Saturday, December 31, 2011

MiddleBar Guest Chef: Rachel

It's Gingerbread season and our resident pastry chef Rachel brought us a Superdome (ok more like who-dat house) for Monday night's game. We liked it so much we asked her to share the recipe with us. 

"This was a staple of the holidays when I was growing up. Every year, my mom made a delicious Gingerbread house which we demolished with glee on New Year’s Eve. I remember being small and standing on my step stool at my place section of the counter watching as she rolled out the dough. I got to help cut out cookies and place trees and make the blizzard. As I got older I got to have more responsibility such as attaching the roof or actually cutting out the pieces. It was such a fun thing to do with my mom as a kid and so when I grew up and moved out on my own, the tradition continued.

The recipe below is taken almost verbatim from my mother’s cookbook except for a few minor tweaks I make and really enjoy." --Rachel

Gingerbread Dough (yields one small gingerbread house and 2 dozen small cookies)
1 1/4 cups sugar 
3/4 cup maple syrup 
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 
1 tablespoon ground cloves 
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg 
3/4 cup whipping cream 
1 stick butter, melted 
2 teaspoons baking soda 
4 cups flour (I like the light Whole Wheat from Trader Joe’s but, hey, that’s just me)

Step 1.) Making the Dough
Measure all ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix until completely smooth and free of lumps. (If the dough feels too heavy to mix, hand knead it until smooth.) Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least overnight, preferably for two days. 

Download and Print out for your house!
Step 2.) The Procedure
On a well-floured board, roll out about 1/5 of the dough to a thickness of a little more than 1/16 of an inch. Roll from the center out. After a few passes with the rolling pin, lift the dough off the board to rotate and, if necessary, to add flour to prevent sticking. Keep your hands and the rolling pin floured as well. Working in a cool kitchen helps, too. 

Lay the paper patterns over the dough and cut along the edges with a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or cookie cutter. (For a traditional cottage: one end wall should have a door as in the picture on top of this page; the other end should have a window.) 

Remove each piece with a spatula immediately after cutting and place on a buttered cookie sheet. (I used Parchment Paper this year and it worked great!) Roll out additional dough as needed to cut out all the house pieces. Then cut trees, shrubs, people, animals, skis, fences, ladders--whatever you would like to see in the "yard". Use another large chunk of dough to roll out a 10x12 inch oval, slightly thicker than the house pieces. This will be the "lot" your house will stand on. 

Step 3.) The Baking

Bake the pieces for five or six minutes in 350°. (As oven temperatures vary, bake a test cookie first.) Keep an eye on the small pieces to keep them from turning too dark. Let set for a minute or two on the cookie sheet, then remove carefully with a spatula and let cool on a wire rack or wooden board. Because it is thicker, the "lot" will take several minutes longer to cook. 

Step 4.) The Decorating

Mix 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar with 5 tsp of water in a small mixing bowl until spreading consistency.  If you do not have pastry bag, make a funnel out of piece of waxed paper folded in two. Roll into a cone and secure with two or three pins. Fill with frosting and cut a small hole in the tip. Carefully squeeze out frosting to draw a straight or wavy line around all the house pieces. Draw shingles on the roof and add hearts and other little touches where they look nice. (Here's where you get creative even if using my standard house design. The decoration says it's your very own house.) Let dry several hours, preferably overnight, before assembling the house. 

Step 5.) Putting the House Together
Place 1/2 cup of sugar in a frying pan. Melt carefully over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. When the sugar begins to turn brown around the edges, begin to stir to avoid burning. Then turn the heat down and keep it as low as possible. The sugar should remain liquid but not start turning really brown. 

Working carefully (Ouch! Hot sugar hurts!) but quickly, dip the bottom of the back wall in the melted sugar and place it in the back of the "lot". Hold for a few seconds to set. The sugar hardens quickly and the wall will soon stand on its own. Then pick up a side wall. Dip the end that will form a corner with the back wall, then dip the bottom, and press the wall in place. Repeat with the remaining walls. Watch out for your fingers! If the sugar hardens too quickly to form a good joint, pick up extra sugar with a teaspoon and pour it into place. To put on the roof, use a teaspoon to put some sugar on top of the walls and press the roof sections in place. Drizzle an extra spoonful of sugar where the roof sections meet to reinforce the seam. 

Step 6.) More Decorating!

Decorate the yard as you wish with trees, animals, and people, Walnuts make nice rocks, and raisins and chocolate chips can edge garden paths. Last of all, put some powdered sugar in a tea strainer and make a snowfall.

Give it a try, have fun, and after the oohs and ahhs die down, break that sucker open and eat your hard work!

Enjoy Ya'll!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oh My Darlin' Clementine

It's clementine season again and these gorgeous little cuties are in every grocery store. The clementine is a sweet California mandarin harvested only in December.  Mandarins are not just "mini oranges" they are seedless, grow on smaller citrus trees, and are much easier to peel.

Clementines are unbelievably sweet and tender and are perfect for only a few weeks. Enjoy this clementine themed dinner quickly before these December treats are out of season!

Clementine Grilled Chicken Marinade
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp Angostura bitters
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of 5 clementine oranges
1/4 cup olive oil

Score 2 chicken breasts crosswise and salt & pepper liberally. Add the chicken and marinade in a plastic bag and massage the chicken to cover with marinade (Reserve 2 tbsp of marinade for couscous).  Refrigerate for 45 minutes to 2 hours massaging the chicken a few times throughout the marination.  Grill and serve with Clementine Couscous.

Clementine Couscous
1 cup Israeli couscous
3 clementines
1 tbsp chopped shallot
1 tbsp fresh mint
Juice of 1 clementine
2 tbsp of reserved chicken marinade

Cook couscous to package directions drain and cool. Add shallot, mint and reserved marinade. (NOTE: please don't cross contaminate your chicken marinade with couscous marinade I don't think I need to say that, but just so we are clear.)  Peel 2 clementines and add pieces to the salad mixing them well with the marinade so that they don't dry out. Serve at room temperature with clementine chicken garnished with fresh mint.

Oh MY darlin'!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quick Fix: Pesto Martini

Bring basil to your cocktails but do it with style. Basil adds a great flavor to your drinks and pairs nicely with the juniper profile of gin.
Try the Pesto Martini for a treat tonight.

2 1/2oz dry gin
1/2oz dry vermouth
3 basil leaves
1/2oz jigger of pine nuts

Gently muddle 2 basil leaves and pine nuts in a mixing glass. Add ice, gin, vermouth, and stir. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a large basil leaf and a few pine nuts.

If it's good enough for pasta it's good enough for gin.

Enjoy Ya'll!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

MiddleBar: Christmas Fix

Ok, ok, I'll stop blogging about eggs, I promise.


Not until after Christmas because no other beverage is tied to the holidays quite like eggnog. Since you just learned all about eggs this week, you can drink your eggnog the proper way, instead of from that crappy bottle they sell at the grocery store.

Unfortunately, I hate eggnog so there is no existing MiddleBar recipe for this classic Christmas delight. Have no fear loyal readers, I have found a recipe that I think you'll enjoy, and just for fun I've thrown in a recipe for everyone's other favorite holiday treat.....Fruit Cake!!!

River Road Recipes
Both recipes come unedited from the River Road Recipes Book the unofficial textbook of Louisiana cuisine.  This book is in every self-respecting southern cook's home and includes recipes from "How To Make A Roux" to "Squirrel Country Style" (no, I am not kidding).

The book was published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge in 1959, so the recipes found in it are a bit dated (and by a bit I mean extremely dated). It's an amazing snapshot of the southern kitchen and definitely one for your collection. I mean because really, where else are you going to find a recipe for "Jellied Guacamole Salad"?

I hope you enjoy these two recipes around the tree tomorrow morning and consider the River Road Recipes Book my gift to you!

Mrs. L. C. Kuttruff's Date Fruit Cake
8 eggs
2 cups white sugar
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
3 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
8 cups nuts
1 lb candied cherries
1 lb candied pineapple (cut up)
2 lbs pitted dates

Set oven at 250 and grease and flower loaf or tube pans. Beat eggs together. Add sugar slowly, then 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt, which have been sifted together.  Add flavoring. Use other cup flour to flour fruit and nuts. Then add to cake mixture. Pack in lined, greased, and floured tins. Bake 2 1/2 hours at 250 with pan of hot water in oven under cake. Leave fruits and nuts in original pieces except for pineapple.

Mrs. Ralph Pearlman's Eggnog II
1 dozen eggs
1 quart of cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pint whiskey
Separate eggs. Beat yolks and add sugar until creamy.  Add whiskey slowly.  Add whipped cream and stir well.  Whip half of the whites (6) and add to the above mixture by folding them. Chill well. Serves 12-14.

MiddleBar wishes you a Merry, Merry Christmas Ya'll!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quick Fix: Bacon & Eggs

Bacon & Eggs Cocktail
Yesterday's post covered the use of raw eggs in cocktails and since you're no longer afraid you should try this!  I don't usually recommend whiskey for breakfast but breakfast for whiskey is fantastic.

2oz MiddleBar House Bacon Bourbon
1/4oz good maple syrup (spring for the expensive kind, sorry Aunt Jemima)
3 dashes of orange bitters
1 small egg yolk

Dry shake (if you read yesterdays post you know what this means) your bourbon, syrup and bitters. Once the ingredients are fully enmeshed, add the ice and shake well again*. Strain and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass with a slice of Bacon brushed with maple syrup.

*Due to the grease of the bacon and lack of acid in this cocktail egg whites will not froth in the same way as in a sour so don't dunk your bacon in the drink. 

MiddleBar House Bacon Bourbon is a great holiday treat, check out our blog post Drunken Pigs for more information on creating your own house blend.

Good Mornin' Ya'll!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The incredible edible (and drinkable) egg!

A little squeamish about cracking an egg into your cocktail? I'm not surprised, many people are. I was skeptical myself and it took some major cajones to take that first sip that I thought was certainly going to contain salmonella. Guess what? It didn't.

Now don't assume that the alcohol in your cocktail will kill the germs that lurk in egg whites. You've got to take good care of yourself and your customer (aka your friends) when using raw eggs. Although there are much harsher FDA requirements these days raw eggs still come with some degree of danger. It's best to buy extremely fresh eggs, keep them super cold, use them quickly, and wash them (and your hands) thoroughly before and after using eggs. I also encourage washing your bar tools quickly after each use to combat germs and smells.

Farm fresh eggs are easy to get your hands on these days so buy them! Spending a little more money for a safer product seems like a no-brainer to me, and it's important to support local farms. To learn more about my favorite local farm, Bayou Farms, and their farm fresh eggs click here. 

When using raw eggs in your cocktails there are a few notes to follow:
1. It's definitely not recommended to served cocktails with raw eggs to children and pregnant women. Since they shouldn't be having cocktails anyway you should be in the clear.
2. Egg whites stink, make sure there is something "on the nose" such as bitters or mint to mask the smell.
3. Get creative, experiment with making designs in your whites, running a toothpick through a few drops of bitters on top of whites gives your cocktails a SUPER professional look.
4. Keep it cold and clean (surfaces, tools, hands, glasses, etc.)
5. Dry Shake (super nerdy explanation below)

Dry shaking is the process of shaking a drink without ice to encourage emulsification. Egg whites when combined with oxygen stretch the egg's protein molecules and traps this oxygen inside creating the foam.  The pH of albumen (egg white) changes when an acid is added which stabilizes the foam. This is why the head of a pisco sour is so frothy and foamy. Acids and egg whites are difficult to mix so the shaking process will take some muscle but the result is a thick foam. When egg whites come in contact with any sort of fat or oil the proteins break down causing the oxygen to escape so keep your fingers and bacon out of your drink!

Still concerned? You can always use pasteurized eggs or Fee Brother's Foam as a substitution.  Using these ingredients will not create the same mouth feel or flavor of your drink but if your piece of mind is important, don't miss out on a great cocktail just because you don't want to use eggs.

Cock-a-doodle-do Ya'll!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quick Fix: Mint Julep Hot Tea

It's chilly outside and theres nothing better than a nice hot glass of tea in the evening.  Hot whiskey tea has been a longtime favorite of mine for the winter months. Enjoy this Mint Julep Hot Tea this holiday season.

1 Mint flavored tea bag
1 cup hot water
1 oz demerara sugar
1 1/2 oz Bourbon
3 mint sprigs

Steep the teabag about 5 minutes in 1 cup of boiling water. Gently muddle the demerara sugar and the leaves of mint sprigs. Add the hot tea, garnish with lemon and mint sprig.
Nothing's better by the fire. Try it Ya'll!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lemon Truffle Risotto

Risotto is a dish that strikes fear in the heart of many a young chef.  Cookbooks listing precise cooking times and temperatures make recipes calling for risotto easy to pass up.  MiddleBar has perfected a recipe for an amazing lemon truffle risotto that's super easy to make.  It doesn't need a ton of time or constant attention but keep these two things in mind:

1) The more your risotto is stirred, the creamier it will become.
2) The longer your risotto cooks, the creamier it will become. 

It's a classic Italian comfort food and like all great comfort foods, it's made by Italian grandmothers who have a ton of time. If you only have 20 minutes to make dinner, it might be a night for Kraft Mac N Cheese but if you've got some time, don't be Mageirocophobic and make some risotto!

MiddleBar Risotto w/ Grilled Chicken Breast
You'll need:
2 tbsp butter
1 cup Arborio Rice
14oz of chicken broth
1/4 tsp truffle salt
       2-4 cups water
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Truffle oil

Melt butter until it is brown, not burned, brown. Add rice and 1 cup of white wine. Bring to a slight boil stirring often. Add salt. Continue to add water and chicken broth slowly while stirring  for the next 30-45 minutes (do not be afraid to add more or less liquid as necessary to keep your risotto from drowning or drying out). Half way through cooking add the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon. The more slowly you add water and more often you stir will effect the overall creaminess of the dish.  Once the rice is al dente and most of the water is absorbed, remove from heat and quickly whip in cheese vigorously (some recipe's will call for butter at this stage as well but I find that there is enough butter to make it creamy enough but if you want it more decadent, please do not let me stand if your way). Garnish with a drizzle of Truffle oil, lemon zest and cracked black pepper. Serve this risotto as a side dish (serves 4) or as a meal (serves 2).

This is a dish that needs a ton of love and care but don't worry, it's worth it!! And if babysitting isn't quite your thing, you'll just have to come to MiddleBar to get your risotto fix.

Ciao, Ya'll! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quick Fix: The Cucumber Rose

The Cucumber Rose 
The Cucumber Rose
1 oz Hendrick's Gin
2 oz cucumber water
1 oz lemonade
5 drops of rose water
½ 1 lime
fill sprite

The subtle blend of rose water and cucumber in this cocktail highlights the flavors of Hendrick's Gin. Hendrick's signature method of distillation blends a juniper based distillate from a small batch pot still with a botanical infused distillate from a patented Carter-Head Still. 
This method of blending the 2 distillates rather than distilling all the ingredients together brings the cucumber and rose petal flavors to the nose without being overpowered by juniper.  Speaking of overpowering, be gentle with your rose water it can quickly ruin your drink. 

Cheers ya'll!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Recession Special Quick Fix: Top Ramen

Today's Quick Fix celebrates everyone's favorite college delicacy Top Ramen. You missed out on this little gem back in the day? Don't worry you can learn more about Top Ramen here.
At MiddleBar we were feeling a bit nostalgic so here's our grown up version for all you graduates.

What you'll need:
1 red onion
1 white onion
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 celery root bulb peeled
1 smallish ginger root
2 large carrots peeled
3 celery stalks & leaves
3-5 sticks of lemongrass (outer layer removed cut into 1/2in pieces)
3 limes
1 lemon
2 12oz cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 12oz can of peeled whole tomatoes drained and cut in 1/2
1 cup edamame
1 1/2 cup mushrooms sliced (what ever kind you prefer)
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch scallion
1/4 tsp Turmeric
2 pinches Chinese 5 Spice
2 pinches fennel seed
1ish tsp of Sambal Chili sauce depending on your level of desired spice
Salt to taste
3 packs Top Ramen (you're throwing out that package of "flavoring" anyway so it really doesn't matter which ramen you use)

First things first. Open your Top Ramen packages and rip those packets out, I don't know what the hell's in that mix but I'm sure there's msg.

Turn the broiler to high. Cut celery root into large pieces with 3 whole cloves of garlic and half the ginger root and 1/2 of each onion.  Place under broiler for 7-10 minutes to char, turning once during broiling.

In a large pot or dutch oven sauté the remaining halves of onion, ginger, carrots, and celery. Sweat veggies with turmeric, 5 spice, fennel seed and salt (7-12 mins). Add stock, water, lemon grass and 3 cloves of garlic crushed. Remove charred veggies from the broiler and add to stock. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and discard.  Bring to boil. Cut 1 whole lime in 1/2 squeeze and drop into pot, let steep for 10 mins and then remove. Reduce pot to a simmer for 1hr.  

Add tomatoes, mushrooms, edamame and ramen noodles. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro, scallion, sambal and lime.

This is a great recipe for additions or substituons.

A+ Ya'll!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Prohibition 75 years later

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition the ridiculous 18th Amendment to the US Constitution that intended to keep our country “dry” from the sale and consumption of alcohol. The evil firewater was blamed for a multitude of sins that the American public committed and for 7,302,204 minutes from January 17th 1920 until December 5th 1933 liquor did not touch the lips of one American citizen and everything was rosy... Well at least that’s what the Temperance Movement had intended. 

If you haven’t watched Ken Burns documentary on Prohibition you should, it was fantastic. But if you are never going to get around to watching all 5 ½ hours of it don’t worry because I did and here’s basically what you missed:

According to a bunch of rural religious folks living in small towns throughout the country there were too many drunks destroying American society. They thought that if alcohol was prohibited the country would be restored to order.  Much to the dismay of  urban dwellers the 18th Amendment was passed which banned the sale and consumption of alcohol. 

People kept on drinking and states struggled to enforce the new regulation. Organized crime skyrocketed to keep up with the high demand for liquor. . The country went on a 5071 day bender drinking bathtub gin provided by gangsters in the shadows of speakeasies and the 1920s roared! Slowly people began to realize that the law created to clean up the country was actually corrupting it further. Oops. 

Finally on this fateful day 75 years ago everyone finally admitted that Prohibition was a total flop and passed of the 21st amendment nullifying the 18th.  Today we raise our glasses to one of our country’s biggest faux pas. So celebrate your inalienable right to cocktails today and enjoy Ya'll!