Friday, April 30, 2010

vin d'orange

This is kind of a cruel post, because I'm about to start raving about this incredible aperitif I brewed up, telling you how delicious, refreshing and unexpected it is. And then I'm going to have to tell you that it is made from sour Seville oranges. And then the part comes where I tell you the short growing season for this unlovable stepchild of the Navel is over.

I was fortunate enough to be inspired to try my hand at vin d'orange just towards the middle of March, and the oranges are typically impossible to get before January or after March. I got on the phone and made the kind folks at WF order me some, and after a few weeks of badgering, they finally came in.

Seville oranges are ugly. Splotchy and oddly shaped, they kind of resemble navel oranges that have been kicked around on the orchard ground for a week or so. And they don't taste good, either, with a bitter and unforgiving bite.

But. Let them sit in a fruity white wine, mixed with a little sugar and vodka and you get the delightful French aperitif, vin d'orange. Some make it with rose or even red wine, but the lightness of white is perfect for summer. It sits for a month and then becomes the most strangely delicious beverage. It has this haunting and addictive quality, with a light sweetness at first sip that finishes into bitterness. It will have you and whoever you share your precious homebrew with intrigued. I quadrupled the recipe and stored it in a Playmate cooler while brewing. Now I have almost a dozen half bottles that I will be rationing out to whomever I see fit....bribes accepted.

vin d'orange

1 lemon
3 seville oranges (aka sour oranges)
2/3 c sugar
5 c white wine
1 c vodka
1 inch piece of vanilla bean

Rinse and half citrus fruits. Mix sugar, wine and vodka until dissolved. Add vanilla and citrus. Cover, let stand for one month (at least). Strain, put in clean bottles. Stores one year.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

chocolate whiskey cake

This cake is one of my absolute favorites, ever. It spent a good bit of time on the restaurant menu, despite its, err, unsightliness. This cake is downright ugly, at least for people with rather conventional notions of pastry beauty. It's like that princess and frog....gross looking, but when she finally laid her mouth on it, she could see and appreciate what was behind the facade.

This facade hides a couple of ingredients that are subtle but powerful: coffee, black pepper, and cloves. None of these suggest themselves, but they unite with the other ingredients to form a deeply flavored cake. It's so moist, so dense, so amazing.

And you probably already know this, but bourbon and scotch are both whiskey. Scotch is whiskey from Scotland, typically with a peatier flavor, and bourbon is whiskey from the US, fuller bodied and slightly sweet. Revelations.

chocolate whiskey cake

3/4 c plus 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c strong brewed coffee
1/2 c whiskey
12 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 c ap flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 c mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 10 inch springform pan then dust with the 3tbsp of cocoa powder, knocking out excess.

Heat the coffee, whiskey, butter, and remaining cup of cocoa powder in a medium heavy saucepan over low heat until butter is melted, whisking occasionally. Add sugars and whisk until dissolved, remove from heat. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool.

While chocoalte cools, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, and cloves in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Starting with a slow drizzle, whisk the eggs into cooled chocolate mixture until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined, then fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into pan and bake until a wooden pick comes out mostly clean, about 1 hour and 5 min.

Cool cake, store in fridge after one day, wrapped in plastic.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

fava bean mash

Favas are not for the faint of heart. This little bean requires shelling, followed by a second, more difficult round of shelling, which is then followed by a boiling and a shocking, whereupon one then begins the recipe at hand. And there's no better bean to make you feel old for your years than the fava....carpal tunnel at 25? It seems a very real possibility.

So a handful of beans was all I could muster up the will for, but it was undoubtedly worth the trouble. Nothing for me is so fresh, so springlike as the fava bean. I've heard their distinct aroma/flavor described as a byproduct of gastrointestinal distress, but WHATEVER...they're so delicious. This puree comes together in about 3 minutes, if you don't count the hours it takes to derobe this glorious legume.

fava bean puree

as many favas as you can stand to shell, boiled until tender in salty water (i did about a half cup...shameful, i know)
a shallot, minced fine
a pinch of salt
a pinch of fresh ground black pepper
juice from half a lemon

Pound to a paste the above ingredients to desired smoothness. Eat!