Weekend Kitchen: How to Grill a Whole Fish

DSC_0619

One of the best parts about a coastal vacation is the abundance of locally caught seafood, and we enjoyed it almost every night during our recent sailing trip. Returning home, I vowed to make fish a more prominent part of our diet (much to the dismay of my teenaged son, who already views our once-a-week salmon as excessive fish consumption). I took inspiration from the bluefish we caught during our trip to the Vineyard Continue reading

Summer Lovin’

Happy Friday!  It feels like summer is finally here to stay, thank goodness.  Don’t you love how relaxed everything becomes, from the clothes we wear to the way we entertain?  The seasonal shopping bug bit me recently, so I thought  I’d share a few of my warm-weather discoveries.  Chill the white and cue the sunshine!Does anything say summer more than seersucker?  This tablecloth arrived on my doorstep today and I can’t wait to break it out for a casual al fresco dinner.gSKj6_1-86LOCm6hLDh_YVDKc2MEz3J5ge04TLAqVvZ4G4rPmejb7HfN5jo-aEsLP2HyiGSKKLJFiLHcaxs=s1100-cThese  oyster shell salt cellars will be the perfect finishing touch to your summer table.Juliska’s rope detailed wicker caddy  is weathered and vaguely nautical without being theme-y.My official drink of summer is well chilled Lillet Blanc with a slice of orange or plum.  It’s also fantastic over ice with a big splash of Pellegrino and a little splash of Grand Marnier. But I would advise against trying to quick chill your Pellegrino by putting it in the freezer then forgetting about it.  Why, oh why, did I not set a timer?!  If anyone knows how to undo this mess, I’m all ears.  Though it is keeping me out of the ice cream, so maybe I should leave it.  I’ll be cooking from this book all summer long.  The recipes are simple, delicious, and focus on ingredients from your garden (or farmers’ market).  The roasted cherry tomato and goat cheese dip was a huge crowd pleaser at our first summer get-together.

This bad boy was my Mother’s Day present (yes, I asked for it – it was not a vacuum-cleaner-for-Christmas type situation).  So far I’ve smoked a pork shoulder and baby back ribs, both of which were amazing, the first of which took over 8 hours (getting us to the table at 11:30pm).  Lesson learned.

This raffia bag has been on my shoulder every day since the weather turned warm.  Light weight, sturdy, and roomy, it is the quintessential summer bag.Speaking of bags, I literally did a happy dance when my monogrammed clutch and laptop case arrived in the mail.  Buttery soft and beautifully made, they are the essence of simple chic.  I love the summery, grass green (obviously) but it comes in over 50 colors, monogram optional.  And the price point can’t be beat!

I picked up this striped jersey maxi skirt for a song.  Super soft and flattering (even with the horizontal stripes), it will go over my swimsuit as a quick cover up, or out to dinner with a knotted-at-the-waist white button-down.  And it’s an extra 25% off the sale price online right now with code SUMMERTIME.Warm weather begs for a LWD, and this one can go from casual Saturday night barbecue to dressed up Sunday brunch.And finally, it wouldn’t be summer to me without hydrangeas.  I’ve had great luck with the Endless Summer variety – each year I plant them in big pots on our porch, then transfer them into the ground before the first frost.

Images 1-4, 7, 8,10 & 11 from corresponding highlighted retail sites; 5, 6 & 9 via me,  12 via Martha Stewart.

Game Day Chili

DSC_0042 This chili comes together easily and tastes even better the next day, leaving you plenty of time to relax and enjoy the game.  Extra points for the bubbly cheese.DSC_0050 DSC_0075

Game Day Chili

makes 8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow or white onions, small diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, small diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons Better Than Bullion beef base (found in most grocery stores near the broth) or 2 beef bullion cubes, dissolved
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1-2 tablespoons sriracha hot chili sauce (depending on heat preference)
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 avocado, small diced
  • tortilla chips
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, poblano, and jalapeno and cook until soft, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes).
  2. Add both chili powders and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Add ground sirloin and raise heat to medium high, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon and cooking until meat is no longer pink.
  4. Add broth, bullion, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, kidney beans, salt, pepper, sriracha, and half of cilantro. Stir.
  5. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent chili from sticking to bottom of pot. Test for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, and sriracha if needed.
  6. If desired, place filled oven-proof chili bowls on two baking sheets, top each bowl with 1/4 cup shredded cheese and broil until cheese is brown and bubbly, about 1 minute. (You’ll need to do one sheet at a time).
  7. Top with crushed tortilla strips, avocado and remaining cilantro.DSC_0083

Cocktail Hour: The Manhattan

I’m thrilled that Michael, our favorite mixologist, is back with a classic cocktail to warm us on these frigid winter days.  Read on to master the art of the Manhattan, then relax, grab a book, and light a fire.  Five o’clock is calling… As we all come off our holiday hiatus, it is traditional to use the New Year’s spirit to invigorate within ourselves a sense of renewal by enacting some manner of change intended to better ourselves as people.  For many this means more exercise, becoming more organized, or swearing off some pesky vice that has overstayed its welcome in our daily routine.  Simply put, this is NOT the time to stop drinking!  During my time matriculating at Annapolis, this time of year had a special name – “The Dark Ages”.  By definition, the “Dark Ages” began the day the Brigade of Midshipmen returned from Holiday leave and ended on the first day of Spring Break.  I vividly remember the lack of daylight, the frigid wind-whipped runs on the Chesapeake seawall, and the grinding academic work.  Even now living in Florida (as I write this it is 67 degrees and sunny), the “Dark Ages” still hold a special place in my heart.  I only regret not having ready access to a well stocked bar during my years as a Midshipmen – GPA be damned!

So I’m submitting to A&D few cocktail recipes to help us all make it through this lamented time of year.   I personally am a creature of the seasons and my cocktail consumption tends to mirror what is happening outside.  I dedicate this post to the readers in the frigid north and present another classic that is sure to stick to your ribs and make an evening sitting by the fire all the more perfect – the Manhattan.  I know its been awhile, so lets recap the First Commandment of mixing cocktails.  “Thou shalt use the finest ingredients in thy cocktails.”  I am not implying that one must use the exact bottles I present, only that your cocktail will only be as good as the cheapest ingredient used.The Manhattan, like the Martini, ranks among the most classic of cocktails.  Done correctly it is simple, tastes great, and provides the perfect dose of medicine to help shake off the Dark Ages grind.  With Manhattan recipes, the biggest points of contention are a.) the type of whiskey and b.) the proportions of base and modifier.  The great thing about the Manhattan Cocktail is type of whiskey and proportion are completely up to the person mixing provided the ingredients are of the finest quality.  The recipe I am presenting is my preferred (and the traditional) recipe, but one should feel free to experiment with slightly different proportions to satisfy their palate.  I will however talk about a few different types of whiskey that can change the character of your Manhattan to fit your mood – and the weather.

Basic Recipe:
2.0 Oz Whiskey
1.0 Oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Whiskey:

The base of any Manhattan is Whiskey…..and there are so many types.  A Rye Whiskey is the traditional type used in Manhattans because it typically is more balanced in terms of sweet, spice, and smoke (peat) than other whiskies.  Right now, my “go to” rye is Bulleit Rye because it is of good quality but not so good that it demands drinking it neat or on the rocks, and its not difficult to acquire (available in most liqueur stores).Two other variations I’d like to present are using a Bourbon or a Scotch as the base of this cocktail.  For the Bourbon option I’ve been using a High-Rye Bourbon by Redemption.  This is a great bottle because it brings out the sweetness inherent to Bourbon but still retains a bit of spice found in Rye.  For the Rob Roy option (this is the name of a Manhattan made with Scotch instead of American Whiskey), I currently use Monkey Shoulder.  This is a blended Scotch that has all the qualities of a Single Malt (made using 3 different single malts from The Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie) – a tip of the hat to the Master Distillers that put it together.  It is not overly peaty like some of the Islay regions and has the smooth malt and citrus notes that make it a great option for this recipe.Vermouth:

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link – so do not skimp on the Sweet Vermouth.  This means that Martini and Rossi will not do.  I personally enjoy Dolin Sweet Vermouth but any high-end vermouth such as Carpano Antica or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino will do.

Bitters:

A few dashes of Angostura Bitters bring out all the subtleties in both ingredients and really round out the drink.  Do not use Peyschaud’s bitters unless you want to turn your expensive whiskey into something that tastes like Nyquil.  Peyschaud’s bitters has its place in other cocktails – the Manhattan is not one of them. The Process:

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker – or if you really want to class it up, get a beautiful mixing beaker as shown below.Add ice.STIR!  STIR! STIR! This Cocktail! Shaking Manhattans or other whiskey cocktails is one of my drinking pet peeves.  Please, for the love of all things right and just in this world, DO NOT SHAKE these drinks.  Shaking these cocktails adds too much water to the mix and greatly diminishes the flavor.  Also, help me on my crusade to make sure these drinks are made properly by demanding bartenders stir these cocktails when you order them out.  Strain into a Coupe or Cocktail Glass.  Garnish with a Cherry.A quick note about the cherry garnish.  Luxardo makes great cherries for cocktails.  I HIGHLY recommend, if you intend on making this cocktail regularly, to buy a jar.  They are readily available on Amazon and they last forever.  Don’t settle for the cheap Maraschino Cherries found in most grocery stores.  I’d skip those and garnish with a citrus peel before I allowed one to see the inside of my Manhattan glass.  Keep it classy folks.The Manhattan is alcoholic comfort food for me – I hope this helps everyone make it through the Dark Ages!

Cheers, MC.

all photos in this post by Michael

Cocktail Hour: The Martini

I’m thrilled to introduce a new weekend feature just in time for summer, Cocktail HourMichael, my almost brother-in-law and the most talented mixologist I’ve ever known (this is not hyperbole), has graciously agreed to share his knowledge and his recipes during the month of June here at a & d.  And in true Michael fashion, he’s kicking off Cocktail Hour with a classic.Image 2

The Martini.

A few basic principles.  First, using only liquors of the highest quality will result in a good Martini.  This applies for all ingredients.  Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a high quality Gin with cheap Vermouth will not taste good.  Most people don’t like Martinis because they use bad liquor.

Second, the basic principle of mixing cocktails is to find the blend of ingredients (modifiers) that compliment the Base.  Without the modifier, a base will never be more than chilled liquor – not a cocktail.

According to Embury’s “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” (put down the Mr. Bostons….this is the best book on cocktails out there), “most of the present generation learned to drink and most of the present-day bartenders learned their profession during the past 37 years.  The first 14 years of this period were devoted to the famous ‘experiment, noble in purpose,’ and the remaining years have not yet been sufficient to erase wholly the ignoble effects of that era.”

Paying mind to the above principles, the Martini is the most elegant of drinks.  In its purest form, the martini has one base (Gin or Vodka) and one modifier (Vermouth).  It is, in essence, the Hydrogen of the Cocktail Periodic Table.  Many people prefer Vodka to Gin, and I will not judge them.  I will, however, offer the reasons why I prefer Gin.  First, it is the liquor originally intended for the Martini – which was also known as the Martinez.  Second, a good Gin has a depth and viscosity that Vodka does not – Gin really is Vodka infused with juniper and other botanicals.  Last, Vodka is a soul-less liquor (by definition, has no color, smell, or taste) which makes it the ideal liquor for people who like being drunk but don’t like the taste of liquor.

That being said, the proportions of Gin to Vermouth is largely left to the taste of the imbiber.  I do discourage, however, the notion of just “washing the glass” or “adding a few drops” of Vermouth.  This practice negates its role as a modifier and, as stated above, leave one with only a chilled glass of liquor.  People largely don’t like vermouth in their gin because they are adding substandard (read Martini and Rossi) Vermouth.  A good Vermouth will negate all the bad things in straight Gin.  It will reduce the volatility (reduces vapor temp) which eliminates the burn so often associated with a bad Gin and leaves the delightful, smooth flavor of the distillers botanicals behind.

And so:  I give you my favorite recipe for a martini.

2 oz Smooth Ambler Gin.  We stumbled upon the Smooth Ambler at one of the better liquor stores in the area and bought a bottle because it was made in West Virginia.  Who would’ve guessed it was to be the best Gin we’ve ever tasted.  The viscosity and botanicals are perfect.  It is made in small batch pot stills (as opposed to larger column/continuous stills used by large companies) using organic ingredients and it was rated at 94 points by Wine Enthusiast magazine.  If you don’t trust Wine magazines to judge your liquor, the Gin won bronze this past May at the San Fransisco World Spirits competition.  Folks, this is good stuff…..don’t knock it before you’ve tried it.

1 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth.  This is the Vermouth being poured by most high-end craft cocktail bars in the country and for good reason.  I’d also recommend Lillet as a suitable alternative.

2 drops Bittermens Boston Bittahs.  I didn’t discuss bitters at all before, but the original Martini recipe called for a dash of Orange Bitters.  These amazing ingredients are the spice rack of any serious barstock.  Would one try cooking or baking with no salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon ect??  Of course not.  Start experimenting with different bitters and they will take your drinking habit to the next level.  The Bittermens here will round out the cocktail and add the slightest hint of citrus to your “just about perfect cocktail”.

Image 1

A note about mixing.

I prefer mixing all ingredients in a small graduated shot glass.  I then add to the shaker with ice.  Shake vigorously.  And the secret is to double strain by pouring it through a small fine sieve or strainer (see my equipment below).  This frees the cocktail from extraneous ice shards (they will collect like slush in the strainer) and gives the drink that clean mouthfeel.

Image 3

Garnish.  For this summer martini, garnish with a lemon twist.  Be sure to twist your lemon peel to express the oils before wiping the glass rim with it and dropping it in the drink.  Cheers!

Thank you, Michael!  We can’t wait to hear what’s in your cocktail shaker next week.  Now, if I could just talk the two of you into moving in next door…

Table for Four

lamb chops with dried cherries and port

This weekend, we enjoyed a casual dinner at home with two of our dearest friends.  Feeling in need of a cozy late winter meal, I made succulent pan seared lamb chops with dried cherries and port (recipe here), oven roasted Brussels sprouts over toasted pecan and pearl onion studded wild rice, and a lemon tart with fresh whipped cream.  While I do love to go out, nothing beats spending a leisurely evening by the fire with good friends and a great bottle of red.

The lamb could not have been simpler to prepare, and the dried cherry port wine sauce was divine.  If lamb is not your favorite, the sauce would be wonderful with pan seared duck breasts or pork tenderloin.

I’ll post the lemon tart recipe later this week.  It was my first entirely successful gluten-free crust (meaning it rolled out beautifully, held together like a dream, and had the taste and texture of a traditional crust) so I must share it with you.

Imagine Waking Up to This

Image 10I did.  Two blissful mornings in a row while visiting my sister and her fiancé in Florida.  She gave him the beautiful Alex Duetto II machine below as an engagement gift (have I mentioned how brilliant she is?  I think I have).  The above photo is of the actual cappuccino he made on morning two.  Seriously.

Image 3I was totally fascinated with the process because this cappuccino was truly SO much better than any I had ever had.  He graciously spent some time showing me how it’s done and below are the photos I took along the way.

Image 7

Image 4Above, the espresso being extracted.  The gorgeous caramel color of the top layer (above and below) is called the crema.  No dairy has been added – what you are seeing are the emulsified oils that have been forced out of the grounds.  And it is what makes the perfect shot.

Image 6

The next step is steaming the milk.  Sounds easy, but there is actually a science – and an art – to it.  You have to “stretch” the milk by keeping the steaming wand just below the surface, then sink it deeper to create a whirlpool, AND not let it get too hot (i.e. not too hot to the touch – so basically Starbucks is doing everything wrong).

Image 12The artful pour, below:

Image 8 Morning one cappuccino:

Image 1And my bunkmate while I was there, rescue pup Jovie:

ImageShe was the best inner spoon ever.  Two bests in one weekend.  When was the last time that happened to you?