Thursday, November 29, 2012
So if you have been reading my hack ramblings as of late you know that I have been on something of an eggnog bender. I gave Ronnybrook and Battenkill's nogs a go (didn't like). Then I had a bit of Meadow Brook eggnog (liked very much). All the while opining for my true nog-love (Stewart's Nog).
In any event, I was left with a serious nog surplus. Pondering how to use up this surfeit of nog I settled upon some cake making. You see, I have something of a problem with constructing multi-level cake monstrosities. Some of my past projects have included the "Brownie/Cheescake/Cake Cake" and the "Velvet Carrot (red velvet/carrot cake)."
In this instance, I decided that I would make -- One Nog-Cake to rule them all, One Nog-Cake to find them, One Nog-Cake to bring them all and in the darkness bind them! This cake would be known as the Nogamemnon Cake! The Cake tres Noggies! Mayhaps even the Noggy Cakey Nog Cake!
I utilized the googles and pretty much just took the first recipes (mistake) I found for Nog-Cake, Nog-Cheesecake, and Nog-Frosting and got about to bakin'. I used the Ronnybrook eggnog for the cake, Meadow Brook for the cheesecake, and Stewart's for the frosting. The resulting caloric behemoth is pictured below. Those crumbly bits in the middle is a graham crust layer by the way.
The concept for the Cake tres Noggies is sound but I wish I had researched the component recipes a bit more... The cheesecake was spot on, but the cake and frosting recipes were a bit off. The cake was too dense and the nog frosting was strangely grainy. I need to refine this one a bit, me thinks. A nog scented (but light and fluffy) sponge cake with somewhat of a lighter frosting would have been absolutely divine. Next year I promise you that I will knock this one out of the park.
Should you be bored with my ramblings on the subject of eggnog I assure you that I only have 2 (possibly 3) more posts on the subject planned. We all have our fixations now don't we?
Sunday, November 25, 2012
I was a little negative concerning Battenkill Creamery's and Ronnybrook Dairy's eggnogs yesterday... So I needed a positive Upstate NY nog experience to wash the taste of disappointment out of my mouth. Luckily, I was reminded on the twitters that Meadow Brook Farms (I buy their milk and chocolate milk at the Delmar Market all of the time) makes an eggnog. I ran right up to the 4 corners and picked me up a nice half-gallon.
It is 7.99$ per half gallon and I think I got the last one on the shelf this afternoon... That price is a bit dear so the fact that the Delmar Market is doing a brisk business of this nog seemed to speak well for it.
The Meadow Brook Farm's nog pours middlin' thick. Not as thick as some and not as thin as others. The color is a nice shade of pale yellow and the aroma is pleasing with vanilla undertones. The taste is absolutely lovely. It is very sweet, but has that sense of "richness" that I look for in a nog. There is none of the blandness that plagues so many other eggnogs. I am starting to think that a lot of producers don't understand that you need just a bit of salt to give your eggnog its necessary balance.
Color me impressed. Meadow Brook Farms and Stewart's are pretty much in a dead heat in terms of capturing my definitive Upstate NY eggnog endorsement. I think you should just go ahead and buy a half gallon of them both and revel in a bounty of noggy goodness!
Saturday, November 24, 2012
If you know me at all then you know that I have an unholy lust for the Nog. I love nog in any shape or form and in the past I have documented my musings on Zombie Apocalypse Nog, Nog Pie, Sweet Noggy Nun Cake, Nog Shakes, My Secret Boozy Aged Nog Recipe, and perhaps my favorite nog subject -- Stewart's Eggnog.
I generally stick to a holiday season nog diet of Stewart's eggnong supplemented by my homemade aged stuff. You see, Stewart's eggnog is a sort of guilty pleasure for me. I know this eggnog ain't like homemade and that that there is all sorts of food chemistry going on with it.,, Besides the ominous sounding "EGG NOG BASE" (which I would bathe in) the Stewart's Nog has all the usual suspects -- artificial flavors, corn syrup, potassium sorbate, guar gum, carrageenan, etc... But guess what? I am head over heals in love with the toothache-y sweet concoction.
I usually only allow myself one refresher sized bottle at the beginning of nog season and then another one right around X-mas as it is 960 dairy filled calories per 16 ounce bottle. That is to say, appearances to the contrary I don't really consume that much nog (I know that you picture me as a beastly nog swilling lummox). Working another brand of nog into my rotation would be a big step. I do like to keep an open mind so I decided to give another two Upstate, NY produced nogs a whirl.
I have heard good things about both Ronnybrook Dairy's (Ancramdale, NY) and Battenkill Creamery's (Salem, NY) product. I have bought various other dairy products from both producers and have always been satisfied. Heck, the HuffPost even named the Ronnybrook stuff America's #1 nog last year... Needless to say I had pretty high hopes.
I purchased both nogs at the Slingerlands ShopRite just the other day. 32 ounces of the Ronnybrook was about 7 bucks and 16 ounces of the Battenkill was about 2 bucks. Both brands come attractively bottled in glass with purty labeling.
I didn't really check the ingredients at first, I just poured the stuff into a couple glasses as I was in a state of excited nog frenzy. I will briefly summarize my thoughts before I begin sermonizing and being a blowhard about the relative merits of all of these nogs.
The Ronnybrook Nog --
This stuff pours thick like whipping cream which got me a bit excited. Even though it is colored with Anatto-Turmeric we have a very pale nog. To the nose it has a faint and understated noggy aroma. Actually putting the stuff in your mouth is where we begin to go downhill fast...
You know how good gravy that is thickened with roux made with some nice duck fat tastes exponentially better than some thin crap made with cornstarch thickened stock? This analogy may be a stretch but the Ronnybrook sort of reminded me of the cornstarch thickened crap... This nog utilizes both guar gum and carrageenan for the purpose of thickening and "mouthfeel." So here we have an artificially thickened nog that has none of the luxurious and silky mouthfeel that comes along with copious amounts of egg yolks and butterfat from cream. I found the flavor to be very bland, almost as if it needed salt (I have found this problem in other brands as well). Also, it had a pasty Pepto-Bismol sort of aftertaste...
This is just my humble opinion but I found the Ronnybrook Eggnog to be thoroughly unenjoyable. I think the stuff tempts other less experienced nog-ologists with its apparent thickness and tends to get a bit overrated. There. I said it.
The Battenkill Nog --
I was a bit suspicious of this nog right from the pour. The liquid is very thin, almost as thin as a soy nog or some such. It had a very sweet sort of aroma and was a bit yellower (also contains Annatto-Turmeric) then the Ronnybrook.
The Battenkill was aggressively sweet (I think HFCS is the third listed ingredient with corn syrup and "sugar syrup" included later) with a defined nutmeg "noggy" (lists natural and artificial flavorings) taste. The flavor wasn't awful but the complete lack of texture and mouthfeel put me off the stuff. I didn't see any gums or carrageenan listed, so if you are concerned with the purported dangers of carrageenan this may be the way to go. I would doctor it with some additional cream and egg yolks though.
So what this brings me back to is Stewart's eggnog.
This is not to say that Stewart's eggnog is perfect, but for a mass market offering it is pretty damn good. The only truly perfect nog is a homemade nog. You need fresh cream, yellow-orange yolks, good booze, and some time. My current batch of holiday nog has been aging since Halloween and I am waiting with bated breath for a nip.
In any event, I hope this isn't too controversial... But the long and short of it is that I stick to my guns. Stewart's nog is absolutely the king of commercially available noggery in Upstate NY and I will fight anyone who says it ain't. Not really, but we will certainly discuss the issue over a mug of Stewart's nog (Stewart's light nog if you are fond of wearing skirts).
Thursday, November 22, 2012
So I swung by Stewart's this morning on my way home from work (I work nights) to buy some lickies and chewies for my younguns'. As generations of fathers have done I generally try to assuage my guilt at missing holidays (I have to work tonight too) by plying my children with ice cream and candy. Little Giblet has a soft spot in her heart for Junior Mints and vanilla ice cream and Mr. Dave Jr. is plum tickled by pretty much any edible substance.
I was peeking in the ice cream case when I saw some hand-labeled pints of "Pumpkin Pie." I am not crazy about the Thanksgiving gimmick of making pumpkin flavored everything, but I trusted that good ol' Stewart's had done it right.
Here we have a pale orange ice cream spotted with nice sized chunks of graham-y/pie crust-y sorts of things. The stuff had a strong "pie spice" kind of flavor which was somewhat less nasty than your work-a-day attempt at "pumpkin pie" flavor.
I found it a bit over sweet, but altogether not bad at all. This is probably the only Thanksgiving type food I will consume today as my family has decided to time warp the holiday to Saturday. I am kind of jealous of all the people out there worrying and fussing over their various holiday dishes, sigh...
Anyhow, happy holiday all! I wish upon you moist turkey and unburnt baked goods!
Monday, November 19, 2012
So I was making some pasta alla Genovese (that link is in Italian, so here is a slightly different recipe in English) the other day. I don't know why, but sauce alla Genovese seems to be a bit of a rarity around these parts. I could be wrong, but I don't think I have ever seen it on a menu locally.
I kind of loathe recipe blogs so you can consult the above links for a starting point on your journey towards a personal alla Genovese recipe. The long and short of it all is as follows --
You take a crap load of onions --
-- some cheap cuts of meat (shanks, ribs, etc...) --
-- and simmer it all low and slow for many hours (of course there are other ingredients/steps. As I said, consult the recipes).
In the end you are left with a thick, sweat/savory, meaty bastard of a sauce that -- for my money, has few rivals in the universe of sauces. Lightly dress a little quality pasta with the stuff and it is simply a very beautiful thing.
Anyhow, while I was eating a bit of this particular sauce something occurred to me. In my version I use a bit of white wine for acid and some crushed red pepper for heat. So here we have a savory, slightly spicy, slightly acidic, oniony, meaty substance. Remind you of anything? It sort of kind of reminds me of some good ol' fashioned hot dog sauce (here is my method for Capital Region style hot dog sauce production if you happen to be interested).
As it has been a quite a while since I have innovated anything to throw on top of a hot dog sausage (at least since my Capital Region style MacCheese Deli Dogs), I thought the time was ripe to create the Hot Dog alla Genovese.
As this was a spur of the moment hot dog endeavor, I ran up the way and grabbed a Stewart's Deli Dog.
I slathered the steamy sausage with a generous amount of the alla Genovese and sprinkled a bit of parmesan on top.
Wouldn't you know it? Somehow this just works. The Genovese has many of the same flavor/texture notes that I enjoy so much in Hot Dog Charlies' or Famous' sauce. It deviates a bit from the standard form as mustard or raw onion would be a bit strange, and the stuff is pretty sweet... Other than that the alla Genovese seems to feel right at home on top of a Deli Dog. Who would have thought?
I am sure that any Italian cook worth his sauce would cringe at this application of the alla Genovese. But they are just going to have to get over it because I like to put random crap on hot dogs. So there.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
So you have 5 or 6 bucks in your pocket and you are looking to fill your belly with carbohydrates, meat, and fat... What should you do? Burger? Taco Bell? Fie on you if you live near Albany and you choose these! What you should do is march your happy ass down to Rolf's Pork Store on Lexington and get yourself a little chub of their teawurst.
If you don't know, teawurst (or teewurst) is a lightly smoked, lightly spiced, spreadable sausage hailing from Germany. Teewurst has a mild, smokey, subtly "wurst-y" type flavor if that makes any sense... I love the stuff. It has a pleasing mouth coating creamy fattiness that you just can't get in other foods.
Rolf's sells both coarse and fine ground teawurst. I prefer the fine ground, but that is just a personal preference. Anyway you take it, at only 6.99$ a pound a good sized chub will cost you under 4 bucks (the one I just bought was 3.70$). That is a goddamn bargain if you ask me.
Teawurst is generally served in a fairly straight forward manner, i.e. spread on some substantial bread (maybe with a bit of thinly sliced onion to guild the lily). I believe rye bread is traditional but I prefer to take my teawurst spread thinly on some crusty white bread. On this particular occasion I grabbed a Prinzo's Bakery (Delaware Ave, Albany) loaf at the Delmar Market.
Should you, after reading this, shuffle off to Rolf's to stock up on teawurst let me give you a tip. Let it sit out for a bit before you tuck in and spread it on your bread. Not for too long as teawurst is a raw product, but just long enough to knock the chill off. There is a lot of fat involved in this product and it becomes creamier and tastier when it approaches room temperature.
I wouldn't be too ambitious with how much you spread on your slice of crusty bread. I have found that a thin schmear does nicely. Think of the teawurst as a sort of "meat-butter" and keep that in mind. I have seen people put a half of an inch on a slice of bread and they tend to get a bit overwhelmed. It is kind of like watching a dog eat an open faced peanut butter sandwich...
Anyhow, my chub of teawurst was 3.70$ and a Prinzo's loaf was 1.75$. So for 5.45$ myself and a couple friends could have had a filling, simple little lunch of smokey meat and bread. You can't beat that with a stick.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Rolf's Pork Store is an absolute local treasure. We are luckier than we know to have the place. Go there and spend all of your money.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
|If photoshopping your newborn daughter onto a bacon winged unicorn is wrong,|
well, I just don't want to be right.
I was perusing my iPhoto pictures today when I stumbled upon the above pictured masterpiece. You see, my daughter was born at the height of our nation's bacon-mania of 2008-2009. I was (it seems very corny now) guilty of using my blog to participate fully in this particular fad. Just check out the "tickle baby, receive bacon" onesie I made for her.
I had my laptop with me over at St. Pete's and during a lull in activity (wife and Giblet were probably napping) I whipped up a quick photoshop of my daughter astride a bacon winged hurricane. Thusly was my daughter announced on the internet at large. With frightening speed the picture spread across the internet (google search Bacon Winged Unicorn to this day) and the whole thing was in danger of becoming a full on meme.
Panicking at having made my wriggling newborn bundle of joy into an internet sensation, I tore down the post and anything relating to it from my blog. But not before the Reddit Blog decided to use the picture in a baby announcement contest. I entered the contest (under my now deleted original Reddit account, I panicked at all the karma) with the tagline -- "A baby too special for the lowly stork, he/she arrives majestically on wings of pork." Of course, I won and I ended up receiving some Maple Bacon Pancake mix that I posted about sometime later.
Anyhow, I just thought that this early brush with minor internet fame was amusing. I am not so nervous about this sort of thing anymore, so I am allowing the bacon winged unicorn to fly again in all of its glory. In any event, I think my "Meals That Define a Life" post is a much more fitting tribute to the feelings I had upon the birth of my dashing young daughter (wee Miss Giblet).
Sunday, November 11, 2012
For Veteran's Day I like to take a look at some item of military cuisine. Last year we took a look at the giant bag of dehydrated eggs that comes in a UGR (Unitized Group Ration). In the past we have also reviewed an MRE and a Heater Meal (there are a lot of fellow New Yorkers subsisting on these as we speak by the way).
Creamed chipped beef was once a ubiquitous breakfast option for the US military, particularly during the WWII era, where it earned the moniker S.O.S. (variously "shit on a shingle," "stuff on a shingle," "something on a shingle," etc...).
I have been involved in the military in various capacities for the past decade or so and don't ever remember being served creamed beef. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of "creamed" stuff (mostly sausage or ground beef) served with toast/biscuits for breakfast. But I don't think I remember any chipped beef. I never had any special love or disdain for creamy breakfast slop, but I think some guys found it nauseating.
The generally bad feelings generated by creamed chipped beef in most Americans is what I find interesting. The dish was served ad nauseum to the military during WWII. When those millions of boyos came back home afterwards they brought their ill will towards the creamy concoction with them. That feeling was passed on to their families and friends and has persisted to this day.
The culinary implications of war often go unnoticed. I find them fascinating -- carrot cake becoming common during wartime sugar rationing and the reduction in types of cheese produced as a result of WWII... You know, stuff like that.
Anyhow, the Knauss creamed chipped beef is pretty much what you would expect. A salty, viscous, pouch of gloop spotted with little scabby bits of thin chipped beef. I had it on some toast and while struggling through a bit it occurred to me that if done exactly right (quality cream and butter), creamed chipped beef might not be that bad.... After some hard work on a cold day, some creamed beef spooned on hot biscuits is probably just the thing....
As an aside, the recipe for a Boboli breakfast pizza on the back of the bag made me laugh. I appreciate Knauss' pluck in trying to wedge the stuff into a recipe.
Well, I know these posts are a diversion from my normal subject matter but it is my opinion that shining a little light onto some of the everyday aspects of military life (such as food) is useful in helping people understand how service in the military shapes a person.
I don't really know how I feel about Veteran's Day to tell you the truth... I am proud of my service, but somehow the day makes me a little uncomfortable. I don't know why. I think I am much prouder of the service of others (especially my lovely wife), so I guess I thank all of them very much.
As I am always fond of reminding everyone, it is not just the tall, crew cut, stick up the ass types (like me) who are veterans. It is also the young mother, pushing a baby carriage, at Price Chopper (like my wife). So hold the damn door.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
So I was strolling through Wine and Spirits of Slingerlands (Price Chopper Plaza) the other day when I spied an interesting bit of advertising among the vodkas. It was a colorful little tag that proclaimed the Vescia brand a "Albany Times Union - Top Rated Vodka" apparently tasted by a certain "Career Bartender Jessica Smith." I don't remember any recent Times Union vodka contests, I am pretty sure I would have taken note.
In any event, this stuff was super cheap so I hesitantly trusted in the Times Union's exacting taste and picked up a bottle.
A little research (google) resulted in me finding a TU story entitled "Getting Into the Spirit of Vodka" from December of last year. I guess they did a taste test sort of thing of Absolut, Chopin, Grey Goose, Stolichnaya, Ketel One, and Vescia and had Career Bartender Jessica Smith (of the Bubble Lounge in Fairfield, CT...) rate them. I am a little dubious concerning the results as Absolut and the Vescia took the top spots with Stoli, Ketel One, and Grey Goose scoring miserably low. But hey, maybe Career Bartender Jessica Smith and I just have different tastes in vodka.
It just seems funny to me that this brand chose this relatively obscure article in the Times Union to center its advertising on. I am assuming that this little tag was produced by the company/distributor/importer as it looks a little fancy to have been done in house by the liquor store itself. I am wondering if this vodka is distributed by a local who somehow managed to get the Vescia stuff wedged into the TU contest... Who knows? (I mean who knows besides Career Bartender Jessica Smith...)
The first thing to note about the Vescia is the bottle that it comes in --
It is almost as if they held a contest to engineer the most awkwardly shaped bottle in the history of all vodka bottles. It is a weird, nutsack shaped, binary bottle sort of affair. It is hard to pour and kind of makes your wrist hurt a little. I hate it.
Bottle aside, Vescia is a Polish potato vodka that goes for around 13 bucks per 750ml bottle. That is much cheaper than the 23-25 bucks that I usually pay for Stoli. But as always I found that you pretty much always get what you pay for. This stuff ain't awful, but it is not my favorite. It has an assertive sweet sort of flavor that I found a little off-putting. Also, I may be falsely attributing this to the Vescia but I had a headache after imbibing a conservative amount of the stuff... If I am going to buy cut rate Polish potato vodka I think I will stick with Luksusowa which is a bit better in my opinion.
Anyhow, I am sure that Career Bartender Jessica Smith is a lovely lady and I would love to strike up a conversation about vodka on the very next occasion that I find myself in the "Bubble Lounge" in Fairfield, CT, but until then we are going to have to agree to disagree about the merits of Vescia. I do not think that the stuff is worthy of the storied title of "Albany Times Union - Top Rated Vodka."
Monday, November 5, 2012
I got such an almighty kick out of my last meatloaf art project (Meatloafy the Whale, pictured below) --
--that I thought it might just be time to put on my meatloaf-artist hat and get to work on a new beefy masterpiece. You see, I am going to watch the election results with some friends tomorrow night and I thought some meat and whimsy just might bring a little levity to this stressful situation. Hence, "Meat Romney" was born. I won't get into mine and my group of friend's political views, but lets just say we plan on baking Meat Romney in effigy.
I think you should make your own meatloaf presidential candidate. It's easy! All that you need is a couple trays of meatloaf --
-- and a Meat Romney stencil. I thought that Mr. Romney's weird side part was the hardest part to capture. I had to be a little cartoonish because drawing with barbecue sauce is not exactly a precision science.
Simply cut around the stencil and remove the Meat Romney scraps. 9 out of 10 meatloaf artists agree that meatloaf scraps are the best part of the job.
This is a two layer meatloaf presidential candidate food-effigy so I decided on some garishly colored shredded cheddar for the filling.
After you place the top half on, simply use instant mashed tatties to create weird mashed potato skin.
Finally, I used a squirt bottle of barbecue sauce to draw Meat Romney's features on. I think it came out pretty durn good if I don't say so myself.
I can't wait to eat a big slice of Mitt Romney's forehead. Mrs. Dave has already called dibs on the hair piece to the right of the side part. I am hoping that when ol' Meat gets heated up in the oven all manner of grotesque melty things happen to his smug face. Maybe cheese will melt out of his earholes...
In any event. Upstate Americans, I trust that you will all make informed decisions when you vote tomorrow.