Tag Archives: cheese

Bourbon Tasting Party

This past weekend we noted the chill in the air and the naked trees. Time to experiment with the warming comfort of some amber liquid. Bourbons have become quite popular over the last little while. Rob has always liked them and I am learning to appreciate this drink. I got a bit of a taste for bourbon on our trips to New Orleans.

As with many alcoholic beverages, side by side comparison is a great way to find out what you like or don’t care for. We decided to host a bourbon tasting event with a small group of friends (8 is a nice number for this). Some of our guests were experienced, but everyone was learning.

Bourbon 1

On hand we had 9 bourbons for tasting. Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace, Knob Creek Single Barrel, Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden’s, Bulleit, Booker’s and Maker’s 46, and for research purposes, Buffalo Trace White Dog, an unoaked, young “fresh” bourbon (moonshine). We provided ice, small shot glasses for tiny tastes and comparison, and whiskey glasses for the committed.

A southern food theme seemed apropos. As well we included many smoked items and cheeses that pair well with bourbon. With that in mind, we decided on pork ribs basted in black currant sauce and cheese grits as main fare. The ribs were rubbed and slow-cooked and then glazed with a BBQ sauce that was made with bourbon and black current jam.

Bourbon 6

They were accompanied by smoked nuts, dark chocolate, smoked shrimps, scallops and salmon from Boucanerie Chelsea, pomegranate, persimmon, physallis and apple, a charcuterie platter with ham, peppered salami and summer sausage from The Piggy Market, and crackers paired with a strong Roquefort, Prima Donna, St. Angele, mimolette from Jacobson’s, and Gjetost cheese as well. The Gjetost is noteworthy because it is a caramel cheese that’s not sweet and really goes well with apple and bourbon.

Bourbon 5

Bourbon 8

Bourbon 13Small bottles of water on hand are also a good idea, to cut the bourbon if desired but also to help guests pace themselves. For dessert, Rob smoked some pecan and butter tarts with apple wood.  We had enjoyed the happy accidental marriage of pecan pie and wood smoke in Nachez, Mississippi and were trying to recreate it with limited success. The smoke was a little bitter. Pecan chips might be the way to go.

Bourbon 7Guests tried and experimented throughout the evening, the women settling in and committing sooner. Personally I already knew I enjoyed Elijah Craig but found that I also really liked Basil Hayden’s. Both are smooth and milder than the more spicy, peppery choices offered. Side by side tasting really allows you to discover. Near the end of the evening, one of the guys got brave enough to open the White Dog. We included this for learning purposes. This is where Bourbon starts. And ends, had it been the first thing I tried that evening.

Bourbon 4White Dog. What can I say. This should be partaken of, upon reflection, only if the occasion arises where you are in your car. You have already tossed the gun out of the window, are being pursued by police at a high rate of speed and are about to hit the the tire spikes at the road block erected in your honour and then die in a hail of gunfire. Vile. I consumed less than a half teaspoon and my throat was as raw as if I had vomited bile for 24 hours. Not recommended.

 

 

 

Classic Baked Mac & Cheese

It is a blustery, rainy day in Ottawa. We are experiencing the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Can’t complain, it’s really not much different than a normal rainy October day. People south of us have really suffered through more devastating effects of the hurricane weather. That said, classic Halloween weather for this region puts me in the mood for comfort food and there is nothing that fits that bill more than mac and cheese. I’m sitting in Wag, a dog cafe, enjoying a cappuccino – Josie, the newest member of our family is beside me, happily gnawing an elk antler and making friends, human and canine. A soothing soundtrack and the warm orange glow of everything Halloween warm up an otherwise dreary day.

My “family” mac and cheese recipe hails originally from Canadian Living Magazine. I’ve been making it for 25 years and can no longer remember if I have made changes or if it is intact. I  omit the salt because I find canned tomatoes salty enough. If you are using no-salt tomatoes, add salt. I like this recipe because it is cheesy, tomatoey and uses summer savoury, a Down East herb from my childhood. This version is vegetarian but you can fry up some burger and add it for more protein, calories and to see you through a hockey game. Typically I use elbow macaroni. Tonight I am using Mezzani Tagliati — long tubular pasta — but any short pasta will do.

Old-Fashioned Backed Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6

250 grams Elbow Macaroni
250 grams Shredded Cheddar
28 ounce can Diced Tomatoes
1 tsp. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Summer savory
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Eggs, beaten
1 cup Milk

1. Cook macaroni until tender but firm. Do not overcook. Drain and transfer to a greased 12 cup casserole. 2. Drain 3/4 cups of the juice from the tomatoes and discard. Pour tomatoes and remaining juice into bowl. Stir in half of the shredded cheese , sugar, savory, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce; pour over macaroni and mix well. Top with remaining cheese. 3. In a small bowl, blend eggs with milk; pour over cheese covered macaroni. DO NOT stir. Bake at 350℉ for 40 minutes until top is golden.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cacio e Pepe

Another glorious, warm summer day in the Capital city inspires me to make a simple, light pasta for tonight’s dinner on the deck. Something a little creamy, not garlicky and goes with a nice rose. Cacio e Pepe, a dish we first encountered in Mario Batali’s now-closed Enoteca San Marco in Las Vegas, is little more than good quality egg pasta, butter, olive oil, pepper and cheese. Actually that’s all it is. And it is delicious.

Pasta is the star of the show so I recommend buying (or making if you are so inclined) fresh egg spaghetti. Italians treat fresh pasta and dry pasta as different ingredients. This dish requires fresh pasta for the sauce to coat perfectly, and it makes all the difference in the world. The simple sauce and eggy pasta will give you happy mouth. It with coat your palate with delicious creaminess and a nice black pepper burn. Such a simple creation that many people would dismiss it out of hand. How tragic for them. Serve with a nice light red or rose and some well chosen olives and voila! Dinner.

Cacio e Pepe
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Fresh egg spaghetti for two
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsps. butter
1 heaping tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses (use mostly parmesan in the mix, pecorino is good too if you have it), and some for serving.

Method:

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add fresh pasta and cook 3 minutes. Drain.
2. Meanwhile in a large saute pan or skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil on medium high heat. Add fresh pepper and toast for about 45 seconds. Turn heat to low. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water.
3. Toss cooked pasta with pepper sauce in pan. Add final tablespoon of butter and cheeses. Toss. Add reserved pasta water to loosen if desired.
4. Serve immediately.

Serve on a sun-drenched deck or garden patio with a dry rose and olives. Pretend you are in Roma.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

 

 

Classic French Onion Soup

Growing up in the seventies we didn’t eat out often, but when we did French onion soup was usually on the menu, especially in finer establishments. At home, my dad would make it for company. I guess that’s why I view this very rustic soup as elegant and special. It was also memorable because my dad would prepare my bowl with extra cheese and forgo the bread because I didn’t like mushy bread.  Now older and wiser, I have learned to appreciate the crusty baguette soaking in the rich, beefy broth.

Essential ingredients

I haven’t had onion soup in a very long time. Restaurants rarely feature it any more and when they do it’s usually a salty commercial concoction that I find disappointing. I was going through an old family recipe book the other day looking for some comfort food when I spotted my dad’s nearly 40 year old recipe. Paired with a crisp salad or a warm winter roasted tomato salad and a soft zinfandel, it is a perfect mid-winter pick me up meal.

This recipe is classic, simple, and delicious. Rustic yet over the top elegant when flambéed, it is true comfort food.

Cognac makes it better.

 

 

Dad found this recipe he recalls, in either a magazine advert or brochure for OXO flavour cubes. It contains a secret ingredient: instant coffee granules. The coffee lends a rich, beefy quality but remains unidentifiable in the final dish. Dad tweaked the recipe a little with some booze, and since I’ve never had it any other way than the way he prepares it, the tweaks are no longer listed as optional.

Dad’s Classic French Onion Soup
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
3 chicken bouillon cubes
3 beef bouillon cubes
1/4 cup butter
5 cups boiling water
1 cup Dubonnet (sherry or Marsala can be substituted)
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. instant coffee
4 slices toasted or stale baguette
Mozzarella cheese, sliced to cover top of dish (gruyere can be substituted)
Parmesan, grated to sprinkle over top
4 tbsp brandy or cognac

Saute onions in butter until tender. Dissolve the bouillon cubes in two cups of the boiling water. Add the bouillon, remaining water, Dubonnet, pepper and coffee to the onions. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Ladle into individual oven proof bowls. Place a slice of baguette on top of each bowl. Cover with a thick layer of mozzarella. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place under the broiler for one minute. Remove from oven. Pour a tablespoon of brandy over each bowl and flambe. This last step is both an elegant presentation but necessary as the brandy adds a bite and another essential layer of complexity to the final flavour of the soup.

Serves four

Click HERE to download the recipe.