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December 15, 2009 / kormanmatthew

What may come

With the end of the Fall 2009 college semester on the horizon, now comes the inevitable decision of whether or not I am going to continue my work with NJ College Foodie.

Sadly, for some, this post will be my last. But, lets not forgot some of the more important lessons learned in these past few months. I’ve come to learn that cooking, for all its joy and seeming simplicity, is not for everyone. It’s hard, complicated and involved at times. At other times its costly and much more labor intensive than someone, like me, who had minimal experience, can realize.

But along with all the work and thought that can be involved, it’s a real joy to see what one can create when they put all their effort into it. For some, it’s a defined art that is forever changing and complicated. For some like me, it’s a real joy to see ones work become reality after years and years of having someone else do it for you.

In reality, its sad to see it go. But in a real reality, food is something I am no where near mastering. I’ll leave it to the other people who really know what they’re doing to direct the rest of us. In the mean time, I’ll keep creating, cooking and drinking.

But, before I go, here’s some of my personal favorite posts: Spice World, Quesadillas and The Girl Drink, among others.

December 15, 2009 / kormanmatthew

Round of Drinks

Whiskey, vodka, gin, vermouth and a series of mistakes

As a final dash towards the end of the Fall 2009 college semester, I felt that I should at least go out with some style. Regular readers (irony here, if any) know that my affection towards the art of the cocktail has been growing stronger over the past several months. But, my weekly efforts contained little more than a single concoction that I had already had a taste for. So, using all that I have (or hoped that I have learned) about the drink-world I’m gonna try my own collection. Round of drinks for everyone.

But, before anything is said or done – know that I am of the legal drinking age. What I’m about to do is only advised for those that wish to try a variety of drinks in their own home – particularly those of an age where they have been able to experience much variety.

First, lets aim for some simple yet contemporary – The Martini. I often reference the excellent work of Esquire Magazine and their online drink catalog and cocktail expert David Wondrich, and this recipe remained no different. The martini, in the words of many, has been analyzed and described far more than any other cocktail. The drink’s origins, according to Wondrich arrived sometime in the late 1800’s, but its exact origins are traced back to around 1900, before prohibition was enacted in the United States.

At first, the martini consisted of a slightly rougher ratio for the taste buds; two ounces of dry gin to one ounce dry vermouth. Since then the ratio has been gone a little wider (as has the content of pretty much all aged cocktails). Famed New York City bartender Albert Trummer‘s recipe for a simple one, is as follows:

Ingredients –

(4) ounces of gin (Beefeater, or Bombay is preferred); (1) ounce vermouth; (1) Spanish olive; ice.

  • Fill a martini shaker with cracked ice and an ounce of vermouth. Stir the contents briefly.
  • Strain the contents out. Strain gin out and stir drink for around 10 seconds.
  • Serve in a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a Spanish olive.

Martini in a drinking glass. Cheap and classy at the same time.

The taste is essentially aged, and very dry. Often the classic variant of the martini is criticized, for well, it’s pure bitter and alcohol induced taste. But, when taken in its pure form, the dry martini is jarring in a way that would make those with weak stomachs cringe. Its allure and symbol evoke a style of simplicity and fortitude, making it stand among the cocktails in a bold, often misunderstood light. But to those who enjoy it, it’s pure enchantment in a glass.

The next try in the short-winded attempt at conquering the amateur section of bar tending school is a drink with a little more flavor behind it; the Whiskey Sour.

A more contemporary and dulled taste, the whiskey sour offers a more pleasant variety to those whose range is more, lets say, impaired. The recipe often does not follow the ordinary routes, so mixing it up is advised.

Whiskey sour

Ingredients –

(2) ounces whiskey (using Tullamore Dew); (3) ounces lemon or lime juice; (1) teaspoon of sugar; sour mix (optional).

  • Shake all ingredients with cracked ice.
  • Strain into a chilled glass.
  • Garnish with a maraschino cherry, orange or whatever fruit you like.

Sour indeed. The drink, which Wondrich refers to as “the cocktail in its undershirt,” is more flavorful, fun and fuzzy drink that seems to have more cause for a party than pure personal joy. This is not a detriment for the drink’s overall appeal, however. It’s easy to like and, more importantly, to fool around with the recipe. Different varieties of fruit juices and tastes can be added, and no peculiar alcohol is terribly necessary. There are several different varieties of the sour drink; rum sours, scotch sours, vodka sours – there are really no proposed limits for what should be in a sour. Just drink and have fun with it.

For our third drink in our short line, I’ll try my hands at a Cliquet. Cliquet is a French term that means “clicky thing.” But the drink is more suited in the style of an Old-fashioned. Obviously when I decided to aim for these recipes, I was looking for ordinary ingredients in college fridges, and when the cliquet recipe called for only whiskey, orange juice and rum, I had to jump in.

Ingredients –

(1 – 1 1/2) ounces of whiskey, rye preferred; orange juice; (1) teaspoon of rum

  • Mix all ingredients together in a small chilled glass with ice.

The cliquet, because of the orange blend, comes off as a tangy cream with the slight sting of whiskey, which can be a welcomed feeling to some and an off-putting one to others. But hell, most of the world’s cocktails have that same effect. If there ever were to be an early day drink, as much as the idea of it seems to connotate something, I don’t know, a poor decision. It’s very healthy, yes, with plenty of orange juice (if you add such an amount), and has a smoothness that fits in a lunch-time scenario.

Lastly, I’d like to go a simpler route and stick some of the ingredients I’ve already touched on; gin and orange juice. An Orange Blossom is impossibly simplistic, served in a cocktail glass with just equal parts gin and orange juice. Again, anything in a college student’s fridge would work here.

Reading the finer details here, you’d realize I’m describing simply “Gin &’ juice,” ala the hit 1992 single from Snoop Dogg. At this point, with the volume of attempts I’ve taken in, simplicity has become key.

Ingredients –

(1 1/2) ounces of gin; (1 1/2) ounces of orange juice.

  • Mix gin and orange juice
  • Serve in a chilled martini glass.

Orange Blossom, try again.

Well, this one turned out arguably bad – too much gin. Basically I made orange gin in a glass, which may be fine for some people but it wasn’t what I was aiming for. No smoothness, lots of punch and a very small amount of joy came out of my rendition of an orange blossom which I’d like nothing more than to forget.

So, four drinks down, among the several hundred I hope to learn and master in the oncoming years. Some success and some failure occurred in my self-made Round of Drinks project, but overall I’m more than satisfied with what I’ve experienced. The tastes of these cocktails, however, doesn’t precede me alone. Truly the test and vigilance of these tastes lasts among the true patrons of the “art,” as it is so deemed. And this “art,” for all its variants and reasons, has truly become an art over the last century.

November 28, 2009 / kormanmatthew

Imbibe!

Imbibe! by David Wondrich is available now. Photo courtesy of Esquire.com

The word means to absorb. I refer to this not commentating about Imbibe Magazine, but David Wondrich’s new book, Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to ”Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar.

The book is perfect for the younger students of the drinking world, giving them a definitive guide to the history of the American cocktail – a prevalent and undying art.

Imbibe! is Wondrich’s homage to the “founder” of the American bar, Jerry Thomas, but it is not solely a history lesson. Wondrich, a contributor to Esquire Magazine, also details hundreds of recipes for a myriad of drink concoctions that only the master mixologist and drink historian could tell.

An early Christmas gift, perhaps?

November 28, 2009 / kormanmatthew

Turn to Winter

With Thanksgiving 2009 effectively behind us all, Americans are moving into their Holiday food phases. Christmas, if you forgot, tends to be the second biggest meal every year for most families.

And as Black Friday turns into the holiday season and students come home for their long-awaited Winter breaks, regular foods move from Autumn ghords and vegetables, to Wintery smells of peppermint, cinnamon, and other sweet smells.

Like Thanksgiving, these tastes are of a more acquired group, because of their place in Christian and Western culture. To someone like me, who doesn’t ardently follow the norms of the annual festivities, these tastes are more tradition oriented than I would like.

And so my advice for this year, unlike my take on Thanksgiving; change something. If staunch tradition is what you enjoy, then by all means stick with it. But if you’re like me and you’re easily bored by ham, or some kind of roast, go for a different center-piece.

Paella (Courtesy of Stockmann.fi)

This year, my family and I will try our hands at a seafood Christmas dinner, consisting of crabs, clams, mussels, squid (put together in a paella), and whatever the Hell else we feel like, considering that we enjoy these foods much more than the albeit boring tastes of ham. Plus, it’s not as risky as Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2009 / kormanmatthew

A week away

With Thanksgiving less than a week away and the effective end of the Autumn food season on the horizon, students are returning home for their annual Thanksgiving breaks. As someone who isn’t terribly fond of the holiday diet, I ask what are your favorite foods for Thanksgiving?

A Rasmussen Report conducted in 2005 indicated that roughly 81 percent of families dine of turkey as the main course for their meal, with ham following at eight percent, and any other meal at  seven percent. Several other online polls conducted by Baldwin City and Yahoo indicated that most online users, however, favor stuffing to the main turkey, to which I vehemently disagree.

When given the option of either turkey or stuffing (keeping in mind that we’re talking about the giant whole turkey that takes hours to prepare), turkey should always come out on top. Look, stuffing is simple. Stove Top simple. Turkey has to be made carefully and is much less available (not talking about deli meat). Plus, for a lot of families, this is the only time of the year when a large turkey is eaten.

So for those of you who opt for the other table options next Thursday – shove it.

November 21, 2009 / kormanmatthew

Spice World

A variety of spices, courtesy of Brittanica

The story of spices is a long and historic perspective on the world, cataloging centuries and centuries of trade and discovery. They’re essential to the art of cooking, and effectively changed the way recipes were prepared. In essence, spices changed cooking from a necessity to a hobby, no longer committing food to the bland, uninteresting and downright awful tastes of pre-Renaissance Europe.  

According to Charles Corn’s 1999 book Scents of Eden: At History of the Spice Trade, spice is a dried seed, root, bark, leaf, fruit or vegetative substance used to enhance the flavors of other foods.

The historic trade can be traced back to 2600 B.C.E when Egyptians fed Asian spices to slaves to “give them strength,” according to the Encyclopedia of Spices. The more commonly known spices, the dinner table must owns salt and pepper, were used in older cooking to cure meat and to well, make it tolerable. In modern times, salt and pepper have become an absolute norm for any kind of cooking in any culture. In fact, most chefs (such as the ever-popular Food Network icon Bobby Flay) suggest to use salt and pepper in every recipe.

Oregano, a staple herb in Italian cooking, originates in ancient Rome and Greece. The flavor has become a normal ingredient in Mediterranean recipes, like sauces and tomato-based tastes. It was also the winner for herb of the year in 2005 by the International Herb Association.  

Paprika

 Chili powder, a combination of dried hot peppers across the world (from South and Central America to the Middle East of Asia), is grounded pepper that has a large amount of capsaicin; what gives pepper their spicy taste. The look, a fine red powder, is often confused with paprika, which also originated in the Americas.

Paprika is often associated with Hungarian dishes, according to The Spice House. Hungarian soups and meals, such as  “Pörkölts and paprikás,” use paprika as the central spice. Pörkölt is “is a ragout made from pork, beef or mutton or chicken with onions and paprika,” says Budapest Tourist Guide. The spice is much more popular in European dishes than in America, where it is often used in devilled eggs.

Although much sweeter than other typical spices, cinnamon is still considered a spice. Most often used for baking purposes, cinnamon can also be used to add variations in meat and sauce recipes. In Mexico, the spice is often added to chocolate, adding to the sweetness, and various liquor concoctions. All Recipes offers a nice recipe for Mexican chocolate cake, which contains the sweetness of cinnamon.

Garlic, with historical and modern perspectives in mind, may be the most popular spice of all time. Traced back some 6,000 years to Central Asia, garlic is used in most if not all cultures in their cooking and thousands and thousands of recipes. The spice is extremely popular in Italian cooking, such as garlic bread.

Garlic bread, for the miraculous few who may not know, is prepared as follows:

Garlic Bread

Ingredients –

(1) loaf of bread (a baguette); (1) tablespoon of minced garlic (in jar, or manually); (1) tablespoon of mixed herbs; (1) tablespoon of oregano; (1) tablespoon of margarine or butter.

  • heat grill to medium or oven to 350 degrees.
  • mix herbs, margarine (or butter), and oregano in a bowl to make garlic butter.
  • Cut the bread in half or into thirds. Spread the garlic butter on the pieces. Cover surfaces well.
  • Cook on grill butter side down. Or place in oven butter side up. Cook until bread is golden brown.
  • Sprinkle oregano and herbs when done

The finished product goes well with almost all dinners as a complimentary side-dish.

Cumin, one of the more commonly used herb world-wide, is used primarily in Spanish, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Indian dishes, like soups, chilis, and various chicken, beef, and porn recipes. According to Culinary Cafe, cumin has a “distinctive, slightly bitter yet warm flavor.” As a seasoning, cumin works very well with sautéed dishes of all varieties, but because of the potent bitterness of the seeds, cumin can tend to overwhelm the tastes if used too heavily.

Ginger is sold in various forms across the world, from the bulky root form to a fine powder. Primarily used in Asian dishes, ginger as a seasoning is often used as an additive to common sauces, dressings, cakes, drinks, etc. In American cuisine, ginger is most often recognized in ginger-enduced baking recipes, such as ginger snaps and gingerbread.

Outside of its culinary uses, ginger has been used throughout history for its medicinal purposes. According the University of Maryland Medical Center, ginger can “help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, pregnancy, and cancer chemotherapy. It is also used as a digestive aid for mild stomach upset, as support in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and may even be used in heart disease or cancer.”

Thyme leaves

The herb thyme has over 100 different varieties, including several hybrids, but only common garden and lemon thyme are used in cooking. The plant offers a strong taste that is often used in soups, stews, and chicken dishes.

Used heavily in French cuisine, thyme as a herb is used often as a seasoning to various vegetables, like onions, potatoes, carrots, spinach, and other greens. In American cuisine, thyme is an additional herb to many sauces, marinades, and other blended flavors, like Cajun recipes like gumbo.

Hundreds and hundreds of more lesser-known spices are available almost everywhere. For the typical college student who wishes to up their cooking talents, know the uses and flavors of spices. Know them religiously, in fact. Spices, found in every grocery store, are usually extremely cheap (outside of Saffron), so not having at least pepper and salt is a bit demeaning to yourself.

For a different look at history of the spices we talked about, check out this time-line and map of where the flavors started from and how their popularity rose.: Here.

November 20, 2009 / kormanmatthew

Thanks for the beer

Should beer come with the Thanksgiving day meal? Photo courtesy of the New Belgium Brewing Company

When eating your annual Thanksgiving day dinner, is it acceptable, around family members and friends to drink beer with your meal. This is not a question of whether it is acceptable or not to be drunk during the holiday (no, come on), but if a beer with the dinner would go well.
 Seriouseats.com features a special Thanksgiving-time discussion on whether or not beer (and for that matter, what kind of beer) should be consumed during the dinner of all American dinners. “Hoppy IPAs (and other beers on the bitter end of the scale) are out of sync with the sweet and earthy flavors of the Thanksgiving feast,” writes Maggie Hoffman.

Hoffman notes that sweeter, not-so hoppy beers like the typical American ales from places like the Flying Dog Brewery and New Belgium Brewing in Colorado offer a more fitting, sweet rendition that fits more well with the feast.

So when going for the alternative beer for Thanksgiving, avoid the darker, stronger tastes. American ales that verge on the description of sweet with a malty aftertaste blend well with corn, potatoes, stuffing, and whatever else today’s families eat with their late November meals are the way to go.