baby kale. Add stock and H2O to cover veggies. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover until veggies are tender. At the end of the simmer, add dillweed, salt & pepper and grind with an immersion blender. Add cream.

Top with a splash of hot sauce, then sour cream and a dab of mild salsa.

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June 07, 2015: Japanese Dinner for the Family

June 7, 2015

Family @ Sushi BarStory is king.

As an part-time chef and storyteller, it is not unusual for me to use food as yet another medium (to try, at least) to connect to my fellow-man, to make a bridge between thought and reality.

What experience should have taught me is that be it photography, literature, film, or food, you gotta play to the right crowd.

JoanneI have been known (sadly) to talk endlessly about how Joyce is sentence-by-sentence, the best writer of the last century…how Thoreau the most important and original. I can go on forever about my reasons for photographing the dolmens and burial tombs of Ireland…of how the interplay of light in nature may move me to almost ectasy…and how Japanese food is challenging, time-consuming and complex…and yet, at it’s very essence…simplicity and subtlety personified. I have to remind myself, that ‘tho I’m very passionate about all of these, it often means very little to your average person.

Jonathon

A couple of weeks ago, I got a birthday party invitation from my niece, Bryna’s 40th birthday. I haven’t cooked a big meal in a while so I offered to make a Japanese meal for the family as a gift. I knew this to be a substantial challenge as, my family would have little (if any) connection to Japanese food. However, I have been making dishes for the blog for a few years now, so I felt pretty sure of my limitations, as well as my strengths. I also had my ace-in-the-hole: Yoshio, and no one is better than bridging the East-meets-West cultures than him.

So, I dug in and created a menu that I thought would show Japanese food at its best, while catering (as best I could) to the Central New York palette.

Japanese Meal for the Family

Yoshio’s Salmon Ribbon:  a piece of salmon, wrapped around a shiso leaf (sesame leaf) a little lemon zest, fresh dill, salt and white pepper. This is all wrapped in a won-ton noodle,which is then fried and covered in a raspberry jam/lemon juice/Grand Marnier sauce and topped with fresh raspberries.

Sliced Cucumbers: Small English cucumbers sliced thin with a dressing of mirin, rice vinegar, and sesame oil.

Broccoli and Lime-Mayo: Blanched and chilled broccoli crowns in a mayo, yoghurt, mirin, and lime sauce with fresh dill weed.

Tamago Roll: an egg omelette sweetened with mirin, fried, rolled and topped with chopped scallion.

Age Dashi Dofu: Tofu, dusted in corn starch and fried, in a broth of wakame and shiitake mushroom, topped with shredded scallion, daikon, and carrot.

Kushi Katu: small pieces of salmon, shrimp, chicken, beef, sweet potato, crimini mushrooms, onion and asparagus, on a stick, covered in a batter of panko and fried.

Temaki Roll: a cone of nori wrapped around sushi rice, with matchsticked carrot, scallion, daikon, crab meat, and cucumber.

Temari Zushi: a ball of sushi rice, covered with strips of avocado. Topped with grated carrot, daikon and toasted sesame seeds.

Macha Ice Cream: vanilla ice cream, slightly melted and mixed with powdered macha green tea and re-frozen.

Yoshio's Mikan Cocktail: Plum Wine, Champagne and Cherry+Mandarian Orange

Yoshio’s Mikan Cocktail: Plum Wine, Champagne and Cherry+Mandarian Orange

The salmon ribbon was the appetizer, served with Yoshio’s “Mikan Cocktail” (champagne with a little plum-wine, garnished with a cherry and a slice of mikan [Mandarin orange.] ) We also had sake and green tea as well as a Japanese beer, rice crackers, and edamamae.

I had brought authentic Japanese music and my brother-in-law, Steve was kind enough to set it up on his music system. Both Steve and my sister, Mary Lou went halfsies with me on the meal, as a gift to Bryna and both did considerable prep-work for all the dishes.

A week before the meal, I met with Yoshio to concur with him on the menu. He approved and fine-tuned the dishes with good advice and a demonstration or two, to improve my technique. During my stay, he made a few dishes for me, one of which was a cold, silken tofu, garnished in shaved ginger on a bed of sauce that he made up on the spot. This dish was everything I wanted my family to experience: fresh, simple, unique and delicious.

Yet, I knew there going to be problems reconciling the Japanese diet with that of your average CNYorkers: for instance, the delicious silken tofu dish Yoshio made, would never fly with my folks. In fact, tofu was completely off the menu, until my niece told me that she loves tofu, so I included the age dashi dish (which only Bryna and I enjoyed, as the rest of the folks finding the idea of tofu repellent.)

Age Dashi DofuI also knew that I had not the training for, nor would the folks find appetizing, raw fish for the sushi. I actually brought a tube of wasabi, but as soon as I started serving food, I knew that wasabi would only detract from the experience.

I had a few surprises of tastes that I now take for granted that I should have considered to be rather foreign to my family: green tea, for instance. No takers on that one (except, once again, my niece.) Sake, also was rather strange to them. A few people tried the warm rice wine and expressed surprise that it only had only the alcoholic content of wine (they all thought it was a liquor.) Any form of seaweed was right out: my sister tasted a seaweed rice cracker and pretty much retched at the taste. Anything wrapped in nori was not eaten.

Tamaki IngredientsA big surprise was the disappointing response I got to my macha ice cream. I have made this a few times before and have gotten a favorable reactions from those that had never had it before: it’s only slightly sweet, but balanced by the slight bitter of he pulverized green tea mixed in. I caught my sister making a face after one spoonful, then she proceeded to lather the raspberry sauce from the salmon ribbon over the ice cream. In her defense, she is used to her very rich and sweet desserts she makes every Christmas, to great effect with her guests…so it stands to reason the subtleties of a Japanese dessert (which are invariably not as sweet) are lost on her.

Nicky & TysonMy own mistakes did not help at all: I have forgotten that even ‘tho I’ve made all these dishes to perfection before, these Japanese dishes take practice! Although the taste was perfect, the shape and presentation of some of the sushi rolls could have been much better. I also could have done a better job with mastering my sister’s stove top (a technology I am not used to) better. The oil temperature was way too high.

Still…bless their hearts, my family showed up and took a leap and could very much appreciate the work involved in such a meal. Perhaps I should be most surprised that some of my dishes were tasted and appreciated! Sadly, those that were appreciated were mostly the creations of others (all of Yoshio’s recipes were liked, as well as Baba’s Temari Roll.)

Temari ZushiThe world is an ocean of wonderful tastes, some from strange and foreign lands, just waiting for the stout sailor to brave the new horizons of culinary experience.

Thanks to my family for attempting this brief journey with me for an afternoon’s mini-adventure! I’ll be back with more delicious food (albeit more traditional fare) the next visit!

[One of the best things about a big meal like this is that I always end up relying on the contributions and input from others. Thanks to Steve and Mary Lou Swasey for being perfect hosts: their time, effort, remarkable prep-work skills…down to their ornamental china, which was perfect. Thanks to Steve for the photos of the day. Thanks also to Chris & Sara for their gift of the *best* sesame oil from the Saratoga Olive oil Co. and to Regan for the gift of dried shiitake mushrooms, and especially to Yoshio, for his recipes, good ideas, guidance, and for providing the rare supplies for the meal.]

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March 08, 2015: A Riff On A Classic

March 8, 2015

Riff On A ClassicMost of my adult life I have been prone to slam my mother’s cooking. In recent years, I’ve come to realize how unfair my attitude has been.

Like most children, I suppose, we don’t find the true worth of a parent until it is far too late. My mother had to cook, daily, for ten people. If she sometimes found shortcuts to stretch my dad’s salary and cover what must have been a huge drain on our household…well, now that I am older and perhaps a bit wiser, I realize she did a pretty decent job, all in all.

Like most women of post-WWII, my mom took advantage of popular foods of the day. Many of these included, frozen and canned foods. Some were bland and awful…and a few were pretty spectacular! One dish my mom made often was “her” tuna fish casserole. I seem to remember that it came right off the back label of a Campbell’s mushroom soup can. It was a combination of boiled noodles, a can of tuna fish and two cans of the mushroom soup (plus milk) then baked. It was cheap, fast, fed a lot of hungry kids, and was a no-brainer. Best of all, as kids, we loved it! No wonder my mom made it often!

I thought I could make a healthier, veggie-based, slightly more jazzed-up version of this dish:

Peel skins off 3 large portobello mushrooms (I put these in a sandwich bag and keep them frozen until I make my next broth.) Slice them 1/2″ thick, and saute in 4 Tblsp. melted butter until soft. Add the juice of 1 lemon and a splash of sherry. Continue cooking a little until the shrooms almost absorbs all the liquids.

Chop 1 head of broccoli. (In keeping with my mom’s economy sense, I used the stalks as well, but chopped them a bit finer.)

I set about 4 Qts. H2O to boil while I made my veloute. This is always slightly different, depending on the dish, but this one was:

4 Tblsp. of melted butter+4 Tblsp. flour whisked together on medium heat until it has turned a slightly tawny color. Add 2C. whole milk and 1 can mushroom soup and continue whisking until just thick enough to pour easily. I had some organic mushroom gravy so I added 1C. of that. Normally, I would have used veggie broth instead.

When the H2O came to a boil I added 1 bag (12 Oz.) wide egg noodles. These usually boil for about 7 minutes, but I did them for 6 (knowing I was to bake the dish, a bit al dente is best) adding the broccoli for the last 2 minutes. Drain.

Butter the bottom and sides of a large (18″ X 12″) Pyrex pan and add drained noodles and broccoli. Top this with mushrooms and add veloute. I then topped this with 1/2C. each grated Swiss, Asiago, and Colby Jack cheeses and a sprinkle of each ground pepper and herbs de Provence and baked at 325°F for half hour.

A crunchy, cheesy top with tender noodles and veggies underneath. Best of all was the earthy, tangy, lemony shrooms that accented every bite.

Mom’s dish was more easily made than mine, but with just a tiny bit more effort and time, this classic turned into a real treat!

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January 01, 2015: NYE Seafood Gratinée

January 1, 2015
Photo by Daniel Winkler

Photo by Daniel Winkler

Teja and Barb had their annual New Year’s Eve celebration at their house. This is usually a bring-your-own affair. Dan brought his popular sous-vide beef and we both made a sauce/gravy for it. I was hoping to make a reduction with the beef juice, but time got short and we had to resort to a semi-gravy instead to get the proper “sticking” texture Dan was looking for. Katie regaled us all with her delicious, tiny, and skillfully decorated cupcakes. As always (…and how I cannot imagine, this ALWAYS happens with Teja and Barb) everyone brought the perfect balance of meats, starches, veggies, salads, and sweets to round out the meal!

My contributions were a champagne cocktail for the New Year’s toast and a Seafood Gratinée with a Champagne/Vanilla Sobayon Sauce.

The cocktail was the very same “Poinsettia” Cocktail that I served Dan for Christmas. I added orange peel to the decoration as well as a cranberry, and used a rosé champagne that I’ve never had before.

The Seafood Gratinée is a Emeril dish he had published in a Christmas & NYE themed cookbook. I duplicated the Sobayon Sauce exactly…as it is perfect. The base I changed by adding lobster and imitation crab and for the “bread” part of this I used a cranberry/sage Triscuit cracker (which I found poor as a cracker, but thought would be excellent in this dish.) I also changed the cheese to Asiago.

Seafood Gratinée with Champagne/Vanilla Sobayon Sauce:

2 C. Cranberry/Sage Triscuits (broken into crumbs)
16 oz. Imitation Crab Meat
7 oz. Lobster Meat
1 large shallot-diced
8 Tblsp. melted butter
1C. fresh parsley (1/2 coarsely, 1/2 finely, chopped)
1 small parcel (.75 oz.) fresh chives
1 C. grated Asiago cheese

6 egg yolks
1/2C. Champagne
1/2Tsp. Vanilla extract
sprinkle of salt and white pepper

In a shallow pan, melt the butter and saute the shallots until soft. In a large pan crumble the triscuits, add coarsely chopped chives and parsley. Chop lobster and crab into chunks and add butter and shallots, also. Add Asiago cheese and mix. Add the whole mixture to buttered baking dish. Top with a sprinkle more of Asiago.

Over a double boiler (medium heat) add yolks and whisk until thickened. Add vanilla, champagne, salt and pepper and continue to whisk until thick. Top seafood mixture with the Sobayon. Sprinkle with nutmeg and fine parsley and chives. Bake 400F until top is golden (about 1/2 hour.)

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December 25, 2014: “Chrome for the Hollandaise”

December 25, 2014
Photo by Daniel Winkler

Photo by Daniel Winkler

It is interesting to me to trace the origins of meals that I have made. This one began with a  joke from social media.

Last week,I was fairly certain that I would be spending this Christmas away from family, at the same time my friend, Dan, was sending out feelers for what my plan was for this Christmas. He (kindly and humorously) sent me a post on Facebook that pictured Eggs Benedict on a hubcap, with the caption “There’s No Plate Like Chrome For The Hollandaise.”

Funny enough, I was thinking of Eggs Benedict for my Christmas breakfast, and he thought that it was a grand idea to join me. In actuality, Dan is the kind of guy that searches out us lonely former-Christians/non-denominationists to help us through the holidays. At the last count, he has netted at least three of us so far this season…and bless him for his efforts. I constructed a menu that I thought would temper the company with the season. Dan and I usually eat quite spare and wholesome. We mutually agreed to splurge on my decadent concoctions. It is testimony to our rather Spartan diets that we had to space out our decadence to stretch this meal over about four hours. I still feel the need to run a few miles to burn off the extra calories, but I feel it was worth it.

Christmas Brunch 2014: Eggs Benedict Broccoli Latkes Veggie Sausage “Poinsettia” Cocktail Fruit & Nut Dessert Crepes Espresso

Eggs Benedict: My rather untraditional (and vegetarian) approach to a classic recipe was to take  a slice of a sunflower loaf bread and to toast it under a broiler until lightly toasted. I then covered the top of the toasted bread with a slice of hickory-smoked Tofurky and then, grated Monterey-Jack cheese, and re-broiled until the cheese had melted. I then added a poached egg and topped with Hollandaise Sauce and a sprinkle of chopped chives.

Hollandaise Sauce for Two: .5C. Butter (melted) 1.5 Tblsp. Lemon Juice (warm) 3 Egg Yolks 4 Tblsp. hot H2O Over a double-boiler, melt butter, put aside. Over medium heat, whisk egg yolks until they thicken. Tblsp. by Tblsp. add hot H2O while whisking. Add lemon juice and finally butter, whisking all the while. Put Hollandaise aside and add to double-boiler just before serving to re-heat.

Broccoli Latkes: 1/2 Large Vidalia Onion. Diced, fried in 1 Tblsp. Butter until browned. 1 Washed, skinned and grated large baking potato. (I put this in a paper towel lined bowl for a while, to absorb H2O) About 1C. finely chopped Broccoli 2 Beaten Eggs 4 Tblsp. finely chopped fresh parsley 1/4C. Flour Dusting of freshly ground pepper and Italian spices. Form into patties and pan-fry in vegetable oil until browned on both sides. Top with sour cream and sprinkle with tarragon. [12/26/14 update: Tried these as leftovers this morning. The grated potatoes alone, made them too tough and chewy. I think the next time I will mix half mashed potato to half grated. It’ll take more time, of course, but it will be worth the effort to get a creamier latke. I think fresh chopped tarragon cooked with the onions would add more and better flavor, also.-SV]

I’ve prepared regular crepes many, many times before, but I’ve never made a strictly dessert crepe before, so this was an interesting derivation:

Photo by Daniel Winkler

Photo by Daniel Winkler

Dessert Crepes: .5 C. + 1 Tsp. Flour 2 Beaten Eggs 1 Tblsp. Brown Sugar 1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract .75C Milk 1.5 Tblsp. Butter (melted) Whisk eggs, then flour, then everything but the butter together. Rest for .5 hour. Add butter just before making crepes. On a non-stick pan, coated with melted butter, using a small ladle (a coffee scoop works well) over medium-high heat about 3 scoops in the pan. Cook each side until slightly brown. Flip. Place on a plate. Layer each crepe between a piece of parchment paper. When room temperature, cover with plastic wrap.

Crepe Filling: .25C. each, coarsely chopped pecans and walnuts. 1 Tblsp. Butter 1 Tblsp. Brown Sugar  for fruit (+ 1   Tblsp. for nuts) .25C Grand Marnier 1C. Blueberries .25C. Dried Cherries Wash blueberries. Combine with cherries, sugar, and Grand Marnier. Refrigerate. Shake occasionally. In a pan, melt butter and nuts. Lightly toast nuts. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon,  nutmeg, and sugar. Add fruit and cook (stirring often)  until fruit exudes juices. Add fruit/nut mixture to a crepe. Fold. Top with sour cream and a then a sprinkle of cardamom.

“Poinsettia” A cocktail I’ve adapted from a Christmas recipe book. My derivation substitutes vodka with Grand Marnier (my favorite liquor.) I do this glass-by-glass, when it is just a few people. In a champagne glass, fill 1/8th with Grand Marnier, then fill to almost 1/2 with champagne. Fill the rest with cranberry juice. I add a single cranberry to each glass. You may add crushed ice and/or an orange twist to this cocktail.

We also did a taste comparison between his gift of Makers 46 Bourbon vs. Regan’s gift of a regular Makers Mark. We both found the 46 to be more complex in flavor, but both quite enjoyable.

Photo by Daniel Winkler

Photo by Daniel Winkler

As a gift, I was able to give Dan my Christmas Bark and he deemed it “The best candy he’s ever had!”

As entertainment, I opted to introduce Dan to one of my favorite Christmas films, “Love, Actually.” Although Dan enjoyed the food, he detested the movie, finding the characters shallow, trite, and unrealistic. But, such is friendship. Dan and I might go back-and-forth on our opinions of this film forever, neither actually ever likely to budge. I’m dreamer…he’s a realist. C’est la notion d’amour. C’est la vie.

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