Podcast: Gastropod and Ice Cream!

I’m featured in the latest Gastropod podcast, and it’s all about ICE CREAM!

It’s one of the most complex food products you’ll ever consume: a thermodynamic miracle that contains all three states of matter—solid, liquid, and gas—at the same time. And yet no birthday party, beach trip, or Fourth of July celebration is complete without a scoop or two.

Contrary to popular myth, ice cream was not brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo, and then introduced to France by Catherine de Medici. In fact, it is a delicious love-child, born of the union between a culinary tradition of custards and burnt creams in medieval Northern Europe, and the fruity, floral, sherbets (sharbat in Persian) that were typically served over ice as a refreshing drink in the Middle East.

This episode of Gastropod serves up a big bowl of delicious ice cream, topped with the hot fudge sauce of history and a sprinkling of science. Grab your spoons and join us as we bust ice-cream origin myths, dig into the science behind brain freeze, and track down a chunk of pricey whale poo in order to recreate the earliest ice cream recipe written in English

Listen here to learn more!

Tales of the Cocktail Day 4: Prehistoric Cocktails and Dale DeGroff


10:28 am : I went to bed relatively early last night (midnight). Down side is I turned down entrance to a VIP party (should I have gone??) upside is I didn’t sleep through my morning seminar, like yesterday.

I was on site early for a booze free ginger smoothie to settle my digestion, and for a turn through Cocktail Kingdom’s shop. I bought a copy of The South American Gentleman’s companion, from 1939, which has been on my wish list for a long time. CK’s bar ware is also the most lovely I have ever seen.


I’m at the Prehistoric Cocktail Technology Demo (really it was more 19th century techniques useful today) presented by Alcademics.com. A few fun facts:

  • Milk Clarifying:  used in 19th century punches.  Adds proteins that makes the alcohol frothy when it’s shaken- he called it a “frothy bonus!” but also I’ve notified changes the mouth feel. It’s full and soft. Creamy. Just pour milk in your sprit and wait; it cuddles, then you filter it through a coffee filter. Recommended as a way to filter out tannins in a tea infusion.
  • Ammonium nitrate – cooles water by 30 degrees. Used today for instant cool packs for injuries, Used before ice was readily available. Even when there was ice, it was often impure and not fit to mix in drinks. 18th c punch bowls had pockets to pour ice that would cool, but not touch the drink.
  • Tasted Baked agave- tastes like something from thanksgiving
  • Rye straws: original 19th c straw I’ve been obsessed with for awhile. Apparently there was a kickstarter to start remaking them! Let me product test for you, straw straws!

And he had some interesting slides, so here they are!

  

 


Demo on how to inpregnate water with air–carbonating.

 12pm I went to Lucullus Culinary Antiques. Mind blowing- and expensive! Because they have the best examples of what’s out there.

  

Afternoon: I had a few hours of chill out time, so I went to Cane and Table, which is describe as upscale tiki. I wanted something with their house made orgeat, and I’m not sue what in got, but it was crest and delicious. Also, fresh puffed pork rinds and three bean hummus with chips! Salty. Helpful.

  My last seminar was with cocktail legend Dale DeGroff, who talked is through bitters and how they can change the taste of a classic Manhattan. My phone died, so I have but the one photo.


And now I’m at the airport. The last four days have been a whirlwind, and I’m not sure if I’m sad or relieved to leave. I would do it again. Next year? Ever other year? I’m not sure. But when I come back, I want to see more, do more, flirt more, drink more.

Tales of the Cocktail Day 3: Rum and Pig

 

3:30 PM you may have noticed this is my first update of the day. Let’s just say it was a long night and a rough morning. I just got up. And I’m in line for my first seminar, a history of rum. These are all the rums I have to taste. Oh well, hair of the dog.

5pm a few quotes from the talk:

“Old is not always good. They made a lot of deadly shit back then.”

“But what’s missing (from alcohol) today are those lovely, tasty poisons!” panelists on 19th and early 20th c alcohol

“How can we evoke the past without recreating the past?” -David Wondrich

And I tasted a fantastic, historic pineapple rum.
 The pineapple rum is from a recipe in an old patent; both the rind and the fruit are infused in separate rums and blended. It’s a collaboration between Wondrich and Plantation Rum.

6pm I was just at an orange is the new black pool party? This drink was awful.

  

7pm dinner at Cochon– best meal I’ve had in NOLA


  

Then more drinks and drinks and drinks.

Tales of the Cocktail Day 2: The Last Word and Old Bars of New York




9am
I’m fresh as a daisy but my colleagues are not. Breakfast at Slim Goodies Diner will fix them up–all the food in NOLS is salty and spicy. It helps you deal with the weather. And your hangover. I highly recommend the diner.

NOLA smells like puke in the morning, which is different than NYC, which smells like all he body fluids.
Also I want to move into every building in New Orleans.


  
10:30 am I’m at my first seminar, the stories behind the Harvey Wallbanger, The Last Word, and the Sazerac.

The Wallbanger was invented in LA in the 1950s and became popular when Galliano adapted it as to promote their liquor in America.
10:30 am I’m at my first seminar, the stories behind the Harvey Wallbanger, The Last Word, and the Sazerac.

The Wallbanger was invented in LA in the 1950s and became popular when Galliano adapted it as to promote their liquor in America.

  
 Can we talk about how perfect this orange peel is from my sample cocktail? They’re made by legions of cocktail apprentices, relative bartenders, who do this shit for free.
the story of the Last Word was told by the always charming St. John Frizell of Ft. Defiance in Red Hook Brooklyn. The last word, Frizell said, was like a secret handshake amongst bartenders, you kept it in your back pocket and pulled it out or when you needed it. It Personified the craft cocktail movement c 2005, because it was a drink from an old obscure source
Invented in Prohibition, it’s Tart and sparkly but also marschino and chartreuse–if you had these things behind your bar it said you were a serious mixologis (a decade ago).
Recipes for you!


 And cocktail historian Wondrich talked on the sazerac. It used to be made with cognac, but switched to rye whiskey both at NOLA became less French and more American, but also because of a fungus that killed a lot of French grapevines in the 19thc.
An 1843 article calls it “Un coup de canticlaire” or called by the vulgar name a cocktail.

An 1842 source says you can make it from Gin and sugar, rum and lemon, or peach brandy and honey.


 12:30 pm I went to a rating of “indie spirits.” Not only were their cocktails, and I had the best caprinha I’ve ever had, but at the bar you could literally point to what you wanted to try and they would pour it.


12:30 I’m at my second talk of the day, on nyc drinking history. David Wondrich mentions some of my fav NYC 19th c personalities.


10:31 PM I think I’ve really hit my stride.

Tales of the Cocktail Live Blog Day 1


It’s 7:00 AM and I’m at Newark airport. I’ve been up since 3:45. Even I am asking why I would subject myself to Newark this early.

But it’s a very special day. At the other end of my flight is New Orleans and Tales of the Cocktail, the annual gathering of industry professionals and cocktail enthusiasts. It’s my first year and I don’t really know what the expect.

Which is why I’m sharing it all with you. I’m going to be live blogging all weekend, sharing with you every historic factoid, adventure, and drink enough stumble the next few days bring. I’m kicking off with a seminar by David Wondrich and Jeff Berry about WWII drinking, and later on the weekend I’m attending a demo on prehistoric cocktail making techniques. Whatever that means.

Check back, stay tuned, and I’ll see you in NOLA!

10:15 AM I have been on site 15 minutes, and I’ve already been handed a drink. Its a Singapore Sling– cherry herring, Benedictine, lime uice and some other stuff. It’s spicy, like a fruit Bloody Mary.

“You can’t make a good speech on iced water.” -Churchill. You got that right, sir.

4:05 PM and I just woke up from a much needed nap. I’ve already been drunk and sober once–the morning lecture fed us 4 (half) cocktails total, and while I noticed the folks around me were pacing themselves by not finishing their drinks, the concoctions were too good and I am too frugal to let them go to waste. That combined with my early flight and the searing heat (which I kinda like)…well, I think part of being an adult is realizing when you’re fussy and need to be put down for a nap. I feel like a new person.

A few words on NOLA: there’s something so eerie and foreign about this place. The pulsating green overgrowth, the unreal above ground cemeteries, the accent like no other I’ve ever heard. Even the clouds are different here–pudgier and puffy. I though I was nuts but my brother (who is here too) noticed the same thing.

The conference itself is a madhouse, bedlam that I haven’t quite figured out. The Hotel Monteleone, where it’s hosted, is not a huge convention center, but an old labyrinthine hotel. I’m not sure where to be, or how to take advantage of the system. It feels a bit like the first day of summer camp, like I’m an outsider not making the friendship bracelets. Yet.


I’ll take some photos of the craziness later.

In my morning talk about WWII I learned:

  • All the drinks seemed to have cherry herring in them. But more importantly it “wasn’t just prohibition” that ruined the American cocktail scene, it was also the unavailability of most liquors during the war. We became vodka drinkers, and most alcohols were produced locally–including Dubonnet, which is still made in the states.
  • Dirty Helen
  • Three dots and a dash

In addition the the Singapore sling, I so had a MacArthur punch and a PB2Y. And a potent martini.


And the event has an official scent? It smells like grapefruit and shrimp.


10:15 PM despite the fact that it’s a toddler’s bedtime back home, I am ready to turn in. Here are my notes, exactly as written, from this evening:

  • Workers with drinks on the st
  • Everyone is drunk and stepping on me
  • No chill out space
  • Bedlam
  • Dudes
  • Forcible removal (not me)
  • Drink responsibly wink wink
  • There is no shame here
  • I am so sweaty I have to throw away my dress at the end of day

I realize it doesn’t sound like I had a good time, but at the pools party at the end of the day, I did! I went out to dinner later at Purloo, which focuses on regional Southern cuisine, then had  a St. Germaine cobbler at Belloqc.Here are my photos from the evening:




And with that a good night.

Etsy: How to Make Gin

IMG_8332

I’ve got a new, summer-fresh post up on Etsy all about the history of gin! Such a refreshing drink for the hot weather.

Gin’s most famous role came in the early 20th century, when Prohibition prevented the sale of alcohol. It was particularly easy to produce “bathtub gin” in those trying, dry times. Gin is commercially made by distillation — steaming the alcohol through a basket of spices — but it can be made by infusion. Any plain spirit, like industrial-grade alcohol, could be transformed into “gin” by infusing it with strongly-scented spices, which would hide any bad flavors from the sub-par spirits. Calling the homemade hooch delicious would likely have been a stretch.

Read more about gin history & how-to here!

And if you live in the NYC area, I’m doing a tour and cocktail hour at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden all about the ingredients that go into gin. You can get tickets here!

The Gallery: Campfire Cooking Beyond Hotdogs

Photographer extraordinaire Jess Tsang took some snaps at my most recent fire cooking class in Brooklyn, so I thought I’d share! If you’re interested in this class, and live in the New York City area, you should get on the Brooklyn Brainery’s mailing list. I repeat the class each spring.

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History Dish: Burnt Cream, Grandaddy of Creme Brulee

IMG_8965We made a mess.

This spring, I led my annual “Campfire Cuisine Beyond Hotdogs: An Introduction to Hearth Cooking” classes in Brooklyn, to an enthusiastic and diverse group of students. I decided to try out a new/old recipe: Burnt Cream, the medieval ancestor of creme brulee, from the book Cooking with Fire: From Roasting on a Spit to Baking in a Tannur, Rediscovered Techniques and Recipes That Capture the Flavors of Wood-Fired Cooking.

The History

Left: A salamander, for sale from Jas Townsend and Son.

First a word on Cooking with Fire: if you like playing with fire, get this book. It starts with toasting marshmallows and progresses all the way to building a mud oven. It’s thorough and well written and I highly recommend it.

When paging through my copy, I came across a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a while: a 17th century English dessert, burnt cream. It’s an egg custard, flavored with a lemon peel and a stick of cinnamon (not vanilla, a new world fruit) and topped with a thick layer of sugar. The sugar was seared into a carmelized crust with a tool called a salamander, a flat disk made of iron on the end of a long handle, heated in the fire.

We know this dessert better as crème brûlée. How it a got a French name, no one is certain. Perhaps in one of England’s periods of Francophilia, the dish was rechristened. Perhaps it was the French, who reinvented the dish to incorporate their fanatical love of vanilla. In America, burnt custard appears as early as 1824 in Mary Randolph’s cookbook, but achieved astronomical success in the New York dining scene in the 1970s. In 1985, the New York Times wrote: “If there were a New York dessert of the year award, the 1985 ribbon would go to creme brulee, or burnt cream, which has appeared on countless menus in both French and American restaurants. I am not sure how a dish that has been consumed for centuries in Europe without great fanfare… has suddenly achieved such fame in America, but it has.”

The Recipe

IMG_8924Students Julie McMahon and CJ Knowles make the custard.

Brunt Cream
Adapted from Cooking with Fire: From Roasting on a Spit to Baking in a Tannur, Rediscovered Techniques and Recipes That Capture the Flavors of Wood-Fired Cooking

This recipe is intended to be prepared over an open fire, but is easily adapted for a modern kitchen.

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 lemon peel (white pith excluded)
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup demerara sugar
5 egg yolks

1. Slowly heat the milk, cream, lemon peel, and cinnamon in a heavy saucepan over low heat; do not boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and 1/3 cup sugar. Whisk the yolks in until smooth.

2. When the milk mixture is steaming, discard lemon peel and cinnamon. Pour a steady, thin stream of hot milk into the eggs, while whisking the eggs constantly. Once the milk has been incorporated, return the mixture to the heating vessel, and cook over a low heat until the liquid thickens. If you dip a wooden spoon in the custard, it should create an even coating that holds a line when your draw your finger through it. Chill at least three hours.

3. Strew the top with the remaining sugar. Heat your salamander until it glows red; carefully touch the flat of the hot salamander to the sugar until molten. Or use your tiny kitchen blowtorch. Let cool just until the sugar hardens, and serve.

The Results

IMG_8937Thickening the custard.

I handed this recipe over to my students, and although I was there to offer direction, they had it under control. Making a custard over burning hot coals, 17th century style, is no easy thing. They totally nailed it, and the lemon-cinnamon custard was quite tasty. But we did have some technical difficulties, which were completely my fault.

See, I don’t actually have a salamander. I decided to try this recipe at the last minute, so I didn’t even have time to look for one. I figured we would find something to take its place.

IMG_8957A cream about to get burnt.

We first tried the lid to a dutch oven, covered in hot coals, but it was just a little too big to fit down in the custard tin. Then we tried an axe, which got nice and hot, but wasn’t big enough to be practical. Finally, we tried the bottom of a metal bowl, which was the right size, but would not get hot enough to sear the sugar. So, fail, on my part. We ate the custard anyway, and it tasted heavenly.

IMG_8961Creative, but not working.

When I give this recipe another whirl with a proper salamander, I’ll update this post!

History Dish: Maple Ice Cream and Maple Custard Pie

IMG_8768An excellent maple ice cream.

My Mom makes her own maple syrup. She taps trees on her five acre property in Ohio, boils down the sap on her kitchen stove, and makes the richest, most buttery maple syrup I have ever tasted.

It was a good sugaring season this year: a stretch of weeks with temperatures above freezing during the day, below freezing at night. Mom made over three gallons of syrup, which meant the last time I visited, I was sent back to New York City with this:

IMG_8701Homemade maple syrup, light and dark, and maple sugar.

I thought it might be a good time to test out some historic maple syrup recipes.

The History

Jefferson wrote to a friend in 1790 and said of maple syrup: “What a blessing to substitute a sugar which requires only the labour of children, for that which it is said renders the slavery of the blacks necessary.” Maple sugar was considered an ideal alternative to white sugar from sugar cane, and was championed by abolitionists throughout the 19th century. Unfortunately, the general population thought maple’s particular taste a negative and preferred the neutral flavor of white sugar. Maple tasted of poverty and necessity, while white sugar symbolized wealth and aspiration.

Today, we seek out the unique flavor of true maple sugar. Well, at least I do. But I always imagined myself as a Shaker or a Quaker, or in one of those wild vegetarian communes in the 19th century, anyway.

The Recipes

I had two recipes I wanted to try out, both came from a stack of handwritten papers and recipe booklets dating to the 19teens. Mark (who also helps my mom harvest the maple sap) gave them to me. The came from a storage unit, or an estate sale, or something–he has a thriving Ebay business and always finds me interesting ephemera.

IMG_9032Maple Parfait Recipe

Maple Parfait, a handwritten recipe, is actually a maple ice cream: maple custard is folded into whipped cream, which is a great way to make ice cream if your don’t have an ice cream maker at home.

Maple Parfait – Jessie

“4 eggs; 1 cup hot maple syrup; 1 pint thick whipped cream. Beat eggs slightly & pour on slowly the hot maple syrup; cook until the mixture; cool & add cream beaten until stiff. Mould, pack in salt & ice & let sand 3 hours. Use 4 parts salt to 1 part ice.”

You’ll notice the original recipes left out a few instructions. After some head scratching–and a recent conversation with Jonathan Soma of the Brooklyn Brainery about how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker–I figured them out.

IMG_8711The eggs after the hot maple syrup is added.

4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup maple syrup, brought to a boil
1 pint heavy whipping cream

1. Pour maple syrup in a slow, steady steam over to eggs while whisking constantly. You want to bring the eggs slowly up to temperature–not scramble them!

2. Return to a saucepan and heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to a pudding-like consistency. Allow to cool.

3. Beat cream to stiff peaks, and fold in egg mixture. Pack in small individual molds, or simply a Tupperware, and put in the freezer for at least three hours.

***

IMG_9037 IMG_9034Maple Marshmallow Pie Recipe

Maple Marshmallow Pie comes from a recipe booklet for Bunte Marshmallows, although I decided to leave off the marshmallow topping. I’m increasingly grossed out by marshmallow topped foods.

Maple Pie
1 pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup Maple Sugar (You can purchase maple sugar, or make your own by putting maple syrup in a sheet pan, and sticking it in the oven at a very low temperature. Keep an ete on it as the water evaporates and the sugar crystalizes. This process can take and hour or more.)
1 teaspoon flour
2 cups whole milk

1. Preheat over to 450 degrees. Line your pie tin or plate with crust. Make the edges look fancy!

2. Beat two eggs with a fork until light, then add maple sugar. Allow to soak two minutes, then beat until sugar has completely dissolved. Add flour and beat; gradually add milk while stirring constantly. Fill pie crust.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down oven to 350 degrees and bake 45 minutes more, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, but the filling still has a little jiggle.

The Results

IMG_8728Maple custard pie

The maple ice cream is killer and I highly recommend it. It’s a fun summer treat that takes very little work and delivers a strong maple flavor. Try it with a dark syrup (Grade B) which tastes the most mapley of all the syrups.

The pie was a bit of a disappointment; the texture was pleasant, smooth and custardy, but the maple flavor didn’t come through. It tasted different from a vanilla custard pie, but was not easily identifiable as maple. Which is strange, because maple sugar should have the most flavor, being as condensed as it can be.

Do you have a favorite maple recipe? Share in the comments. I still have so much maple syrup left!

Party Time Reenactor: Mad Men Fondue

IMG_8877A 1960s cheese fondue. You want it.

The end of an era is coming, both for the characters of Mad Men and for those of us who have followed the show. If you’re planning a last episode party, may I suggest fondue, from a cookbook owned by Betty Draper herself.

The History

Back in the early seasons, when Betty was still Mrs. Draper, I noticed a cookbook on her counter:

You can see this set right now at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, btw.

 

IMG_8847Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook.

Much like Betty Draper, Betty Crocker is fictional, a creation of the Washburn Crosby Company, which would eventually become General Mills. “She” answered letters written to the company by housewives with baking questions. The first cookbook under her name was published in 1950, and was so popular “…sales rivaled those of the Bible.” (source)

Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook offered “A Wealth of Ideas for Today’s Entertaining.” Paging through the book, I came across a menu for a fondue party, entitled “Swiss Treat.”

“The menu couldn’t be simpler,” Ms. Crocker enthuses. “A cheese fondue, a marvelous tart-crisp salad, and a quick version of a classic continental dessert (pears au chocolat) are the only ingredients…It’s also possible for a wife with a job to start supper after work and have it on the table by seven thirty.” How progressive–even Joan could whip this one up!

According to David Sax, author of The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue, fondue started in late 19th century Switzerland as a cheap and filling meal of melted cheese and stale bread. It became a staple of tavern culture, and was most well-known in Neuchâtel, where fondue was a mixture of emmenthal and gruyere cheese, garlic, pepper, nutmeg, white wine and kirsch. It was popular among groups of young people, and games were invented: if a girl lost their bread in the pot, they had to kiss the first boy to their left. Fondue came stateside when it was served at the Chalet Swiss restaurant in New York, becoming particularly popular by the 1950s.

By the 1960s, fondue is suggested for entertaining in the home in books like Betty Crocker’s. Fondue sets were popular wedding gifts,and a fondue party considered a convivial gathering. Sax makes the interesting connection between these communal eating parties and the sexual liberation of the 1960s:

“It is no coincidence that the fondue trend rose in concert with the budding sexual revolution in North America. The hotpot gatherings involved inherent physical and social contact, even in their most G-rated form…Fondue could not work with inhibitions–there were not individual portions, no fondue for one–it was a meal of forced intimacy…With enough wine and kirsch, a fondue party was the perfect setting to really get to know the Franklins from down the block, if you know what I mean.”

The Recipes

Click for larger images.

I prepared the salad and dressing in advance. The composition of the salad really delighted me: whereas I was expecting just iceberg lettuce, I got a colorful and flavorful mix of leaf lettuce, endive (I substituted radicchio because my store didn’t have endive!) and spinach. I laughed that the “Classic French Dressing” included a 1/4 teaspoon of MSG, which I absolutely added, along with 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 crushed clove garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.

I assembled the pears next: they were simply chilled canned pears with chocolate frosting gobbed in the middle and melted over top. They were the most disappointing dish of the evening.

IMG_8885Pears au Chocolat, just before serving.

And last the cheese: I borrowed a fondue kit from a friend. Ask around! I’m sure you know someone that has one and vintage versions can be got for cheap in every second hand store in the country. I lit a sterno can under the vat and added a bottle of a hoppy IPA. As the beer heated, I slowly stirred in grated cheese, a handful at a time. In about 20 minutes, the cheese was steamy, smooth and ready to be eaten with torn chunks of baguette and pumpernickel rye.

The Results

IMG_8870

While we waited for the cheese to heat, I served salads. The dressing was phenomenal, thanks to the satisfying umami of the added MSG. It had a nice garlic flavor, too, despite only having one crushed clove of garlic. Salad, over all, got nods of approval and a solid A+.

I was skeptical of the cheese because of the recipe’s simplicity: mostly beer and cheese. But it turned out tangy and hoppy; rich, but not overwhelming. Some thought the flavor paired best with the pumpernickel, but I liked it on the baguette. Underplates were a must to catch dripping strings of luscious cheese. The fondue recipe was just enough to feed four hungry people.

Hoisting a giant, cheese-soaked hunk of bread in the air, a party guest declared: “If someone put that in their mouth, it would be like the most sexual thing ever!”

After dinner, we didn’t serve coffee or tea, but lots of wine and eventually whiskey. Although the conversation got interesting, no one “got to know the Franklins,” if you know what I mean.

At the end of the night, we were stuffed with hot cheese and satisfied. My guests shared recipes their families made from the Betty Crocker cookbooks. Preparing this menu, I expected lackluster mid-century food; but on the contrary, it seems that Crocker’s cookbooks were popular because the recipes were basic but delicious.