All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. ~John Gunther

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I have been trying to learn to make drinks.

I am relying heavily on Robert Hess's book: The Essential Bartender's Guide and it's been great for me because I really wanted to learn old-fashioned ways of making the drinks, and he is insistent on the basics and the originals.

I started with the old fashioned, one of the original cocktails. It contains sugar, bourbon, water, and bitters. Garnish is orange peel and a cherry (sometimes more than one in my case.) I have been drinking a lot of these since I started this quest in the fall:

Next up, a dry martini, in my only (at the time) martini glass:

A margarita, very simple, just cointreau, tequila, and lime juice:

Tonight, I decided to get fancy, and I made two drinks that aren't "basic" - I did a modification of a Hemingway Daiquiri and a drink called "Harvard" maybe "Harvard Cocktail" is better?

I served them up in my new cocktail glasses, which are just new to me, since I got them at the antique market.

The Hemingway Daquiri calls for grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur. I had ruby red grapefruit juice and no maraschino, so I went with it. It has: white rum, rupy red grapefruit juice, simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake with ice, strain into glass!

The Harvard seemed fun since I happen to work there, and also because I wanted to serve it to roommate kristen, who loves the Harvard pens I bring home. Also, I thought it would go well with her High Life.

The Harvard is brandy, sweet vermouth, grenadine, lemon juice and angostura bitters:

baked mac and cheese with broccoli

I got a sweet mac and cheese cookbook in December, and I finally made a recipe from it tonight! the book is: Macaroni & Cheese by Marlena Spieler.

As usual I made some modifications. I ended up using all 4 burners at a time and a lot of pots and pans to get this one done. It's not actually that simple, but super worth it. Her recipe is called "Yankee Doodle Dandy Baked Macaroni & Cheese" and I took a tip from the bottom and did a broccoli addition.

Here's the basics:

Under cooked one box (12 oz) shell pasta and set aside. It's find if it cools off.

Grate a buttload of cheese. I went with 14 ounces of Grafton Cheddar, 6 ounces of Cabot Monterey Jack, 3 ounces of crumbled chevre (the recipe calls for blue cheese crumbles, but I'm not a blue cheese fan, so I went this route instead) and half a cup of parmesan (I bought the grated kind cause I was lazy.

also cut up a head of broccoli into little florets. bowl water and cook the florets for about 2-3 minutes and then drain. they should be bright green. set aside.

in a pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter and saute half an onion and 2 cloves of garlic (all chopped) for a few minutes (they don't need to be super cooked, just good and aromatic.)

Then split the cheese into two bowls. 3 ounces of cheddar, 3 ounces of jack and 2 tablespoons of parm in one bowl. All the rest of the cheese in the other bowl (this bowl with a ton of cheese, including all the goat cheese, goes in the sauce).

Now you have to make bechamel. Heat 3 cups of milk (I used 2%, but whole is also good. But no skim. It needs fat!) until they are hot (but not boiling). in a separate large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter, when it is melted sprinkle 3 tablespoons of flour into it. mix and let cook for 1-2 minutes and don't burn it!!! then add the hot milk to the butter flour sitch. Add a bay leaf. cook while stirring for about 7 minutes so it starts to thicken. Don't boil though! use a whisk to stir/delumpify.

take the bechamel off heat. stir in 1 tablespoon of dry mustard and 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, a sprinkle of salt, and a liberal amount of cracked pepper. take out the bay leaf Now add the big bowl of cheese to the bechamel and stir. Now add the garlic/onion/butter mixture, stir that in too.

melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the same pan you already did the garlic/onions in. add 1 cup of plain breadcrumbs and combine with the butter over heat.

Now you can put it together! It's kind of like a lasagna. The recipe calls for a 1.5 qt pan (basically a loaf pan) which I think is way too small. I went with a 3 qt casserole and that fit perfectly.

sprinkle some of the cheese from your reserve bowl on the bottom of the casserole. then add 1/3 of the pasta. Then add 1/3 of the cheese sauce. then add some broccoli. then add more pasta, then more sauce. Repeat. I only had enough broccoli for 2 layers. I made the top layer broccoli though, and then on top of the top broccoli layer I sprinkled the rest of my reserve cheese, and then topped it all with the buttery breadcrumbs.

Put it in the oven at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes. We served it with kale salad and rolls. good combo.

here's a look in reverse:

New Year's Desserts: individual mont blancs

I decided that new year's should be decadent and I should make something new, so I decided to attempt to make a "Mont Blanc" a vaguely French, but very popular in Japan dessert that resembles a snow topped mountain. ("White Mountain.") I had brought some chestnut paste (actually Marron Paste) home with me from France in August, and this just seemed like the time to give it a try.

A Mont Blanc is basically a meringue topped with marron paste and egg white- and sugar-spiked whipped cream so that it looks like a mountain. It's a ton of work. I used a few different recipes to try and get it right. Here's one:

And here is what we ended up with...

some disasters (still tasted great!)

some success! (had to pop them right into the fridge though so that they would firm up a little. That whipped cream is real stiff from a beaten egg white, but still not super stable...)

For extra festiveness they were served either on snoopy xmas plates OR on a silver platter. f.a.n.c.y.

In the fridge...