Monday, August 31, 2015

BLTs + G&Ts

Few things please me as much as the farmers' market at this time of year.  Everything is practically perfect.  There is a wonderful intersection of high summer and early autumn produce that makes cooking a joy.  I believe one should eat corn, tomatoes, and peaches every day they are in season.  So I wanted to pop in and share some very important recipes to maximize this wonderful time of year.  I'll warn that if you've just started a new diet or joined AA, you may want to skip.

I'll start with the easiest: Old Bay Mayonnaise or if you're inclined to lazy puns like me, Old Bayo.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon black or cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients and let chill about an hour. Combines easiest if you add vinegar first to the bottom of the bowl/cup
I'm a big fan of the seasoning blend Old Bay.  It's well balanced, a little spicy, and very fresh tasting with the celery seed.  Until recently, I had only used Old Bay for preparing seafood.  I've discovered I also love it on vegetables and chicken.  Old Bayo on a BLT is transcendent.  I feel I should also admit that I rarely add ”L" to my BLT.  I usually opt for thinly sliced cucumber (tossed in red wine vinegar and kosher salt) instead. 

Cucumber Gin and Tonic

Every Midwesterner needs a corn tote. 

But what al freso lunch chowing down on a BLT with Old Bayo running down your hand would be complete without a cocktail? I'm not much of a believer in rigid food and wine/cocktail pairing.  I say do your own thing and enjoy what you like. However, if you've taken my advice this far and made your BLT with Old Bayo and cucumber instead of lettuce, you're going to want to see this through and mix a cucumber gin and tonic. I enjoy cucumbers all year, but I go apeshit crazy for real cucumbers in the summer.  I have the most charming friends at the market who grow my favorite cucumbers.  They are a husband and wife team who grow a titanic garden full of tomatoes, plums, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, gorgeous greens, peppers, and exquisite tomatillos.  They love to hear what I've made with their produce since I saw them last, and I love to get the forecast for what they might bring next week.  I make my g&ts a little differently than most people.  If you order a g&t in a restaurant, it will likely have a lime wedge garnish but no lime juice mixed into the cocktail.  I prefer a g&t with a lot of lime juice.  Also, very few places have diet tonic water.  A source of constant irritation to me.  I always make mine with diet tonic water.  (Regular) tonic water has about 9 grams of sugar per serving. Not that anyone should accept nutrition advice from me, but I suggest you save your sugar consumption for the recipe following this one. 
This expression means: I'm...


...getting out of bed. 

So.  Back to g&ts.  I prefer Bombay Sapphire, though my sister and my best friend both prefer Tanqueray.  If you favor a more citrusy gin like I do, go for Bombay.  If you prefer to taste the juniper first, go with Tanqueray.  I choose to mix in a cocktail shaker and transfer to a glass. I do this so I can cool the drink with a lot of ice in the shaker, but not as much in the glass.  Generally, a g&t is mixed in its serving glass.
First, make the cucumber gin infusion. 
1/2 cup sliced/diced/cubed cucumber, skins on
3/4 cup gin
Muddle and leave covered at room temperature for 1-4 hours.
Add approximately 1.5 shots of cucumber gin to glass or shaker. 
Squeeze in  juice of 1/2 lime, a little lime pulp is fine
Add ice and stir vigorously
Top with diet tonic water and stir again
Transfer to tall glass. 
This is my favorite cocktail of all time.  It's so easy and tastes so fresh.  I will warn you though--it is a little creeper.  The abundant lime juice and cucumber flavor really take an edge off the gin.  They go down very easily. 

And now that you're in a state of summer euphoria, the golden light is beginning to give way to amber and pale pink as the moon rises, a quintessential summer dessert is in order.  You're too drunk to cut and serve a pie (I told you those g&ts will sneak up on you), but how else can you enjoy the best fruit of summer? Ice cream! Technically, frozen custard.  This is a vanilla ice cream spiked with bourbon (wonderful flavor but prevents the ice cream from freezing too hard), and flavored with juicy, ripe peaches.  I add chunks of graham cracker crust for texture and appearance.  It is unbelievably good.  The flavors of bourbon and peach blend so seamlessly, the custard has such a decadent, silky texture.  And the chunks of graham cracker add an instantly recognizable punctuation of summer nostalgia.  This is a long recipe, but I promise it's not hard.  Just several steps.  I suppose the hardest part is the tempering of the egg yolks.  That can be intimidating, but it's very easy.  My ice cream is most certainly not diet friendly.  If it's just too much of a good thing for you, customize it.  Cut the cream with milk or half and half.  Ice cream is cooking, not baking.  That's why you often see chefs making ice creams on Iron Chef or Top Chef.  They are pretty forgiving and don't need to be painstakingly precise.  The most important ingredients to ice cream are time, air, and temperature.  I use this Cuisinart ice cream maker.  I have two bowls so I can yield more ice cream at one time for the effort.  The turnaround time on one of the bowls is about ten hours.  This is not a recipe you can whip up while your guests wait.  I start it about two days before I want to serve it.  Corn syrup may seem to be a curious ingredient.  Why can't you just use all sugar? Corn syrup helps the ice cream from not freezing too solid.  The alcohol helps with this too.  This recipe without corn syrup and alcohol would freeze into a solid brick.  Because of these elements, it will not freeze to the standard of "normal" ice cream in the ice cream maker.  It's ready to come out when it begins to hold together.  Don't worry if after 30 minutes it seems too liquidy. The additional time in the freezer helps it freeze into a traditionally textured ice cream.   
6 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup bourbon
3 duck egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Mix duck egg yolks together in measuring cup with plenty of extra room (for hot custard and vigorous mixing). 
2. Whisk together cream and granulated sugar in large sauce pan.  Place on medium high flame.  While consistently whisking, allow mixture to come to 140F.  When you begin to see steam rise, you are likely there. 
3. Reduce flame to low.
4. Take approximately 1/4 cup hot cream mixture and quickly whisk into duck egg yolks.  Once combined, add another 1/4 cup.  Whisk.  Add another 1/4 cup.  Whisk.
5. Whisk yolk mixture into cream mixture over low flame. Whisk constantly for about two minutes, as mixture begins to froth and thicken slightly. 
6.  Off flame, transfer to pourable measuring bowl.  Whisk in corn syrup, bourbon, salt, and vanilla extract.
7. Refrigerate at least five hours, preferably overnight. 

-Quick Peach Jam-
2 peaches, skins removed, diced
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon bourbon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Cook peaches, sugar, and salt on medium flame until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to steam.  About three minutes
2. Turn off flame, add nutmeg.
3. Once cooled, add bourbon. 
4. Refrigerate overnight

-Graham Cracker Crust-
1 sleeve graham crackers, processed into sand
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. combine all ingredients. spread into thin layer coating the inside of mixing bowl, or spread onto cookie sheet. Refrigerate overnight, covered.
2. Once cooled, break into chunks with fork.  Perfect chunks are nickel size.   

So now that we have all the elements to the ice cream, making it is very simple. 

1. Add (just) custard to ice cream maker. 
2. Process for approximately 25-35 minutes.  Texture should be like melting softserve. 
3. Transfer to large mixing bowl.
4. fold in peach jam and graham chunks.  Work as quickly as possible.  Only a few folds are necessary.
5. Transfer to container with tight-fitting lid. 
6. Allow to freeze another 3+ hours in the freezer.   
So with summer quickly slipping through our fingers, remember there is still some to enjoy.  This is actually my favorite time of year.  The summer madness is over, the back to school rush has ended (around here), and the pace is slow and casual.  And since most of the pools close this weekend, you can indulge in ultra decadent ice cream.  No need to wear a swimsuit until at least March.