People are crazy.
And did I mention crazy?
Traditionally, the drinks industry, namely the ever-expanding hip crowd of mixologists, follows close on the tails of bored—sorry, ingenious chefs who are always inventing new ways to get food down our gullets and hopefully a 3-page story in a gourmet magazine as a side bonus. I’m beginning to find chicken-flavored doughnuts infused with a pocket of vodka-spiked BBQ sauce laying on a bed of gently trampled reindeer moss a little cliché. You too? I’m not surprised.
Personally, most of my meals are consumed crouched over the raised beds of my vegetable patch and berry bushes. I don’t even hose anything off anymore before I eat it. If there’s dirt on it, I tell myself it’s Earth pepper. Speckled with microscopic bugs? Extra protein. Find out I’ve just bitten into a squirty cluster of copper-colored squash bug eggs? A two-fold bonus. 1- I’ve gotten to them before they’ve hatched and eaten all my zucchini and 2- I may have discovered the newest form of caviar. Bully for me.
I love food. Will try most everything. Find I like a lot of it. And because of this obsession, I easily discover myself surrounded by paper walls of stacked magazines and cookbooks, staring at too many open tabs on my browser, each waiting patiently for my eyes to return to them.
I like learning about the industry trends and oftentimes I give them a whirl in my own kitchen. There were four entire seasons where no one ate anything solid because it was the year of foam food. I don’t think a body should hold that much nitrous oxide. I’m still witnessing the side effects.
Following along with the cocktail crowd can be a full-time job for many. Lately, the brews are smoldering. You can order something on the drinks menu that sounds appealing and find it presented to you in a goblet worthy of a Harry Potter scene, white tendrils of smoke floating up and rolling over the brim due to a quick discharge of liquid nitrogen. Folks are smoking everything from their ice chips to Shirley Temples—cherries included.
One bar will even serve you water steeped in tobacco. Um … yuck.
Since I tend to take my liquor straight, the pioneering procedures in the cocktail world have not been catching my eye. That is, until I came across a book that was so simple and winsome, I had to work my way through it. (Not all at once, mind you.)
The Home Distiller’s Handbook by Matthew Teacher is a guide revealing recipes and pictures of old jugs and mason jars filled with uncomplicated ingredients and straightforward infusions.
I like the word infusion. It’s a little hip without being pretentious. It suggests you might know what you’re doing and will raise a few eyebrows without turning any stomachs. Funky blends like Cucumber Gin, Raspberry Cognac, Sour Cherry Whiskey and Horseradish Vodka are just a few that I’ve dog-eared, but maybe you’re more the sort who’d gravitate toward Habanero and Mango Tequila, or Lavender Liqueur, or even Smoked Bacon Bourbon.
My first run was an effortless achievement. I made Blueberry Bourbon and Sour Apple Blueberry Rum. (Click here for the scullery recipes.) We’ve got such a surplus of blueberries in the garden that we’re all starting to look a little like Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, so I’m thinking of chucking anything else that turns blue from outside into the freezer. We’ll thaw it all out come November’s pancake season.
I’ve also decided that everyone is getting hard liquor for Christmas—even the kids. By the time they turn 21, the flavors should have matured to perfection.
Once I’ve made my way through all the alcoholic infusion recipes that tickle my fancy, I’m going to need a new culinary project.
Maybe I’ll buy my own food truck and sell freshly grilled roadkill kebabs.
I might try to create a scratch and sniff app.
It very well might be the year of eating only foraged food.
I’m looking for ideas. So send me your thoughts!
The rest of the family is really excited too. Because inventive is my middle name … right after crazy.
Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery this week (here) and what we’re all talkin’ about down in the pub (here)!
7 thoughts on “The Distiller’s Handbook; the mirth of mixology.”
Bravo! A veritable publican’s guide to potable libations (not an oxymoron if you’ve ever swilled at the Pit Stop, on South Walnut Street). Illustrating that the lexicon is a little mixed up, publicans, honorable in all things, should not be confused with republicans, who are sworn in chambers to know something about old bourbon but often little else). Your eloquent gustatory achievements beg for Dry Fly (a wheat-based bourbon) on the rocks, to fortify against the oppressive heat and to generally facilitate a genial peristalsis.
Seeing that you are well versed in both swelling republicans and swilling publicans, I’d cast my vote for you should you decide to run for office. I’d cast it twice should you run to open a pub.
Corn Crepes with BBQ Duck Confit
• 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
• 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
• 1/2 cup small diced, cored and seeded red bell pepper
• 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
• 1 to 2 cloves garlic, sliced
• 1/2 cup whole milk
• 2 large eggs
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons oil
• BBQ Sauce, recipe follows
• 1 leg Duck Confit, recipe follows
• Sour cream, for garnish
• Cilantro leaves, for garnish
• 1 tablespoon blended oil
• 1 small yellow onion, minced
• 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs included, sliced
• Kosher salt
• 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted
• 1/2 tablespoon chipotle powder
• 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
• 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
• 1 cup strong coffee
• 1 cup ketchup
• 8 duck legs and thighs
• 3 tablespoons kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 minced shallot
• 4 bay leaves, crumbled
• 1 quart (4 cups) duck fat, melted
Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the corn, season with a little salt, and allow to sweat. Stir in the bell pepper, scallions, and garlic and continue to sweat for 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the softened vegetables to the bowl of a food processor. Add the milk, eggs, flour, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the food processor and pulse until smooth. Let rest for 30 minutes, and if possible, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
Meanwhile, add about 1 cup of BBQ Sauce to a small saucepan and warm it over medium-low heat. Remove the meat from the duck leg by using a fork to shred it away from the bone, keeping the pieces chunky. Add the shredded duck meat to the BBQ Sauce and heat through.
Once ready to make the crepes, lightly coat a 7 or 8-inch saute pan over medium heat with a little bit of oil or duck fat. Ladle in about 2 tablespoons of batter and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook it until it’s slightly browned. Flip the crepe and continue cooking for another minute until it’s just cooked through. Transfer the crepe to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter, stacking them on top of the other. You should have 4 to 6 crepes.
To serve, put a crepe flat on a plate. Top with a couple spoonfuls of BBQ duck confit. Roll the crepe and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a couple cilantro leaves. Drizzle with some remaining BBQ sauce. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
BBQ Sauce directions:
Add the oil to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and jalapeno with a good pinch of salt, sweating until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the coriander, chipotle powder, brown sugar, vinegar, coffee, and ketchup. Stir to combine, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain, discard the solids, and let cool. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Yield: about 2 cups
Duck Confit directions:
Rinse the duck legs and thighs and pat dry. Add them to a 2-gallon resealable plastic bag.
Mix together the salt, sugar, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, garlic, shallot, and bay leaves in a small bowl. Add the mixture to the duck pieces and coating them well. Close the bag and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, flipping it once a day.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
Remove the legs and thighs from the bag, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry. Put them in a 4-quart Dutch oven or other suitable pot and cover them with the fat. Put the pot in the oven and cook for 8 to 10 hours. Remove the pot from the oven and allow the duck to cool in the fat. Refrigerate in the fat until ready to use, at least 1 month.
Yield: 8 servings
Forgot to say, this takes awhile so I’d suggest a few meals in between prep as you’re waiting for the confit to work it’s magic.
And maybe I would add a few incredibly capable chefs such as yourself to come by in between said meals to finish up making all that magic.
I’d give my left lung and a small chunk of my right hand to cook like you. *sigh*
Infusions really can be great. I made one with local raspberries that smelled like summer. A sniff of that in the middle of a cold, wet winter was enough to bring me back to sunshine and tart, sweet memories.
I don’t know if I could stop with just a sniff. I think I’d find myself wanting to fill up my old swag-bellied tub with it and steep for a while, give some credence to the whole bathtub gin misconsception.