Be sure to invite the brandy family
Either as luxurious finales to dinner or as very thoughtful and memorable gifts, members of the brandy family, which includes Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados, make terrific holiday guests. Brandy, distilled liquor made from the juice of grapes and other fruits, is aged in wood, which gives it lovely brown tones ranging from amber to mahogany. Cognac is the finest member of the brandy family and Armagnac is perhaps the oldest brandy made in France, while Calvados is a beautiful apple brandy. Learn which one is best for your soiree and find recommendations in the current issue.
Small town restaurant, big city attitude
A collaboration between Chef David Burke, who owns some nine restaurants around the country, and restaurateur Marc Cooperman, restaurant.mc manages to combine all that’s good about a well-designed, casual and comfortable environment where creatively prepared food made with fresh, local seasonal ingredients, great drinks and winning wines are the order of the day. Sounds like a formula, doesn’t it? But any restaurateur will tell you it is not. If it were, there would be more wonderful restaurants than there are. No, restaurant.mc is more than the sum of those parts. And even a critical food writer cannot explain the magic ingredient that translates those elements into a superior restaurant. All that is known is that Burke and Cooperman and the staff have done it, pleasing young and old and all who are in between.
A sea of cranberry scarlet
These beautiful bitter berries are the key ingredient in five delicious recipes you’ll want to serve this season. Get the basics of cranberry cookery and some recipes to try in the current issue — start with this one to accompany your holiday turkey.
A chutney is a distinctive sauce or relish of East Indian origin, notable for sweet and sour components of fruits, spices and herbs. Chutneys were designed to accompany curries but in this great melting pot called America, we’ve found uses for these delicious concoctions as accompaniments to meat, poultry and pork dishes. This particular chutney is made with the very American ingredient of cranberry. The taste is great, but so is the color. It is a pretty relish to set upon your dining room table in a clear crystal serving dish. It will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to three months and can be frozen for as long as six months.
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup tart apple such as McIntosh, peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup dried California apricots, snipped into bits (see note)
1/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 tsp. shredded fresh ginger or ¼ tsp. dried ginger
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
1 Combine cranberries, apple, brown sugar, vinegar, water, apricots, salt, ginger, allspice and dry mustard in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
2 Spoon chutney into a clean jar, bowl or storage container. Cover and refrigerate.
3 Serve at room temperature.
Yield: 2 cups
Note: California apricots are more tart and flavorful then the Turkish apricots that are more widely available in New Jersey markets. Turkish apricots can be substituted in this dish, but the flavors of the chutney will not be as rich.
Aunt Ruthie's Cranberry Nut Bread
This recipe also can be baked as muffins. You’ll find the directions at the end of this recipe.
1 cup cranberries, chopped fresh or thawed, frozen
1 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar (divided use)
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tbsp. sour cream
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2 Toss cranberries with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Set aside
3 In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cut butter into remaining sugar; add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla, milk and sour cream.
4 Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir in nuts. Add butter mixture to the bowl, stirring well until a batter is formed. Stir in sugared cranberries.
5 Pour into a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan that has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray. (Be sure to use “baking spray” which contains flour not just non-stick cooking spray.)
6 Place loaf pan on the center rack of the oven. Bake for about 1 hour.
Yield: 1 large loaf
Variation: To make this recipe as muffins, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottoms only of 12 medium muffin cups or line with paper baking cups. Prepare recipe above. Then divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from the pan and cool.
Deck the halls and everything else with a trim-the-tree party
A trim-a-tree party is one of the warmest ways to welcome family and friends during the holidays, and at the same time, attend to one of the season’s many tasks — decorating! More than a chef, you’ll be needed as facilitator of décor, so create a menu that does not require you to be in the kitchen for an extended length of time is essential. We have a simple, yet delicious menu to get you started:
Tiny Tim’s Lamb Chops
Assorted Christmas Cookies
Buy the pre-shredded cheese for real time saving.
1 cup (about 4 ozs.) pizza cheese, shredded
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and cured
3 tbsp. scallions, chopped
2 (6-inch) pita pockets
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 In a small bowl, combine cheese, olives and scallions. Set aside.
2 Preheat broiler for 10 minutes.
3 Split pita bread into 4 rounds. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly toasted.
4 In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and basil; mix well. Spread mixture on toasted rounds.
5 Top each round with cheese and olive mixture. Broil until cheese is melted. Cut each round into 6 wedges.
Yield: 24 pita bites
For more recipes, pick up the holiday issue of New Jersey Countryside Magazine, available now at bookstores, on newsstands and by subscription. Click here to get one free bonus issue and save more than 80% on a subscription.