30 December 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Sangria is one of the most delicious drinks of the holiday season.  Use white wine for a crisp, new-years-y feel.  

White wine sangria makes a great signature drink for your holiday cocktail party: fresh, crisp, boozy, and you can make the mix the day ahead.  Added bonus: fights scurvy...

Make-Ahead White Sangria Mix for your Holiday Party

Take advantage of the peak of citrus season and use fresh-
squeezed ingredients.

Get the mix ready the day before or the morning of your party.  

1 meyer lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
2 clementines, sliced
4 oz brandy
juice of 1-1/2 meyer lemons, 1 lime, 3 clementines

Put the sliced fruit in a pint-sized mason jar.  Add the brandy then top with the citrus juices.  This should almost exactly fill the jar.  Make up one jar of mix for each bottle of wine you anticipate turning into sangria.

Take a moment to marvel at how beautiful those jars of citrus fruit look, then put them in the fridge until you are ready to use.  (If it's a cold enough winter, you might be able to store them in your shed or a closed in porch... if you aren't sure, don't take the chance.)
Each pint-sized mason jar of citrus-brandy mix will do one 750 mL bottle of wine.  Use the jar to measure your sparkling lemonade, mix it all together and illico presto, you have sangria.

White Wine Sangria Instructions

Make sangria in a pitcher or punch bowl (depending on the size of your party and your aesthetic sensibility) with ice.  Since it's all pre-measured, you can start with as much as you want and easily top it up as needed. For each jar of sangria mix add:

1 bottle of crisp and bright white wine (like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio)
2 cups* of decent sparkling lemonade**

*don't bother with a measuring cup, just fill your empty mix jar to the neck
**this saves you from having to make a syrup and figure out the right ratio of syrup to soda water, and still lets you avoid the HFCS pitfall of most soda pop 

...give it a stir and you're on! 

[Hi, Mom!  You can skip this paragraph, I won't be offended...]  A million years ago when we were undergrads living in a student apartment with a then-new-friend who is a now-old-friend, we had the occasional sangria party: everyone brought a bottle of cheap red wine and piece of fruit.  A big bucket was filled with the various wines of suspect origin, some cheap brandy or maybe whisky (or whatever was handy) was tipped in, grapefruit-ish Wink soda to dilute and sweeten, and masses of uncoordinated fruit were chopped and tossed in for good measure.  When the sangria ran out and the fruit mostly consumed, anyone left standing was likely to go out for breakfast.  This bucket-of-sangria fun, I must point out, was started by previous tenants of that apartment long before we moved in... a tradition that was inherited with the apartment.  A tradition that should undoubtedly stay with the apartment, because anyone over the age of 25 is probably not immortal enough for the consequences of such an event.

If I recall correctly, sangria parties were generally spring events, something to help shake off the long cold winter.  So for the longest time, I thought of sangria as a spring or summer drink.  Bubbles, fruit, ice... what's not summery about that? 

But, lo and behold, I was wrong.  

A few years ago, I was talking warm weather drinks with a Portuguese-immigrant friend who found it amusing that I associated sangria with summer because, so far as she is concerned, sangria is for Christmas.  What an epiphany!  Even without thinking too hard about it, I am happy to defer to the Portuguese on this.  

But think about it anyway: of course sangria is a Christmas drink.  Citrus is available year-round, but December is when it’s at its peak season.  It’s the time of year we buy crate after crate of clementines and the end of the season for boxes of mandarins wrapped in thick purple paper.  Meyer lemons and early blood oranges appear on the shelves, limes become so inexpensive you can buy them in dozens without having a panic attack at the till, and heavy boxes of grapefruit pre-ordered as fundraisers for school bands finally materialize.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year indeed.

So make sangria during the holiday season.  (In a pitcher or punch bowl.  No buckets.***)

***Unless, of course, you are a student... 

And a happy new year!

The advantage of fresh but pre-measured sangria mix could become abundantly clear as
the evening progresses... 

17 December 2014

Moose, Pho Shizzle.

One of this year's best discoveries was that pho can be made at home. Now there is no going back. No phoking way.

We took a break from making sugary Christmas treats to make some nourishing moose pho.

Moose Pho

This is a two day recipe.  Make the broth on day one and the next day eat your soup.  The anticipation from the fragrant pho mist swirling through your house will just make it taste better.

Pho is the perfect solution for using that moose your neighbour gave you but you aren't quite sure what cut it is. 

Day 1: Broth

2-1/2 lbs moose (this is a great use for that little red chicken moose, those unrecognizable cuts evidently quite popular with Newfoundland butchers)

Due to a strange dearth of star anise and whole cloves in
Newfoundland, we had to beg a mainlander to send the spices. 
1 onion (cut in half, still in skin)
a piece of ginger root, about 4 inches long (or more, or less to taste)

7 green cardamon pods
3 whole star anise
1 tsp whole coriander
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves

1 tsp  sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce 

Put your moose in a pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to boil.  Then strain the moose and give it a good wash under the tap. (I know it seems weird, but it helps give you a clean broth). Put your nice clean moose into a CLEAN POT and cover with 4 quarts of water.

Char 'em good!
Char your ginger and onion.  Get our your cast iron pan and heat it up dry. When it's hot put the two halves of the onion and the ginger in the pan and start charring.  You want them to be blackened, but you don't want to set them on fire.  Be vigilant.  Turn occasionally.  It took me about 12 minutes to get a good char.

Put your onion, skin and all, in the pot with the moose.

Peel your charred ginger.  Use a spoon to to scrape off as much as skin as possible, then smash it with a heavy object. Jamie Oliver uses his fist for this kind of business, but I am incapable of doing this, so I use the bottom of pan. Bung your ginger in the pot.

In your dry cast iron pan, lightly toast your cardamon, star anise, coriander seed, cinnamon stick and cloves until just fragrant.  Add to pot.

Add you sugar and fish sauce.  Don't forget the fish sauce.  It makes the whole thing sing.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 4-1/2 hours or until reduced by half.  

Stick in fridge to cool overnight.  

Day 2:  Putting it all together

cold pot of broth with moose from day 1

rice vermicelli noodles

fish sauce
bunch of spring onion
hot peppers

Get your cold moose and broth out of the fridge.  Strain the moose broth into a clean bowl or saucepan.  DO NOT DISCARD the liquid this time!
Pick through the moose reserving the good stuff in separate container.  Get rid on any fat, bones, gristle and all the spices, the ginger and the onion.  You will end up with a beautiful broth in one container and the best meaty bits shredded in another. 

Measuring about a ladle and a half per person, heat your broth back up in a heavy saucepan.

Finely slice your spring onion and hot pepper.  Put these along with cilantro and some lime quarters on a plate to serve with your pho.  This way everyone can choose how much limey, oniony, hot peppery they want.

Prepare your noodles according to package instructions which will probably involve a quick boil and/or soak in boiling water followed by a cold water rinse.  Do not skip the cold water rinse unless you like mushy noodles (you don't, believe me). 

To serve: Put your cooked noodles and some shredded moose in the bottom of a bowl.  Ladle the hot broth over the noodles and moose, and serve with the fresh toppings.  Let everyone add toppings, extra fish sauce and sriracha to taste.

Remaining moose and broth can be stored (separately!) in the refrigerator if you will be eating more soon, or can be frozen for a quick meal another day.

According to caribougrrl, moose pho makes an excellent breakfast the next day.  

I know it may surprise you to learn that Harbour Grace is not on the cutting edge of contemporary food culture?!   Despite this, and thanks to the food-e-net, caribou and I are exposed to new wonderful dishes and delights everyday.  Having a blog has pushed us to try new and tastier things and has made our lives infinitely more delicious.  

You have to drive to St. John's or Corner Brook to get good pho, you can't just say to yourself, hey, let's get pho from that cute little Vietnamese place down the road in the middle of nowhere.  But we read about it.  We saw the pictures. We drooled.  We got frustrated by the complete absence of key spices in the local shops.  We sweet-talked a friend into mailing us star anise and whole cloves from the mainland.  

Then we made pho.  Lots of pho of all sorts. There is no going back now. No phoking way.

Fefe Noir had to dig through the snow to rescue the last of the cilantro.  Well, she would have had to dig through the snow if it hadn't melted...

UPDATE RE: SPICES: We have it on twitter authority that star anise can be found, at least sometimes, in St. John's at the Magic Wok Chinese Grocery on Duckworth St. and the Blackmarsh Rd. Dominion.  I'm pretty sure I scoured the Dominion stores, but maybe my timing was wrong.  Whole cloves should be able to be found everywhere, but over the last few months we had no luck at all... perhaps with the stores stocking holiday foodstuffs, it's a good time to keep a look out.

5 December 2014

It's Been Nuts Around Here

A busy summer of outdoor projects, a busy fall of hurrying to complete outdoor projects, the death of a laptop... but the snow has returned and so have we.  Just in time for edible gifting season!

Simple ingredients + simple recipe = biggest hit at your office holiday potluck.

Spicy Praline Pecans

(this is a super easy recipe, which is good because after you accidentally eat the entire first batch you can quickly make them again for gifting)

3 to 5 c. pecan halves*
1 egg white, beaten until slightly frothy
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, lightly packed
Go on, mix it with your hands. No more dirty dishes than necessary.
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

*the larger the pecan, the lower the surface-area-to-volume ratio, so the larger the pecans, the more volume you can coat... use your judgement or if I've confused you, start with 3 cups and if you have too much coating add more**

**if you add more, you will want a second egg white so you can coat the nuts in egg before tossing with the sugar mixture

Pre-heat oven to 325F.  Line one large or two medium baking trays with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the pecans with the beaten egg white until all nuts are well coated.

Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly in a small mixing bowl.  Pour over the pecans and mix until evenly coated.  Don't be afraid to use your hands for the mixing.

Spread the pecan mixture over the baking tray(s) and bake for 25 minutes, stirring to turn them after 15 minutes.

Slide the parchment and nuts onto a cooling rack. Let cool well before you snag one to taste it, otherwise you will burn your mouth.  Let cool completely before storage. 

Store in a cool dry place, in an airtight container.

The finished praline pecans are sweet, spicy, crunchy and totally moreish.


A note about the nuts:  Yes, 1 whole teaspoon of ground cayenne is a lot of cayenne.  If you lick your fingers after mixing the nuts and coating, it will taste very hot.  (I know, I know, raw egg panic and all that.  Don't lick your fingers if it bothers you.)  Some of the heat gets lost in the baking, which is why you need so much cayenne... the whole point is for there to be some heat behind the sweetness.  Trust me.  If you are making these for gifting***, wrap them up as soon as they are completely cool because you will otherwise find that it is impossible to stop eating them.  If you're feeling full of holiday bonhomie, try your hand at sugarplums and eggnog fudge for a fantastic gift trio.

***Make them for gifting for sure; these will make you very popular.  I'm torn about what to advise you now though because people will ask for the recipe.  My instinct is to say don't give it to them and protect your gift-giving-god status... on the other hand I really really would prefer you sent them to the blog...

Man, have we missed blogging.  But the Fence Project (phase I) is complete, the Window Restoration Project (phase I) is one storm frame installation away from being done, and the dead laptop has been replaced. Our white board has a list a mile long of good foods to document.  We've got a big long delicious winter ahead...