My new heritage


My mom and sister helping me prepare curry the night they arrived. You can’t really tell how tiny they are at this angle, but honestly, it’s like they’re not even real people. Titchy little midget folk, but very sweet.

Last Thanksgiving was kind of a rough one, culinarily. I put the turkey in the oven, settled down for a nice glass of wine and general merriment, and then realized about 1.5 hours later that the turkey had already reached temperature, I had yet to make any side dishes, and that the turkey would be 10 degrees OVER temperature by the time it rested. Then I made gravy as fast as I could, which resulted in lumps, which I then tried to blend away without the benefit of a VitaMix. This resulted in scalding gravy being splattered over my arms, and my eventual arrival at my (unset) Thanksgiving table, looking like a very sad leper.

The food was fine last year, but not fiiiiiine.

This year, I vowed that things would be different. I would NOT overcook my turkey! I would have an elaborate menu planned! I would keep my drunken revelry to a minimum! I would pull the turkey out of the oven 10 degrees before it reached temperature! I would have all of my side dishes sitting, ready to go, in warm bain maries! I would HAVE A PLAN!!!

And so it was.

I started with the procurement of (what I deemed to be) the best ingredients. By the end of July I had ordered one of the much-storied heritage turkeys from Heritage Foods USA. By the end of October I had submitted and confirmed an order of fresh black truffles to arrive the week of Thanksgiving, plus a “practice” order to come two weeks beforehand, just so I could play around with them. I had researched recipes and combinations of food to see what would play well together. I had written, printed, revised, and re-printed the Thanksgiving menu just so I could begin a tentative timeline for preparing things. I really felt READY.

My family flew out for the second year in a row, braving double-wide mounds of fire ants, knife fights over Wal-Mart specials, and God only knows what type of gangs frequent the Alamo, just to leave Colorado to come to Texas. Can you imagine? Voluntarily leaving sparkling, snow-capped peaks and mile-high sunshine, just to see your family on a holiday? That’s SACRIFICE. I love my family. We would have gone to see them in Colorado, but I’ve quickly grown accustomed to having the use of my own knives, pans, and gadgets for the food holiday. Plus, we’re going home for Christmas, and the military doesn’t take kindly to doctors leaving their bases for the major holidays.

My fam also gamely participated in the Turkey Trot 4-miler, for the second year running. My brother beat us all, predictably, but all of us finished within a 20 minute window, so nobody had to wait around for too long. The race ended in true Texan style, with no water available, but plenty of full-sugar sodas for all. Hoo-rah. At least the weather was gorgeous. I’ll hand it to Texas, this time of year has some beautiful days. It’s almost like summer in Colorado, with the 75 degree days and 50 degree nights.

Once we arrived home, I set to work on the meal. I even delegated, which is terribly hard for me. I have a tendency toward being a controlling whore in the kitchen. “small dice please. No, no, NO! That’s not a small dice. That’s a who-knows-what-the-hell SLICE. Just put the knife down. PUT THE KNIFE DOWN. Go watch football or something before I kill you.” I let my mom make the cranberry relish, which she did perfectly. Fresh cranberries, chopped with oranges, orange peel, apples, sugar, and vanilla bean. Much better than my version, I’ll admit, which is cooked down into sweet-tart glop. I let my sister (read: made my sister) roll out the doughnut holes. I even recruited my brother to put the potatoes through the ricer, since my arms were getting tired. My brother was rewarded with a delicious lemon and marzipan cake, decorated with a crude hand turkey, and labeled for his benefit.
Lucky bastard.

And Chris, God bless him, did dishes ALL WEEK. Hundreds upon hundreds of dishes, all hand-washed, dried, and then (in the case of my wedding china) put back into bubble wrap and boxes because we don’t have a hutch yet. He was so good.

Our turkey had arrived on Tuesday, and then put in a cooler because it was too large for our refrigerator. On Thursday, it got a rub down with butter, truffle salt, and pepper, then into the oven. I have some things to say about turkeys, which I will put in block quotes so you can skip it if you prefer not to listen to free-range blah-blahs. But it also includes my newfound BFF, the heritage turkey.

A word on turkeys: I had always heard varying things about heritage breeds. I heard that they were the gold standard, and that they were the responsible choice, and that they were mouthwateringly delicious. I also heard that they were “gamey,” overpriced, and tough. Having now eaten a heritage bird, I will tell you that it was BY FAR the best piece of meat, from any bird, that I’ve ever had. It was succulent, beautiful, and most of all, FLAVORFUL. Jam-packed with flavor, in fact. Like gravy in meat form. The white meat was as flavorful, or more, than traditional dark meat. And the dark meat was as flavorful as a steak. There was no gaminess or toughness to be found, and the scent while it was cooking was unrivaled by any of the traditional broad-breasted whites. I cannot believe that the two are related by anything other than name. If I were to deep-fry a turkey, I would likely go with a free-range traditional turkey. But for any other cooking method, I will happily save up my pennies for a heritage turkey.

You see, heritage turkeys are expensive. $120-$300 or more, depending on size. And that sounds like (is) a lot of money. But there’s so much difference between a commercial turkey and a heritage turkey. You see, a regular grocery store turkey is kept in a tiny, metal cage, without the ability to open their wings, while they grow. They’re so top heavy that they’re incapable of walking, most of them sustaining injuries like broken legs, just because they’ve been so far mutated from their natural form. They cannot reproduce naturally, so are entirely dependent on artificial insemination. ALL of them. It’s like they grew up too close to a power plant. Their hearts are underdeveloped and weak, and their meat starts to separate from the bones in places, like a heavy steroid-user. Even the free-range ones, which I think are MUCH better than the commercial birds, are basically crippled by their mutated form. Enter the heritage bird. The muscles on a heritage bird are developed. The hearts are much larger, stronger-looking, capped in a normal amount of protective fat. The bones are denser and larger. Upon visual inspection, the bird MAKES SENSE.

I was fascinated while cleaning the carcass. I could see, looking at the turkey, that it was as nature had designed it. All of the parts were in proportion to one another, and it just looked so much HEALTHIER. There was meat in places where a commercial turkey just has fat and connective tissue. There was just a neverending supply of rich, delicious protein.

So, given the fact that my heritage bird was tracable to the farmer, treated humanely, meatier, more flavorful, fresher, more natural, prettier, and infinitely more memorable than a commercial bird, I will go ahead and say that YES, it was worth every penny. And I will never buy one of the $5 “store-special” birds again. I will still buy the regular free-range, on occasion, though. For frying and such, and because I honestly can’t afford to eat heritage turkey as often as I’d like.

While the turkey roasted, I made a butternut squash soup with sage and cream a la Thomas Keller. I shaved black truffles into cream and butter, then warmed the lot for the mashed potatoes. I blanched haricot verts, warmed peas, deep fried shoestrings of sweet potatoes, and assembled a pie shell for the pumpkin pie (which my darling-but-lilliputian mother made). And my gravy was unparalelle

Stuffing, you ask? Bread rolls, you ask? Well, well, well. What if I told you that I combined the two to make something that far outshone either (in my humbug opinion)? You’d be thrilled? You’d name a holiday after me? You’d…send me presents?? XOXOXOXO.

I don’t like stuffing. Wet bread has never been my thing, at least not in savory applications. And rolls are BO-RING. But the flavor and consistency is important in the meal, from both players. And that’s why I came up with stuffing-flavored doughnut holes. It’s adapted from a recipe for bread bowls from King Arthur Flour, but ends up being sagey, thymey, deep-fried balls of hot, yeasty dough. And I’m giving you the recipe, because I care about you, and because EVERYONE should have deep fried foods at the holidays.

Stuffing Doughnut Holes
-1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
– 1/4 cup vegetable oil
– 3 cups AP flour
– 1/2 cup semolina or bread flour
– 2 teaspoons ground sage
– 1 teaspoon dried thyme
– 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 3 tablespoons instant potato flakes
– 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
– 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (or 1 packet)
Deep fryer or cast iron pan with enough vegetable oil to deep fry (read deep-fryer instructions before doing this, or you’ll set yourself or house on fire)

Method
-In a bread maker, stir together water, sugar, and yeast. Then place other ingredients ontop, finishing with the salt on top. Allow to mix until dough is elastic and soft, but not sticky. Or, do this in a stand mixer.
-Allow to rise, covered, for 1.5 hours, or until doubled
-Measure out 1 oz balls of dough, rolling them to make them completely smooth. Place on a cookie sheet, cover, and allow to rise while fryer preheats to 350 F.
-Deep fry, turning periodically to insure even browning, until they’re golden.
-Drain, dust with sage and sea salt, and serve immediately

See? Super easy. And you’re left with these little numbers, who you’ll want to eat while still blisteringly hot. And nobody can judge you for eating an entire batch because it’s THANKSGIVING. The glutton’s holiday. The day where it’s totally okay to have three wineglasses on the table–one for red, one for white, and one for additional gravy.

Best of all, this can be done to most bread recipes. As long as they’re not too lean of a dough (read: the dough must contain butter or oil), and as long as they produce a relatively dense bread (not too holey like ciabatta), then you can do it. Parmesan herb donut holes? Check! Sourdough donut holes? Check! Pumpernickel donut holes? CHECK!!! The sky is the limit, baby. And your bread maker will do all of the work.

Actually, you can make a regular loaf of your favorite bread, set aside a small wad of the dough, then fry it while your bread is baking. It’s literally that simple.

I don’t want aaaanybody else,
when I think abooout these, I touch myself.

Not actually, because my fingers are all greasy and salty, but I kind of WANT to, at least.

Winner!

The winner (announced three days late) of the eggnog challenge, as chosen by random number draw, was John D. of Arizona! Hooray! Nothing says “I’ll really enjoy drinking this thick milk product” like 95 degree weather and scorpions. I feel you, John. Really, I do.

Send an email with your address to Kristiecsu at yahoo dot com to receive your gift!

And thank you, to all who participated.

Hunting unicorns for meat and profit

Both times we’ve been to Alinea, we’ve had the great fortune of eating the waygu steak, which was served with powdered, homemade A-1. Also on the plate were little cubes of mashed potatoes that were, at minimum, 40% butter and cream, then rolled in salt and vinegar chips and fried. That dish could have brought Janet Reno to climax, and everyone knows she’s a sexless robot.

At the time, my little brother dubbed the dish “unicorn meat,” assuming that beef could never be so perfect and beautiful. No disrespect to cattle intended; their meat is excellent, and they have lovely eyelashes. But this slab of unfathomably tender red meat was simultaneously elegant, delicate, tiny, bold and beautiful. Their was no color variation from one end to the other. Baffling.

Come to find out, this uniformity and tender balance is achieved by a technique called “sous-vide.” I’m not going to blither on about the details, because most of you have heard of it or used it, but it’s basically sealing a piece of food in an airtight plastic baggie (sous-vide means “under vacuum”) and then submerging the plastic baggie in water that is the exact temperature at which you want the food to end. For example, if you wanted a steak to end up at 142 F, which is what I call a perfect medium-rare, then you would hold the baggie in water that was 142 F for a length of time.

After the meat has been in that water for some time, it should be 142 F throughout, with no potential for any portion of the meat to be OVER 142 F. On a regular grill, the outsides of the meat are obviously hotter and more cooked than the insides. There is usually a gray color at the very surface, and it changes to a deep pink at the very core. Not so with sous-vide. It’s the exact same color of pink from surface to center.

The additional beauty of sous-vide is that I could cook the beef for 1 hour, or I could leave it in for 6 hours, and it will never overcook. It can never get past medium rare, no matter how long it is submerged, because the temperature never gets higher. Badass, right? Yeah.

But I’ve always thought in order to cook “en sous-vide” that one must purchase an immersion circulator from a science lab for thousands of dollars. Fortunately, there is enough demand for such a thing in the home kitchen that a company called Sous-Vide Magic is now selling thermoregulators that can be attached to any “dumb” heated kitchen device. Rice cookers, slow cookers, soup warmers, whatever. As long as they can go from cold to very hot, and are not operated as “smart” technology (meaning that they can only have an on/off switch, and no digital buttons). So our old slow-cooker was perfect.

I finally got the thermoregulator in the mail on Friday, and immediately got to work on setting it up (meaning I put my gadget-hungry husband to work setting it up while I went upstairs and took a hot shower). We bought an aquarium bubbler to circulate the water in the slow-cooker, which avoids hot spots and makes sure the temperature is uniform throughout. It’s a pretty sweet setup, despite looking very much like the technological equivalent of a bong made out of two plastic jugs and some pieces from a hose connection.

Funny story: When I was in early high school, and my friends and I were experimenting with what the kids are calling “the pot,” we had spent an industrious Thursday afternoon creating just such a gravity bong. We got lit, ate a whole bunch of Totino’s party pizzas, and then went outside to disassemble the contraption. Later that week, I was roused from my slumber by my father. He was holding the hose connector in his hand, which was clearly coated in black resin. Apparently SOMEONE had left it outside (I’m talking to you, Brent Bassett). He said “Kristen, do you know what this is??” I opened my eyes really wide, twirled a blonde pigtail, and shook my head confusedly. He shook his head, and said (to my mirthful delight) “this comes from one of those water bongs for smoking ganja.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. WTF, Dad?? It got blamed on the neighborhood thugs, and I never made another gravity bong.

Anyway, this device has that same haphazard, jury-rigged look to it, but I swear it works a treat.

Our first foray was using beef tenderloin from Laura’s Lean Beef. They’re a brand that’s sold at Target, and they’re committed to sustainable, humane beef production. I’m fond of them.

We sprinkled the tenderloin with a maple rub from The Spice House in Chicago, sealed them in Ziploc Evolve bags (they use 30% less plastic, and are produced solely with wind power), and placed them in the sous-vide water at 142 F for 1.5 hours.

Note–You are technically supposed to use a vacuum sealer for this, but the effective ones are always super-expensive (think $1k), and the FoodSaver has a hard time sealing wet things. I’ve found that if you fill a bowl with water, place the beef in the baggie, then lower all of the baggie but the very top into the water, it forces all of the air out of the bag. Then you can seal it up without letting any water into the bag itself. Then just reuse the water in the bowl for your sous-vide water (water conservation, hey-oooooh)! It’s inexpensive, the baggies are recyclable, and it’s cheaper than buying the big rolls of FoodSaver plastic.

What came out was a creation so juicy and perfect that I wanted to pad my bra with it and take myself out on the town. The slight sear on the outside was achieved in a very hot pan, about 6 seconds per side. That was just to caramelize the rub and give the very surface a slight resistance. I could have cut the entire thing with a butter knife though, and it was the perfect meal to eat right before going to see Twilight (which is incidentally ALSO jam-packed with juicy meat, if ya know wa’m sayin’).

I’m hitting the sous-vide with pork chops tonight. If it’s half as good as this steak was, then I’ll probably start taking the thermoregulator to bed at night, just to snuggle, you know. Maybe a few gentle kisses. I guess we’ll just see what happens…

An update

This post is mostly just an update for my last post about ham and truffle pasta

It’s got to be hard to see pictures of delicate fettucine laced with slices of fresh black truffle and brown butter and blocks of beautiful ham without knowing how you can make them on your own, in your own kitchen.

The assumption is generally that, in order to eat fresh black truffles, one must:

A) Turn to a life of prostitution, hooking 4-5 times a day without even the rudimentary benefit of a pimp, hoarding all of the received john-money in a piggy bank that is cleverly disguised from the other hookers as a “panty fund.”

But you’re really pretty, and I don’t feel like you should have to spend your days scrapping with women in cheap lingerie over who gets the corner closest to Hugh Grant’s house.

B) Start bathing with the hose, outside, so that your bathtub can be relegated to full-time brewing of methamphetamines for Amy Winehouse.

But it’s really cold outside, and large spiders tend to hang out near the hose attachment, and having your nip-nips that hard makes it difficult to wear those cute, tightly-ribbed festive sweaters.

C) Marry a wizened, old man with incredible wealth and very little practicality, and feed him nothing but sticks of Irish butter and duck confit until his arteries start to gum together like a Twizzler that has been sitting in a diet Coke for close to three hours.

But it’s criminally easy to get ahold of Viagra nowadays, and really? Ew.

or

D) Plan an elaborate bank heist, wherein you use the latest laser technology to cut through the metal safe while being held up by a rope and a carabiner, bundle all of the cash into the pockets of your painfully-stylish cargo pants, and make your exit in a Mercedes driven by a Rhesus monkey.

But seriously, do you know how hard it is to find good monkeys nowadays? Most of them have only the most basic computer skills, and I’m pretty sure the Rhesis (the clear choice in heist-monkeys) is endangered or something.

So it would seem futile to get those truffles.

But, in my semi-infinite wisdom, I have located a really great supplier of Oregon black truffles (they also carry white)! And I’ve decided to share the contact information with you, because I like you, and because if I’m going to keep posting truffle recipes, and I want you to continue to read my blog, then I’d damned well better help you get ahold of some yourselves.

Anyway, the company is called Oregon Mushrooms, and they have got seriously beautiful truffles. I was hesitant at first, but the shipment I received was glorious, generous, and (after a few days left in the fridge to finish ripening) incredibly flavorful. And they’re really inexpensive, as far as truffles go. Tell them I sent you, and I know they’ll be sure to send you gorgeous ones.

Just so you know, I’m not being paid to pimp them or anything, I just feel it’s appropriate to offer recommendations for companies who have done right by me, and this one certainly has. They’re also really friendly, which helps, and the truffles come quite quickly.

So that’s my honest review, and I hope you get some black beauties soon. That way you can continue to make things like truffle mac and cheese and this or shave some fresh ones into these

I’ll post some more recipes here and there for you, and please do let me know how your experiences with the company end up playing out. I just put in my second order yesterday, as well as an order for some beautiful fresh chanterelles.

More black magic

This has been a big week for me, in all the ways that really count. First, I got a shipment of black truffles in the mail. They’re Oregon, not Perigord, but I think that the black Oregon truffles, when picked at their peak and sent from a reputable source, are only slightly less pungent. When tossed with butter and fresh pasta, I would challenge you to be able to tell me they’re from Oregon. And while I know I have recently been sort of obsessed with truffles, it’s truffle season, so maybe cut me some slack. I feel like a star-crossed lover for the whole of spring through fall, so when winter hits, and these beauties start coming out of the woodwork (ha!), I get really overstimulated.

Fresh truffles aren’t much to look at, if you don’t know what they are. They’re kind of black and knobbly. Once I got myself hooked, I then started to see them as beautiful. As works of art. I imagine it’s kind of like when people have babies, and this wrinkled, bloody, screaming alien-thing that looks like it’s been coated in cocoa butter and viscera comes out, and they see it and are like “oh, it’s beautiful!” even though it’s still pretty gross until it gets toweled off and burritoed, and even then it takes a few weeks to be cute to anyone outside of its parental circle. But you have to lie and be like “oh my GOSH your baby is SO PRECIOUS” because if you tell the truth and say “your baby looks like it crawled out of the bowels of Castle Greyskull” then the overtired parents might eat your soul. So, even if you don’t see truffles as works of beauty, I respectfully request that you lie to me. In a just a few moments you’ll see it wrapped in the adorable onesie cocoon of pasta and ham and butter, and I think you’ll feel better on the whole.

But first, I should continue to elaborate on why my week has been so great. Becky (or “Bex”)came from Colorado to visit me, and for those of you who don’t know my bestie Bex…well, you should. We’ve been friends since the first day of 9th grade. She’s fantastic, and came out to run the San Antonio 1/2 marathon. I’m super proud, because this was her first 1/2 ever, and she’s lost like 60 pounds since January, and now she’s all sporty and good at soccer and a babelicious runner-chick. Anyway, it was fun to have her in town, and to make truffley foods for her, and to run the first 10 miles of the marathon with her setting the pace. She’s a great pace-setter. I only have two speeds–sprint and amble. She’s really steady, and that helps so much in the distance runs.

Chris and I ran the marathon, which ended up being a mistake because it turned out to be 78 degrees with 92% humidity on the back 10, and when you couple that with a lingering piriformis injury and some other blows to the team motility, it meant the slowest marathon I’ve ever run. And by “run” I mean “run/walk.” 26.2 miles that were divided about 2:1 running to walking, which sounds fine unless you’re actually involved in said marathon, in which case it’s FOREVER. I had salt dried all over my skin in white streaks, and for the entire second half I had to pee but couldn’t because of the condition of the Porta-potties along the route.

An aside: What the hell is up with runners and explosive colonic “situations”? It’s like they all get together to decide what their meals will be the night before, and come up with a plan of liver and onions, cabbage rolls, fiber cereal, and dairy. Every available facility is just COVERED with their gastric indiscretions. Floor to ceiling. It’s repulsive and gag-making and makes you seriously wonder about the healthiness of running in general. Did you know that TWENTY percent of the runners in a marathon report unexplainable rectal bleeding afterwards? I didn’t make that up. Are you grossed out? No, you’re not. You try entering a race bathroom and THEN you can be grossed out.

After we FINALLY completed the race, and poor Bex was waiting for us patiently at the end, I was starving. They had giant bags of bagels, riceworks chips, Cytomax, bananas, fruit roll-ups, and I couldn’t eat any of it until I got home because I was too afraid of what was on my hands from being in the vicinity of those bathrooms. I’m not a germaphobe, but I am a poopaphobe.

Fortunately, my body had been sustained on delicious Gu packets (note-do not try the vanilla gingerbread Gu; it’s awful), and was still running strong off of the pre-race carbo-loading.

And that’s really the end goal of this post. To show you the pre-race carbo-load in all its glory.

Hand-made fettucine with diced Niman Ranch ham, sauteed in barely-browned butter with freshly shaved black truffles and real parmaggiano reggiano. A sprinkle of gray salt, and we were in business. First of all, this was really great pasta. I tend to have trouble making pasta that I can really be proud of. It’s either jagged on the edges or has uneven thickness or whatever. But this was like someone’s Nonna had made it while listening to old Sinatra albums and letting her laundry dry on a clothesline.

Second of all, the combination of ham, salt, and brown butter is one that I can’t really put into words. TRY THIS. That’s what I can say. Get some good, farm-raised ham and saute it in brown butter.

Ingredients

5 T European butter (or rich American butter)
4 oz diced ham
1 t sea salt or gray salt

Heat butter in hot skillet until juuust beginning to brown. Toss in the ham, remove from the heat, and toss to coat. Return to heat. When the ham is heated through, you can toss some thyme in, pour it over a couple of eggs on toast, and you’ll be in hog heaven (get it!?) without having to source truffles or go to the trouble of hand-making pasta. See? I’m all about YOUR comfort!

Note: I say farm-raised not because of ethics, in this case (although that’s a strong side benefit), but because the nasty factory stuff, like Smithfield, doesn’t have any flavor integrity. If you’re going to let the ham shine, as this type of recipe does, you need to make sure you’re getting flavorful, authentic, appropriately-fatty ham. Niman Ranch has GREAT ham, and I like their farming practices. Try googling pig farmers in your area, or going to a local farmer’s market. They’ll often have the farmers there, selling their wares. Shake their hand, ask what their farm is like, and you’ll have a good idea what you’re getting without having to pay through the nose for “designer” meat.

Okay, one last picture of the final product next to another one of the truffles

Isn’t she a beaut? Doesn’t it make you all want to come visit me here in my lil’ dungeon of a state? You should really get here before Texas secedes from the union, because at that point you’ll need a passport and some cowpoke boots. And also probably they won’t let me import truffles when they’ve seceded, because “them foreigners is evil, and them truffles is like false idols.”

Cracka-assed cracka

Every office/workplace/homeowners association/what-have-you has the one female coworker or wife that all of the men adore, and all of the women hate. The hatred has nothing to do with whether or not she’s a good person. No. It’s either a) that she is interested in “guy” things like football, b) that she’s super-hot or c) that she always wins at potluck. Men LOVE girls like that, and women HATE them. It’s just the order of things.

I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions to the rule, but it’s a pretty common phenomenon.

Men see upstaging as an opportunity to enter into a overtly vicious competition with the other men in the area that ends in a winner and a loser, who will then drink a beer together and remain friends. Women see upstaging as a personal insult that can only be righted by social homicide and seething, underlying resentment. I’ve never been very good at this game, since I’m totally obtuse, really sucky at feminine social dynamics, and I will attempt to win at potluck regardless of social pressure. I just can’t help myself.

But seething resentment is BORING, and social dynamics are CONFUSING, so why not just be the girl that all the wives hate? I bring you:

“You bet your sweet ass that you’ll win the unspoken potluck contest with these crackers, sister” truffle and cheese spritz crackers

-or-

“kicking the crap out of the Joneses” truffle and cheese spritz crackers

-or-
“Thyme to be THAT girl” truffle and cheese spritz crackers

Actually, whatever the hell you want to call them. Pretend you INVENTED them for all I care. I just want to see you win, for goodness sake. Because then I’ll have other hated potluck-winners to hang out with, when I get shunned by yet another group of angry harpies who’ve shown up with another sleeve of crackers and Velveeta dip.

Ingredients:

1 C butter, softened (two sticks)
2.25 C AP flour
1/4 C milk
1 T truffle oil
1 egg yolk
1.25 C finely grated cheese (I used half parmaggiano and half grana padano)
1 t dried thyme
1 t sea salt (fine)

salt and thyme to sprinkle

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Using an electric mixer, beat together butter, egg yolk, truffle oil and milk until thoroughly combined and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cheeses, thyme, and salt. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Fill your cookie press with the dough and press it out using the ribbon attachment onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with salt (I like truffle salt) and thyme. Bake for 7-10 minutes on the middle shelf, or until the top starts to get golden in spots but the bottom of the cookie doesn’t get past a light golden color. You may need to rotate the tray partway through the baking, depending on your oven. Serve warm with milk.

Variations: I told you, you can invent this however you want. Use half parm and half sharp cheddar, or omit the truffle oil and use an infused garlic oil. Change the thyme over to rosemary or sage. Change the shape of the cookie. Seriously, you can’t really mess these up. Don’t have a cookie press? Roll into a log, refrigerate for a couple of minutes to firm up the dough until it’s a slicable consistency, then slice thin discs off of the log.

You? Are a cracker genius. And these will tell the world (as well as that snooty-ass Betsy from accounting) that you’re a badass at potluck, and that you won’t be shamed into baking-silence just because she’s mad that Frank from Sales thinks you’re awesome.

If you really want to take it to the next level, show up in the break room wearing a pushup bra, a low-cut NFL shirt, and carrying a batch of these cookies. In a Coors Light bucket. Why not? If you can’t beat em, make some frickin crackers.

P.S. Have you entered the Awesome Eggnog Giveaway yet?

Eggnogged if I know–the holiday giveaway

‘Tis the season to be jolly
Falalalala-lalalala
This much eggnog is pure folly
falalalala-lalalala
Bodies can digest a fair bit
falala-lalala-lalalalaaa
But not with so much gold rum in it
falalalala-lalalala

In the interest of science, Chris and I willingly slugged back a LOT of eggnog. We did this for you. Remember that, when you’re next standing in front of the dairy case, trying to decide between 7 different eggnogs. Remember, when you think to yourself “oh wait! Is that the one that looked like semen?” that two sad little Texas-dwellers sacrificed their gastric systems to bring you that kind of valuable information. You are SO welcome.

Because I love eggnog. LOOOOOVVVEEEE. But only a very specific kind. Namely, Borden canned. Borden canned eggnog will send me scurrying into a Wal-Mart without any shame at all, running pell-mell toward that island of holiday crap that they set up in the middle of the grocery section around, oh, say, Labor Day. I’ll grab caseloads of the stuff, scratching my inner arms and sniffing around like a crack addict, and then take it home to hoard greedily on my shelves. There are 340 calories in a single cup of the stuff, and it’s not even really eggnog, but I am crazy about it. It’s the Cheez-Wiz of holiday drinks. All artifice and pre-war packaging and sugary goodness.

Note: I do not eat Cheez-Wiz, nor any fake cheese for that matter. Unless it’s on a Dorito or Cheeto or any other recognizable member of the “‘to” family. Personal prejudice.

Anyway. My parents got it a lot when I was really little, and I’ve had a product-crush on it ever since.

In recent years, however, the scarcity of Borden canned eggnog has forced me to tarry with other brands of eggnog, to sometimes disastrous ends. It’s the spice in the nogs that I can’t get behind. That super-chemically nutmeggy flavor gags me in almost any scenario, but it seems to be the prevailing flavor in most commercial eggnogs. Fortunately, I’ve found that when my desire for eggnog trumps my fear of traditional flavor, liberal amounts of spiced rum can mask even the most dastardly of nutmeg flavors. And that, my friends, is my holiday drink of choice. Eggnog and Captain Morgan.

Or eggnog and brandy, when I’m feeling super-festive.

So it came as no surprise to Chris when he came home a few weeks ago to find the refrigerator shelves laden with multiple different types of eggnog and a bottle of rum on the counter. I have a scientific mind…sometimes.


I set up a tasting experiment (blind) to see what our favorite eggnogs were, both with and without the addition of rum. I didn’t use spiced, because I wanted the flavor of the eggnog to shine without the comforting cloak of Captain’s influence. There were 4 different eggnogs that we reviewed, all of which came from dairies with a commitment to healthy, happy cows (or in one case, healthy, happy soybeans). The nogs were evaluated before tasting, after tasting, and after the liberal addition of rum. I wrote letters on the bottom of the cups to help distinguish after the tasting, and had Chris mix my cups up so I wouldn’t know which was which, either. Then we compared notes.

The Results of the Eggnog Invitational Master Challenge

Eggnog A–

Chris– Looks like eggs. Right before you make an omelet. Smells like typical eggnog, but the kind you would get from the government: no real spice, uniqueness or character to note. Like a normal liquid; not too thick. Flavor is mild and boring. No nutmeg, no magic of Christmas. Maybe this is military eggnog — it would taste good after being away from home for 18 months. No aftertaste. No texture. Gone as soon as I drank it.
with rum: I like rum. It added a small rum flavor, which is the spirit of eggnog.
Grade: B+

Kristie– No aroma. Am I stoned? This one is bright lemon yellow, which is kind of offputting, but also hints at richness and indulgence. nd God only knows how I love rich people and indulging myself. No visible spice, which means I’ll probably like it. Thin enough that when I sloshed it to see how thick it was it splashed all over the sides. Comforting, eggy, sweet, wonderful flavor. With rum, it is kind of overpowered. I’d grade this as a B+ because while it’s delicious it doesn’t go very well with rum and it’s not really eggnog, just delicious in its own right.

Eggnog B–

Chris– A white appearance and with visible nutmeg floating inside. Or I hope its nutmeg. Honey… can eggnog go bad? Actually, it doesn’t smell like eggnog. It kinda smells like bananas. Weird. A thicker look, like cough syrup. Not too liquidy, not too thick. It sticks to the side of the cup. Honey… what was the answer about the expiration date of eggnog?
Okay, flavor? Really… this is banana cream drink. It has to be. This isn’t egg nog. And it has a banana aftertaste. I’m not making this up. It kinda coats the mouth, and not in a good way.
with rum: same amount of rum as last time, but with the effect of causing me to cough and die a little on the inside.

Kristie– Also no aroma…stonedness is rapidly confirming itself. Why can’t I smell any of these? I mean, nutmeg has a pretty intense smell to it, right? Also, this one is pale white. Kind of translucent. Looks a bit like a miniature cup of sperm. Visible specks of spice comfort me a bit, since sperm usually doesn’t have flecks of spice (but then again, I’ve never seen sperm because I’m a LADY). Also has the consistency of semen. Ew. Tastes like bananas, I’m not even shitting you. I feel like I’m drinking a Dirty Banana on our resort in Jamaica. Speaking of, I am now totally going to mix this with my Jamaican rum cream that’s been hiding in the fridge since our honeymoon. And some Godiva liquor. I am making a Christmas Dirty Banana. Seems oddly appropriate for the eggnog that looked so spermtacular… AHA! After addition of rum it tastes even more like a tropical banana cocktail. Genius! I give it a C+ for Jamaican attitude.


Eggnog C

Chris–Back to a good egg-looking color, but with some nutmeg flakes or something similar floating around. After my last sample, this is a welcome change. It has a citrus, ? lemon, smell to it. Not a real eggnog smell. So far, the Goldilocks of the eggnog consistency: it seems to be just right. A very strange citrus taste on the front, definitely not eggnog, but with a weird eggnog aftertaste. I don’t like the way it is tricking my tongue… for the bad. The mouthfeel was not clean. It lingered. And made me feel awkward.
with rum: Ok, now we’re talking. With rum, the taste really got elevated to a mediocre Christmas party. And it seemed to help eliminate the citrus-y front end and awkward back end. I commend you, rum, for your hard work
Grade: C+

Kristie–Smells like nutmeg, but not overpoweringly so. Pretty thick, but not excessively so. Dark yellow in color, with a few little brown specks to indicate nutmeggery. This lil’ mofo is HEAVY. Sip tastes very nutmeggy, to the point of feeling chemical in the mouth. This is the kind of overly-spiced eggnog that made me hate eggnog back in the day. I won’t lie; I’d still drink it. I’d just really booze it up. And speaking of…Mmmm…golden rum VASTLY improves this one. All of a sudden I see myself jumping ship on my pre-holiday diet (FAIL) to binge on this one for the remainder of the evening while playi8ng Marvel Ultimate Alliance on the Xbox. I’d give it a C for effort.


Eggnog D–

Chris–Custard yellow, without any visible spices floating around inside.
No smell. Weird. No smells at all. Perhaps I need to recheck my nose: honey, do we have any more of those bacon donuts? Very watery. And has a lot of bubbles, which are likely irrelevant but are remarkable. The flavor is definitely not like eggnog. More like screwed up Jello pudding. No residual mouthfeel, which I appreciate. But no good feel either, which I do not.
with rum: Pretaste note-when I added the rum, it seemed to quiver inside like a dying snake, or like a very tasty alcohol that did not enjoy being added to this drink. Now post taste: NO! It did not like being added, and struck out against me to remind me to never add it again. The rum didn’t add any good, but rather tacked on a strange aftertaste that amplified the pudding taste. Blech.
Grade: C-

Kristie– Still no aroma. Very thin consistency with no visible specks of spice. Pale yellow. Tastes sort of weak and not very noggy. I’m betting this is the soy one, since it has no creaminess whatsoever. No aftertaste either. I’m not sure if I dreamt tasting this one, since I already have no recollection if its flavor. After adding a few syringes full of rum, it now tastes like a pina colada. I’m so confused…D-

The Reveal:

Eggnog A was Borden. Delicious, wonderful Borden.

Eggnog B was Horizon (or possibly elf spunk)

Eggnog C was Promised Land

Eggnog D was Silk Nog

The flavor winner was tied between Borden and Promised Land. If you want that real, authentic eggnog flavor, go with the Promised Land eggnog. It’s traditional and thick, and goes great with liquor. If you want to cart around a cup of eggnog like it’s a blankie, then go with the Borden. It’s sweet and nostalgic and completely inoffensive to everyone, even if they claim to hate eggnog.

There are a plenty of other eggnogs clogging the grocery store shelves, but given our moratorium on factory dairy, these were the “legal” ones. The silk is thugging about the back of our refrigerator, waiting to be unsuspectingly thrust on someone or something. Maybe a pound cake? A really weak-ass pound cake? The Promised Land and Borden got used up in drinks and in french toast, and the Horizon is waiting for an occasion where its bananarama flavor will be welcome. Maybe spring break ’10?

What are your favorites? Tell me what your favorite eggnog is, and why it’s your favorite, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing for a can of Borden eggnog (so you can see why I think it’s so fabulous). Drawing will take place on November 20th.