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Fire Up the Fourth — and Chill with These Creative Cocktails

Fire Up the Fourth — and Chill with These Creative Cocktails

In the middle of summer, we anticipate the Fourth of July for fireworks, wienie roasts and barbecue, cooling off in the pool, going to a parade (or participating in one) and thinking about what Independence Day means. Cold beer, a glass of wine and any one of these cocktails are another fun part of having a day off — which this year is happily on a Friday.

Take a look at some new options below and you might want to head to the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market to pick up some of the fruits, juices and vegetables for your cook-out – or a bottle of Peach Shrub, made with fresh peaches, to add a deliciously different kick to a new cocktail.

Whatever your choice, celebrate with abandon — and drive with care!

 

ISummer Peach Shrub croppedce down summer with new Peach Shrub

This drink, The Texas TwoStep,  is based on a locally made product called Shrub Drinks. These are artisan vinegars with a long history, now making their way back into the craft beverage scene.

This Summer  Peach Shrub is now in production and available Sundays at the Quarry Market Farmers and Ranchers Market. Read more about Shrub Drinks, produced by Cynthia Guido and Cathy Tarasovic by clicking here.

The Texas Two Step

3/4 ounce Shrub Drink (Summer Peach Shrub)
1 1/2 ounce small batch bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.

Photo and recipe courtesy Shrub Drinks

Herradura Tequila and Bohemia. Beer and tequila are San Antonio traditional favorites. Fortunately, Herradura Tequila and Bohemia beer have you covered on the cocktail front as well with these two Independence Day-themed cocktails.

July 4 Bohemia Fireworks cocktailBohemia Fireworks

2 strawberries
1.5 ounce Bohemia
1.5 ounce spiced rum
.5 ounces simple syrup
½  ounce lemon

Muddle the strawberries and add the rest of the ingredients. Shake all ingredients and pour over ice in a collins glass. Top with Bohemia beer

 

 

Raz White and BlueHerradura’s Red, White and Blue Berrries

1½ ounce Herradura Silver
2 ½ ounces coconut water
¼ ounce agave nectar
½ ounce lime juice

Place all ingredients in to a cocktail shaker filled with cubed ice. Shake hard and strain over crushed ice in to a tall glass. Garnish with raspberries and blueberries.

 

 

 

July 4 Cocktail Raz White and Blue

 

Raz, White & Blue
8 ounces Bud Light Lime Raz-Ber-Rita
Blueberries
Pineapple

Muddle blueberries and pineapple in a mixing glass. Add ice and pour in Bud Light Lime Raz-Ber-Rita. Stir, garnish with blueberries and pineapple and serve in a mason jar.

 

July 4 Cocktail CenturionCenturion Spritz

2 ounces Prosecco
.75 ounces Beefeater Gin
.5 ounces Cocchi Rosso
.5 ounces Cappelletti Aperitivo

Build in a rocks glass filled with ice
Garnish with half an orange wheel

 

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Italy Cooks: Tastes and Flavors of Abruzzo

Italy Cooks: Tastes and Flavors of Abruzzo

Photos and story by Emily Reynolds

Domenica Marchetti cooks at Central Market Cooking School

Domenica Marchetti cooks at Central Market Cooking School

The long strands of pasta hung like fresh white sheets of linen drying in the spring wind. There was a waft of sweetness in the air, the kind that only a fine Italian pasta sauce could create. Who knew traveling to Italy would be so easy?

Now through Thursday, Central Market has become “Centro Italia,” offering a wide variety of imported foods and cooking classes that focused on the art and soul of Italian cooking. The classes have ranged from making seafood to making pizza and everything in-between. Yes, there is something for everyone, from the experienced cook to the curious newbie.

Last week, the well-known cookbook author and food journalist Domenica Marchetti visited from the Washington, D.C., area to demonstrate how cooking appears, as seen through a lens from the Italian region of Abruzzo.

Marchetti has written five acclaimed cookbooks on traditional and contemporary Italian home-cooking. Although she claims her greatest teacher is her mother, who was born and raised in Chieti, Italy, she pulled out all the steps and stops in making an Italian inspired home-cooked meal.

She brought her passion for hand-stretched pasta dough and a wide array of knowledge of classically Italian cooked vegetables and stews to San Antonio’s Central Market kitchen. Although cooking and wine tasting were the main part of the class, Marchetti told lovely tales of Abruzzo between the courses.

Abruzzo is a region in central Italy with three national parks, a plethora of mountains and beaches on the Adriatic sea. It’s known for having “mountainous cuisine” with a heavy influence of lamb and a large amount of seafood dishes from tiny beach villages. Thus, it’s gained the reputation of being the “land that has everything,” according to Marchetti.

Marchetti started the evening by layering a sizzling pot of sunflower oil with batter-coated zucchini sticks and sage leaves. The sizzle of the pan and the smell of crisp vegetables were inspired by Marchetti’s book, “The Glorious Vegetables of Italy.” This being a typical dish of the Adriatic area, it is something one might make after a trip to the farmers market, as a light appetizer or snack before a larger meal. Marchetti recommended using sparkling water instead of still in the batter to add softness. She also recommended not crowding the pan. You can substitute zucchini with baby artichokes, if you please.

'Chitarra' means 'guitar,' and in this case it's an instrument for making pasta.

‘Chitarra’ means ‘guitar,’ and in this case it’s an instrument for making pasta.

The next part of the class was about making homemade pasta and classic sauces. Marchetti demonstrated the use of the chitarra (guitar) — a unique instrument meant for making pasta not music. The outcome is a thicker noodle, and the fun is rolling the dough over the strings. This old-fashioned style is unique to the Abruzzo region. She also mentioned that a time-saving tip to the often-grueling task of homemade pasta making is using a food processor.

What is a good pasta without a wonderful sauce to complement? The gorgeous sheets of pasta were complemented with a rich and textured “ragu,” which led to the naming of the dish: Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Ragu’ Abruzzese. The sauce was rich with flavor, as the tenderness of the meats within the sauce were cooked for three hours. Although there was beef chuck, pork shoulder and lamb shoulder all used within the sauce, there can be variations.

“I always think recipes are just guidelines, and should be tailored to your particular tastes,” Marchetti says.

Our third course was a hearty lamb and potato stew adopted by Marchetti’s book, “The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy.”

“The culture of Abruzzo is strongly linked to pastoral farming traditions. In the mountaintop villages and into he countryside, sheep’s milk cheese and dishes made with lamb (and mutton) abound. This stew is just one example, perfect for a chilly evening in the spring,” she said.

Handmade pasta with a hearty ragu, typical of Abruzzo, Italy.

Handmade pasta with a hearty ragu, typical of Abruzzo, Italy.

Although a “chilly evening in the spring” is rare in Texas, there is always a good reason to have a stew on the stove. A timeless comfort food, this recipe captures the soul of the mountains by using lamb as the meat of choice. Served with some of Marchetti’s sweet and sour peppers with oil-cured olives, which use a bit of white wine vinegar plus a pinch of sugar to sweeten the bite, the savory sensations of the stew are complemented with a divine pop of sweetness.

The evening closed with a beautifully airy and light Lemon-Ricotta Costata. “A lovely dessert to welcome spring, this rustic crostata would be made with sheep’s milk in Abruzzo, the region where my family is from,” Marchetti explains in her book. The not overly sweet crostata was complemented by mascarpone cheese to add a silky cream-like texture layered between the airy crust. Marchetti warned the class to be sure to have all your ingredients at the same temperature or the filling may curdle. Another trick is to pass the ricotta through a sieve to add additional light and creaminess to the center of this dish.

Traveling to Italy came to an end on a high note played by a chitarra and accompanied by a well-versed composer. Marchetti pulled out all the stops for her students, and we can only hope that she will come back to San Antonio soon to take us to Italy for another evening. In the meantime, you can find one of her five cookbooks on Amazon or read her blog at www.domenicacooks.com. She is also taking a few lucky travelers with her to Abruzzo this summer and fall; check out her website for more details.

 

Fried Zucchini Blossoms and Sage Leaves

Ragu’ all’Abruzzese (Abruzzese-style meat sauce)

 

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Yes, You Can Make Fluffy Biscuits Using Only Two Ingredients

Biscuits are a cornerstone of Southern cooking. But, of course, they should never be hard as a stone; only light and airy will do.

You can do that in your kitchen, using only a couple of ingredients.

Make biscuits in the size you like.

Make biscuits in the size you like.

In “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” (Gibbs Smith, $$45), Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart write that “it’s miraculous to make a biscuit with only two ingredients, particularly when making such an impressive biscuit, light and tender, capable of convincing anyone that the cook was born holding a biscuit bowl. This recipe is a good fallback for anyone who hasn’t made a biscuit for a while or has to hurry up and get some baked. If using a cream with less fat (heavy cream has 36 percent), start with less and use only what is needed to make a moist, slightly sticky dough. Half-and-half just doesn’t work well enough to use by itself. This is really and hurry-up recipe, but the directions are detailed.”

Graubart will be demonstrating how to make these beauties at the San Antonio Book Festival on April 5. She will appear from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Central Market Cooking Tent located at the Southwest School of Art, outside in the Ursuline Campus parking lot on Augusta Street.

Two-Ingredient Biscuits

2 1/4 cups self-rising flour, divided use
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided use
Butter, softened or melted, for finishing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Selecting the baking pan by determining if a soft or crisp exterior is desired. For a soft exterior, use an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, a pizza pan, or an ovenproof skillet where the biscuits will nestle together snugly, creating the soft exterior while baking. For a crisp exterior, select a baking sheet or other baking pan where the biscuits can be placed wider apart, allowing air to circulate and create a crisper exterior. Brush selected pan with butter or oil.

Fork-sift or whisk 2 cups of the flour in a large bowl, preferably wider than it is deep, and set aside the remaining 1/4 cup. Make a deep hollow in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Slowly but steadily stir 1 cup of the cream, reserving 1/4 cup, into the hollow with a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the cream. Mix just until the dry ingredient is moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining on the bottom and sides of the bowl, stir in just enough of the reserved cream to incorporate the remaining flour into the shaggy, wettish dough. If the dough is too wet, use more flour when shaping.

Lightly sprinkle a plastic sheet, a board or other clean surface with some of the reserved flour. Turn the dough out onto the board and sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour if sticky. With floured hands, folks the dough in half and pat it into a 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick round, using a little additional flour only if needed. Flour again if sticky and fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold a third time. Pat dough into a 1/2-inch-thick round for normal biscuits, a 3/4-inch-thick round for tall biscuits , or a 1-inch-thick round for giant biscuits. Brush off any visible flour from the top. For each biscuit, dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the reserved flour and cut out the biscuits, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter. The scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although they will be tougher.

Using a metal spatula, if necessary, move the biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. Bake the biscuits on the top rack of the oven for a total of 10 to 14 minutes, until light golden brown. After 6 minutes, rotate the pan in the oven so that the front of the pan is now turned to the back, and check to see if the bottoms are browning too quickly. If so, slide another baking pan underneath to add insulation and retard the browning. Continue baking another 4 to 8 minutes, until the biscuits are light golden brown. When they are done, remove from the oven and lightly brush the tops with softened or melted butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.

Variations:

  • For Sour Cream or Cream Cheese Biscuits, substitute 1 cup sour cream or cream cheese for the heavy cream. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. This makes a moist biscuit.
  • For Yogurt and Cream Biscuits, use 1/2 cup yogurt and 3/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half.
  • For Yogurt Biscuits, add 1 teaspoon salt to the flour and 1 cup plain yogurt for the heavy cream. Add a bit of milk or cream to moisten if a “drier” yogurt is used. Yogurt biscuits are a bit “bouncy.”
  • For Strawberry Shortcake, add 1 or tablespoons sugar to the dough. Line a cake pan with parchment paper. Pat the dough into the lined cake pan. Bake as above. Remove from the oven, brush the top with butter, and turn upside down on a rack to cool slightly. When cool. slice in half horizontally. To serve, sandwich with sugared strawberries and cream or serve a bowl of each separately.

Makes 14 to 18 (2-inch) biscuits.

From “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

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Make Your Own Sriracha Sauce

Make Your Own Sriracha Sauce

In the last few years, sriracha sauce has become something of a food lover’s ketchup. Squeeze bottles with the now-familiar rooster on the label can be found in Asian restaurants everywhere, and it’s staked a claim on shelves in supermarkets across the city.

Make your own sriracha.

Make your own sriracha.

But, other than hot, what is sriracha?

The name, according to Bon Appétit magazine, refers to a Thai town named Si Racha, while the actual words mean something akin to “the glory of our king.”

And what a glory it is when you add it to any dish that needs a little heat, whether it’s Thai noodles, German schnitzel or a breakfast taco.

One squirt and it’s easy to see why this combination of sweet, sour, salty and hot has won so many fans.

That said, I’ve long wanted to play around with the recipe and change a few elements to suit my tastes. One was to cut down on the sugar, which I find excessive under all that heat; another was to add a little zip of ginger.

Where to start? I found a base recipe from a blogger named Amy Kim, who writes under the name Kimchi Mom, and proceeded from there. But I had to make a few adjustments along the way. I couldn’t find red jalapeños, so I substituted red bell peppers and I used a habanero instead. I cut back on the sugar but didn’t eliminate it entirely because it needed some help in getting the fermentation started.

In other words, I used my own ingredients while following Kim’s recipe and produced a sriracha that, to me, is a glory.

You can add your own rooster to your bottles.

Add your flavors to a combination of red peppers and garlic.

Add your flavors to a combination of red peppers and garlic.

Sriracha with Ginger

2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut in pieces
1 habanero, seeded or not, to your taste
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 (2- to 3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup white vinegar

Place the peppers, garlic, ginger, sugar and salt into a blender or food processor. Pulse until the peppers are finely chopped. Transfer mixture to a clean container with a lid and let sit at room temperature for about 5-7 days to let it ferment.

Check the jar everyday and give it a stir. Bubbles will be forming and the mixture will slightly increase in volume.

Shake the fermenting pepper mixture daily.

Shake the fermenting pepper mixture daily.

Pour the mixture into a blender and add the vinegar. Purée until smooth. Place a strainer over a medium-sized saucepan. Pour the purée into the strainer and strain the mixture into the saucepan using a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon. You will be left with some of the larger pepper pieces and seeds. (Tester’s note: My strainer was really fine, so I was left with a rich liquid, but nothing as thick as storebought sriracha; it didn’t matter, the flavor is there.)

Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for about 7-10 minutes or until the sauce clings to a wooden spoon. Take the pan off the heat and let the sauce cool.

Pour the sauce into a clean airtight jar or container. Keep the sauce refrigerated and it should keep for more than a month to six months.

Makes about 3 cups.

Adapted from Amy Kim, Kimchi Mom

 

 

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Light the Grill for Some Buttery Lemon-Tarragon Lobster

Light the Grill for Some Buttery Lemon-Tarragon Lobster

I have to admit I’d never grilled my own lobster until recently. ButI had long wanted to, so I used the following tips from “The Grilling Book” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $45), which was put together by Bon Appétit magazine and editor Adam Rapoport:

When grilling lobster, place the cut side down first.

When grilling lobster, place the cut side down first.

How to Prepare Lobster for the Grill

For the most delicious grilled lobster, you have to start with a live lobster. This requires that the lobster be killed and partially cooked just before it hits the grate. There are a few different ways to to it, but this method is the most simple and straightforward.

  1. Bring water to boil in a large boil.  Add lobster headfirst. Cover pot tightly. Boil lobsters 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, remove lobster (now red) from pot.
  2. Place lobster belly side up on work surface. Put tip of large knife in center; cut from center to end of head, then from center to end of tail.
  3. Discard the gray vein, gills and sand sac from head. Keep the red roe and green tomalley intact, if desired.

The only slight variation I made was that my kitchen shears proved easier to cut through the tail than any of my knives. After cutting the lobster in half, I finished it off with this recipe, which is also from “The Grilling Book.” The butter was so good, made with tarragon and chives from the garden, that I could see using it on shrimp, scallops, some type of sautéed white fish or even chicken.

Lemon-Tarragon Lobster

1/2 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 (1 1/2-pound) live lobsters
Vegetable oil, for brushing

Use the lemon-tarragon butter on the lobster meat.

Use the lemon-tarragon butter on the lobster meat.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to high. Stir butter, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small saucepan over low heat until butter melts. Mix in chives and tarragon; season to taste with salt and pepper. Set pan at edge of grill to keep sauce warm.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop lobsters headfirst into water. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes (lobsters will not be full cooked). Using tongs, transfer lobsters to a work surface. Using a large heavy knife or cleaver, cut shell; if necessary, use poultry shears), then cut in half from center to end of tail. Scoop out and discard gray vein, gills and sand sac from the head. Leave any red roe or green tomalley intact, if desired. Crack claws. Brush cut side of lobsters with 1 tablespoon butter sauce.

Brush grill grate with oil. Grill lobsters, cut side down, for 3 or 4 minutes. Turn and cook for 3 or 4 more minutes longer. Turn one last time, so that cut side is down and grill until lobster meat is opaque but still juicy, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Using tongs, transfer lobsters to plates. Brush with sauce. Serve, passing any remaining sauce separately.

Makes 2 servings.

From “The Grilling Book,” Adam Rapoport, editor

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Love Lobster? Rick Groomer Has Some Preparation Tips for You

Love Lobster? Rick Groomer Has Some Preparation Tips for You

steamed lobsters1As most of San Antonio’s many seafood fanatics are aware, Groomer’s Seafood, which sells its fresh fish and shellfish to restaurants, also has a retail outlet at their store at 9801 McCullough Ave.

The popular store will become lobster central on Thursday, which is the first day of the three-day Lobster Mania. This is the second annual event, and the sale goes on through Saturday (Aug. 3) of this weekend.

To prepare for Lobster Mania, Groomer’s did a promotion that lured lobster lovers to their Facebook page by offering to lower per-lobster prices when they got enough “likes” on their page. This was a charm that worked, and (at least as of this writing) lobsters will be selling for a very tempting $6.95 apiece.

“Last year’s Lobster Mania was a huge success,” said Groomer. “So this year we’ll have 3,500 lobsters for sale each day on Thursday and Friday (the crustaceans are flown in daily) and another 5,000 on Saturday. We’ll have to clear everything out off the floor (to accommodate the crowd), but things will move pretty fast.”

We asked for a few tips and tactics for picking and cooking a fresh lobster. This, Groomer said, is the best time of year and fresh, Maine cold-water lobsters are the best kind to buy. The season is at its peak and the supply is plentiful, he says.

“If you’re picking out a live lobster, you’ll want to select one that is lively, is moving its claws — the claws aren’t looking droopy or still,” he says.

lobster3Then, keep your new friend or friends as cool as possible. “You can do this with a damp newspaper or wet towel, and keep them at at least 40-50 degrees, or in the fridge. They’ll keep for 24-48 hours,” Groomer said.

Don’t become too attached to your lobsters in the meantime. “It’s best not to give them a name,” he said.

But, if you’re feeling a little squeamish about tossing them into the steamer or boiling them, one of the ways to ease your feelings is to put them in the freezer for 10 minutes or so before you cook them.

“They’ll go into a deep sleep. This is probably the most humane way to do it,” Groomer says.

Do lobsters have feelings? Groomer didn’t say yes or no, but he did say there have been “tests and more tests” showing that they probably don’t feel pain.

Groomer’s favorite way to cook and eat lobster: Keep it simple, he said. Steaming is the way he prefers with a little bit of flavoring in the water of the steamer — salt, dark ale, Old Bay Seasoning, lemons. When they have turned red, they’re done. (See directions for cooking below.)

“Honestly, the less you do the better,” he said. Along those same lines is his suggestion for serving — simply fresh drawn butter.

Groomer's Lobster Roll

Groomer’s Lobster Roll

And we see nothing wrong with that. However, Groomer’s also shared their Lobster Roll recipe, which you can find by clicking here.

Two ways to cook your lobsters

There are two popular ways for preparing your live lobster; steaming and boiling. Boiling is a bit quicker and the meat comes out of the shell more willingly than when steamed.

For recipes that call for fully cooked and picked lobster meat, boiling is the best and easier method. In contrast, steaming is gentler, yielding slightly more tender meat. It preserves a little more flavor and it’s more forgiving on the timing front making it harder to overcook.

We’ve included two simple guides below for cooking your live lobster for Lobster Mania to pair with a recipe of your own or just some simple clarified butter. Both of these recipes are for lobsters that weigh between 1 and 1 ¼ pounds.

To Boil: Begin by filling a large pot three-quarters full with salted water using 1 tablespoon of salt for each quart of water. Then bring the water to a rolling boil and place the lobsters in the pot, making sure they’re completely submerged. Cover the pot and begin timing, maintaining the boil, for about 8 minutes.

To Steam: Put about 2 inches of salted water in a large pot (use 1 tablespoon of salt for each quart of water). Put the lobsters in the pot, and cover tightly. Begin timing, and steam for 12 minutes. — From Groomer’s Seafood

 

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One of Summer’s Pleasures Is Corn Hot Off the Grill

One of Summer’s Pleasures Is Corn Hot Off the Grill

Sprinkle cheese, drizzle crema and shake plenty of spices over your corn.

Sprinkle cheese, drizzle crema and shake plenty of spices over your corn.

I haven’t been able to get enough grilled corn this summer. I even forgo throwing meat on the grill, preferring to make a couple of ears the centerpiece of my lunch or dinner plate. All it takes is a little butter or crema, salt, pepper and lime, and I’m all set.

One method of grilling corn has you soaking it before placing it over the flames.

One method of grilling corn has you soaking it before placing it over the flames.

For those who have never grilled corn before, it’s not hard. But you don’t just throw an ear on the grill the way you would a red pepper.

You can grill corn essentially two ways:

  • Shuck the corn, spray or brush the ears with a little oil and place them on a grill that’s fairly hot. Turn the ears regularly and in about 12 minutes, they’re ready to eat.
  • Or you can soak your ears of corn in water for about 15-20 minutes, then pull back the husks, making sure they stay attached, and remove all the silk. Spread some butter on each ear and salt before wrapping the husk back around it. Wrap in foil and place on the grill for about 15 minutes or so, turning regularly as it cooks.

What’s the difference?

Wrap the soaked ears in foil before placing on the grill.

Wrap the soaked ears in foil before placing on the grill.

The first method gives you plenty of grill-darkened kernels, which is visually appetizing to those of us who love grill marks and a few blackened kernels added to the yellow and while. It also tastes great because some of those kernels will caramelize in the heat, adding a sweetness as well as a chewiness. A few kernels get so hot, they will pop as they cook.

The second method steams your corn until it is truly tender while keeping each ear a pristine yellow and white. Each kernel pops in your mouth with plenty of steaming hot juice.

So, which is better?

That’s up to you. Which do you like better?

I asked Jeff White, executive chef at the Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden, if he had a preferred method, and he said it really depended on your situation.

Used grilled kernels in your own corn in cup.

Used grilled kernels in your own corn in cup.

If you’re grilling corn for your family and you’re going to eat it immediately after removing from the grill, then the strip away the husks and get some char marks on those kernels, he said. But if you’re grilling corn to be served later, then steam them on the grill inside their husks; they’ll hold up better in a steam tray.

Once the corn is finished, you can get as fancy or as plain as you want. If you’ve been to any festival around San Antonio that sells roasted corn, you know how elaborate the toppings can get. From buckets of butter to various kinds of spices, the array is extensive.

A Mexican-style elote would likely feature cayenne or some type of chile powder, a little drizzle of crema or a smear of mayonnaise, a sprinkling of cotija cheese (Parmesan will work) and lime juice. Or you could make your own border-style corn in cup with the kernels cut off the cob and served in a similar cheesy cream topping. You don’t need hard and fast recipes for these, just add the ingredients you like.

By the way, if you’re concerned about getting non-genetically modified corn, you can check out your local farmers markets and ask. Or you can go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, both of which have said their produced is GMO-free, though it still wouldn’t hurt to ask.

 

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How to Sear Foie Gras

How to Sear Foie Gras

Foie gras with mango and pear

Foie gras with mango and pear

For the longest time, foie gras was a sliver of culinary paradise reserved for high-end restaurant dining. That is, unless you placed an order directly from the likes of Hudson Valley Foie Gras or through Central Market. And then, the cut of liver was large and whole, and you had to cut it yourself before searing it in a pan.

Thanks to the folks at GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road, you can now buy this delicious cut into slabs and individually packaged, so you can get two or 10 servings, depending on your hunger or the size of your guest list.

A 2-ounce slab sells for about $$6.35, which is a great price compared with what you pay in restaurants. But the food warehouse recently had a one-day sale that made me want to stock up for the future.

First, I had to get one necessary piece of cooking equipment: a splatter screen.

Searing foie gras produces a lot of fat that will coat the area around your stove. So, be ready to clean up a good-sized area around your pan, even with a splatter guard.

Think you can’t cook foie gras as good as you get at a restaurant? Think again. A 2-ounce slab, cut about 3/4 inch thick will cook quickly, but it’s easy, if you pay attention for a good minute.

Before you start, make sure you know how you want to serve the meat and have everything else ready, because you want to serve your dish immediately after the foie gras is cooked. Remember, this is an ephemeral treat, exceedingly rich and satisfying, yet its magic works only for a short while. You don’t really want leftovers.

Slabs of foie gras

Slabs of foie gras

My inspiration was a foie gras club sandwich that chef Andrew Weissman used to serve at Le Rêve. I simplified it greatly, eliminating the buttery brioche and bacon as well as any sort of balsamic reduction. I retained the silky mango and topped both with slivers of pear, instead of the Granny Smith apple that Weissman used. Both the slab of mango and the pear slices were ready to go before I cooked the meat.

What else could you serve with it? Foie gras is great with a glass of Sauternes on the side, so why not a sauce made with a similar wine, such as a German Riesling, that mixes a touch of sweet with a bright acidity to cut through the unctuousness of the liver? Honey and lemon, a drizzle of thick, aged balsamic or sherry vinegar, or a Rossini sauce made with truffles would all go well with it. If you wanted to use a spoonful of jam, think fig, ginger or onion. Nuts and dried fruit, from cherries to figs, would also add to the flavors.

Luciano Ciorciari of GauchoGourmet says he likes his on a piece of toasted baguette with a touch of sweet-tart preserves, such as red currant or lignonberry.

If you wanted to use the foie gras atop a hot steak, just cook the beef first. While it is resting, sear the goose liver.

Handling the liver is easy: Just thaw the slab, score it on both sides (the depth of the criss-crossed cuts will depend on how thick your slab is), and sprinkle it with a little salt and finely ground pepper. Heat a non-stick pan or a regular sauté pan with the tiniest bit of grapeseed or avocado oil until the pan is extremely hot. Place the slabs in the pan and cover instantly. The fat will begin to melt off the slab and splatter. After no more than 30 seconds, flip the foie gras and cook for the same amount of time. Remove and prepare to serve.

That’s it. Then comes the fun part: eating it.

 

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Paella’s a Dish You Can Make to Suit Your Tastes

Paella’s a Dish You Can Make to Suit Your Tastes

Food lovers watch Zach Lutton (center) and an assistant create a massive paella with plenty of seafood in it.

Food lovers watch Zach Lutton (center) and an assistant create a massive paella with plenty of seafood in it.

Making a good paella is all about layering the flavors you have, which could be anything from lobster and clams to chicken and chorizo. Then there’s the sofrito, an aromatic mixture of garlic, tomatoes, peppers and onions cooked in olive oil, as well as saffron and rice.

Zach Lutton of Zedric's adds a prawn to his paella.

Zach Lutton of Zedric’s adds a prawn to his paella.

But the key ingredient, in Zach Lutton’s opinion, is the stock.

That’s what the owner of Zedric’s Healthy Gourmet to Go believes, and it’s what he says helped him win second place in last year’s Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery. This year’s challenge is Sunday, and Lutton will be back, hoping to move up to first place. To give himself a warmup and promote the event, he offered a demonstration of how to make the Spanish dish during a recent Pearl Farmers Market. If the reaction of the crowd is any indication, his bounteous tray topped with heads-on prawns, mussels, clams, baby octopi, chorizo, peas, red bell peppers and even some lemon halves should keep him in the running.

“The stock is the most important ingredient in the whole dish,” he said, adding that he had made his with both lobster bodies and chicken.  “It is the flavor of the paella.”

But that doesn’t mean you’re home free if you’ve got good stock. Paella takes practice, Lutton said.

“This isn’t a quick thing,” he told the crowded class during his cooking demonstration. “Take your time with it. Practice it a few times.”

To begin, decide the ingredients you are going to use. Start with the rice, which should be short grain, such as Bomba, not arborio, which is the rice used in risotto. If chicken is on the list, brown it in some olive oil at the bottom of the pan, but don’t cook it through. You can remove it and use the oil base to make your sofrito, though Lutton doesn’t. He slow cooks his for two hours and lets it rest over night.

But this the time to add it to the pan. Then the rice goes in and each grain gets coated. This is the point when the chicken returns to the pan as well as the chorizo, followed by the stock. Again, this is not risotto, so you don’t stir and stir until each last drop of stock has been absorbed. In fact, you don’t stir the dish at all as it cooks over the heat. But you do need to watch it. After 15 minutes or so, “when you see the rice coming up and the liquid disappearing, you’re headed in the right direction,” the chef said.

Zach Lutton dishes up paella.

Zach Lutton dishes up paella.

Be careful that too much liquid doesn’t disappear or you could burn your paella. Expert paella makers want a crusty bottom, which is also known as socarrat, but no one wants it burned. And Lutton advised beginners not to worry about that. He admitted that he doesn’t pay attention to that when he’s making paella, though it is one of the categories paellas are judged on in competitions.

He was more concerned about getting the seasoning right. Paella is a subtle dish, so a strong spice such as saffron has to be used judiciously. “Don’t add too much saffron, because it can overpower the dish,” he said. He limits his other seasonings to salt and pepper.

Shortly before the broth had been absorbed, Lutton and his assistants added the seafood to the top, again not stirring the mixture. Instead, they planted the bottom of the shellfish into the rice mixture, so the heat could cook them, allowing the mussels and clams to open. The enormous prawns were set in a ring at the center, while the baby octopi were arranged in a ring around the outside. Peas and red peppers were sprinkled on top, adding color as well as flavor.

The entire pan was then covered in aluminum foil so it could rest before serving. The crowd was getting a little hungry, waiting for a sample. “I promise y’all’ll eat soon,” he said with a chuckle. “Just give me about 10 more minutes.”

Tenting the pan allowed the steam to cook any of the seafood above the rice. It also released an enticing aroma that had people eager to try a dish, which Lutton and one of his assistants spooned up in generous amounts, making sure people could taste whatever they wanted from the array of meats that had been included.

Only Lutton seemed to find fault with the paella, which he said was slightly soupy. “But it’s still good, no matter what,” he added. “That stock is awesome.”

Zach Lutton's paella

Zach Lutton’s paella

If you want to make your own paella, be aware that proportions vary depending on the size of the pan used. Pans run in size from 7 1/2 inches to those more than several feet wide. Your best bet is to find a recipe, such as Leslie Horne’s for Texas Quail, Chorizo and Mushroom Paella, which was created for a 15-inch paella and serves about six people. You can find paella pans and burners at GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road, and Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocina in the Pearl Brewery, 312 Pearl Parkway.

You can also make paella any way you like. In Spain, you might find some cooks using pasta instead of rice. You could use only vegetables or only seafood, eliminate the seafood entirely or add what you have in the freezer.

I judged a non-traditional paella challenge in Austin last fall alongside James Canter, the chef who won last year’s Paella Challenge. We tasted a Hawaiian paella seasoned with jamaica, or hibiscus flowers, and another topped with fried eggs and avocado in a ranchero style. One team offered a chicken tinga paella with radishes and cotija cheese. There was even a dessert paella, which was actually more like rice pudding. The winner was a soul food paella made with pig’s feet, ham hocks and chicken gizzards among an array of down-home ingredients. The pictures below illustrate that the type of paella you make is bounded only by your own imagination.

For information on the fourth annual Paella Challenge, click here.

Paella Ranchero

Paella Ranchero

Soul Food Paella

Soul Food Paella

A Hawaiian paella with shrimp, pineapple, artichokes and hibiscus rice.

A Hawaiian paella with shrimp, pineapple, artichokes and hibiscus rice.

Chicken Tinga Paella

Chicken Tinga Paella

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hot Tea Tips: From Top London Tea Sommelier

Hot Tea Tips: From Top London Tea Sommelier

Karl Kessub, tea sommelier in London.

Karl Kessab, tea sommelier at London’s Lanesborough Hotel.

At the Lanesborough hotel in London, Afternoon Tea at Apsleys, a Heinz Beck restaurant, is the domain of Karl Kessab, the world’s first tea sommelier. Every year since 2005, under his guidance, the hotel has won a coveted “Award of Excellence” from the UK Tea Council.

Twice it was crowned The Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea.

Below are Kessab’s secrets to the perfect cup of tea — just in case you can’t make it over to the Lanesborough in London anytime soon!

 

  1. Use only pure, fresh water
  2. Never reboil water for tea
  3. Keep tea leaves crisp and fresh as room temperature
  4. For black tea, use water that has just boiled, 95°C or 203° Fahrenheit
  5. For green or white teas, use water that is 83 -85°C or 181.4 – 185° Fahrenheit
  6. Loose leaf tea produces a better tasting drink.
  7. Tea tastes better brewed in a teapot than in a mug.
  8. Be patient and let the tea brew as long as it needs
  9. Do not over-brew tea, more time means more tannin
  10. For tea brewed in a teapot, add milk to the cup first; add the milk last if using a tea bag

Tea hot with potThe Lanesborough: With its enviable location, situated on the borders of Knightsbridge and Belgravia, in the heart of London and with panoramic views of Hyde Park, The Lanesborough has long been considered one of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Its elegant surroundings, exquisite cuisine, unsurpassed attention to detail and world-renowned service are second to none.

 

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