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Friday, August 7th, 2009

Celery Salt

Contrary to popular belief, celery salt is not ground up celery mixed with salt. Or maybe that isn’t popular belief but until I started thinking about it I had no clue what was in that strange, bitter, salty mix that is necessary for a good Bloody Mary.

Oddly enough, I came across an unorthodox recipe in Fergus Henderson’s, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.  I love this book, but it can be terrifying to cook out of: I’m not sure where to get fresh pig spleen and I don’t even know what a woodcock is. So when I saw a very simple recipe for celery salt I decided to give it a go.

His recipe calls for mixing coarse sea salt with freshly peeled and grated celeriac, refrigerating for two days, slowly drying it out in the oven and then grinding the mix in a food processor.

If you’ve ever worked with celeriac, you know that grating it is no easy feat. But it’s worth the effort. The resulting celery salt was delicate, yet flavorful and produced some of the best Bloody Marys I’ve ever tasted.

Friday, October 21st, 2005

Bloody Marys

consumed on 10/21/05

During a long weekend at Ocean Shores, I discovered a smoked meats store that was next to the liquor store…. They had:

  • Razor clam sausage: wanted to try this but got vetoed…
  • Landjaeger: soft & slightly spicy peperoni (w/o the weird food colorings)
  • Brown sugar beef jerky: tender with a great, sweet & smoky flavor
  • Double-smoked bacon: need I say more?

We decided to combine the meats & liquor and made a full on appetizer cocktail!

Bloody Mary recipe:

  • 92 oz v8-juice
  • 750 ml crater lake vodka
  • 5 oz Worchestire sauce
  • 1 oz Tabasco (or more if you like spicy)
  • 1 T celery salt
  • 16 oz beef bullion
  • 4 oz lemon juice
  • 1 T pepper

Garnished each with:

  • pickled asparagus
  • shrimp sauteed in garlic & butter
  • dill pickles
  • olives
  • pickled hot okra
  • celery stick
  • daikon
  • a few slices of double-smoked bacon

 

Thursday, October 6th, 2005

Simple Syrups

What I love most about simple syrups, is that they really are just that: Simple. Ridiculously easy to make, they keep for a long time and are worlds better than commercially made flavoring. So why isn’t everyone making simple syrups?

PERSONAL RANT: On another note, why do flavored vodkas even exist? I recently had a drink made with Absolut Raspberri and thought it was the most disgusting thing to have passed my lips in a long while. It tasted artificial and fake and absolutely nothing like raspberry. And please don’t even get me started on that “Vanil” (a.k.a. nasty scented candle) flavor…

So I’m here to encourage everyone to make their own flavored simple syrups. It’s this simple:

1. Put three cups of water in a pot.
2. Add two cups of sugar and give it a stir.
3. Bring to a boil over high heat and let boil for a minute.
4. Remove from heat and toss in desired flavorings.
5. Let steep until cool and then strain into a clean container.

Voilà. Keep it in the fridge for up to 3 months. Add 1-2 tablespoons to any alcoholic drink, or even just plain carbonated water.

Last weekend B & I made a bunch of simple syrups for an Asian-themed party we were attending. We went to Uwajimaya in search of inspiration and walked out with: an English cucumber, a package of Vietnamese mint, lemongrass stalks, limes and a package of huckleberries.

The cucumber simple syrup was flat out amazing. All we did was peel the cucumber and then cut it into 1/4 inch pieces for steeping. Everyone who tasted it asked for the recipe. And then didn’t believe me when I told them how easy it was.

The mint simple syrup was awful, but only because we didn’t realize that Vietnamese mint isn’t really mint. We made a quick replacement batch using two mint and two peppermint teabags. Mint tea simple syrup is my old standby and is fantastic in drinks.

For the lemon grass, we simply sliced it into thin rounds for steeping. This syrup turned out light and fruity. It was too delicate for complex drinks, but it was perfect with just vodka and soda.

The lime simple syrup was made with the zest of four limes, plus the juice of one lime. We were testing out my new microplane zester and got a little over-zealous… we ended up with too much pith, so the syrup was bitter. We labeled it “bitter lime” and passed it off as bitters with flying colors.

Our last syrup was made from huckleberries. It was a beautiful color and had a wonderful, lush and fruity flavor. Worlds better than Absolut Raspberri.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

Simple Syrups

I’ve been thinking a lot about lemongrass lately. I have this really weird aversion to lemons (they taste dirty to me), but I love the delicate perfume of lemon grass. I was thinking that lemongrass lemonade sounds particularly refreshing and summery. Then I had an idea to make lemongrass simple syrup to mix with sparkling water and/or vodka for my upcoming bday bash.

Then, per my usual pattern, I turned something quite simple into something a little more complex. How about if I make all kinds of different flavored syrups? They can all have Asian-ish ingredients, since my party has a Vietnamese theme. I spent a very sunny weekend in my apartment, boiling down sugar and water.

Here are the combos I ended up with:

Lemongrass and Lemon Zest Simple Syrup
9 stalks of lemongrass (chopped), zest of one lemon, 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
This ended up tasting exactly how I imagined it: fresh, bright and summery.

Kaffir Lime Leaf and Lime Simple Syrup
6 kaffir lime leaves (julienned), 1 regular lime (quartered), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
I’ve never cooked with kaffir lime leaf before, but I found fresh ones at Uwajimaya. They were really beautiful and strange because they are two leaves, joined together, end-to-end. Unfortunately, they tasted more medicinal than I expected, so at the last minute I added in a regular lime to bring out a more fruity flavor.

Pandan Leaf Simple Syrup
8 pandan leaves (chopped), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
I was intrigued after reading da*xiang’s recipe for Nasi Lemak. I had never even heard of pandan before, but it sounded interesting, so when I saw them fresh at Uwajimaya, I snapped them up. They had the most incredible and elusive scent. Whenever I held them up to my nose, they’d smell like bitter, cut grass, but when they weren’t as close they released a perfume like basmati rice. I was head over heels for the smell, but the plant itself tasted bitter. Oddly enough, the simple syrup ended up tasting like the smell and not the taste (whew).

Ginger and Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
1/2 cup grated ginger, 2 cups brown sugar and 3 cups water
This sounded like a great idea, but I think simple syrups are better off made with white sugar instead of brown. Somehow it just didn’t taste sweet enough. Also, I probably should have cut the ginger into coins instead of grating it because the ginger really overpowered the syrup. This one could go either way when mixed into a drink—either delicious and interesting or overpowering and medicinal.

Mint Simple Syrup
1/2 cup of mint leaves (whole), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
This was my second favorite after the lemongrass. Pure and simple mint.

I can’t wait to mix them into drinks!

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Happy Happy Hour

A few friends and I were seeing a late movie at Pacific Place, but wanted a quick drink and snack beforehand. Every time I need to grab food downtown I’m dismayed by the lack of choices—there is an uncanny convergence of bad chain restaurants. After much debate, we finally settled on the Dragonfish Café in the Paramount Hotel. I had been there once before a long, long time ago and it left a bad taste in my mouth, although now I can’t remember why.

We walked in to find the bar area packed, as they were in the midst of their second happy hour (10pm-1am daily). We ordered a round of fruity cocktails and they came to the table in cute bamboo shaped glasses. Everyone took a sip and eyes lit up around the table. Then we all swapped drinks so we could taste everything. I was stunned that Dragonfish served some of the best juice-based cocktails I’ve ever had. And since it was happy hour, they were only $2.95 each. The best drink was the Lemongrass Lime Ricky, which featured lemon grass and lime leaf infused vodka. My other favorite was the Ruby Berry Splash—a spiked raspberry lemonade.

Since the drinks were so stellar, we decided to try out the Happy Hour Menu. We had a four piece Dragon Roll ($1.95) that contained asparagus, shrimp, tuna and avocado. Nothing special, but it wasn’t bad either. Next was the Chinese BBQ Pork ($2.95). Again, not bad, but I should never order BBQ pork outside of Chinatown, because it’s not very exciting when made from bland pork tenderloin. Where’s the crispy fat?! Our last dish was the Caramel Ginger Chicken ($3.95) which was oddly good, although the “caramel” tasted and looked a lot like a honey glaze.

I can’t say I’d go out of my way to eat here, but it will now be my restaurant of choice for happy hour before (or after) a movie, shopping, the theater, or any other reason I may find myself in need of a drink downtown.

Dragonfish Asian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 7th, 2005

I Heart Crispy Duck

I attended my friend’s opening at the Traver Gallery tonight. The work was incredibly beautiful and the gallery was packed. Afterwards we went to Typhoon to celebrate. Typhoon is located in the old Wild Ginger building and, in my opinion, is about a million times better than the current Wild Ginger.

Typhoon always has great bartenders, so we asked for drink recommendations. I had my first Caipirinha and it was delicious—really light and flavored with lime, Cachaça 51, and just a touch of sugar. B had a Caipiroska, which is essentially the same drink but made with vodka instead of rum. These might turn out to be my new favorites for the summer.

There were four of us eating and we ordered plates to share:

Drunken Noodles ($11.95) – Wide rice noodles with beef and a really, really spicy sauce. Too spicy even for those who love spice.

Chicken in Green Curry ($11.95) – A light green curry sauce with chicken. A typical preparation, but very good.

Garlic Pork ($10.95) – Tender and slightly crisp bits of pork in a garlicky sauce. I loved this dish.

Five-Spice Crispy Duck ($19.95) – I order this every time I eat at Typhoon. The duck is perfectly spiced, crunchy and fatty. It comes with pillowy steamed buns and plum sauce, which makes the perfect sandwich. It’s expensive, but so so good.

Typhoon! (Seattle) on Urbanspoon