Twelve Days of Christmas: Sugared Cranberries and Christmas Cranberry and Vodka Tonics

Also know as Rudolph noses

Also known as Rudolph noses

These little jewels are tasty on their own, but also a great garnish for drinks and a wonderful addition to scones. To make them even prettier, roll them in superfine not regular sugar. (We’re still working on a 25-pound bag of regular sugar someone picked up on clearance over the summer so we skipped that step.) This recipe is adapted from one from Whole Foods.

Sugared Cranberries

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1/2 nutmeg pod
  • 6-10 whole cloves
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup regular or superfine sugar

Mix three cups of sugar, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, anise and cloves with water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for a minute, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Stir in cranberries. Cover and refrigerate overnight and up to two days. Drain cranberries reserving liquid for holiday drinks. (Strain out the spices.) Place superfine or regular sugar in a bowl and gently toss in cranberries, coating evenly. Place berries on a baking sheet to dry, about two hours. Store in an airtight container for one to two days.

So festive and fun

So festive and fun

Christmas Cranberry and Vodka Tonics

  • 1 1/2 oz cranberry simple syrup (leftover from sugared cranberries)
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 1/2 oz cranberry juice
  • squeeze of lime juice (optional)
  • tonic water
  • sugared cranberries for garnish

Throw a few ice cubes in a Collins glass. Pour in simple syrup, vodka and juice. Stir. Top with tonic water and a squeeze of lime. Garnish with a few sugared cranberries.

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Twelve Days of Christmas: Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Add any number of liquors for extra adult fun

Add any number of liquors for extra adult fun

Hot chocolate shouldn’t taste like warm chocolate-flavored milk. It should be all about the chocolate — thick, rich chocolate. This drink is super indulgent, super chocolatey and super creamy. It’s not for the weak of heart. If you must, increase the milk. Or just pour yourself an espresso cup full and sip slowly.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate 

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 crushed peppermint (we used a coffee grinder
  • 1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Over medium-low heat melt chocolate with peppermint, stirring often. Don’t allow the mix to boil. Whisk in the cream and cocoa powder. Pour in the milk and bring to heat without allowing to boil. Whisk constantly to break up any peppermint bits. Serve warm.

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Twelve Days of Christmas: Figgy Pudding

Now it just needs the glaze

Now it just needs the glaze

This is an involved pudding and does require some special equipment. It is a pretty simple thing to make though, just time-consuming. The recipe below is adapted from The Essential Dessert Cookbook.

Figgy Pudding

  • 1 cup dried figs chopped fine
  • 1 cup dried dates chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp cognac
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups dried bread crumbs
  • 10 tbsp melted butter
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp orange zest

Mix dried fruit and cognac together in a bowl and let stand overnight. Mix sifted flour, baking soda , salt, breadcrumbs and brown sugar together. Add everything else and mix well. The mix should resemble thick cookie dough when done.

Now here is how to cook it.

Starting equipment

I see the Evil Empire is lurking about

You will need a 7-8 cup souffle pan, a pan that will hold a trivet, the souffle dish and a lid, parchment paper, foil, bakers twine and a ton of butter.

The steaming pan needs to be just big enough to hold the souffle dish with water around it and a trivet to hold it off the bottom of the pan and covered with a tight lid. I used a four-quart All Clad that I had lying around and a Star Wars pancake mold for the trivet.

Butter butter butter

Butter butter butter

Grease the inside of the souffle dish with butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit inside the base and grease it with butter on both sides before placing it.

More butter

More butter

Cut a large square of tin foil and an equal sized piece of parchment paper. Use butter to hold the foil to the paper and grease the parchment on both sides.

A simple seam

A simple seam

Fold a seam down the center of the papers for expansion.

Pack it in

Pack it in

Press the pudding into the greased souffle dish and push out all the air bubbles.

Very tightly

Very tightly

Place the foil on top. Do not press it into the pudding. Tie it tightly with bakers twine.

A homemade handle

A homemade handle

Tie a double piece across to use as a lifting handle.

Now boil

Now boil

Now place the trivet in the pan and fill it with water to come half way up the pudding bowl. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer and place the pudding in. Cover with a lid and steam for four hours or until done. (A knife inserted in the center should come out clean.) Add more boiling water as the level decreases depending on how tight the lid sits and how quickly the water evaporates.

That is a good sauce

That is a good sauce

Brandy Glaze

  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup brandy

Mix cornmeal and sugar and gradually add milk until smooth and creamy. Add remaining milk and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. When it begins to thicken stir in butter and brandy. Continue to thicken slightly and serve.

 

 

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Twelve Days of Christmas: Espresso Bark

This is stupid easy

This is stupid easy

This is a great addition to any holiday dessert bar and it’s super easy to make. Feel free to swap out the topping with crushed peppermint, candied nuts or whatever else strikes your fancy. While this is simple to make, have all your equipment and baking sheet ready to go. And remember to keep the water at no more than a simmer to keep from burning the chocolate. We used Ghiradelli chocolate chips. If your bag is a little smaller or bigger than the size below you’ll be fine. Just make sure to use roughly the same amount of white and bittersweet chocolate.

Espresso Bark

  • 11 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 11 oz white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground espresso beans
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon sugar

Line a baking sheet with parchment and have a rubber spatula and icing knife handy. Mix the cinnamon sugar and espresso beans in a small bowl. Set aside. Set the bottom half of a double boiler over medium-low heat and bring water to a simmer. Put white chips in a metal bowl large enough to set over the pan. Put dark chips in the top half of the double boiler. Set over the simmering water. Melt chocolate stirring often. Once just melted pour the chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth into one even layer with icing knife. Clean the knife once done and set white chocolate over the simmering water. Melt chocolate stirring often. Once melted, pour over the bittersweet chocolate. Smooth into one layer with icing knife. If you have some bleed through don’t worry. Sprinkle the espresso bean mix in an even layer over the top. Refrigerate for 1-3 hours. Once hardened break into pieces and store in a tin in the refrigerator.

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Twelve Days of Christmas: The Bishop

The angel of the horizon is shaky captain

The angle of the horizon is shaky captain

This drink was super popular back when Dickens was dreaming up Scrooge. We’re not sure why it fell out of favor. Maybe Ebenezer stole all the oranges and hid all the cloves. Anyway not only is this drink delicious, it makes the house smell wonderful.

The Bishop

  • 1 750-milliliter bottle of port
  • 2 small oranges
  • about 20 whole cloves

Stud the oranges with cloves and roast at 375 degrees until brown. Let cool slightly, the quarter. A serrated knife will help you cut through the skins better. Place the studded orange slices in a pot big enough to hold the port. Pour in the port and bring to a simmer over low heat.

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Twelve Days of Christmas: How To Make Tamales

Getting to the finished product is a long process

Getting to the finished product is a long process

This year Katherine wanted authentic tamales for her birthday meal. Well almost authentic due to her dislike of both the pigs head and lard which were substituted with pork shoulder and crisco. Tamales are a traditional Mexican meal served over the holidays and for a really good reason. Tamales will take all day to make and they make a ton, so why not have a bunch of friends and family around while you make them. Once steamed the tamales can also be frozen in the corn husks and then re-steamed when ready to eat. Many different sauces and meat mixtures can be used in a tamale and can also be used to pour over the finished tamales when done. For this recipe I went as authentic as my Italian genes would let me and this is a very close reproduction. I did jazz up the chili sauce with a mix of red chilies instead of all ancho. I also added some aromatics to the pork shoulder.

To start you will need one batch carnitas, four cups red chili sauce, about 50-60 dried corn husks, and one batch masa dough — recipe below. Tamales are always best if everything is made fresh that day so be ready to start about 10 hours before eating. The first step is to make the carnitas, shredding the pork and straining all the cooking liquid. Keep the fat that rises to the surface of the liquid. Also go ahead and make the red chili sauce while the pork shoulder simmers. In a large saute pan place two tablespoons rendered fat from strained liquid in the pan and add the shredded pork. Add the chili sauce and bring to a simmer. Add a little pork liquid and simmer until thick, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Now make the masa mixture.

The consistency of play dough is right on

The consistency of play dough is right on

This requires a special corn flour and really fresh pork stock from carnitas. If making a different filling for tamales use that particular cooking liquid in the masa mix.

Masa

  • 3/4 cup crisco or other shortening
  • 6 cups masa flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 cups pork cooking liquid
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Beat shortening with a mixer at medium speed until whipped. Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl. While beating shortening on medium low add flour mix and pork cooking liquid alternately forming a thick batter the consistency of cookie dough. Continue to add flour and pork liquid until all is absorbed adding more liquid if too stiff more flour if to loose.

Once the masa is mixed soak the corn husks in boiling water. When buying corn husks six ounces equals about 30 good-sized husks and another 20 crappy ones. Use a plate to press them down below the water to soak. You can find corn husks almost anywhere now but a trip to the Hispanic market is always fun.

Or take a walk in the neighbors field depending on where you live

Or take a walk in the neighbors field depending on where you live

Once all the base ingredients are ready it is time to form the tamales. Start by rinsing and sorting through the corn husks and separating all the small ones from the nice full-sized untorn ones. Store all of them in fresh warm water. Use the largest untorn wrappers first like this one.

Use my hands as a size reference

Use my hands as a size reference

Spread the leaf out flat. If using smaller leaves lay one over another backwards forming a rectangle.

Now add about 2-3 tablespoons masa dough.

About a 1/4 cup

About a 1/4 cup

Notice the placement of the dough in the corner.

The same as a swedish massage really

The same as a Swedish massage really

Press the dough  flat filling the top quarter of the corn husk completely. The layer should be a little less than 1/4″ when done. The layer should be even with the top and side of the corn husk as well. Like so.

An ariel view of the drop site

An aerial view of the drop site

Yes, really leave that much space empty in the shell, hence use the biggest corn husks first and start doubling up when they get too small.

Now add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the stuffing. This is skipping the layer of mashed potatoes found in some traditional recipes. I did this because it just seemed too much with the heavy carnitas and I was out of potatoes.

Or a heaping spoonful as I like to call it

Or a heaping spoonful as I like to call it

Place the filling in the center and don’t let any touch the sides of the masa. Now fold the corn husk making the dry edges of masa touch like a sandwich.

Went to the side view to really illustrate that point

Went to the side view to really illustrate that point

Press the edges together and then roll the top husk edge under the sandwiched dough mix between the bottom part of the corn husk.

Just ever so gentle like

Just ever so gentle like

Now fold the bottom of the husk up at the base of the flour mixture.

About halfway up the husk if you spread the flour right.

Tuck you in all cozy like

Tuck you in all cozy like

Now roll the whole thing over and….

Wait for it

Wait for it

……………

Microwave burrito be scared

Microwave burrito be scared

Now repeat for all the remaining carnitas and masa dough. If done right there should be enough masa for all the carnitas. Either way stack the finished tamales in a pile and prepare the steamer.

All Clad is the snizzle

All Clad is the snizzle

I used my 12-quart All-clad steamer pot to cook tamales, but any large pan will work with a cheap collapsible steamer disk at the base. The Most important thing about the pot is the size of the sides have to be taller than the longest tamale standing upright plus the height of the steamer basket inside the pan. For comparison the tallest tamale I made this particular time came up to the top of the perforated metal of the steamer basket pictured.

Layer some of the torn little husks on the bottom of the steamer basket covering any gaps between steamer and pan sides if using a disc steamer. Also fill the bottom pot with enough water to come just below the height of the steaming basket.

Layer away

Layer away

Now stack the tamales upright along the outside edge of the steamer basket or the large pot with the open filling side upright.

Starting to come together now

Starting to come together now

Continue until all tamales are in pot. If there is any space in the center of the pot fill it with crumpled up corn husks.

Do you see the empty husks there

Do you see the empty husks there

Cover the top of the tamales with another layer of corn husks then cover pan with a tight fitting lid. Steam the tamales over low heat until done, about an hour. Remove from pan and unwrap if serving immediately. All sorts of crazy sauces and salsas can now be served on top of the tamales, but a scoop of guacamole and some pico are always good all by themselves.

Tamales can also be refrigerated or frozen for long periods of time in the corn husks after cooking. They can then be r steamed for later without much loss in flavor.

Posted in Dinner, Food, How to, Mexican, Pork | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

 

Time for all the holiday props

Time for all the holiday props

Our annual Twelve Days of Christmas posts start tomorrow and we’re getting giddy, or maybe we’re just tipsy and suffering from slight sugar comas. Here are all the recipes from our past Twelve Days of Christmas posts. Like we’ve said before sugar and booze help us all survive the holidays or at least help us tune out Aunt Maude.

Look it is the Christmas star

Look it is the Christmas star

Hot Drinks

Hot Buttered Rum

Brandied Hot Chocolate

Wassail

Ain't that a kick in the head?

Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Cool Drinks

Rosemary and Pomegranate Gin and Tonics

Liquid Cream Puffs

Chocolate Hazelnut Martinis

Cranberry Cocktails

The Tom and Jerry

Candy Cane Martini

Jack Frost Punch

Hazelnut Shooters

Gingersnap Martinis

Perfect for dipping in hot or cold beverages

Perfect for dipping in hot or cold beverages

Cookies

Biscotti with Prunes, Dried Cherries and Chocolate

Eggnog Cookies

Pistachio Biscotti

In no way is there a secret layer made of mayo

In no way is there a secret layer made of mayo

Sweets

Peppermint Brownies with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Gingerbread with Lemon Icing

Peanut Butter Balls

Ricotta Cheesecake

Sugar Plums

Butterscotch and Back-of-The-Bag Fudge

food607

Eats

Roasted Chestnuts

Eggnog Pancakes

Christmas Eve Dinner

 

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