Wednesday, October 24, 2012

fall hard.

the end of the farmer's market is always depressing for me. i have to start relying on grocery stores for my produce again, and the options become more limited. the only thing that saves my mood is cooking with the root vegetables that i stock up on in the final weeks of the market. boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew...whatever, i'm all about them. soups and gratins are my favorite applications for them, so here's a chowder that sort of combines the two.

Roots Of Autumn Chowder

3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 stalks celery, diced small
1 medium onion, diced small
1 Tbsp curry powder (i used Penzey's Vindaloo, but you can use whatever kind you're partial to)
1 Tbsp dill (dried or fresh)
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida (optional)
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock (homemade, either way. no excuses.)
1 cup heavy cream (or light cream if you prefer)
2 Tbsp butter
olive oil
salt and pepper

firstly, i'd like to mention that you can go ahead and use any combination of root vegetables you'd like for this. turnips, rutabegas, sweet potatoes, even golden beets would probably work just as well in this. in fact, you could even throw in some squash if you were so inclined.

start out with your trusty dutch oven over medium high heat and splash in enough olive oil to cover the bottom, melt the butter, then add your onions and celery. cook them til they're softened and translucent. add the curry powder and asafoetida (if you're using it) and stir just to work it into the oil. dump in the chopped parsnips and carrots (but NOT the potatoes yet) and cook until everything takes on a little bit of brown around the edges.

add the stock and potatoes, season with salt and pepper, raise the heat and boil until the potatoes are tender. remove from heat and stir in the cream and dill. oyster crackers or saltines will go nicely with this.

Monday, October 1, 2012

something to do with tomatillos.

this recipe began it's life as a soup. never one to leave well enough alone, i messed about with it, and the results were pretty awesome, if i do say so myself. the tomatillo base is essentially a salsa verde, and you can definitely use it as such.

Mexican Chicken and Rice

tomatillo base:
2 lbs tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed well and cut in half
1 habanero chili, stem removed OR 1-3 jalapenos, serranos or chili of your preference (this is how you're going to determine the heat level, so choose wisely. i went with the one whole habanero, seeds intact, and it was a good slow burn that builds rather nicely. if you're not really into spicy food, go with the 1 jalapeno, or remove the seeds before adding it to the base.)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tbsp lime (or lemon) juice
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed well, stems intact
Pinch of sugar

2 lbs frozen, boneless, skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups white rice (i used jasmine, because it's what i had, but you can use whatever you want. brown rice would probably work just as well.)
1 teaspoon dry oregano (preferably Mexican) or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped
1 teaspoon dry epazote (you don't *need* this, but i like it. and obviously, use 1 tablespoon of fresh if you can find it.)

start with the tomatillo base. place chili and tomatillos, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until they just start to blacken in spots. set aside to cool for about 5 minutes, then add them to a blender or food processor with any juices that accumulated and the garlic, salt, lime/lemon juice, cilantro and sugar. blend until there are no large chunks remaining.

preheat oven to 400° and place chicken on a foil-lined sheet. spoon enough of the tomatillo sauce over the chicken to coat, then cover with more foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil, turn over, add a little more sauce and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until juices are clear and the internal temperature reads about 160. set aside to cool, then cut into 1 inch cubes.

heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large heavy pot over medium-high heat. add onions and cook until just starting to brown. add cumin, coriander, and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

add tomatillo sauce and cook until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. add chicken stock, raise heat and bring to a boil. add rice, chicken, oregano, epazote and salt and pepper to taste and lower heat to medium-low. simmer, partially covered 25-30 minutes, or until rice is cooked.

serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

easy stuff that will impress your friends.

a few months back i finally learned to like hummus. weird that it took so long, right? the problem was the tahini. i just hate an overpowering sesame flavor. so i came up with this recipe, which i like to think is infinitely better than that stuff you get pre-made at the grocery store.

Fruitcake Ambush Hummus

2 15oz cans garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas, but you probably know that if you're reading this)
juice and zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup sunflower butter (this is in place of tahini, but feel free to use that if you like it, or any other nut butter)
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (i also occasionally add an entire head of roasted garlic)
1-3 teaspoons Sriracha, depending on your preference
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika (one of those Penzey's spices i find invaluable)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

you will need a food processor for this, or a masher of some sort and a lot of determination.

drain one can of the garbanzos, keep the liquid from the other and add it all to your Cuisinart. pulse it a little to start the beans breaking down. add the garlic, lemon juice and zest. process until smooth. add sunflower butter, Sriracha, paprika and salt. make sure everything is combined well, proceed to making pita chips.

...what? you didn't think i was going to let you eat store-bought pita chips with this, did you?

Ridiculously Simple Pita Chips

8 pitas
3 tablespoons, or thereabouts, cooking oil (i usually use a combination of olive and safflower, and i just drizzle...i'm not much of a measurer with this stuff)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons Penzey's Forward! spice mix (optional, or you can use whatever spice blend you prefer)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

cut up pitas into whatever size and shape pleases you. drizzle with oil. toss with salt and spices. arrange on two foil or parchment lined baking sheets and bake for about 15 minutes (or until edges just start to get dark brown) at 400°. cool on a rack and enjoy with your awesome hummus and a cold beer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

happy 100th, Julia.

Julia Child. what's to be said about her that hasn't been said? she's widely regarded as a saint of the culinary world. she's the person who made it okay to try scary new things in the kitchen, and goof them up, then try again 'til it comes out right. she's been an icon in my world for as long as i can remember, as i spent many weekend mornings on the couch with dad watching PBS reruns of The French Chef. i've seen every episode so many times, she feels like family. she also always reminded me of my grandmother, so there's that too.

to honor her birthday recently, i finally tried my hand at homemade mayonnaise. because why buy something in a jar that i can make myself, and better? the whole process sounds a little daunting at first, but it really wasn't that tricky at all. and the sense of accomplishment is nicely disproportionate to the actual product, so try it!

here's Julia's recipe, with some notes from me:

Julia's Homemade Mayo

3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice, more drops as needed (i used lemon because it's what i had, and also because i usually prefer lemon.)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dry or prepared mustard
1½ to 2¼ cups of olive oil, salad oil or a mixture of each (i made the mistake of using a strongly flavored Spanish virgin olive oil for this. it came out a little bitter. if this happens to you, just add about a teaspoon of sugar and that should balance it out. and make sure your oil is room temperature if you're one of those people that keeps everything in the fridge.)
2 tablespoons boiling water

Start with a large-ish, round bottomed glass or aluminum bowl. Doing this on a hot day will be beneficial, as everything will already be at the right temperature to prevent separating. And don't think you have to do this with a hand whisk. Your electric hand mixer is the way to go. For this quantity, you definitely don't want to try to use a stand mixer, but if you were doing a larger quantity, it might work.

First step: warm the bowl in hot water (if not doing this on a warm day); dry it. Add the egg yolks and beat for 1 to 2 minutes until they are thick and sticky.
Add the vinegar or lemon juice, salt and mustard. Beat for 30 seconds more.

The egg yolks are now ready to receive the oil. While it goes in, drop by drop, you must not stop beating until the sauce has thickened. A speed of 2 strokes per second is fast enough. You can switch hands or switch directions, as long as you beat constantly.

Add the drops of oil with a teaspoon, or rest the lip of the bottle on the edge of the bowl. Keep your eye on the oil rather than on the sauce. Stop pouring and continue beating every 10 seconds or so, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil.

After 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil has been incorporated, the sauce will thicken into a very heavy cream and the crisis of potential curdling is over. The beating arm may rest a moment. Then, beat in the remaining oil by 1 to 2 tablespoon dollops, blending it thoroughly after each addition.

When the sauce becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of vinegar or lemon juice to thin it out. Then continue with the oil.

Beat the boiling water into the sauce. This is an anti-curdling insurance. Season to taste.

If the sauce is not used immediately, scrape it into a small bowl and cover it tightly so a skin will not form on its surface.

“...operational's all theory until you see for yourself whether or not something works.”
― Julia Child, My Life in France

happy birthday, Julia (tomorrow). you will always be one of my greatest inspirations.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

stuff and things.

sorry, once again, for the lack of updates. but thanks to Joe for filling the space with his fabulous beer review. farmer's market season is upon us, so there should be lots of updates soon, among announcements of some top-secret projects. there may also be an account of my upcoming Maine vacation, since most of my vacations are nothing if not culinary adventures. so thanks for your patience and continuing interest, and stay tuned!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Top 5 Most Metal Beers

Hi! I'm not Jackie. Your regular hostess has been temporally subdued in favor of me, Joe. I'm here to bring you the top five most metal beers out there, which is a bit of a different turn for 'Fruitcake Ambush', but one you can surely benefit from. Y'see metal and beer have been going great together for years and once you get them together with Jackie's recipe's your going to be in for a serious treat! Amazingly, when drinking and even once drunk I capitalize most of the words that should be. Another new thing for this blog, apparently. :D So, without further delay, throw the horns up, put the beer back and get ready for a metallic alcoholic overload!

#5 Dragonhead
I'm not a huge fan of the Finnish metal band Ensiferum, but how could I resist a beer that just so happened to share the same name as one of their old releases? ...that's right, I couldn't resist! Therefore, 'Dragonhead' is #5 on the list of most metal beers!

The Orkney brewery beers are brewed in the beautiful Northern isles of Scotland and this dark, intense and fully-flavoured beer is their tribute to the Vikings and their cultural legacy in Orkney. At 1 pt and 0.9 oz in size and with 4.0% alcohol by volume its probably going to please that wannabe Viking within us all as well as the household pet (as you can see in my photo). Dragonhead is a creamy dark brew similar in appearance to Guinness with a bitter chocolate and dark coffee scent to it as well a taste that again reminds of chocolate, coffee and nut with a spicy sort of finish to it. It goes down fast, smoothly and satisfies without a lingering odd taste in my mouth either. Also if your an admirer of stupid Viking stuff the bottle is large and worth displaying on your mantle or whatever.

Although meant to be a tribute to the Vikings I expected the beer to have been a bit more intense on the tongue with a stronger after taste and I think the 4.0% alcohol is slightly low. I mean after all weren't the Vikings a bunch of rowdy drunken motherfuckers?! Right, therefore more alcohol more rape, pillaging rowdiness!

Would I buy it again? Possibly but since it does remind of a less intense Guinness and since I paid $5.00 for a single bottle I'm sure I could find something more worth while. Either way this is a decent brew that would go well with dinner and as far as I'm concerned a fitting tribute to those Scottish Vikings of many moons and beers ago.


#4 Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! - Solstice d'hiver
Want me to buy your beer? Just put some cool artwork on it and you've got a bottle sold! Actually, as soon as I spotted this brew, Gris' sophomore release, 'Il Était une Forêt...' came to mind and since both Gris and this beer come from Quebec it seems appropriate enough, although I don't suppose I'll be drinking while listening to their music. Or maybe it's the best thinkable combination imaginable?

Solstice d'hiver is a dark beer with burning red highlights within and pours out with nearly no head. Its taste is both sweet but also slightly bitter, there's a hint of malty caramel with each swig as well as some sort of fruit-ish taste, cherry perhaps. The aroma is distinctively hoppy and alcoholic in character, likewise the aftertaste is quite hoppy too. At 11.5 fl oz and 10.2% alc/vol its a wonderful lip smacking tasty beer or barleywine if you want to be technical about it, which honestly now that I think about it probably don't have much experience with. I really wish I'd bought more than one, but the $4.99 price tag held me back from doing so. I'd really like to see this available in a 4 or 6 pack someday as I could surely make an evening out of this one.

Not much else to say other than this is one to check out, maybe even more so if you have much experience with barleywine's or enjoy listening to depressive black metal while sipping down a good brew.


#3 Fade to Black
"Life it seems will fade away, Drifting farther everyday, Getting lost within myself, Nothing matters no one else, I have lost the will to live, Simply nothing more to give, There is nothing more for me, Need the end to set me free..." What metalhead hasn't taken these old Metallica lyrics to heart and deep thought at least a few times during their lifetime. I know I have and although its probably just a completely random thing, I'm glad there's a brew that is named after this legendary song.

Fade to Black pours out a jet black shade with barely any head at all, in fact I even thrashed the glass around like a maniac just to create a little with very barely any results. Oddly this stouts aroma seemed a bit lacking too, with just a faint scent of burnt coffee, but perhaps a mild cocoa smell too. The taste follows my nose fairly well too as again there's a typically stouty coffee taste with a little bitterness, but that's what life is like sometimes, bitterness. Interestingly there's also this pepper-ish aftertaste, which really adds a certain zing to the whole thing and makes it a bit unique.

I found this one as a six-pack and the price was reasonable at $8, but would I buy it again? Its hard to say as there are so many good stouts out there, but this creamy peppery coffee one really has something interesting going on with it. Definitely recommended for fans of stouts or for those that just want a brew with a random weird heavy metal connection.


#2 Lucifer
All true metalheads love the fallen angel Lucifer, and now that he's got his own brew, simply titled, 'Lucifer' you've got even more reason to worship the unholy one. Lucifer comes corked and caged to hold his divine evil, wisdom and taste carefully inside, but once you've unleashed the malice within and launched your thirst be prepared for something extreme with this one.

Lucifer, curiously doesn't pour out a dark blood red, but rather a hazy yellow-ish shade with a very fluffy white head. The initial smell is very citrus in character as well quite yeasty and alcoholey after a few more inspections. The first swig reveals a very typical Belgian yeast taste, though a few more and I discover a citrus lemon tangerine-ish zest, as well a very carbonated, pale, barely sweet and mostly bitter taste with each turn. Hell, there might even be a fruitcake somewhere in there. Curiously this one seems to taste slightly better as it warms up.

'Lucifer' is not for everyone as its a bit more harsh and the way I see it the dark lords brew should be a tough taste to swallow. However, at least for me this 1 Pt 9.4 fl oz. 8% alc/vol drink is something slightly different for me, but I definitely do enjoy it... but is it metal though? Why, yes it is, simply because Evil and Satan have been inspiring metal since the beginning. "Look into my eyes, you will see who I am, My name is Lucifer, please take my hand..."


#1 Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout
"Wake up dead, you die! Wake up dead, and buried, Wake up dead, you die, Wake up deeeeeeeeead!"

Oh, excuse me, every once in a while beer makes me break out singing and why not when you've got a stout in your glass that's unintentionally named after one of Megadeth's most legendary songs. Therefore, I sip, drink and chug, 'Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout' for you today as the last and final brew in this top five countdown!

Wake Up Dead pours out a dark brown almost dark burial gravel black color with a minimal amount of head, which is light tan in color and all in all very typically stouty in appearance. The aroma is like the fetid reek of rotting flesh, but, well, no... as its quite hoppy and coffee like on the nose, but I can at least wish for a zombie brew, right? The first swig reveals many different tastes - Burnt coffee, licorice, smoke, woody and a little caramel & toffee-ish zest. As the stout sits I find it becomes a bit more bitter in taste, but still quite good with a strange lingering cherry-ish taste somewhere in there too. All in all, not too bad at all with a semi-creaminess and easy after taste too.

'Wake Up Dead' is 1 Pint and 6 fl. oz in size and 10.2% ABV, which means you'll probably be feeling just fine by the time you finish it off. If truth be told though I did buy this one just because of the name and the artwork, which fucking rules, and in an odd sort of way reminds me of the Inquisition artwork on their latest record, 'Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm.'

Off hand I don't recall what I paid for this stout, but I don't seem to remember it being anymore than $6-$7, which isn't bad, but perhaps due to it not tasting wildly different from other stouts I might not pick it up again. However as always if your looking for a drink that has random weird metal connections, then here you go. Crank some Megadeth and keep longing for that zombie epidemic!

It's Black Friday, paint the devil on the wall!

What! You're not drunk! Well, at least you've just downed five total rockin' metal brews, anyway! I now return all ownership of this blog back to Miss Jackie.

drinking weather is upon us.

despite my love of kitchen experimentation, my history with mixology is decidedly sparse. so imagine my surprise when i managed to put together a damn-near perfect beverage last night. it's been done, certainly not too new or exciting, but here's my tasty version of a bourbon mojito:

The Fruitcake Ambush Bourbon Mojito

2 oz good quality bourbon (i used Black Maple Hill because it's my favorite)
2 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz water (still or sparkling, your choice)
1 spearmint sprig (homegrown, if you've got it)
1 tbsp raw sugar
ice, crushed if you're so inclined, and i am

firstly, if you intend to take your summer drink making seriously, it would behoove you to acquire a muddler. you will need this piece of equipment for some of the best hot weather cocktails, specifically (because it's one of my favorites), the caipirinha.

moving on, take your new muddler, mint, sugar and a Collins glass and start muddlin'. you don't want shreds of mint, so just do this enough to release some of the plant's oils.

add your ice to fill the glass, add your liquids, stir with the iced tea spoon you should all have (i have a southern grandmother), savor, repeat. best enjoyed on a wraparound porch with fragrant night-blooming flowers nearby.