Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Braised Red Cabbage

We may be nearing the end of October, but its never too late to enjoy a German classic in celebration of Oktoberfest. I may be a bit behind the curve with this one, as the classic Bavarian festival traditionally takes place in late September, but those in the know know I like to get my wurst on from time to time.

I've never been a huge fan of sauerkraut, especially of the pre-packaged variety, so I opted to pair some lovely little bratwursts with a traditional Bavarian side: braised red cabbage. This gorgeous dish makes a fine bed, and wonderful foil, for the savory links. It has just enough acid to balance the porky goodness and just enough crunch to keep things interesting.

Braised Red Cabbage:
  • 1 small head of red cabbage
  • red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup of thinly sliced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (or granulated sugar, agave nectar)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and studded with 3 whole cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of Bavarian Seasoning, optional
  • small pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
1. Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, cut it into quarters, and remove the core from all sections. Using a very sharp knife, slice the cabbage into thin shreds, one quarter at a time. As soon as each section is sliced, place the shreds in a large bowl and drizzle with a bit of red wine vinegar, tossing to lightly coat. This will help preserve the vibrant color. Repeat until all cabbage is sliced and tossed with vinegar.

2. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed, saucepan over medium high heat and add the olive oil. When hot, but not smoking, add the cabbage and toss with tongs to coat. Continue tossing gently until the cabbage begins to wilt a bit, about 2 to 3 minutes, then add the apples and sliced onions and saute together for 1 minute.

3. Nestle the clove studded onion into the mixture and add the remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with the salt, pepper, Bavarian Seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Allow the mixture to come to the boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Taste the cabbage at the 30 minute mark. Adjust seasoning if necessary, adding more of whatever you wish. I happen to prefer a bit of crunch here, so I generally don't simmer beyond 30 minutes. If you prefer a softer texture, continue simmering for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until your desired texture is achieved.

As written, this recipe will serve 4 to 6, depending on portion size.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thirsty Thursdays: Sazerac Edition

It seems like a century ago, but, yes, I spent some time in New Orleans last month. It was our first time in the city and, quite frankly, I fell in love. That we would eat and drink well was a given, what surprised me was my deep affection for the city itself - or, more precisely, for the area know as The French Quarter.

Winding my way along the Quarter's sun-baked streets, seeking the shelter of its lush green balconies, I felt at home. Something about the gentile decay, the almost-but-not-quite-falling-apart-ness of the city, spoke to me. Seduced by each new and more beautiful vista, I felt the city wrapping its warmth around me like the arms of a would be lover, pulling me in for a kiss. Strange reference perhaps, but there's a subtle underlying decadence to almost everything in the French Quarter, so the metaphor seems to fit ... and I fell willingly into those arms.

And, in truth, the seduction didn't take long. It began an hour after I arrived, with my first sip of a Sazerac at The Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt Hotel.

The Sazerac enjoys a long and much fabled history. So fabled, in fact, that it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. Fortunately, for our purposes, to do so is unnecessary. I happen to like the more popular story best, so I'll recount it briefly for you here. In this version, the Sazerac was invented by Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a New Orleans based apothecary, in 1838. Mr. Peychaud mixed a quantity of cognac with his health tonic - the substance we now know as Peychaud's bitters - and a bit of water and sugar. By 1870 or so, the drink had gained in popularity and, due to the tastes of the times, the cognac was replaced with Rye.

Somewhere along the way, a splash of absinthe was added to rinse the glass and when absinthe became illegal, it was replaced by Herbsaint, a pastis made in New Orleans. Phew! Still with me? Good. There's certainly more to this story and if you Google, you can read all your heart desires. At the end of the day, there's only one thing you need to know: this drink is enchanting.

The Sazerac Cocktail:
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 1/2 ounces of rye whiskey
  • 1/4 ounce Herbsaint
  • 3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters
  • strip of lemon peel
Pack an old fashioned glass with ice and reserve. In a second glass, combine the cube of sugar and 3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitter. Crush the sugar cube to dissolve, using a muddling tool or a bartender's spoon. Add the rye and a few cubes of ice and stir, briefly, to chill. Reserve.

Pour out the ice from the old fashioned glass and add the Herbsaint, turn the glass to coat, then empty the rest of the Herbsaint from the glass. Strain the reserved rye and bitters mixture into the coated glass, garnish with a strip or twist of lemon. Serve and enjoy, repeat as necessary!

A brief note on the recipe: I've used The Roosevelt's formula here, but if you do decide to Google, you'll find others. Some add a drop of Angostura bitters; some council the use of simple syrup, rather than the sugar cube; and some urge absinthe rather than Herbsaint for sake of tradition. As always, do as you see fit. If it seems easier for you, go ahead and use the simple syrup. In that case, I'd use about a teaspoon.

Like New Orleans itself, there's much to be discovered here. Each sip reveals a new twist, a new layer of flavor ... and the experience only intensifies as the drink warms. Sip slowly, savor it a bit, and you'll notice the layers. The herbal, faintly licorice flavor of the Herbsaint is present, yet doesn't overwhelm. The sweetness of the rye is tempered by the aromatic bitters, and end result is something magical. Its as enchanting as a stroll through the Quarter and as seductive as the city itself. I hope you'll try it.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Off to BlogHer Food '10

Seems I've been meeting myself coming and going lately what with all of this travel to and fro. I've had little time to cook, much less write about cooking. I hope to remedy that later this month ... but, for now, I'm off to BlogHer Food '10 in San Francisco.

I'm looking forward to catching up with old bloggy friends and meeting some new ones, and hoping to soak up some California sunshine as it been raining for days here on the East Coast.

I'm Going!

We had a blast in New Orleans and I do, indeed, have a special NOLA themed cocktail to share with you for the return of Thirsty Thursdays ... next week. I promise. You'll want to stay tuned, because its a real treat.

In the meantime, are you going to BlogHer Food '10 this weekend? If so, shout it out in the comments so I'll know to look out for you.

Cheers and see you next week!