Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Addictive Qualities of Braunschweiger Spread paired with Ginger Almond Brandy

Braunschweiger, a type of German liverwurst, makes a spread so delectable, you may just have to lick the bowl clean. Pair it with a simple drink of brandy, amaretto, and ginger beer.

Growing up, we both ate our fair share of sandwiches, some of them slathered in “spreads.” For Steve, these spreads mainly consisted of Braunschweiger (more on this, in a moment). For Paul, these spreads came from a little can with the Underwood label: Deviled Ham, Roast Beef, White Meat Chicken, and lastly Liverwurst.

Liverwurst. Just saying the word induces scrunched-up noses and guttural utterances of disapproval from many Americans. We just don’t eat a lot of liver today, unless we grew up with a delicatessen diet or had budget-conscious parents who tried to make it palatable by saying “It’s good for you.”

And liverwurst is a tough one to pair with cocktails, especially spirituous ones, which only heighten the alcohol burn and metallic livery flavor.

Enter Braunschweiger Spread, a lighter, yet still rich and creamy, bastard cousin of liverwurst. It’s made of Braunschweiger (essentially fancy German liverwurst) and various seasonings, cream cheese, and other condiments. Literally, Braunschweiger means someone who hails from Braunschweig (Brunswick to English speakers), Germany, where the liverwurst probably was popularized, but if you break it down into two words, it means a Brown Man of Few Words. Perhaps an image of a laconic UPS driver popped into your head. We like to think that this is appropriate, as Braunschweiger Spread delivers without much ado what’s essential: fat to keep you sated, vitamins to keep you healthy, and flavor to keep you eating it.

We make a very simple Braunschweiger Spread that you can whip up in a matter of minutes (after a little shopping at your grocery store). It pairs delightfully with another German: Asbach Brandy. Mixed with some ginger beer and amaretto, it cuts through the rich creaminess of the spread. Make some before dinner tonight (you can have a light salad, for some green balance).

Braunschweiger Spread
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

This recipe is forgiving, meaning you can play with the measurements to achieve your desired balance of flavor. Packages of Braunschweiger liver sausage are usually 8 ounces, but save 2 ounces to try on its own with the crackers, paired with the Ginger Almond Brandy drink, to experience the difference.

3/4 tube (6 ounces) Braunschweiger liver sausage
1/2 package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon India pickle relish
1 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
rosemary crackers (or other varieties of crackers)

Combine ingredients in a food processor or standing mixer. Pulse, or mix on low, until the mixture reaches a desired spreadable state (you don’t want it too smooth or too chunky . . . in between is perfect). Transfer to a bowl. Serve with crackers.

Ginger Almond Brandy
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces brandy (we used Asbach)
1/2 ounce amaretto (we used Lazzaroni)
3 ounces ginger beer (we used Reed’s extra ginger)
cherry of any kind, with a touch of syrup (optional)

Add brandy and amaretto to a mixing glass and stir (or shake, if you prefer) for 15 seconds. Strain into ice-filled double-rocks or highball glass. Top with ginger beer. Add cherry, if you prefer, and give it a little stir.

The retro-inspired Braunschweiger Spread will make your party guests coo with delight.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Get Your Freak On with Cheddar Blue Fricos

Behold the Cheddar Blue Frico, a crisp wafer of cheesy bliss. It’s difficult to eat just one. Try them with a Manhattan Cocktail, an ideal partner.

The other day we attended a potluck at the offices of Gojee, a Web site devoted to amassing its editors’ favorite recipes from their favorite food and cocktail Web sites. Thrilled to have several of our cocktail recipes selected for their site, we decided to shake things up a bit and bring one of our party-food favorites to add to the array of offerings at the potluck: Cheddar Blue Fricos. For those unfamiliar with the term frico, it is an Italian parmesan crisp, made by baking or frying the cheese, mixed with a little flour, so that it forms into a lacy wafer as it melts and hardens. We came up with a Cheddar and Blue Cheese frico a few years back that pairs magically with whiskey cocktails, and decided to share these with the other bloggers and the Gojee team. Veronica Chan, one of the masterminds behind this uniquely curated site, informed us that there would be a bottle of bourbon awaiting us if we decided to come up with a cocktail to pair with the Cheddar blue fricos. Of course we had to come up with something. Why not our favorite cocktail, the Manhattan.

So we came prepared, armed with fricos on one hand, and a bottle of Cinzano sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters in the other. Paul mixed up a few cocktails for those whose curiosities were piqued while Steve offered up some fricos. Everyone asked, “What are these?” So we explained the origin of this species of Italian snack and how we altered it to suit our love of pairing whiskey cocktails with cheesy hors d’oeuvres.

If you are a true gourmand, you are not finished with your French onion soup until the last bits of hardened Swiss are peeled off the rim of the crock and popped in your mouth. Or the glob of Cheddar that has dripped from your pub burger, lying congealed on the cardboard container, is scooped up for the last moments of savory bliss. Eating a Cheddar blue frico is like having lots of these last bits all amassed and all to yourself. We think that’s why they bring so much pleasure.

After a few bites, and a lot of mms and rounds of “I love this,” we felt good. Maybe it was the Manhattans, or perhaps the good cheer and camaraderie everyone oozed. Regardless of the source, we all shared the in knowledge that good food and good drinks, all prepared with love and the intent to please, are what makes us human and happy.

Side Bar:
The night before the Gojee potluck, Steve whipped himself up a Manhattan, made with some Canadian Club whisky and Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, that tasted silky smooth after taking a bite of one of the fricos. Making a Manhattan with Canadian whiskey may seem like anathema to the most die-hard cocktail aficionados, but fuck it. If it tastes like the heavens opening up with cherubim singing the most dulcet tunes, then all sanctimonious rules of shaking and stirring be damned.

You should know that Cheddar Blue Fricos are super easy to make if you own a Silpat or another nonstick mat, and they pair exquisitely with a variety of whiskey cocktails, such as the Oh Pear, The Fascist, and Paddy. Choose your poison and start preheating your oven. You’re going to bring love and happiness to your party guests tonight.

Cheddar Blue Fricos
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

4 cups grated sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated blue cheese
spiced flour (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine cheeses in bowl and mix with a fork. Add spiced flour and continue mixing until incorporated. Scoop tablespoons of the mixture and place on nonstick liner on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake about 10 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and place entire cookie sheet on a wire rack to cool for several minutes. After cooling, use a metal spatula and carefully remove the fricos, placing them on the wire rack to cool completely. Once they have cooled completely, place them on a paper towel to absorb some of the grease.

May be made up to 3 days in advance. Keep in an airtight container with layers separated by wax paper.

Spiced Flour:
2 tbsp flour (1 tbsp for chewier fricos)
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/8 teaspoon hot pimentón
1/2 teaspoon dried chervil or parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork.

Canadian Manhattan
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Canadian Club whisky
1 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
maraschino, brandied, or marascha cherry, for garnish

Stir in ice for 15–30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add cherry.

The Manhattan Cocktail. So Perfect with Cheddar Blue Fricos.

(Cocktail Buzz’s preferred ratio)

2 ounces rye whiskey (or bourbon)
1 ounce sweet vermouth (we like Carpano Antica)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
maraschino, brandied, or marascha cherry, for garnish

Stir in ice for 15-30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add cherry.

To watch our video pairing the Oh Pear cocktail with Cheddar-Blue Fricos, click here.

Starting on Thursday, January 26, check out other potluck dishes fellow gojee contributors shared. Go to gojee.com and enter “gojeepotluck” into I Crave. You can also follow #gojeepotluck on Twitter.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz