Sunday, November 18, 2012

What To Bring This Thanksgiving: An Easy Side Dish and Cocktail Loaded with Fall Flavors

Whether you’re having Thanksgiving at home this year, or are visiting friends and family, the grapefruit and pear notes in a wine-based Aplomb will win everyone over with its simplicity and great taste.

When it’s someone else’s turn to throw a Thanksgiving feast, your host usually asks you to bring a little something to add to the cornucopia — something that won’t interfere too much with his or her preparations. Usually you hear, “A bottle of Pinot Noir would be great,” or “Bring something I can reheat as the turkey rests.”

We like to heed this request, as showing up with something unexpected can make the host harrumph. But instead of just a bottle of wine or another stuffing, we have two alternatives that we think may work in your favor: A wine-based cocktail and some carrot and parsnip triangles.

Roasted carrots and parsnips, well herbed, may be the perfect side dish. Make ahead and reheat when you arrive at your host’s place.

Let’s start with the triangles. This is a side dish that can accompany any meal really. Looking at the ingredients, we know that carrots are common enough, but parsnips at the table always seems to elicit a slight gasp, suggesting the vegetable’s exoticism. We often hear, “I never think to use parsnips.” Why not? They fit perfectly into the flavors-of-Thanksgiving profile — sweet, herbal, nutty. And as an added bonus, they are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as potassium.

Finding thick-bottomed roots that abruptly taper to a point are the key to making triangles.

When shopping for these root vegetables, look for ones that are conical in shape (a wide base that tapers to a point, but roots that aren’t too long). If you can’t find ones shaped this way, then any will do. Just don’t call them triangles. Perhaps “Carrot and Parsnip Parallelograms” would be more appropriate.

Carrot and Parsnip Triangles

sharp knife for slicing
cutting board
large bowl
cookie sheet (lined with parchment) or baking pan

2 tablespoon olive oil
5 large carrots (preferably with a wide base and narrow point), peeled
4 large parsnips (preferably with a wide base and narrow point), peeled
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried chervil or parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F.

On a cutting board, cut the carrots and parsnips lengthwise, in 1/4-inch strips. This will create the triangle shapes in varying lengths and thicknesses. Add to bowl, then olive oil and herbs and toss until all the vegetables are coated evenly.

Spread the vegetables out on a stone baking pan or a cookie sheet covered in parchment.

Place on center rack for 15 minutes. With tongs, flip and bake for another 10 minutes. (Watch to make sure the edges don’t burn.) Serve immediately.

You may add salt, but we feel the herbs bring out the sharp sweetness of the parsnips and the woodsy sweetness of the carrots.

Serves 8-ish. (It all depends on how many other sides are available.)

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Now that you’ve got your side dish out of the way, it’s time to focus on the drink. This one is called Aplomb because, at the eleventh hour, when the guests start to arrive, you want a drink with a name that evokes confidence and poise. The Aplomb is guaranteed to elicit oohs and aahs with its mix of pear liqueur, red grapefruit juice, and one of the easiest and delicious wines that is perfect for cocktail creations, Moscato d’Asti. Produced in northwestern Italy, this traditional dessert wine is fruity, with peach and pear notes, and not too sweet. You’ll also notice a slight effervescence if you take a sip. This type of wine is known as a frizzante, with the bubbles offsetting the sweetness. Adding pear liqueur brings out the fruit, and mixing with grapefruit juice creates a more interesting notes of sweet, bitter, and sour.

If you’d like to earn forever love and respect from your host, pre-batch the cocktail by shaking in ice and straining into a big 1.75-liter bottle. Bring a bag of ice and a bowl with you to keep it chilled at the bar, or, alternatively, if there’s room in the fridge (doubtful), or the host has a mini fridge, by all means keep it in there. Just take it out from time to time and refill your fellow celebrants’ glasses. A few gentle swishes before pouring should suffice.

(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1/2 ounce pear liqueur (we like Xanté, but any will do)
1 ounce red grapefruit juice (you can substitute pink if you cannot find red)
1 1/2 ounces Moscato d’Asti wine

Shake the first two ingredients in ice vigorously, so that little ice shards are created. Strain into chilled glass. Top with Moscato d'Asti. Garnish with grapefruit peel, if desired.

More Ideas, with Pairings

These other wine-based cocktails and apps may suit your taste buds (and your host’s) as well.
  • Deviled Quail Eggs paired with The Bird Nest (champagne, with a hint of blue curaçao and tequila)
  • Seedless red grapes and brie paired with The Wink (Moscato d'Asti, pear brandy, celery bitters)
Photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Ballad of Hurricane Sandy, or Drink Today, For Tomorrow You May Be Out

Our hearts go out to all the victims of Hurricane Sandy. 

Let’s not mince words: Hurricanes suck. Or blow, rather. For us Northeasterners, they used to seem exotic, exciting, a day off from work. But now, as global weather mutates from long-term exposure to the ever-changing whimsies of Man, compounded with Mother Nature’s own middle-aged problems, our planet provides little succor.

But if hurricanes provide one positive aspect, it’s that they bring people closer together. Just look at all the news stories about the fearless who rescued the elderly and sick from certain peril, the do-gooders who opened their doors to the needy. Selflessness on a grand scale.

The four stages of Hurricane Sandy:
Theo (calm), Curt (scared),
Steve (buzzed), and Paul (faking
Take our recent Man vs. Nature battle against the tumultuous Sandy. While we did not perform heroic deeds, what little we had to offer was in the form of booze. We’ve got lots of it, and as Sandy began its histrionics, we left our penthouse aerie to wait out the blustery evening hours with our lovely friends Curt and Theo, on the safer second floor. Our survival kit: several bottles of spirits, a few limes we had left in the crisper, a shaker, and a bucket of ice.

When coming up with a Hurricane Sandy cocktail, we eschewed any association with the classic Hurricane cocktail of many rums, passion fruit, grenadine, orange, and lime. Although we do enjoy a homemade Hurricane (we had them during Irene’s shenanigans last year [SEE RECIPE BELOW]), and we had the ingredients on hand, we wanted to be at least a little bit creative as the wind started to pummel the building. But we also wanted something simple, something that could be made in the dark if the power decided to give up.

We decided that our main spirit would be twofold: Laird’s apple brandy (not Laird’s Applejack, but the bonded, higher-proof version, with the words “Apple Brandy” on the label [SEE PHOTO RIGHT]), and Southern Comfort. We chose the apple brandy because it’s made in New Jersey, and we wanted to pay homage because we knew that the Garden State would be hit hard. Southern Comfort was a more difficult choice. On its own, it can be a bit cloying, but when mixed with other spirits, this New Orleans spicy peach liqueur can really add depth, creating oodles of new flavors. Sipping them together, we knew we were on the right track.

Normally, we would then start to experiment with fresh citrus or other juices to add to the mix, but a convenient bottle of limeade saved us from having to constantly squeeze fresh limes. When we mixed the three together, we knew the three ingredients made for a happy menage a trois. Present at the finish was a lingering slightly grassy flan-like flavor that reminded us of Żubrówka, or Polish bison grass vodka. This made us happy. So happy in fact, we whipped up a batch of Cheddar Blue Fricos to pair with them before we ventured down to the second floor.

While mixing up our first batch at Curt’s place, we heard a loud crack, followed by an instant boom. We ran to the window to see a huge bough spanning the entire width of the street, lying atop a parked car. Neighbors flocked to the streets to see what had happened. The last thing we wanted to witness was another bough crashing down, so we implored everyone to get back inside. Luckily we had some Hurricane Sandys to assuage our fears of what was yet to come.

Hurricane Sandy
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/4 ounces Laird’s Apple Brandy (bonded, 100 proof)
1 ounce Southern Comfort
1 ounce limeade (we used Santa Cruz Organic Limeade)
lime wedge

Shake in ice for 10 seconds and strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Squeeze lime wedge and drop into drink. Hope for the best.

Pairing Suggestions for Hurricane Sandy
Cheddar Blue Fricos

❤ ❤ ❤

And, if you’re a fan of the classic, here is a Hurricane recipe that everyone loved last year.

(adapted from Chuck Taggart, who inspired Gary Regan’s recipe in The Joy of Mixology)

1 1/2 ounces light rum
1 1/2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 ounces passion fruit syrup (if you only have passion fruit puree, use 2 ounces of the puree, plus 1/2 ounce of simple syrup*)
1 teaspoon of real pomegranate grenadine

Shake with ice for 5 seconds and strain into an ice-filled Hurricane or tiki glass. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry on a cocktail pick.

* In a sauce pan over low heat, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water, stirring occasionally until all crystals have dissolved. Let cool and transfer to a clean, airtight container. May be kept in refrigerator for up to a month.

You Can Help
Many restaurants, bars, distilleries, food shops, and liquor stores in the hurricane zone were hit hard, and some face extinction. Those that are still operating need your support right now to stay in business. Stop by one before or after work today, or make a special trip this weekend, to keep their cash registers singing. Or make a donation to one of the many charities set up to provide relief. Peace.