Monday, November 30, 2009

Mike's Famous Holiday Eggnog

For the 3rd year in a row and back by popular demand... Mike's Famous Holiday Eggnog! This is a holiday must.

Below is the genesis of the holiday party starter told by Mike himself...

Christmas Eggnog

I never cook anything. Most of my friends and family are wonderful cooks so I try to be what every chef needs--an enthusiastic eater and kitchen helper. One thing I do prepare each Holiday Season is the eggnog. I first made this eggnog when I was in college and worked occasionally as a bartender for private parties. When a call came in to the student employment office for a bartender to mix large batches of eggnog for a Christmas party in Woodside I was the only one who claimed to have eggnog experience. I had, of course, lied about my experience and had never drunk a cup of eggnog. This extreme confidence in the face of total ignorance got me the job.

The first research I did was to buy a carton of dairy eggnog, pour it into a cup, and add a good dose of whiskey. It was terrible. It ruined the whiskey. I then indulged in some real research in the card catalog of the main library. After noting the Dewey Decimal numbers for the cookbook section (641.5) I plunged into the stacks and fumbled through all the dusty books until I recognized one from my mother's kitchen--the Joy of Cooking. It had a drink recipe for "Eggnog in Quantity" and I was saved. I couldn't check the book out because I had some unpaid delinquent fines so I wrote it all down (I still have that piece of tablet paper).

Two days before the party I called my employer and with all the authority I could muster gave her a specific list of all the required ingredients, stated that there could be no exceptions, and said that I would need to be at work in her kitchen three hours before the party to prepare properly. The eggnog was so well received that I was given a big tip and hired to do it again the following year. I have been making it for friends and family ever since.

Merry Christmas,


Eggnog in Quantity

• Be sure to use good fresh eggs. The best eggs have a firm orange yolk and are from hens that have access to free range.
• Use heavy whipping cream. This is not a drink that is successful in a low fat version.
• Use good quality liquor. I use a combination of liquors to spread out the flavors. The saying that "nothing succeeds like excess" is especially true when it comes to adding booze to the eggnog. The Brits say that "Christmas brandy will make you randy", so add an extra splash.
• Use fresh nutmeg kernels and grate onto each serving as desired.

Beat separately until light in color
12 egg yolks
Beat in gradually
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
Add very slowly, beating constantly
2 c. dark rum, brandy, or bourbon
These liquors form the basis of the "nog", and you may choose one
variety or mix to taste.

Let mixture stand covered for 1 hour to dispel the "eggy" taste.

Add, beating constantly,
3 cups of liquor (I use a combination and include some Kahlua)
2 quarts whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla (or to taste)
Refrigerate covered for 3 hours.

Beat until stiff but not dry
12 egg whites

Fold egg whites lightly into the other ingredients. Serve sprinkled
with fresh nutmeg and cinnamon to taste.

Yield is about 1 gallon. I always make a double batch. With all that liquor it keeps very well refrigerated. The egg whites will separate after standing so fold them back in. A jar of this eggnog makes a great holiday present. Have a cup while opening your presents. You'll love them all!

This is a very rich, high-cholesterol, high-octane eggnog. Do not operate heavy equipment after drinking.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is an absolute favorite of mine. As you can see above, I whipped up a decent platter of these bad boys last weekend in Napa for my family. People seem to think that this is a hard meal to prepare but I beg to differ. Here's the trick: It's all about timing and if you can get an extra hand (or two) you're set. Listen up...

Blender hollandaise is foolproof. Just add the hot butter very, very slowly so it doesn't cook the egg. Delegate poaching the eggs to one person. That way, everything will come together at once and the hollandaise doesn't get cold. Be sure to add white vinegar to the boiling water as it helps to separate the eggs. Watch the eggs closely so you do not overcook the yolk. You want it to be runny. Lastly, toast your muffins and warm your meat in the oven on a cookie sheet. If you put the oven on at 325 degrees you can keep a close eye on your muffins and they won't burn as quickly as they would if you were toasting and broiling them. You will need to allow extra time for them to toast that way...I suggest 12 or so minutes.

All the assembly happens at the very end so get your assembly line in order and crank it out. Be sure to finish each serving with some fresh lemon juice, a sprinkle of paprika and some parsley. I like to serve mine with some roasted potatoes.

Eggs Benedict
Serves 6
  • Water
  • 1/2 cup distilled vinegar, divided
  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 12 slices Canadian bacon (can sub with lobster, black forest ham, prosciutto and much more!)
  • 6 plain English muffins
  • HOLLANDAISE SAUCE, recipe follows
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • lemon for serving

Pour enough water into 2 large skillets to reach a depth of about 3 inches, and divide the vinegar between them. Bring both skillets to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Crack an egg into a cup and carefully slide it into the hot poaching liquid. Quickly repeat with all the eggs. Poach the eggs, turning them occasionally with a spoon, until the whites are firm, or to the desired degree of doneness, about 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs and transfer to a kitchen towel. Lightly dab the eggs with the towel to remove any excess water.

While the eggs are poaching, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Canadian bacon and cook until heated through, about a minute on each side (or heat in oven).

To serve, toast the English muffin halves and divide them among 6 warmed plates. Top each half with a slice of Canadian bacon, and set an egg on top. Spoon the hollandaise sauce over the eggs and garnish. Serve immediately.

Blender Hollandaise

1/2 cup butter
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Dash of cayenne pepper

Place egg yolks in blender with the lemon juice, turn blender on high speed for 5 seconds to blend. Melt butter in microwave until almost boiling. Turn blender back on high speed and gradually pour in butter. It will thicken into a beautiful yellow hollandaise in 20-40 seconds. The sauce may be kept warm by placing the blender bowl in warm water. The sauce cannot be reheated.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Test Kitchen: Rutherford Grill's Cornbread

This weekend, my step-dad bought a skillet and challenged me to recreate Rutherford Grill's popular cornbread. When I snooped around for a recipe, I quickly found out that it was a house secret. We know the flavor profile because we have had the cornbread so many times so we started there and created a recipe from scratch. After three attempts, we finally nailed it. Here is our variation of Napa Valley's Rutherford Grill Cornbread.

A couple things:
1) Don't even think about making this with out the skillet
2) Buy 2 ears of corn, grill them until charred brown and cut off the cob
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 jalapenos, fine dice with some seeds
  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal (preferably stone-ground; not coarse)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of bacon lard (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Special equipment: a 9 1/2- to 10-inch well-seasoned cast-iron skillet
Heat grill to medium high. Lightly brush corn with oil and grill turning every 3 minutes until charred and golden brown. Cut kernels off of cobs. Set aside.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Add butter, lard and oil to skillet and heat in oven until melted, about 5 minutes, then carefully pour into a medium bowl.

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, jalapeno, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk buttermilk and eggs into melted butter, then stir into cornmeal mixture until just combined. Pour into hot skillet and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in skillet on a rack 5 minutes.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dad's Thanksgiving Caviar

One of the things I love about food is that it is the absolute root of all celebrations. Thanksgiving? Turkey. Easter? Brunch. 4th of July? BBQ!

As I have mentioned several times on here, my aunt's Thanksgiving is bomb. But this post isn't about one of her awesome recipes, it's actually about my dad's contribution for the day... house-cured salmon caviar with homemade bellinis.

Now, my dad has always been a stellar fisherman. I have countless stories about fishing with him while I was young. How many people you know got a fly rod for their college graduation? Enough said. Knowing this and LIVING this, I am somewhat disappointed in myself that when I asked him for "that fish appetizer [he does] on Thanksgiving" that I was surprised at how down-right hard core it was. Here I am thinking, "go to the store, grab some bagels, buy cream cheese, cured salmon..." I was way off.

Turns out my dad puts his waders on and heads to a stream (usually in Michigan) in September and targets female salmon. He can actually t-a-r-g-e-t fish. Sheesh. He then takes them (yes, that's plural) home and cures the eggs for over 30 days in his fridge and brings them to Thanksgiving with all the fixings. He also makes homemade bellinis which he freezes and serves thawed out on Thanksgiving day. To wash it down, he suggests Champagne or a chilled flute of vodka.

Sorry to miss the festivities this year everyone. I love you all!

Preparing Roe for Caviar
Joy of Cooking

Remove from roe from fish as soon as possible. Tear the egg masses into small pieces. Work them through a 1/4 inch or finer sieve to free the eggs from the membrane. Place them for 15-20 minutes in a cold brine of 1cup plus 2 tablespoons pickling salt per quart of cold water. There should be twice as much brine than roe. Remove from liquid and drain thoroughly in a strainer for about 1 hour. Keep refrigerated during this operation.

Place the strained roe in an airtight nonmetal container and store at 34 degrees for 1 to 2 months. Remove, repack, and store at 0 degrees until ready for use.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Roast Turkey with Fried Sage and Pecans

OMG, are you as excited about the holidays as I am?!? We are about to enter into my absolute favorite time of the year where countless celebrations and festivities take place that are surrounded by great food, wine and bubbly. It's really the only time of year where gaining weight is socially acceptable and encouraged. They didn't make the gym a new year's resolution for nothing. So let's get started on some planning! First step, the Thanksgiving turkey.

If you can't get your hands on turkey stock, no big deal. Sub chicken.

Roast Turkey with Fried Sage and Pecans
  1. 1 cup pecans
  2. 1 cup canola oil, for frying
  3. 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  4. 1 cup sage leaves
  5. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  6. Kosher salt
  7. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  8. One 18-pound turkey
  9. 1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
  10. 1 onion, cut into 1-inch wedges
  11. 4 cups Turkey Stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Transfer the pecans to a food processor and let cool completely.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until very lightly golden, about 1 minute. Add the sage leaves and fry, stirring gently, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sage leaves and garlic clove to a paper towel–lined plate and let cool. Add half of the sage leaves and the garlic clove to the food processor along with the butter and 1 tablespoon of salt; pulse until smooth. Transfer 1/4 cup of the butter to a small bowl and stir in the flour; reserve.
  3. Beginning at the neck end, gently separate the turkey skin from the breast and legs using your fingers. Season the turkey cavity with salt. Rub half of the pecan-sage butter from the food processor under the skin, spreading it over the breast and thighs.
  4. Set the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan and scatter the carrot and onion in the pan; add 1 1/2 cups of water. Rub the remaining pecan-sage butter from the food processor all over the outside of the turkey. Roast on the bottom rack of the oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted deep in the thigh registers 170°; halfway through roasting, add 1 1/2 cups of water to the roasting pan and tent the turkey with foil. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, strain the pan juices into a large measuring cup; discard the solids. Spoon off the fat and discard it. (You should have about 2 cups of defatted pan juices.) In a large saucepan, boil the turkey stock until it is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. Set the roasting pan over 2 burners on high heat; add the reduced stock and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom and side of the pan. Strain the stock into the saucepan, add the pan juices and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the reserved pecan-sage butter with flour and simmer over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt.
  6. Carve the turkey, transfer to a platter and garnish with the reserved sage leaves. Serve the turkey, passing the gravy at the table.