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Island Classics: Singapore Sling

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What separates the Singapore Sling from other island classics is that it uses gin as its base spirit rather than rum. Also, unlike many of its rum-based counterparts, there is absolutely no question or disagreement about where this drink came from or who dreamt it up. That distinction goes to a fellow by the name of Ngiam Tong Boon, a barkeep at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in, you guessed it, Singapore. He purportedly created the concoction around 1915 upon receiving a challenge from a British Colonial for something not only delectable, but befitting of the lovely women of Singapore as well. Or at least that’s the history touted on the website that also designates the drink as Singapore’s national cocktail.

Given the length of the ingredients list, you can almost forgive the Raffles Hotel for having created a special “mix” to handle the large volume of orders they are surely asked to fill. Almost. At home, though, you’re not likely under that kind of pressure so it’s good to view the extra prep time as a minor inconvenience on your way to making a completely captivating cocktail. That’s my opinion, at least.

Personally, I’m not one for sweets. I eschew candy and though I occasionally indulge in chocolate, I prefer the dark variety. I bring this up because it would be easy to look at the spec for this drink–with its pineapple, cherry, and grenadine–and jump to the conclusion that if you’re not into sweet, you should skip this one. However, that’s not the case, as the cherry brandy and Bénédictine hold their own and the lime adds just enough sour to balance the sweeter flavors. And if you make your own grenadine–1:1 POM pomegranate juice to superfine sugar–you’ll be doing even better. This recipe comes straight out of Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book though I include a mint sprig as an additional garnish for an extra splash of color.

Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling
as seen in Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book

2 oz. Pineapple Juice
1 1/2 oz. Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
1/2 oz. House Grenadine
1/4 oz. Cointreau
1/4 oz. Bénédictine
1/4 oz. Lime Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Cherry, Mint sprig, and Pineapple Slice for garnish

Combine pineapple juice, gin, cherry Heering, Cointreau, Bénédictine, lime juice, and bitters in a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry, mint sprig, and slice of pineapple.

Island Classics: The Fog Cutter

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On the subject of gambling, Kenny Rogers famously sang, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” Riffing on that wisdom, I would say that when it comes to a cocktail, you’ve got to know when to drink it and know when to send it back. Such was the awkward position I found myself in one night at a hotel bar on the island of Kauai. The drink was the Fog Cutter and ordered, as it was, from the section of the cocktail menu offering up nostalgia (read: classic cocktails), I harbored a certain expectation, especially considering the list of ingredients. When the drink arrived, I was crushed, unlike the ice filling the stemless wine glass in which it was served. And though it did take me back, it wasn’t to the late 1940s, but rather to my undergraduate years when we considered the Screwdriver to be a cocktail.

While disappointment prevailed–and I did actually send the drink back–it got me thinking that surely there must be a “real” way to make this, not to mention a few of the other syrupy concoctions mixed at the pool bar and marketed under names I knew to be classics of the tiki/tropical genre. So when life gave me this lemon, I decided to squeeze it and mix up some classics.

Once back on the mainland, as expected I quickly unearthed some Fog Cutter recipes that would appear to yield results drastically different from the drink I’d tasted. The first came from Ted Haigh’s indispensable Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, which includes recipes from tiki cocktail godfathers Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber, though the jury seems to be out on who and where it was first conceived. (Named for a kind of diving knife and characterized by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry as the Long Island Iced Tea of exotic drinks, have one too many with a lady friend and you may find yourself wondering where something else was conceived.) For a second opinion, I consulted The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan, finding something of a mashup between the two originals. My final bit of research came when a friend from The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. in Philadelphia generously offered me their spec for the drink. The recipe below follows The Franklin recipe most closely, though I tweaked the rums to my personal liking.

Fog Cutter

Fog Cutter

1 oz. Appleton Estate V/X
1 oz. Smith & Cross
1 oz. Macchu Pisco
1/2 oz. Plymouth Gin
1 oz. Lemon Juice
3/4 oz. Orange Juice
1/2 oz. House Orgeat
1/2 oz. Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry
Mint sprig for garnish

Measure rums, pisco, gin, orgeat, and citrus juices into a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a Pilsner glass. Add crushed ice then float 1/2 oz. of cream sherry. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Spring Pea and Asparagus Soup

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It’s time again to play “Last Week’s Supper Is This Week’s Soup”!

It’s not quite as desperate as it sounds. I like this game because it’s teaching me a lot about combining various in-season vegetables and neatly preventing me from having to waste any leftover produce even after the first or second dish I needed it for has long since been consumed.

This week I was also able to introduce a new player into the basket–peas! As I have been not hesitant to mention, the debut of fresh peas at the local farmers market is particularly exciting to me. I quickly claimed 2 lbs., as if the ladies standing around me were a threat and might snatch them all away before I could make my purchase.

Home again I checked the fridge only to realize I’d “lost” a bunch of asparagus from last week in the bottom of the crisper drawer. But there it had sat, well wrapped but without water for quite a few days. I also came up with some mint and a few spring onions. These forces combined, I had a soup bursting with bright green color and all the refreshing and energizing taste I was hoping to capture.

Green Spring Pea and Asparagus Soup

4 spring onions, sliced
one bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed and spears cut into 1″ pieces
3 cups fresh peas
4 cups vegetable broth
handful of mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Place broth in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Add asparagus and onion to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add peas and cook 3 minutes more. Remove pot from heat, add in the mint, salt, and pepper, and puree. Stir in the buttermilk and adjust seasonings as needed. Enjoy warm or chilled.

Green Spring Pea and Asparagus Soup

Pretty in Pink Week: Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Cake with a Hint of Mint

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And so we come to the close of pink week in Wonderland with this lovely, perfect-for-spring bundt cake. While I swear it looked a little pinkish in the original recipe picture, it was, in fact, not pink at all. However, I’m having trouble getting too broken up about that because this cake is fantastic. I don’t usually get terribly excited about sweet treats; I do not often find myself considering cake for breakfast. As soon as my fork hit a slice of this one, restraint crumbled.

Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Cake with a Hint of Mint

The cake itself has a spongy, almost angel food-like spring to its crumb but a rich flavor since in this case the yolks also go in the batter along with grapefruit juice, lemon zest, vanilla, and, well, lots of sugar.

The mint-flecked glaze was a really interesting idea. Initially I wasn’t a fan of its actual taste–not because of the mint, but because of the powdered sugar (too sweet). Once it soaked in a bit, however, I liked it a lot more, which has left me wondering about what syrups might suit its profile well. I’ll definitely be making another, so there will be opportunities for experimentation.

Bake one up for yourself!

Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Cake with a Hint of Mint process

Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Cake with a Hint of Mint unglazed

Ladies Who Lunch: Spring Fling Potato Salad

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It doesn’t seem quite fair to have slipped the freeze of winter as neatly as we have this year. Still, with flowers pushing their way up into the light yet again and the weatherman promising 70° days this week, I’m ignoring the calendar and daydreaming about lazy afternoon picnics like it’s…well, April at the very least.

first flowers

Admittedly, there are flaws in the fantasy. Local produce amounts to little more than the crates of apples and turnips the fields produced last season, though thanks to a little help from our neighbors to the south, the delicate, hinting green of spring is available for import–a telegram that the season is on its way. Taking full advantage, some of those bright, crisp flavors inspired this perfectly packable potato salad, with just a bit of creaminess to keep the chill off until the danger of frost has truly passed.

Spring Fling Potato Salad

For the salad

3 lbs. mixed red and gold waxy Idaho potatoes, cubed
1 1/2 cups green peas, frozen or fresh
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 small cucumbers, seeded and diced
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds

For the dressing

3 T white balsamic vinegar
2 T pomegranate molasses
2 tsp. kosher salt
generous handful fresh basil
leaves from a few springs of fresh mint
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus additional as needed
3/4 cup mayonnaise

Boil the cubed potatoes until just fork tender, about ten minutes. Drain and reserve.

While potatoes cook, bring a second pot of water to a boil and blanch peas for one minute, then drain and plunge them into an ice water bath to shock and stop the cooking. Set aside.

salad_row

To make the dressing, place vinegar, pomegranate molasses, salt, and herbs in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse until leaves are minced. Combine this mixture with the buttermilk and mayonnaise in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until dressing is well mixed. Thin dressing with additional buttermilk as needed.

In a large bowl, place potatoes, peas, cranberries, cucumbers, scallions, and sliced almonds. Toss with enough of the dressing to coat. Chill until ready to serve.

Disclaimer: This recipe was written for the Idaho Potato Commission, and I was financially compensated for its creation. Previously, Wonderland Kitchen’s Take the G Train: Masala Knishes post was part of their February “Potato Lovers Month” promotion. Both of these dishes were honored with an award for “Best Recipe.”

The Cowboy and the Lady (New Christmas Cookie Edition, Part 2)

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So, as I was saying, Christmas 2011 is crying out for some new sweet treats, and I’m endeavoring to deliver. My first pitch was a peanut butter filled chocolate cookie, and though it had something of a utilitarian, PTA-meeting vibe to me, what it lacked in flash it more than covered for in tastiness. I had admittedly baked with skepticism, but I snacked with gusto.

As a counterweight to that, I selected a chocolate mint sandwich cookie which brought new meaning to the idea of multi-step baking. No step was difficult, but the devil was definitely in the details. Dried fruit needed to be chopped, dough needed to be chilled, rolled, and cut into identical squares. Chocolates were unwrapped and two different types melted–individually! There was baking and sandwiching and icing and drizzling. And finally, there was a house full of amazing, minty, chocolatey smells and a plate full of pretty cookies. They sure looked fancy; they tasted great. But I was so tired that all I really wanted to do was curl up under a blanket with a hot mug of coffee and a couple more of the peanut butter filled ones.

Chocolate Mint Cookie Sandwiches

Chocolate Mint Cookie Sandwiches
adapted from 1 Dough, 100 Cookies

2 1/4 cups AP flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped *
pinch salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

15 after-dinner mints**
4 oz semisweet chocolate pieces
2 oz white chocolate pieces ***

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cranberry pieces, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar, then add egg yolk and vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Divide dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for one hour.

Once dough has chilled, preheat oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment.

Roll out and cut each piece of dough into 15 2.5″ squares (for a total of 30). I made 1.5″ squares and simply ended up with quite a few additional cookies. Bake each sheet for about 10 minutes (until cookies are firm). As soon as you remove them from the oven, top half the squares with a mint and cover with remaining cookies, pressing lightly. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Your kitchen will now smell amazing, attracting the attention of family members and pets, so monitor your cookies with care!

Chocolate Mint Cookie Sandwiches

When cookies have cooled, melt the semisweet chocolate pieces in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Allow to cool and drizzle over the sandwiches. Once the semisweet chocolate has set, repeat the process with the white chocolate. Enjoy the fancy sweets.

*I tossed these two ingredients in my small food processor and whirled them around for a minute. It made quick work of the chopping, and the powder kept the dried fruit pieces from sticking together in a clump.

**I used Andes chocolate mints, but made smaller cookies so I broke 28 of them in half. The left over pieces I just tossed in with the semisweet chocolate when I melted it for the glaze.

***My white chocolate was very dry when melted. A small amount of vegetable oil thinned it to a drizzle-able consistency.