I’m always on the lookout for a great cocktail, and these days, a great restaurant very often requires a great mixologist at the bar…not someone who can simply whip up a Cosmo, but someone who puts as much creativity in his drinks as the chef does in their dishes.

Over the years, I’ve created a list of cocktail recipes that bartenders have been willing to share with me, scribbled on business cards and bar napkins. Here are some from my travels…

The classic negroni is made with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. I love negronis, and this cocktail is inspired by them. It comes from chef Tony Maws’ restaurant Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (www.craigieonmain.com) It’s been a decade since we dined there but the drink remains a favorite of mine. When our server communicated to the bartender that I was willing to be his guinea pig for creative cocktails, I was served this one–so new at the time, they didn’t have a name for it. I took a sip and exclaimed: “Holy Shit!” and the server laughed and said: “That’s as good a name as any!”

I still call it the…

“HOLY SHIT!” COCKTAIL

1 1/2 oz. Bols Genever
1 oz. Gran Classico
1/2 oz. Punt e Mes

Add some ice to a cocktail shaker, and add the ingredients. Stir well. Strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube.

Bols Genever is a Dutch spirit, the ancestor of gin, created from lightly distilled Dutch grains and a complex botanical mix. It is made according to the original 1820 Lucas Bols recipe which stood at the basis of the cocktail revolution in 19th century America.

Gran Classico is an alcoholic aperitif/digestif created following a recipe dating from the 1860s. It’s made by soaking a mixture of 25 aromatic herbs and roots in an alcohol/water solution to extract their flavors and aromas. The maceration creates a natural golden-amber color, although many other producers, like Campari and Cynar, dye their product red.

Punt e Mes is a pleasantly bitter, slightly sweet red vermouth, the “baby brother” of Carpano Formula Antica. The formula was developed in 1870 in Antonino Carpano’s bar in Piedmont, and the distinctive 15-herb recipe is still a family secret.

 

I sampled another negroni-inspired cocktail in Cleveland, Ohio, dining at chef Jonathon Sawyer’s The Greenhouse Tavern. (www.thegreenhousetavern.com) Crazy creative food, and this mind-blowing drink that inspired me to buy a small oak barrel and start cask-aging everything I could get my hands on at home. The OYO Stone Fruit Vodka, a key part of this cocktail, is not available here in Rhode Island. And my online source will no longer ship it! (www.thepartysource.com/oyo-stone-fruit-vodka) Store pick-up only.

 

OYO STONE FRUIT “NEGROSKI”

1 oz. OYO Stone Fruit Vodka
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

 

If you’re doing it The Greenhouse Tavern way, combine large quantities of these ingredients in the right proportions and pour them into an oak cask, then let it age! Experience tells you that newer and smaller casks will mellow flavors faster than larger, older ones. But it’s all about experimentation. Having a taste every once in a while is must, because you don’t want to over-age it, either.

If you don’t have an oak cask lying around at home, it’s still delicious without it…

Combine all the ingredients in a rocks glass with ice. Stir gently, adding a splash of soda, and garnish with an orange peel.

 

OYO Stone Fruit Vodka gets its wonderful flavors from stone fruits: cherries, peaches, apricots and almonds. Terrific on its own, but amazing in this recipe.

Campari is a world-famous aperitif and bitters, and a must in any decent home bar.

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino is a sweet vermouth, made in Italy from the Moscato grape.

 

PRETZEL BREAD

Posted: January 16, 2018 in Food, Recipes, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

I haven’t found a great gluten-free pretzel bread recipe yet, so I don’t make this recipe as often as I used to. (My wife needs to be on a gluten-free diet, so we tend to focus our meals to that end for everyone in the family.) But sometimes, you just can’t resist…

Making pretzel bread at home had one major stumbling block for me: the need for lye,  which has nasty corrosive qualities that I don’t want to deal with in my kitchen. Even special baker’s lye was not an option. So when I found a pretzel bread recipe that used baking soda, a much milder and safer alkaline ingredient that I could simply pour down my drain after using, I knew it was time to bake.

 

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½ cup water
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, separated
Cooking spray
¾ cup baking soda
Kosher salt for sprinkling

Combine the water, milk and butter in a glass container and microwave about 45 seconds to melt the butter and warm the milk. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt and egg yolk. Slowly add the milk mixture and mix until the dough comes together. If it seems too dry, add small amounts of water. Knead the dough until it is smooth and springy, about 5 minutes.

Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Flip it over so all sides get oiled, and then wrap the bowl with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Turn out the risen dough on a floured surface and divide it into equal pieces. You can make 15 small slider-sized buns, 8 burger buns, 8 hot dog buns or any other shape you like. Once all the pieces have been rolled, cover them with a clean dish towel and set them aside to rest.

While the dough is resting, heat about 12 cups of water in a large pot. When it comes to a gentle boil, carefully pour the baking soda into it. It will foam and bubble vigorously.

Add the rested pieces of dough to the simmering water and poach them for about 30 seconds and then flip them over for another 30 seconds. You may need to do this in batches.

With a slotted spoon or spatula, lift the poached buns onto a Silpat baking sheet (or a baking sheet sprayed with oil, then sprinkled with cornmeal.)

Froth the egg white with a fork, then brush each bun with the egg white.

Using a sharp knife, make a few slits on the top of the buns, about ¼-inch deep. Sprinkle them with Kosher salt, then bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Mystic, Connecticut has been a favorite day trip here in New England for years, with its charm as a historic seaport with an impressive aquarium. But over the past decade or so, food, which has never been a strong suit of this small community, has taken the forefront. There have always been the pizza joints and the fish shacks, and staples like the generic Steak Loft, but in recent years, food lovers have found Mystic to be a destination for dining alone. It’s no surprise, then, that this community, which would be busy for only 2 summer months out of the year, is now teaming with visitors year-round.

One of the best dining destinations in Mystic is The Oyster Club, (www.oysterclubct.com), a farm-and-sea-to-table establishment that features ever-changing menus based one what is truly in season at the moment. Add that to genuine creativity in the kitchen and bar, and you get a really fun and delicious dining and drinking experience often found only in larger cities.

We recently had dinner at The Oyster Club on a Saturday night, and loved it so much, we returned the next day for Sunday brunch. Neither meal disappointed.

Our friends at FireFly Farms, a certified humane farm that raises pigs, cows, chicken and ducks in nearby Stonington, Connecticut have contributed to The Oyster Club menu on occasion, including a pig roast next month. Despite that the duck wasn’t from their farm this time, it was a dish that 3 of us just couldn’t resist. Only I veered from the meat and went for a beautifully pan-sauteed black bass. And my daughter was perfectly happy with house-made tagliatelle with Bolognese. Appetizers included fresh local oysters (of course).

House-made everything bagel, cream cheese, red onion, fried capers, parsley, and smoked conger eel.

For brunch the next morning, my wife and returned to enjoy food and a few cocktails. My wife ordered a delicious frittata, while I just had to order the eyebrow-raising house-made everything bagel with cream cheese, sliced red onion, fried capers, parsley, and smoked conger eel! Yes, eel! It was fantastic! A delicious salad of apple and blue cheese rounded out our brunch.

The bar at The Oyster Club. Wish I lived closer to this place…

For drinks, I sipped on a mushroom infused bourbon cocktail called the Fun Guy…and my wife enjoyed the Downward Dog, featuring cold-brewed coffee.

Fun Guy (left) and Downward Dog (right.)

With an exterior raised deck area they call “The Treehouse” in the back, open in warmer weather, The Oyster Club is a place we will gladly return to!

 

If you’re craving sushi, ironically, the best sushi can be found across the street from the Mystic Aquarium at Johnny’s Peking Tokyo. (www.pekingtokyomystic.com) As its name implies, you’ll find Chinese and Japanese cuisine here, and everything is top-notch. It’s the best sushi between New York City and Boston.

 

And what visit to Mystic would be complete without hob-knobbing with the rich folks? The Spicer Mansion (www.spicermansion.com) is a beautifully refurbished Relais and Chateaux property, where you can dress up and sip cocktails by the fire. Join the special club here and you’ll have access to a “secret” speakeasy located in the basement! Excellent pampering service, as you’d expect.

 

 

 

 

 

This was a huge hit when I brought them to a recent neighborhood party. Imagine the best of a deviled egg and a BBQ chicken sandwich, and you’ve got this appetizer that rocks in more ways than one. This is a great appetizer you can make ahead of time. I boil the eggs and make the cole slaw the day before, then keep them in the fridge. Even the chicken can be cooked the day before and then warmed through before assembling right before your guests arrive. Be sure to make a lot of them…they’ll go faster than the hard-boiled eggs in “Cool Hand Luke!”

This recipe is gluten-free, as long as you use GF soy sauce.

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For the chicken and BBQ sauce:
3 cups ketchup (I use Heinz organic)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use La Choy: it’s gluten-free)
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts

 

For the cole slaw:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
For the deviled eggs:
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard (I use Gulden’s)

 

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees.

Combine the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, hot sauce, and brown sugar in a oven-proof pot with a lid. Mix well, then add the chicken breasts, making sure they’re immersed in the sauce. Cook low and slow in the oven for about 3–4 hours.

When the chicken is cooked through, shred the meat with 2 forks. Set it aside, but keep it warm.

Combine all the cole slaw ingredients in a bowl, mixing well, and place in the fridge.

For perfectly hard-boiled eggs, place the eggs in a pot of cold water, and turn the heat on high. Just before the water starts to boil, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. Once cooked, keep the eggs in the fridge.

Slice the eggs in half and place the yolks in a bowl with the mayonnaise and mustard. Mix well and keep in the fridge.

To assemble, take a teaspoon of the mayo/mustard/yolk mixture and place it in the cavity of one of the egg halves. Place another teaspoon of the shredded chicken on top (I like it warm, to counter the cold of the mayo and cole slaw), drizzling a little of the BBQ sauce that you cooked the chicken with on the meat. Then place a teaspoon of the cole slaw on top of the chicken.

It’s cold here in New England, with about a foot of snow on the ground. Sometimes, only comfort food will do: a warm bowl of beef stew or chowder…Shepherds Pie with buttery mashed potatoes…a big bowl of pasta…you get the idea. But the same goes for cocktails. And nothing gets me warm and fuzzy like a classic Scorpion Bowl!
Most of the recipes for a Scorpion Bowl I found on-line don’t match the one that I’ve been using for many years. This recipe comes from a bartender (whose name I can’t remember–too many Scorpion Bowls, I guess) from a long-gone Chinese restaurant, China Garden, that was in Warwick, Rhode Island. A car dealership now stands in that spot. This is the best Scorpion Bowl I’ve ever had…and continue to have!
Make sure to use top shelf booze for this or you’ll be a “Suffering Bastard” the next morning! (A little Chinese restaurant drink humor…)

Look carefully, and you may see the flame coming out of the volcano! Hope I don’t need to tell you not to drink the 151 while it’s lit! And yes, it’s an old photo: Disaronno Originale hasn’t been called Amaretto di Saronno for a long time!

2 oz. light rum (I use Don Q silver)
2 oz. dark rum (I use Mount Gay)
1 oz. gin (I use Bombay Sapphire)
½ oz. brandy (I use good ol’ E&J)
½ oz. Disaronno Originale
½ oz. Cointreau
6 oz. Pineapple juice
6 oz. Orange juice
½ oz. Bacardi 151 rum for the little cup in the volcano

In a blender half-full of ice, add all the alcohol, except the 151 rum. Add the pineapple juice and the orange juice.  (Use less if you like it stronger.) Give the drink a quick 1-second pulse in the blender, and pour it with all the ice into Scorpion Bowl or a very large glass or bowl. If you do have a Scorpion Bowl with the volcano in it, add the 151 rum to the bowl in the volcano. If not, you can mix the 151 into your drink.

Don’t drive!

My original banana bread recipe blog is featured directly below. It’s awesome. But my wife’s dietary needs required that I make some changes. My gluten-free version of the recipe, at the bottom of the page, is so good, you won’t miss the wheat!

 

A gluten-free batch.

 

The original recipe…

What makes this banana bread special is that it uses whole wheat flour…less sugar…and no artificial extracts that make most banana breads taste like crap. It relies on very ripe bananas to give it its wonderful natural flavor.

It’s not always easy to get bananas to ripen exactly when you’re trying to make your banana bread recipe. So I by a large bunch of bananas and let them get very ripe at room temperature. I then take 5 at a time (for this recipe), peel them, and place the bananas in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. When it’s time to make banana bread, I just pull one of those Ziplocs out of the freezer, let it thaw, and mash with a potato masher.

 

Nana bread blog

 

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
5 medium-sized bananas, peeled and mashed
2 tsp real vanilla extract
Cooking spray

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine the sugar and oil in a mixing bowl and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. (I use the whisk attachment.) Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat until the mixture is light and lemon colored.

With the mixer running at low-speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the bananas, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Blend well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and blend some more to mix.

Pour the batter into 2 loaf pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the loaf pan on a wire rack.

Remove from the pan and let it cool completely on the wire rack before slicing.

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The gluten-free recipe…

My go-to gluten-free flour is the brand called Cup 4 Cup. You can find it in most supermarkets. But this time I tried the gluten-free baking flour by Bob’s Red Mill. Both flours gave excellent–and tasty–results.

 

 

 

If you want a slightly more “rustic” flavor, you can substitute 1/2 a cup of corn meal for 1/2 a cup of the flour. I use organic cane sugar instead of regular sugar when I have it. I don’t use vegetable oils, especially not canola, so I use healthier avocado oil or olive oil. Eggs are pastured when I can get ’em. Bananas are organic. And I rub the pans with coconut oil or I use an olive oil cooking spray.

 

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4 cups gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
3/4 cup avocado or olive oil
2 eggs
5 medium-sized bananas, peeled and mashed
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
coconut oil

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the sugar and oil in a mixing bowl and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. (I use the whisk attachment.) Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat until the mixture is light and lemon colored.

With the mixer running at low-speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the bananas, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Blend well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and blend some more to mix.

Pour the batter into 2 loaf pans or one large bundt pan that have been rubbed with the coconut oil. Bake for 45–60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.

Remove from the pan and let it cool completely on the wire rack before slicing.

 

It seems silly to travel all the way to Paris for a jar of mustard, but that’s exactly what we used to do. OK…we happened to be in Paris when we made the pilgrimage to the Maille mustard shop, but I couldn’t imagine a trip to the city of light without making the stop.
Back in 1747, Antoine Maille was known by many as the greatest mustard and vinegar maker of all time. He created the now-famous Maille Dijon Originale mustard in Dijon, France, and opened a shop in Paris to sell it. To this day, the company follows his strict guidelines to re-create that magic. The Maille company opened a second store, in Dijon, in 1845.
Saving us thousands of dollars in travel expenses, there are now 2 Maille mustard shops in my home town of New York City.

The supermarket stuff.

When you visit the Maille Paris shop on place de la Madeleine, you’re surrounded by beautiful displays of colorful jars of mustard. But you need to focus on the mustard taps–yes, like beer taps–at the main counter, a long oak bar where fresh mustard (no preservatives, never more than 10 days old) is dispensed into ceramic jars that are filled, corked, and wrapped in tissue paper.
Our mustard of choice is the Maille Chablis mustard, which is unlike anything I’ve ever been able to find here in the States. And though it is potent, it has a magical quality that I can’t even begin to describe.

How do I get one of these taps in my home?

While you’re standing in line for your mustard–and there is always a line–you can sample the three fresh mustards offered with a pretzel or a cracker. Aside from the Chablis mustard, there is also a grape juice and honey mustard, and a white wine mustard.
In the old days it was a sad day indeed when I opened the last jar of Maille mustard, look deep down inside, and saw that there was nothing left…just a dry residue of crusty mustard. I’d have to wait until our next trip to Paris. Now, it’s an excuse to go home to New York City and stock up!

I think I spent half of my childhood in the kitchen, watching my Mom and grandmother make koldūnai (kohl-doo-nayh), the Lithuanian version of a pierogi, by hand at lightning speed. They would roll a simple dough into a log about 1″ in diameter, then cut it into 1″ pieces, twirling each piece between their fingers to make a flat pancake, filling each with a small spoonful of meat or mushrooms, then fold it over, crimping the edges to make a crescent-shaped dumpling. It blew my mind that they could crank out over a hundred of these little masterpieces in no time, placing them on a cookie sheet and freezing them until it was time to cook.

Always on the lookout to make my job easier, I discovered a new tool this year: a device that makes faster work of koldūnai production, though they do come out much smaller. It’s a ravioli maker, and the Lithuanian purists I chatted with on social media didn’t like it. I was willing to give it a try if it meant that I could save myself a lot of time.

Simply roll out a sheet of dough on top of it.

Add a spoon of filling (in this case, ground beef) in each area.

Then roll out another sheet of dough on top of that and press down with a rolling pin.

Voila! Out pop 37 mini-koldūnai at once!

I first tried it with gluten-free dough, with limited success. The dough needs to have elasticity for the device to work properly and that’s something that is sorely lacking in any gluten-free dough I’ve made over the years. Gluten-free dough tends to dry out quickly and simply break rather than bend. But, that said, I managed to make a decent amount of them so that my wife, who maintains a gluten-free diet, could enjoy them, too.

 

Always great to have a helper in the kitchen!

 

One of the main reasons Lithuanian koldūnai beat Polish pierogis is the filling. For me, standard pierogi fillings like potatoes, cheese, and sauerkraut just don’t cut it. My Mom would mix ground beef with chopped onions sautéed in butter, a couple of eggs, and milk crackers soaked in milk. She’d add salt and pepper, then spoon that mixture into her koldūnai.

The other stuffing, usually reserved for special holidays like Christmas Eve and Easter, was made from mushrooms. Italy may lay claim to the porcini, but the fact of the matter is, Lithuania is porcini heaven. And when they’re dried and reconstituted, their incredible flavor is so intense, you don’t need many of them to flavor a large amount of regular button mushrooms. We’d get our dried boletes from relatives in Lithuania every year…the real deal. Mom would place a handful in some boiling water and let them steep until they swelled up and could easily be chopped and added to the other mushrooms. She’d then pour the mushroom liquid into the pan as well, not wasting a bit of that magical porcini flavor. The mushrooms were simply sautéed in butter, cooled, then used to fill the koldūnai.

 

I found that my Mom’s log method was too much work. I rolled the dough out with a rolling pin, then cut with a glass. Yes, that’s mac-and-cheese in the forefront.

A few years ago, I decided it was time to try my hand at making koldūnai. As I recall, my Mom simply mixed water with flour and a little salt to make the dough, kneaded it into a log, and off she went. I decided to go with the rolling pin and glass cutting method, in addition to the ravioli maker, because I wanted to compare the classic crescent-shaped koldūnai with the newer mini’s.

The biggest challenges I had with making my own koldūnai was my clumsiness and lack of experience. Once I got the hang of it, things moved along steadily, and it didn’t take long for me to make a decent batch–not all perfect, but not bad for a first try.

Since my wife is allergic to mushrooms, I had to skip them this time around and used the ground beef filling instead. And, by my daughter’s special request, I also made mac-and-cheese koldūnai. (Patty’s Pierogis, a restaurant in nearby Fall River, Massachusetts, and featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” is where she first had them.)

I keep my fillings, whether it’s the mac-and-cheese or the ground beef, gluten-free, so I can use them in GF as well as regular koldūnai. There’s no difference in the taste. Gluten-free mac-and-cheese is easily found in a box in supermarkets everywhere. Here’s the beef recipe…

 

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 pat of butter
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I use gluten-free)
1/4 cup milk

 

I make my gluten-free breadcrumbs with Udi’s frozen GF bread that I toast, then chop in a food processor. I think it tastes better than store-bought GF breadcrumbs in a can.

Finely chop the onion and saute it in the butter until translucent. Let it cool, then add it to 1 lb. of thawed ground beef. Add the egg, the breadcrumbs, and the milk. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients thoroughly and keep the meat in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

 

Two pots of boiling salted water: one for the meat-filled koldūnai, and one for the mac-and-cheese filled koldūnai.

Two pots of boiling salted water: one for the meat-filled koldūnai, and one for the mac-and-cheese filled koldūnai.

 

In my childhood home, you cannot possibly serve koldūnai without sour cream on the side and without spirgučiai (spir-guh-chay), chopped and fried bacon and onions that are sprinkled on top.

1 lb. bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped

In a large pan, fry the chopped bacon until it’s almost crisp. I don’t drain the fat, but you can if you’re a wuss. Add the chopped onions and cook until they are soft. Set aside.  (My Mom always kept a stash of spirgučiai in a container in the fridge, and sprinkled them on anything and everything.)

 

duni 4

Making the dough is simple. I add an egg to my Mom’s original recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free or regular)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 raw egg, scrambled

 

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, mixing with your hands. Keep adding flour in small amounts until the dough isn’t wet and sticky. When it forms a nice ball, remove it from the bowl and place it on a floured surface and knead it a bit more. Cut the ball into quarters, and work with these smaller pieces of dough.

If you’re using the ravioli maker method, each quarter will  make one sheet of dough for the top or bottom of the ravioli maker. If making them by hand, each sheet will give you about 8 crescent-shaped koldūnai.

For the rolling-pin method, roll each quarter out until the dough is about 1/8″ thick. Using a rocks glass as your cutter, cut circles out of the dough. Add a small spoonful of filling in the center of the dough, then fold the edges over and pinch them with your fingers. Flip it over and pinch again, making sure none of the filling seeps out. A tight edge means the koldūnai won’t break open when you put them in boiling water.

Some stuffed with mac and cheese!

 

Place the koldūnai on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, and when you’re done, place the sheet pan in the freezer.

Get a large pot of salted water boiling. Drop the koldūnai in gently, being careful not to overcrowd them. If the dough is thin, the koldūnai will be ready when they float up to the surface. A thicker dough will need longer cooking. The best way to know if they’re done is by taking one out, cutting it open and having a look (and taste!)

When plating, sprinkle generously with spirgučiai, and serve with sour cream on the side.

 

 

My conclusion: When all is said and done, the old ways are still the best. Although the ravioli maker did a good job, in many ways it was just as time-consuming. And the finished mini-raviolis did not have the dough-to-filling ratio that I find so satisfying with classically made koldūnai. We sampled both side-by-side, and there really was a difference. I’m sticking with the classic methods for now! Mom will be proud.

 

The hand-painted Christmas trees in the photos are from our friend, Don Cadoret, an artist here in Tiverton, RI. Check out all of his work at: http://www.doncadoret.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter is here. It’s time for some serious comfort food.

Years ago, when I received a shipment of venison from my father-in-law, an avid hunter that lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I knew that although I could certainly use beef for this dish, it would be absolutely stellar with venison. And I knew that I couldn’t miss with a local brew from my buddy, Sean Larkin of Revival Brewing Company (www.revivalbrewing.com), with his Double Black IPA…

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Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find gluten-free alternatives for this recipe. You can buy GF beer and flour, but the puff pastry is what makes the dish. A GF pie crust would be an alternative, but once you have it with puff pastry, you’ll never want it any other way!

Olive oil
3 red onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons butter, plus extra
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, chopped
3 lbs. venison, cut into 3/4″ cubes
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
2 bottles (24 oz.) Revival Brewing Company Double Black IPA, with a swig for the cook
3 tablespoons flour
12 oz. freshly grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 pounds store-bought puff pastry (all butter is best)
1 large egg, beaten

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Pre-heat the oven to 375.

In a large oven-proof pan, heat a few tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat up and add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Stir well, then add venison, rosemary, a pinch of salt and about a teaspoon of pepper.

Saute on high for about 4 minutes, then add the beer, making sure you take a swig for luck! Stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid or foil, and place in the preheated oven for about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove after 1 1/2 hours and stir. Put it back in the oven and cook another hour, until the meat is cooked and the stew is rich, dark and thick. If it’s still liquidy, place the pan on the stove top and reduce until the sauce thickens. (You don’t want a soupy stew or you’ll get soggy puff pastry later.) Remove the pan from the heat and stir in half the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.

Depending on whether your puff pastry comes in sheets or a block, you’ll need to use a rolling-pin to get it into sheets about 1/8″ thick. Butter a good-sized pie dish or an oven-proof terrine. Line the dish with the sheets of pastry, letting the pastry hang over the sides. Pour in the stew, even it out with a spatula, and add the rest of the grated cheese on top.

Use another 1/8″ thick sheet of pastry (or a couple if they’re not wide enough) to cover the top of the pie dish. Lightly crisscross the top with a knife, then fold over the overhanging pieces of pastry over the lid, making it look nice and rustic. Don’t cut or throw any of the pastry away! Use as much as you can, since everyone will want some.

Brush the top with the beaten egg and then bake the pie on the bottom of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the pastry has cooked, and it’s beautifully puffed and golden. Serve with a side of peas (and beer!)

 

 

 

 


It takes a few weeks for this limoncello recipe to be ready, so plan ahead!

Many years ago, my wife and I visited the Amalfi coast, and we spent several nights on the beautiful island of Capri. On our last night, we dined at the legendary Grand Hotel Quisisana, and our incredible meal ended with a glass of the most delicious limoncello I ever had.

I asked the waiter if it was possible to get the recipe of the limoncello, and he made a big deal about the recipe being a “secret.” Though disappointed, I understood, and I left Capri thinking that I would never taste that limoncello again.

Two weeks later, now back at home, I was reading the latest issue of Conde Nast Traveler, and there in black and white, was the Quisisana limoncello recipe! WTF?

After making many batches of this limoncello, I started experimenting with other citrus, and the most successful by far was with grapefruit. Now I make a batch of each every year. Note: the recipe calls for 100-proof vodka. Most vodka is 80-proof, so you’ll need to go to a liquor store with a better selection to find it.

 

 

Four ingredients, easy to make. The toughest part is waiting for it to mellow a bit.

 

4 lbs. lemons, zest only
2 750-ml bottles 100 proof vodka (I prefer Absolut)
5 1/2 cups sugar
6 cups filtered water

Peel the zest off all the lemons, making sure you don’t get any of the white pith that could make the limoncello bitter. Place all the zest in the bottom of a glass jar with a lid that can hold all the vodka.

Pour the vodka on top of the lemon zest pieces, seal the container, and keep at room temperature for a week, swirling the jar around gently once a day.

On the sixth day, combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium-high heat, and stir until all the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from the heat, cover, and let it thoroughly cool to room temperature (overnight is best.)

On day seven, strain the lemon zest, pouring the infused vodka into a clean glass jar. Discard the lemon zest.

Pour the sugar/water mixture into the vodka and mix well.

At this point, you can pour the finished product into individual bottles, but let it mellow for about a month before drinking.

I keep my limoncello refrigerated.