Who says you have to make curry with curry? No one! This warm winter pudding was inspired by our friends at Hunger Restaurant and since trying theirs we have come up with some delightful variations of our own- and nothing says holiday like bread pudding. We’ve added diced apples to replace the traditional raisins- pears are nice too- and infused a mild amount of spice into the custard and cream. Enjoy with coffee, chai or your favorite toddy.
Want an easy DIY project that you can take from start to finish in under an hour? This is your post. But beware! Once you start gifting this hot fudge sauce you won’t be able to stop- my sister has been asking for it every holiday since 2004. Our favorite formulation combines bittersweet chocolate with Kashmiri Garam Masala and uses maple syrup as the sweetener, but you can switch up the spice and sweetener in all kinds of creative combinations. Chinese Five Spice with agave nectar is another one of our favorites. A decadent dose of sweet and spice will make your holiday extra nice. This recipe makes 2 cups, but double up if you want to make more for gifts.
There exists an old spice merchant proverb dating back to the early 21st century which, roughly translated, advises that “the better the cocktail; the better the party. The better the party; the better the friends.” E’er here to help, we’ve compiled some of our favorite reference materials on the topic. Serve these delicious, humorous, and historical (and of course, spicy!) signature potent potables at your holiday soiree for insurance on a years’ worth of favors from your party-goers.
“Let’s Bring Back; The Cocktail Edition” touts itself as a “compendium of impish, romantic, amusing, and occasionally appalling potations from bygone eras.” The recipes hail from two-hundred year-old sources, right up to the archives of 1950′s iconic restaurant bars. From chuckles to laughs-out-loud, the history and suggestions accompanying each cocktail will have you and your guests tittering for hours, a la, ”think only pure thoughts while sipping [The Bishop],” or consume a Scofflaw to give you the courage to “Wear white after Labor Day… Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese on Seafood Pasta… and all sorts of comparable acts of insurrection.”
“Savory Cocktails” is a slender little tome; an ode to all things sour, spicy, herbal, umami, bitter, smoky, high, and strong. These drinks are undeniably sexy — what a modern-day Don Draper might imbibe. They’re interesting and nuanced, and legions away from fru-fru — no neon-hued apple-tinis here! Sophisticated foodies only need apply. Try a subtle Green Tea Gimlet (I’d pick jade green Mao Feng to offset the lime), or a Dog’s Nose, made with, of all things, powdered porcini mushrooms in combination with porter and shaved nutmeg. This book calls for a wide variety of flavored bitters- pick up a Scrappy’s sampler pack or two to complete the package.
Though we love classic Mulled Wine and Eggnog, there’s so much more to winter-y cocktails than these two standbys. Enter, “Winter Cocktails.” Learn how to give hot chocolate a grown-up twist with lavender flowers and Earl Grey tea, or elevate your ski-lodge lounge with a “Rosy Cheek,” sprinkled with the rosy cheeks of cracked pink peppercorns. In addition to inspired beverages, this book also has a fabulous section on infusing alcohols at home — Rose-infused gin, anyone? Pair any one of these liquors or cocktails with their suggested finger foods. This is a one-stop-shop for great winter entertaining.
No list of cocktail books would be complete without a mention of the “Drunken Botanist,” shop best-seller and staff favorite since spring. As the name implies, this book unites the best of science and insobriety, leading an alphabetical nature walk from Agave to Strawberry and hitting all the best booze-making plants in between. Learning and jubilating skip hand-in-hand in this volume, the pages dotted with recipes for classic cocktails, as well as tips for updating old favorites in single servings and “pitcher” fulls.
Out of a workshop in Brooklyn comes “Shake,” self-described as ”one part instructional recipe book, one part photo journey, and one part inspirational pep talk” for mixing spectacular cocktails at home. The approach is seasonal and straightforward, focused on simplicity, socializing, and, above all, fun! Our copy in the shop comes with the sweetest Mason jar cocktail shaker, pictured on the front of the book, for an automatic out-hipster of just about any one. (Pair with the Art of Fermentation- pickle it! for the win.)
Everyone knows the horror of the dry turkey breast and will do cartwheels to avoid it. Our tried and true solution is the basic turkey brine, pun intended. It requires advance planning, but once you incorporate brining into your holiday routine it simply adds to the bustle and flavor of the season, along with a dose of stress reduction because your turkey will NOT be dry. Here are the basics.
Be prepared! Your turkey should be completely thawed and you must have a brining container that is big enough. The turkey needs to be completely submerged. Brining bags are all the rage- but a bucket or cooler can do the trick just as well. Make sure you have a cool place to put the brining turkey for 12-24 hours prior to cooking. This requires a good bit of refrigerator space, but if you use a brining bag, it doesn’t require much more than it would for the bird itself.
Make your brining solution: Use the correct proportion of water and salt, regardless of what else you add to the mix- the salinity of the brine must be correct for it to flow into the meat. The standard proportion is 1 cup of kosher salt per gallon of water or stock. No need to use specialty salts here, the nuances will not contribute to the flavor. If you are using prepared vegetable stock, make sure it is salt free so you don’t upset the balance.
The brine and turkey should both be cooled to the same temperature before they are combined. Again, this ensures that the brine will flow easily into the turkey. Most refrigerators are set around 38 degrees and that works just fine. Be sure to leave the bird in the brine at least overnight, and 24 hours is better for larger turkeys.
So go ahead and have fun with the flavors! Toss your favorite whole or cracked spices into the brine and experiment with using apple cider in the mix. For more ideas, check out our new favorite cookbook- Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures & Glazes. It’s a wealth of over 400 inspired recipes using loads of spice!
It’s important to choose the right wine to mull, and through much “research,” we”ve settled on Pinot Noir as the optimum choice. It’s fairly robust, so stands up to the spices, but the less expensive varieties are not so nuanced so as to make covering their intricacies with spice, criminal. Look for one whose shelf-talker boasts a larger body, and hints at black or red cherry flavors that will complement the star anise in the Mulling Spice.
A good-quality, unfiltered apple cider is all that’s required for heavenly spiced cider. As the apple capital of the world, Washington state farmers markets are chock full of cider choices, and we’ve yet to find one that disappoints. A few even pair other local fruits with apple- try apple-cranberry, apple-cherry, or apple-blackberry. Simply substitute a quart of apple cider for the wine in the recipe below, and perhaps omit the sugar, depending on the variety of cider that you choose.
It’s also possible to combine these two delights- Winter Sangria, anyone? Add one bottle of wine to four cups of apple cider, along with 1/4 cup of honey or brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of freshly crushed Mulling Spice. Steep for twenty minutes before straining and serving, and don’t forget the cassia stick stirrers!