Hot Buttered Rum to Soothe the Xmas Crazies

Despite what those really fun Gap commercials featuring white people who can rap and fashion themselves into human sleds want you to believe, the holidays are not about adorable reindeer sweaters, but stress. How else to explain the pre-Xmas crazy flurries floating around this week? Shake ‘n’ bake Jessica Simpson dating vampireface Billy Corgan. Courtney Love unfriending Frances Bean: “I hate to spund cold…my daihgter is not always honest,” Love explains on her Facebook page. Nicole Kidman augmenting her Botox at the New York premiere of Nine with unblended white powder. Me, I can’t find the perfect Snuggie for my third cousin’s ex-wife, and I feel like my whole world is falling apart.

That said, there’s no reason to rub cocaine under your eyes when somewhere in the world there exists hot buttered rum. LeNell Smothers, of the late great Red Hook bourbon boutique LeNell’s, shares with Slashfood her toasty, creamy version that’s a far cry from “just chucking a pat of butter with spices in a hot mug of rum that ends up resembling an oil slick.” Makes enough batter for 10 drinks, which if you refuse to share, could produce a sugar butter rum coma that lasts at least until the 26th—when everyone will be too busy suffering cardiac arrest to notice you neglected to gift them.

LeNell Smothers’ Hot Buttered Rum

For the batter, cream together the following:

1/2 cup all-natural vanilla ice cream, room temperature 3 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground allspice 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg 1/4 tsp ground cloves 1/2 cup demerara sugar or brown sugar 1/4 cup agave nectar Dash vanilla extract

Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to come together. To serve, bring to room temperature. Preheat mug with hot water, then dump out water. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter to the warmed mug and top with 1 1/2 oz dark rum. Stir to dissolve. Fill the rest of the mug with hot water and stir. Top with fresh whipped cream and fresh ground nutmeg.

Whipped cream drink: [Photo / / CC BY-SA 2.0]

A Cookie Takedown Grows in Brooklyn

In this post-ironic age, a cookie party is hard to pull off. A generation or two ago you could have had folks over for confections without too much nudging and winking. Now it’d be pretty much impossible to pull it off straight. But anyone who’s ever caught Sarah Silverman’s Cookie Party! knows there’s still something compelling in baked goodies. Cookies are like Darwin’s finches, evolved with a seemingly endless degree of variety, each reflecting something about its baker. Even if relegated to single courses at holiday parties, cookies add atmosphere—there’s a reason stagers tell you to have chocolate chips fresh from the oven when you’re trying to sell a house. To load up on cookie inspiration, head over to Brooklyn and the Cookie Takedown this Sunday, December 20th, at 6:30pm.

The Bell House will do the hosting, with TONY’s Gabriella Gershenson and Baked’s Renato Poliafito on the judging. Matt Timms is your host, of famed chili, bacon, and mac ‘n’ cheese takedowns. His events bring glory to the amateur chef, and fortification to those who sit in judgment. Just $10 gets you all-you-can-eat cookie goodness from thirty different bakers, plus spiked eggnog to help you wash it down. Past years’ treats have included sugar cookies with whiskey-whipped cream, hazelnut love bites, and blue cheese and bacon cookies. But please, no more blue cheese and bacon cookies. Even something as kitschy as a cookie party has to know where to draw the line. [Photo/ / CC BY-SA 2.0]

Twice-Baked Potatoes Inspired by the Neelys

I was home sick from work this week with a nasty virus and nothing but the television to keep me company. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to browse daytime programming, and it’s just as bad as I remember. The only channel I could bear for more than thirty seconds was the Food Network. I dozed off to the soothing sounds of the Barefoot Contessa preparing a silky chocolate cake, and woke in the midst of a fever flash to the sounds of a Southern couple fussing over grilled Cornish hens and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. What was this? Down Home with the Neelys? I’d never heard of it before but I was instantly hypnotized. “Ohh, honey. I just loooove me some lobster,” cooed Gina, her voice dripping with sugar. “I know, baby,” Patrick drawled back. “Now check this out, y’all…” as he proceeded to brush a sticky orange glaze over the smoking hens. Lordy.

I felt like I was watching something private and slightly naughty. Maybe it’s the fever working, but those southern accents suddenly seemed the sexiest things I’d ever heard. You can see the Neelys magnetic connection when they move around each other playfully on camera. “That’s my man!” Gina hollers when Patrick successfully flips a perfectly golden hash brown patty in one piece. “Gimme some,” he responds, and pulls her in for a kiss. You have to think these two are getting it on like crazy off-screen. With episode names like “If Pat’s a Good Boy” and “Lovin’ in the Oven,” they’re not exactly dispelling that notion. The Neelys’ food is just as tantalizing as they are: tasty, decadent southern dishes that are homespun and fun. Blue cheese mashed potatoes, “Get Yo’ Man” Chicken, and strawberry pie for example. Gina and Pat are co-owners of the successful four-location Neely’s BBQ in Memphis and Nashville, and they give away a few family secrets on the show and in their new cookbook, Down Home With the Neelys. I had to wonder… do I have any recipes that would make the Neelys swoon? I’m no BBQ master, but I do make a mean twice-baked potato that would stand up nicely to the Neelys’ ribs. Check it out, y’all!

Twice Baked Potatoes 2 large baking potatoes 3 tbl butter 1/3 cup milk 1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar 1/4 cup shredded gruyere 3 tbl goat cheese Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 4 tbl panko breadcrumbs 3 tbl grated parmesan Paprika

*This recipe is very flexible and you can add in other ingredients to your liking, such as different cheeses, bacon, ham, or veggies.

Bake the potatoes in a 400˚ oven for 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven, slice potatoes lengthwise, and scoop out cooked potato into a medium bowl, taking care to preserve the potato skins intact. Add butter, milk, cheddar, goat cheese, gruyere, salt, and pepper (and anything else you’re adding in) and mix well with a potato masher or fork. When blended, scoop mixture back into the potato skins, pressing it in gently with a spoon. Sprinkle the tops with breadcrumbs, paprika, and parmesan. Return to oven on a baking tray for 10-15 minutes more, or until golden and lightly crisped on top. Serves 2-4.

[Photo/ / CC BY-SA 2.0]

Oh, Brothers: Classic Dishes from Tribeca’s Capsouto Frères

Longevity and New York restaurants are notoriously poor bedfellows. Surviving here requires daily attention to your food, your service, your atmosphere. Tribeca bistro Capsouto Frères is one place that’s beaten the odds by staying inspired, long enough to have a thirty-year anniversary in the offing. The eponymous Capsouto brothers are Egyptian born, of a Turkish Jewish family. The Suez Crisis in the fifties sent them packing for Lyon, France. Their sojourn there exposed them to classic French cooking, which can be found all across their menu. Legendary soufflés are bookended by soups and desserts, two of which Capsouto Frères was kind enough to pass along to us. Neither of these dishes requires special equipment or fancy kitchen skills, but serve them at a dinner party and your guests will think you’re fresh out of culinary school.

Butternut Squash Soup ¾ oz ginger root, minced 12 fluid oz white wine 1 fluid oz vegetable oil 6 oz onion, medium diced 1 celery head, sliced 1 tbs chopped garlic clove 2 lbs cooked butternut squash 2 quarts chicken stock 8 fluid oz heavy cream 1 tsp salt, to taste ½ tsp white pepper, to taste

In a large pot, heat ginger and wine until nearly to a boil. Remove from heat; steep until cooled to room temperature. Strain and reserve wine. In the pot, heat oil to medium; add onion, celery, and garlic, and cook until soft. Peel, seed, and dice the squash. Add the squash to the pot, along with reserved wine and chicken stock. Simmer for about an hour over low heat until the vegetables are tender. Purée and strain through a medium chinois, if desired. Add heavy cream, and return the soup to just below a simmer. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Yields 4 quarts, or about 16 servings.

Tarte Tatin 24 red delicious apples, medium size 8 oz butter (one-half pound), sliced 2 cups sugar 11” round of puff pastry (1/8” thick) or phyllo dough Whipped cream, ice cream, or crème fraiche (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Trim, peel, core, and cut in half the apples. In an 11” sauté pan (with ovenproof handles and 2” high sides), place butter to cover bottom of pan. Spread sugar evenly over butter. Place apples on their side in a circular pattern around edge of pan. Place more apples in reverse pattern as next inner concentric circle. Place one or two apples in center and remaining apples on top.

Put pan on stove over low heat. As the apples cook and shrink, insert the ones that are on top. Continue until all of the apples are inserted. Occasionally shake the pan to keep the apples from sticking. Raise the heat and continue cooking until liquid begins to reduce and brown.

Place the pan in oven until apples begin to brown and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 12 minutes. Cover with the pastry and poke holes to allow steam to escape. Continue cooking until pastry has browned, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

For best results in unmolding, let cool overnight in refrigerator. To unmold, place on top of stove over medium heat and run a blunt knife around the edge. Start shaking the pan and keep over heat until the whole tarte moves freely. If desired, warm the tarte in the oven. Top with whipped cream, ice cream, or crème fraiche. Serves 8-10.

[Photo/ / CC BY 2.0]

Whisky Bar None: A Boozy Scottish Dessert

It’s that time of year again, when we venture out into the bitter cold and brave the vast retail wilderness in quest of holiday treasures. Exactly one hundred years ago, also at this time of year, Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton was out freezing his bum off on a quest for the South Pole. To warm the crew’s spirits, they brought along a few cases of McKinlay and Co. “Rare Old” whisky — at £1.40 a case, hardly the good stuff, so they probably weren’t overly put out when bad weather forced them to dump it not a hundred miles short of their goal. It’s been sitting there ever since, frozen solid. Next month an expedition team plans to retrieve a sample in an attempt to replicate the original liquor. Hey, I’m down for a whisky popsicle. But I think I’ll skip the trip down south and instead whip up an Iced Cranachan, a frosty spin on a traditional Scottish dessert.

Benromach was kind enough to supply the whisky (of a caliber I’d never leave behind, even if attacked by a gang of emperor penguins in a blizzard), as well as the recipe. This fancy parfait treat is just the thing to warm everyone’s holiday spirits (we won’t tell Santa about those extra nips you’re taking from the bottle — but you might want to leave him some, lest you risk having to stock up on carbon offsets for all that coal you’re about to get.) Typically it’s served with a raspberry coulis, but this time of year I’m dreaming of a hot chocolate, so I also improvised a sweet whisky-cocoa sauce that’d raise the ghost of a certain Christmas past. Mr. Shackleton, I presume?

Benromach Traditional Iced Cranachan Courtesy of Charles Lockley, Head Chef at Boath House Hotel, Nairn, Highland

Vanilla Parfait 6 egg whites 1 cup superfine sugar 1 ½ cup heavy cream 2 vanilla pods, de-seeded 1 tsp vanilla extract

Tuiles 1 ¼ tbs melted butter ¼ cup superfine sugar 2 ½ tbs pinhead or very fine oatmeal (finely ground oats work well) 1 ¼ tbs flour 1 ¾ tbs Benromach Traditional whisky ½ zest one orange

Coulis 1 cup fresh/frozen raspberries ¼ cup powdered sugar ¼ cup water 3 ¼ tbs Benromach Traditional whisky Juice of one lemon

Whisky Syrup 1/3 cup superfine sugar 3 ¼ tbs water 3 ¼ tbs Benromach Traditional whisky

To finish Raspberries, mint leaves, and runny honey 8 thin ready-made sponge rounds

To make the Vanilla Parfait Wipe around the inside of the mixing bowl with half a lemon and then discard it. This will ensure your bowl is free from grease. Put the egg whites and sugar into the bowl and place over warm water, whisking until the sugar dissolves into the egg whites. Now remove the bowl from above the water and whisk until firm peaks are made and the mixture is cool. The peaks should be smooth and shiny. Now whip the cream into soft peaks and add the vanilla seeds and essence. With a metal spoon gently fold in the meringue. Do not overwork. Place the mixture into molds or ramekins and freeze. Remove 10 minutes before serving so the parfait will turn out easily onto a plate.

To make the Tuiles Cream the melted butter and sugar together, stir in the sifted flour, orange zest, and oatmeal, then add the Benromach Traditional whisky. Lightly oil some parchment paper and place on a baking tray. Take spoonfuls of the mix and flatten into round discs onto the tray, making sure they are well spaced. Cook for 10-12 minutes at 350˚. Remove and leave to cool.

To make the Raspberry Coulis Place the raspberries, Benromach Traditional whisky, water, and icing sugar into a blender and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and stir in lemon juice to taste.

To make the Whisky Syrup Place the Benromach Traditional whisky, sugar, and water into a pan and gently bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and let the syrup simmer for five minutes until thickened slightly, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

To Assemble First soak the sponge rounds in the whisky syrup. Then drizzle the raspberries with clear runny honey. Place a sponge on a plate and turn out the vanilla parfait onto it. Tumble the raspberries over the parfait and top with a tuile. Decorate with the mint leaves. Finish the dish by drizzling some of the raspberry coulis and more whisky syrup around plate. Serves 8.

Alternate Topping: Elizabeth’s Whisky-Cocoa Sauce 1 ½ tbs fine Dutch cocoa 2 tbs butter 1 tsp superfine sugar 2 tsp whisky Over low heat, melt butter in pan. Sift cocoa into butter, stirring gently. Add sugar and whisky and continue to mix until sauce is smooth and well blended. Note: from the original recipe, I converted dry and liquid ingredients from grams and milliliters as best as possible; a few ingredients were also Americanized for stateside shopping ease. Still don’t know what a “sponge round” is. A Nilla wafer, maybe?

The Gift of Drunk: Homemade Kahlúa

Last Christmas, Angelina Jolie gifted Brad Pitt with a tattoo designed by Frank Gehry. This Christmas, two Liverpool mates are getting each other Botox. As a Secret Santa one-upper, this is infuriating. It is hard to compete with such inspired awesomeness. In high school, I was the most sullen cheerleader in three counties, yet come $20 present time, all the other girls wanted to be my giftee. Why? Because I always gave thoughtful, slutty separates from Contempo Casuals, a two-hour drive away. Now things have changed. Mainly, I no longer live in the sticks and Contempo has gone to poly-blend heaven (R.I.P). Yet I refuse to be bested by temporary facial paralysis. Therefore, this year, liquor for all! Apologies to Mr. Gehry, but there’s no better gift than drunk.

Let’s be honest, it’s always more fun to spend money on yourself. Save that pricey single malt http://www.laphroaig.com/ for moi. For your others, whip up some syrupy, wallet-warming Kahlúa that shuns instant coffee and vanilla extract for the real stuff. Bonus: it’s homemade so everyone will have to pretend to like it. YumSugar http://www.yumsugar.com/2624013 shows us the way.

Homemade Kahlúa 1 750 ml bottle of vodka 1 1/4 cups dark rum 1 1/2 cups sugar 3/4 lb whole coffee beans 1 tbs cocoa nib 1 vanilla bean 1 cinnamon stick Orange peel

Combine all ingredients in a sealable container. Shake well. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks, shaking container several times per week. Strain into a clean bottle. Makes one bottle.

[Photo]

Rompope: A Creamy Holiday Cocktail from Crema

After years in the Mexican food wilderness, things are starting to turn in New York. Tequila bars are popping up all over, and we’re discovering authentic Mexican cooking that goes light years beyond tacos and tortas. Chef Julieta Ballesteros is at the forefront of this wave. Her elegant Chelsea spot Crema is known for sophisticated Mexican preparations, inspired by the chef’s native Monterrey, Mexico. Crema’s bar has also generated plenty of buzz(es), serving up creative margaritas along with classic micheladas and mojitos. This time of year, a creamy Mexican eggnog enters the rotation. According to author Karen Hursh Graber, rompope dates back to the early 1600s and the Convento de Santa Clara in Puebla. The drink was adapted from the European-style milk drinks brought over by the Spanish. The recipe below is creamy, refreshing, and a big step up from ordinary eggnog.

Rompope 1 can condensed milk 1 tbs vanilla 6 egg yolks 1/4 cup heavy cream A pinch cinnamon A pinch nutmeg Rum

Combine egg, milk, vanilla, and cream in a pitcher. Add rum to taste (a little more than 1/4 cup or so). Divide into 4-6 servings, top each with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. Enjoy!

[Photo]

‘One Tree Hill’ Bartender Mike Grubbs’ Favorite Winter Cocktail

I remember watching One Tree Hill five years ago, when Chad Michael Murray was the hunkiest of hunks (before he became that jerk who cheated on Sophia Bush and got engaged to a high-school senior). Even though CMM is long gone, and the show had to switch its 9pm slot with Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill still has a pulse. Now in its seventh season, a new underdog has been introduced — a charming, bearded bartender whose onscreen personality is not too different from his real one. Actor Mike Grubbs plays a version of himself, a character called “Grubbs” who has a knack for guessing what customers want to drink before they order. Grubbs is more than just an alcohol clairvoyant; he reveals himself to be a talented musician with hidden demons, too. (Would you expect any less from the CW?)

Like a good method actor, the real-life Grubbs had experience for the role. He’s a musician, fronting the band Wakey!Wakey! — he scored the OTH gig by impressing the show’s creator, Mark Schwahn, at an open mic at Park Slope’s Bar 4. The actor also spent some time behind the mahogany bar at Schiller’s http://bbook.com/guides/details/schillers-liquor-bar. The on- and off-screen cocktail shaker shares with us his all-time favorite winter drink, a riff on the French 75, which Grubbs calls Poire 75.

Poire 75 2/3 oz Poire William 1 1/3 oz Remy Martin 1/3 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 tsp sugar Dash of cinnamon Champagne

Shake all above ingredients well and strain into a champagne flute. Top with your favorite champagne and enjoy!

A Mind-Blowing Dessert Wine: Toro Albala Gran Reserva

Last week I took a holiday wine class at Paris’s L’Atelier des Chefs. I drink a lot of wine, but with little discretion. Whether it’s this year’s Beaujolais from the corner alimentation generale, or something a little more aged from Nicolas (a liquor store as prevalent here as Dunkin’ Donuts is in Boston), I will happily take a glass in hand. But since moving to Paris, I’ve decided to become an ever-so-slightly more knowledgeable enthusiast. The class was a success on several fronts: I learned the seven basic steps to wine tasting, avoided the chunky deer pâté without being detected (sorry, I’m not so French yet that I can eat Bambi), and — the best part — I discovered the most brain-erasing dessert wine (it’s 17% alcohol) I’ve ever had in my life.

Toro Albala Gran Reserva Don PX is a little-known and under-appreciated sweet sherry with a black-red color. Made in the south of Spain from grapes that have shriveled up under the hot Andalusian sun, it has an orange-y, dark caramel taste that reminds me of Sabra liqueur from Israel. It was the last wine we tasted and the only one that made every single student scramble to jot down where to buy it (in Paris at Le Taste Monde, owned by our convivial and impressively informed teacher Sylvain Albert). No worries for those outside of the City of Light: you can ship it via wine.com. I plan on getting bottles for the adults on my gift list, paired with some smooth, ultra-dark chocolate truffles.