Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Day 18: Warm Gingerbread w/ Bourbon Custard Cream

This post marks Day 18 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

I really wanted to make a Warm Gingerbread Bread Pudding, which seemed like it'd be a decadent holiday dessert for the snowy, blustery days leading up to Christmas.

But in order to make a bread pudding, one really needs stale bread. And honestly, who has a bunch of gingerbread laying around getting stale? So I gave up that idea for quicker, more simple — but still truly tasty — Warm Gingerbread with Bourbon Custard Cream.

Gingerbread with Bourbon Custard Cream

I like the method Alice Medrich uses for gingerbread in her delicious book, Chocolate Holidays.

It's quick, spicy and makes the kitchen smell like a homecoming hug. I've modified hers a bit for our evil purposes here. (Bwah-haha!)
Quick & Tasty Gingerbread (Makes one 9" square or round cake)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
1/3 cup fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1. Heat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9" round or square pan (or line it with parchment)
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger.
3. In another mixing bowl, blend the brown sugar, molasses and honey, then whisk in the egg and ginger.
4. Heat the butter and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan until the butter melts.
5. Whisk the butter mixture into the brown sugar mixture. Add the dry mix and stir until smooth.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.
7. Cool the cake on a rack about 20 minutes before loosening the edges of the cake with a butter knife and turning it out onto a plate.

This custard sauce is essentially just a modified Crème Anglaise, one of those classic patissier sauces that make people go mad with delight.
Bourbon Custard Cream (Makes about 1 cup)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
1 Tbsp bourbon

1. In a saucepan set over moderate heat, combine the milk and vanilla and cook about 5 minutes — just until small bubbles begin to appear.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, egg yolks and nutmeg (if using) until blended.
3. Pour about half of the hot milk into the egg mixture in a thin stream, blending well as you pour.
4. Mix the hot egg mixture into the remaining milk in saucepan, stirring and cooking until the sauce thickens (about 4 to 5 minutes).
5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bourbon. Serve immediately atop the warm gingerbread or refrigerate until needed. It'll keep in an airtight container for a few days in the fridge.

To serve, cut the warm gingerbread into wedges and top with a dollop of the Bourbon Custard Cream. Maybe anoint the whole thing with a dusting of cinnamon if you're feeling fancy.

And if you somehow find that your guests remain unmoved by all that wonder and delight, I have to conclude they're jaded souls who simply won't be wooed.

Enjoy your slice of warm gingerbread and thank your lucky stars that you have light in your heart and custard cream on your lips.

Holiday Cheer!
Miss Ginsu

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12.18.2008

Day 11: Herein We Go a Wassail-ing

This post marks Day 11 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

When I lived in Minneapolis, one of my friends organized annual holiday caroling. It was probably my favorite thing about the whole holiday season.

We spent far more time "practicing" than caroling (you can accurately insert "goofing around" for the quoted material above), but it was good fun for all. We stuck to the classics, and Here We Go a-Wassailing was always on the list. (It's SO much easier to sing than O Holy Night...)

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wandering
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door,
But we are neighbors' children
Whom you have seen before
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.


Wassail with an Orange Slice

Had we known at the time that wassailing really referred to the same sort of drunken revelry in which we were partaking, it might have made that ancient song all the more charming and relevant.

Indeed, the reason our ancestors sang with love and joy about wassailing was really all about the warmth of companionship... and the love of the drink.

The cider those folks were sipping back then was the hard stuff. (You'll find some nice wassailing history here.)

The trusty wikipedia entry will tell you that for a traditional wassail pot: "Sugar, ale, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon would be placed in a bowl, heated, and topped with slices of toast as sops."

My recipe appears below and yes, I skip the toast. But as with many traditional recipes, folks back then pretty much used what they had on hand, and so, dear reader, can you!

Just make sure that apples make some kind of an appearance (as cider or cooked as fruit). Apples are crucial, but you can also use an ale, wine or sherry as the base along with your favorite mulling spices. For a virgin wassail, skip the booze and do it up more like a spicy mulled apple cider.
Holiday Wassail Pot (Serves 6-8)
4 apples, peeled and cored
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 bottle dry sherry or dry Madeira
3 cinnamon sticks
3-4 allspice berries
4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp ground cardamom)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Zest from 1/2 lemon
1 cup Calvados or brandy

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the apples in a baking dish and stuff each with a tablespoon of brown sugar. Add a little water to the bottom of the pan to prevent burning (about 1/4 inch), and bake for 30 minutes.
2. Pour the sherry or Madiera in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add the cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, cloves, cardamom, ginger, brown sugar and lemon zest. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat.
3. When apples are done baking, add the apples and pan liquid to the wassail pot. Add the Calvados/brandy and heat for another 20 minutes.
4. Strain out the spice and ladle into mugs to serve.

As you can see, there's enough alcohol in this recipe to ensure a very merry caroling party indeed! I beg you to wassail responsibly, and don't let your soprano pass out in a snow drift.

Holiday Cheer!
Miss Ginsu

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12.11.2008

Day 4: Holiday Glühwein

This post marks Day 4 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Ever open up a bottle of wine and then wish you hadn't bought it? It's not corked or anything. It's just... not your thing.

The Germans have a thrifty and practical solution for this in the form of glühwein, which you might also know as Norwegian glögg or simply mulled wine.

In fact, most wine-drinking cultures have some kind of mulled wine tradition, so I don't wonder whether this recipe started with the need to do something with unsatisfactory vino.

Gluhwein

If you don't have an unappealing bottle of wine to use up, you can simply use an inexpensive one. You'll be adding sweetener and so many other flavors, you shouldn't really notice the wine's flaws.

Though red wine is usually used, it's not out of line to spice white wine in the same way.

There's as many recipes as families, I'd imagine, but I like the following variation.
Holiday Glühwein (Serves 4-6)
1 cup water
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp grated lemon or orange peel
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
4 allspice berries
1 vanilla bean, split (optional)
1 750ml bottle red wine
Lemon or orange juice (optional, to taste)

1. Bring the water, honey, citrus zest, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and vanilla (if using) to a boil in a saucepan.
2. Turn off the heat and let the mixture steep 30 minutes, before straining out the spices. Pour the bottle of wine into the spiced liquid and heat to a boil.
3. Reduce heat, adjust flavor with a little lemon or orange juice and a little extra honey (to taste). Serve hot in mugs.

In Nordic countries the local glögg is drunk during the Christmas season with sweets such as gingerbread that are served with blue cheese.

Num! I may very well try the same some bone-chilling afternoon this month.

A holiday toast to you and yours!
Miss Ginsu

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12.04.2008

Old Mr. Boston's Bronx Cheer

Flipping through my Old Mr. Boston De Luxe Official Bartender's Guide (1960 edition, naturally...), I was struck by how many random place names pop up in the cocktails.

Cocktails

There's the Alaska and Alabama cocktails, but with no explanation, Old Mr. Boston gives no such honor to Arizona or Arkansas.

Baltimore represents in the form of both the Baltimore Bracer and the Baltimore Eggnog, but is there a Brooklyn? No. Sadly, there's not. No cocktail for you, Brooklyn.

New York rates two drinks, of course Manhattan gets its own (quite famous) cocktail, and even Fifth Avenue rates a drink, but strangely, of the boroughs Mr. Boston had available for cocktail honors, did he crown Queens? (That'd be a no.) Or stop by Staten Island? (That'd be a hell, no.)

Folks, Old Mr. Boston had it going for The Bronx.

Five cocktail listings for ye olde Bronck's Land. And why is that, anyway? A nod to the thicket of bootleggers and gangs that thrived there during the prohibition era? Does it go even further back to even seedier activities? Only Mr. Boston knows.

And, well, yes... Wikipedia also knows. (Or at least it sorta knows.) Apparently the Bronx Cocktail was the toast of 1934, devised either by Bronx restaurateur Joe Sormani, or perhaps whipped up on a whim in Philly and named for The Bronx's famed zoo. Aw!

Whatever the true origin story, we can appreciate the simple beauty of The Borough's namesake cocktail. All five variations focus on gin with various measures of vermouth, citrus juice and garnish. Easy to make, easy to drink.

I'll list out my two favorites — the straight-up Bronx Cocktail, and the evocatively named Bronx Terrace... where I envision 1934's newly retired bootleggers laid back, sippin' on gin and juice in the really, really old-school Bronx style.
Bronx Cocktail

1 oz dry gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz dry vermouth
Juice of 1/4 orange

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into a 3-ounce cocktail glass. Serve with a slice of orange.

Bronx Terrace Cocktail

1 1/2 oz dry gin
1 1/2 oz dry vermouth
Juice of 1/2 lime

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into a 3-ounce cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

(Bronx) Cheers,
Miss Ginsu

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9.09.2008

Raising a Caipirinha to Brazil

I just want to take a moment to say "thank you" to Brazil.

Why? Well, although the country has some challenges (poverty, etc.) those lovely Brazilians export a lot of wonderful things to the citizens of the rest of the world.

Bossa nova, samba, capoeira, jiu-jitsu, feijoada, churrascaria, The Girl From Ipanema... all things evocative of sensuality and living life with verve.

So thanks very much, Brazil! I raise a caipirinha to you. A blackberry caipirinha to be precise.

Blackberry Caipirinha
Blackberry Caipirinha at Little Giant in NYC

For any out there living unawares, the caipirinha (kye-per-REEN-yah) is a refreshing Brazilian cocktail composed of ice, sugar, lime and cachaça (ka-SHA-suh), which is a sugar cane liquor that's made like a rum, except that rum is aged in oak, whereas cachaça is often not aged at all (though it's sometimes aged in barrels of various types of wood).

You'll note that blackberries are not particularly Brazilian, but neither am I, and they happen to be tasty and in season at the farmer's markets right now. So... to the cocktail we go.

This is a drink that requires a good, fierce muddling. In fact, I think I may insist on muddled cocktails henceforth, because if you don't have to muddle a mixed drink, there's no love in it, is there? (I may make an exception for cocktails of the martini/old fashioned variety, since there's really not much to muddle there.)

Feel free to substitute the berry in question. We're already breaking the rules by adding it, so why not just go nuts? If you want to do this the fancy way, blend the berries with a tablespoon or so of water and strain out the seeds before proceeding.

However, if you want to do it the fast way and just get on with the enjoyment part, proceed, o impatient one.
Blackberry Caipirinha
2 oz cachaça
6-8 plump blackberries (or any delicious berry you happen to have)
1/2 of a lime
1 tsp sugar (or 1/2 oz Simple Syrup)

1. Cut the halved lime into 3 wedges.
2. In a shaker or pint glass, muddle (as in, "squash the bejesus out of") two lime wedges, the blackberries and the sugar (or syrup).
3. Add ice and the cachaça. Cover well and shake vigorously.
4. Pour into a rocks glass and use the remaining wedge of lime for garnish.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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9.04.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 08.18.08


Last week, our sweet protagonist was sussed out by Mr. Hazard at the Coney Island Boardwalk. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Vin Mariani
the nonist makes a rare foray into the realm of food blogging with the bizarre history of Vin Mariani: a most intoxicating beverage...

Make your own "pop tarts"
I have absolute certainty that these are immeasurably better than those little pastry hunks in the silver foil pouches.

Grandma's Grain Recipe
Oh yeah... this one is looking like a likely candidate for the autumn/winter brekkie roster.

Bodega Party in a Box
Your guide to celebrating (and making food from) the friendly neighborhood bodega.

The Frownie
Make a whole plate, and you've got a pity party. Hilarious.

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8.18.2008

Make Mine a Mead

Apparently, it's the American Homebrewer's Association Mead Day. And as it's sweltering summertime out there, I can't think of a better day to highlight the pleasures of DIY beverages, not to mention the plight of the threatened honeybee.

Home-brewed mead
Brett's homebrew. Great tiled countertop, right? I helped install that. :)

Though oft dismissed as the stuff of Ren Fairs and the creative anachronism crowd, mead is actually not that difficult to do at home. And (bonus!) being a generous homebrewer is guaranteed to make you immediately popular in your neighborhood and totally valuable after the apocalypse.

My college buddy Brett, a talented photographer and writer, brews all kinds of delights in his enviably large basement in Susquehanna, PA.

And just what does he have down there? Rich molasses-y porters. Dark stouts. Light, spicy Belgian ales. And some new batches of crisp, effervescent mead.

A cold glass beside the sandbox
Nothin' like a cold glass of mead while you play in the sandbox...

While I was out there on a recent visit, he confessed that he's been lazy. Truthfully, he's really only interested in making mead as of late. Why? It's simple. Who wants to fuss with a lot in the summertime?

So here's to simplicity. And here's to the bees that make mead possible. Unfortunately, North America's bee populations are threatened by mysterious, deadly troubles that science is referring to as Colony Collapse Disorder.

A number of honey-loving businesses, from cosmetics company Burt's Bees to ice cream maker Häagen Daz have recently joined forces highlight this issue and throw some money at CCD research.

When honeybees die, we lose more than honey, beeswax products and mead. Bees are essential to agriculture and maintaining our food supply.

Meanwhile, I submit to you a spiced mead you can do at home, if you have the patience, the space and/or your housemates are forgiving. This mead is technically a methyglyn, which is a mead with spices, while a melomel is a mead with fruit.

Before starting, you'll need about 25-30 clean 12oz bottles, the same number of corks or caps and a capper, and primary and secondary fermentation buckets or a carboy that you've sanitized (bleach works well for this).
Double-Fermented Citrus Mead Makes about 2 1/2 gallons, (about 26 12oz bottles)

6 to 9 lb good quality honey
2 1/2 gallons water
1/8 oz freeze-dried wine, champagne or mead yeast
Peels from 4 oranges or lemons (no whites)
2" piece ginger, sliced
2 Tbsp coriander seeds

1. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and mix in the honey, sliced ginger, citrus peel and coriander.

2. Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup of lukewarm water in a clean bowl with the yeast.

3. When the pot is cool, skim out the peel, spices and ginger and stir in the yeast mixture. Transfer the mixture to a clean, sterile fermentation bucket or a carboy.

4. Cap the bucket/carboy and let the mixture ferment for two to four weeks. The number of carbon dioxide bubbles emitted from the air lock should drop to one bubble every minute, indicating the first fermentation is almost complete.

5. When the bubbling activity subsides the yeast is dead. Carefully siphon the mead the secondary fermentation bucket and cap it (try not to get the lees at the bottom of the bucket). Age for one to four months.

6. Once the mead has cleared and matured, you can siphon it into sterilized bottles and cap them. Let the bottles sit for at least another week or two, then chill and serve.

Brett is quick to remind homebrewers that, like most alcoholic brews, mead improves with age. Even if you're not crazy about the first bottle you sample, you might really love the same brew a few months (or years!) later.

The Beer for Dummies guys offer this additional advice:
Note on equipment: Making mead requires essentially the same basic kit necessary to brew beer at home: primary and secondary plastic-bucket fermenters with air locks and spigots, transfer hosing, a bottle-filler tube, heavy bottles, bottle caps, bottle capper, and a bottle brush and washer. You should be able to find these items for approximately $70 total (excluding the bottles) through a home-brewing supplier, such as The Home Brewery. Bottles cost from $6 to $20 per dozen, depending on style. You might instead buy a couple of cases of beer in returnable bottles, drink the beer, and — after sanitizing them! — reuse those bottles, for the cost of the deposit.


Cheers!

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8.02.2008

Food Quote Friday: Virginia "Pepper" Potts

Martini

"I'll have a vodka martini... with a lot of olives. Like at least three olives."

Virginia "Pepper" Potts in Iron Man


Thirsting for more? Find 'em in the food quote archive.

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7.04.2008

The Cocktail Kit: A Sweet Conspiracy

In the last edition of the Cocktail Kit, we took another look at the joy of Homemade Bitters. This time, we're looking at a seasonal cocktail delight that also has uses in number of impressive non-cocktail treats... the preserved cherry.

I posted about maraschino cherries back in '05, gave a bit of history and offered up a DIY recipe, but I didn't give enough thought to one of the dastardly details that surround the maraschino cherry saga...

The fact is, the very first maraschino cherries were preserved with liqueur. This treat lost traction as the temperance movement of the early 1900s came to a head, and by 1920 — the dawn of U.S. Prohibition — maraschino cherries were manufactured without any liqueur at all.

"Less liqueur was used in processing and almond oil was substituted for some of the liqueur. Finally, the liqueur was eliminated altogether. By 1920, the American maraschino cherry was so popular that it had replaced the foreign variety in the United States."

The piece I quoted in my original maraschino post seems to indicate that liquor-soaked cherries simply lost the national popularity contest to sugar-soaked cherries. But the match-up in the date pattern indicates something different: the sugar-soaked maraschino cherry was marched in as a watered-down replacement for a treat that was just too vice-ridden for the dry 1920s to handle.

Bourbon Cherries
Bing cherries preserved in (gasp!) alcohol.

No wonder the maraschino rides high atop ice cream sundaes. No wonder it's a necessary component of that most legendary of the goodie-goodie cocktails — the Shirley Temple.

The maraschino is the bright-red flag of a nation attempting to return to some mythological state of innocence.

It's a sugar-coated conspiracy! A syrupy cover-up!

So what happened to the liquor-preserved cherries of old? Well, other, less puritanical countries continued making them, and they've sustained an underground existence in homes and pantries in the U.S. As it happens, those little demon berries are in my kitchen and in my cocktails right now.

Brandied cherries continue to be popular Southern treats (particularly when they're covered in chocolate), but you can also do what I do: preserve 'em with bourbon.

Cherry season is coming right up, so now's the time to take a Sunday afternoon and make up a few batches. Enjoy some now and save some for the holidays. Little jars of bourbon cherries make great gifts alongside a couple of cool cocktail or dessert recipes.

The biggest part of the task is simply pitting the fruits. Either do it by hand (just cut a 1/2-inch slice into each cherry along the stem end and dig out the pits), or invest in a cherry pitter.
Bourbon Cherries
2 lb sweet cherries
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1-2 whole star anise (optional)

1. Wash and pit the cherries.
2. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, water, lemon juice and spices (if using).
3. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Add cherries and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Remove cherry mix from the heat, and stir in the brandy.
5. Pack the hot cherries and syrup into sterilized jars, leaving some headspace.
6. Cap the jars, and if you're planning to can them, simmer for about 15 minutes in a bath of boiling water. If not, just cool and store the jars in the refrigerator.

Bourbon cherries make punchier stand-ins for their maraschino counterparts, or use them to top ice cream... or even sautéed duck breast.

Cheers!

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6.25.2008

Day 15: To Blog the Nog

This post marks Day 15 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Christmas means different foods to different families. Some people go for gingerbread houses or pigs in blankets, but for me... it's all about the nog.

The "egg" aspect of eggnog is easy enough to figure, but people bicker about the origins of the "nog."

I was entertained to learn that within the taxonomy of cocktails, the eggnog falls under the "flip" category and is sometimes referred to as an "egg flip."

For me, the ideal 'nog is rich, creamy, loaded with nutmeg and spiked with rum. I usually go for the Ronnybrook stuff, locally available at NYC farmers' markets and FreshDirect.

But eggnog is so darn easy to make, I should really just suck it up once a year and whip up my own. All you really need is milk, cream and reliably fresh eggs.

If you don't trust your eggs, or are serving the squeamish (or immune-deficient), Alton Brown's frothy 'nog recipe provides a handy cooked method.

eggnog
It's nog, it's nog! It's thick, it's heavy, it's cream!

Alton Brown's Eggnog

4 egg yolks*
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pint whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites*

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, bourbon and nutmeg and stir to combine.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Chill and serve.

*Cook's Note: For cooked eggnog, follow procedure below.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine the milk, heavy cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160°F. Remove from the heat, stir in the bourbon, pour into a medium mixing bowl, and set in the refrigerator to chill.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled mixture.


Cheers!

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12.15.2007