A call to action!
OK, maybe not THAT serious
I am currently working on collecting Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Gift Boxes for a Winter Holiday 2013 project. Well, if I am able to amass the number of boxes I need it will be a Winter Holiday 2013 project. If not, it may end up being a Winter Holiday 2014 ... or 2015 project
I've been able to find a few. I even posted a local ad on craigslist begging people to save them for me rather than recycling them. Two friends have also contributed. Another friend had the idea to call the Beverage Managers at city hotels. Not a bad idea, but I was quick to learn that hotels do not receive their Veuve in gift boxes. I also called a couple of liquor stores to ask if they ever removed bottles from the gift boxes, but they do not. It looks like I need to leave it up to me and my friends to collect them
The current box is a two-part box with a decorative cut-out on one side with the word PUSH above it. When you push, you are pushing the interior box out to reveal the bottle
Here is a picture of the primary side of the current Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Gift Box
If you can help in anyway, please let me know. And thank you!
I am hosting my annual Solstice Fete tonight and came up with menu, by design, where I am barely preparing anything ... I can't even claim anything is Semi-homemade
Here is the buffet for your viewing pleasure
Punch - Blueberry Pomegranate with seltzer and vodka. I am preparing the punch this time because the usual bartender uses a heavy hand on the booze. I freeze the same juice in silicone bundt pans. When they are frozen, I pop them out and keep them in freezer bags. If I freeze one in the morning it is usually frozen by the end of the day and I can continue making them up to the day before any party where I am serving punch
Centerpiece - Berkshire Ham, spiral-sliced heritage pork, the king of little piggies. I am giving people the option of making sandwiches by offering cream cheese biscuits (that I am letting a friend make since she really wanted to help), Dijon, sweet & spicy bread & butter pickles, and Swiss cheese
Smoked salmon - The only thing I did was take it out of its original packaging and arrange it on a plate
Spinach-artichoke dip - Last time I didn't serve this there was a revolt. 1 cup packed grated Gruyere cheese, 1 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise, 1 10 ounce package frozen spinach, microwaved for 5 minutes, cooled to room temperature and squeezed dry, 1 can artichoke hearts (the quarter-cut variety cost less), drained and roughly chopped, 1 tablespoon Dell A'llpe Italian seasoning. Mix everything together in a large bowl and fwap into a deep dish pie plate in a relatively even layer. Bake at 375 degrees until hot and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with corn tortilla chips, tomatillio salsa and sour cream on the side
Cabot "Seriously sharp" Cheddar cheese - Like the spinach artichoke dip, the last time I didn't serve cheese was the last time I didn't serve cheese. Served with a variety of crackers including wheat, rice, and sesame
Shrimp cocktail - Extra large shrimp served with homemade cocktail sauce. I found a new freshly grated horseradish at the grocery store and made my usual seafood cocktail sauce and it almost blew my head off. I had to start over and pull way back on the horseradish. 1 cup Simply Heinz ketchup, 1 cup Heinz cocktail sauce, 1/4 cup grated horseradish, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, Favorite hot sauce, to taste
Roasted potatoes - This was a revelation the first time I served them and are, aside from the spinach artichoke dip, the only vegetable I bother to serve anymore. So easy and who doesn't love roasted potatoes? I am offering a leek dip with them if people wish to indulge, but they are so good just by themselves
Mixed nuts - I found a drugstore brand I think is better quality than any of the big name brands. 2 large cans, open and dump into a big glass bowl. Voila!
Brach's Peppermint nougat and Dove Dark Promises - I think if you have peppermint, you should have chocolate and even though most people don't touch the candy platter, I like to have it for the sparkle and the joy
Happy Winter Solstice! Raise a glass, burn some sage, and light a candle to celebrate the return of the light!
Admittedly this guacamole is not for everyone. It was created, in part, as a counter to all those TV chefs and cooks who routinely discount and turn their wrinkled noses up at bitter, one of the legitimate flavors. Hey, without bitter there would be no Guinness Stout, 60% cacao chocolate or mustard greens; so for those of you who like bitter, this could be the 'guac' for you
2 whole limes
2 serrano chilies
2 teaspoons house salt*
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 medium bunch cilantro, leaves and stems shaved and minced
4 scallions, green tops only, thinly sliced on the bias
4 Hass avocados
Quarter 1 lime and cut each quarter in half. Drop the lime pieces in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the stems off the chilies, sliced in half the long way and cut into thirds. Add them to the food processor with the limes. Add the salt and prepped garlic. Pulse the ingredients 6 times and then let the machine run for 30 seconds. Let the resulting sofrito sit in the food processor while you prep the avocados. If you don't have a food processor, grind the sofrito together in a mortar with a pestle
Cut each avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh into a non-reactive bowl. Mash the flesh of the avocados with a potato masher, two forks, or a pastry blender until smooth with some chunks. Stir in the minced cilantro and sliced scallions. Scrape the sofrito from the food processor into the avocado mixture and fold it in. Taste for salt and lime and, if desired, add more salt and more lime juice from the 2nd lime
Scrape and mound the guacamole into a serving dish or place plastic wrap directly on the surface and around the bowl and refrigerate up to 2 days. Before service, remove the guacamole from the refrigerator for 30 minutes before uncovering and serving with blue corn chips and your favorite salsa
This is my updated fool-proof and totally delicious version of my house salt that you can use wherever you would use salt when you are cooking. It truly is the 'secret ingredient' to my rice, my chicken, my eggs, and my ... well, everything. You'll be amazed by how it transforms every day dishes
1 3 ounce tub Dell Alpe Italian Seasoning for Spaghetti Sauce
1 16 ounce box Morton Kosher or Diamond Crystal Salt
Pour the contents of the Dell Alpe Italian Seasoning tub into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 4 times then let the machine run for 15 seconds.
Pour the salt into a one gallon zip-top baggie and add the pulverized seasoning. Seal the bag and shake until the salt and the seasonings are fully incorporated. Pour into a salt pig or box or large jar with a tight-fitting lid and use in place of salt in cooking
You can usually find me in the kitchen on Saturday morning participating in at least one of my kitchen rituals, this week it is freezing tomato paste. How many times have you bought a can of tomato paste for the 1 tablespoon your recipe calls for, only to have the rest of the can leftover and sitting, poorly covered, in the refrigerator? And how many times have you lamented buying a small tube of the stuff that broke the bank? There is a solution and it is as close as your freezer.
Buy an 18 ounce (or similarly sized) can of your favorite tomato paste
Use a tablespoon measure to portion out the contents of the can
Drop the measured tomato paste onto a wax paper-lined plate
When you've portioned out the tomato paste, pop the plate in the freezer
When the orbs have frozen solid, move them to a zip top freezer bag
Fold the bag over to remove all of the air and seal the bag
Pop the bagged tablespoon measures of tomato paste in the freezer
The frozen orbs of tomato paste will last indefinitely in a zero degrees Fahrenheit freezer and up to a year in a frost-free freezer. The next time you need a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, remove from the bag and drop directly into your recipe. No need to thaw them first
By spending a little bit of time freezing tomato paste in a convenient measured size you'll be sure to always have it on hand and didn't break the bank
The key to developing the deep flavors of traditional French onion soup while making it vegetarian is to cook the onions almost past amber, even allowing them to char a bit around the edges. The other key flavor-booster is to use porcini mushroom stock, something I tend to have on hand after the winter holidays. You can use any mushroom stock, but the porcini will bring the most flavor. If you only have vegetable stock, put 6 ounces of sliced or quartered mushrooms in a 4 inch square of cheesecloth, bundle and tie off with kitchen string. Add the mushroom bundle in with the onions after you add the stock
For the soup:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen string
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons house salt
Black peppercorns in a pepper mill
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 cup white wine (Sauvignon or Chenin blanc)
2 cups mushroom
1 cup water
For the cheese toast:
2 1 ½ inch thick slices favorite artisan bread
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, sharp as you like, divided
Set oven rack to center position. Heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
Heat a 3-quart Dutch oven over medium high heat for 3 minutes. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the butter and cook until the foam from the butter has subsided. Add the onions and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Sprinkle in the salt and cook, stirring frequently until the onions begin to soften. Add the thyme bundle, bay leaf and several grinds of freshly cracked black pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the onions are sticky and deep amber in color, 30 to 35 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the water, loosening the sticky onions and scraping up the fond in the bottom of the pan. Stir in the stock, lower the heat to medium and cover the Dutch oven. Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile place the bread on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Bake the bread until it is evenly toasted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat the broiler.
For final preparation remove the mushrooms (if using), thyme bundle, and bay leaf and discard. Ladle the soup into 2 ovenproof crocks. Top each with a slice of toast and top each toast with an even layer of cheese
Place the crocks on the same baking sheet used to toast the bread and place on middle rack. Broil until the cheese is completely melted and light golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes
Let the French onion soup rest for 5 minutes before serving