Monday, March 30, 2015

California Dip and a Classic Manhattan for the Virtual Mad Men Finale Party #PartyLikeAMadMan

California Dip! Different brands of soup mix resulted in dips of many colors.
Are you a Mad Men fan?

The season finale is April 5, and those wacky people who wrote The Unofficial Men Cookbook  are hosting a Mad Men Blogger Virtual Dinner Party. Because, well, why not?

I can't pour you a drink, but I can entice you with some virtual snacks and a classic cocktail.

I also have a GIVEAWAY of the cookbook at the end of this post. Parties with prizes are fun, right? And you don't have to play Twister or anything.

Oh, and I can also introduce you (virtually) to Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin who wrote the book. I wrote about them and the "inside story" about the book, here.

I've already made quite a few recipes from the book, and I blogged about some of them as well.

Way back in March of 2012, I made (and wrote about) the Steak Tartare and my own version of the Brandy Alexander.

I was pawing through the book looking for something new to make, when I spotted a recipe that I remember my mom's (much hipper) friends would make - California Dip. I remember thinking it was really fancy.


I hadn't had this dip in years. Heck, I seldom buy potato chips. But then I saw this recipe and figured it would be good for nostalgia's sake.

Let me warn you. DON'T MAKE THIS RECIPE. Just don't.

If you do make it, you will become obsessed. You will decimate the potato chip aisle. You will buy giant tubs of sour cream. And you will buy every brand of onion soup mix you can find, followed by all the brands of onion soup dip mix, because soup mix makers know their soup mix is likely to become dip.

Well, maybe that won't happen to you, but it did happen to me. And I'm still obsessed.

Did you know that not only is there French onion soup-dip mix, but there's also a green onion dip? It's madness, I tell you. Delicious, creamy, crazy madness.

In my defense ... ah, never mind. There is no defense.

Welcome to the party! Have some snacks!

California Dip
Adapted from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin

You want this dip. You want this dip. You want this dip.
1 envelope onion soup mix
2 cups sour cream*

Mix well.

Yup, that's it. That's all the magic that you need to make this insane dip.

This is best if you let it sit for at least an hour or so before serving, so the mix hydrates and the flavors get all friendly with each other.

I think it's really best if you make it the day before you need it.

Keep it refrigerated until you need it.

*If you don't want to consume vats and vats and vats of sour cream, you can make this a little healthier by substituting Greek yogurt for some or all of the sour cream. Although I love Greek yogurt, I think this dip is better if there's at least some sour cream with the yogurt.

Oh, but let's not stop at a snack. Let's have a cocktail, too.

Adapted from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin

I see a snowman. It was accidental, but I thought it was a cute photo.
2 ounces rye whiskey (I used Templeton's)
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes bitters (I used a cherry bitters)
Cherry, for garnish (I used my own home made cocktail cherry)

Pour whiskey, vermouth, and bitters into a glass with ice.

Stir well, then pour into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the cherry.

Or, I know some folks who simply drink it over ice.

If you like ice and don't want a watery drink right away, use large ice cubes. There are plenty of ice trays and molds for large cubes - or rounds.

And now for the GIVEAWAY

I received a copy of this book from the publisher several years ago; they are providing the copy for the winner at no cost to me.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Birdie Bread - adorable buns shaped like little birds!

I posted this bread originally a few years ago, but it was part of another post about - of all things - chicken on the grill.

I thought these cute little birds deserved their very own post. They're perfect for spring, and adorable for Easter. And - big bonus here - they're a lot easier to make than my Bunny Bread. Yes, the bunny is adorable, but it's trickier than these buns.

And, since you're probably piling these into a bread basket, you can put the best ones on top for everyone to oooh and aaaah over. By the time they get to the bottom of the basket, they'll just be slathering butter on them.

This bread is just slightly sweet - not like a sweet roll that you'd have for breakfast, but a slightly sweet dinner roll. Great with a dab of butter. A really good match for spicy food or barbecue.

Like any shaped bread, you're never going to get two that look alike - but that's part of the charm. They'll rise differently before baking, and they'll rise differently in the oven. It's unpredictably fun. And every once in a while, you'll get one that looks just plain weird. Hey, you have to sample one, right?

The hardest part about making these is getting the eyes and beak to behave. The rising dough wants to push them out, so you need to insert them a lot farther in than seems right. And then give them another little push right before they go into the oven.

I wanted to use completely edible items for the eyes and beak, so I used slivered almonds for the beaks and chocolate pearls for the eyes. I was a little concerned that the eyes might melt and make a mess, but it actually worked. The pearls are chocolate-coated crunchy cereal, so they had some substance.

Something more solid - like a peppercorn - would probably work better as an eye, but most folks don't want to bite into a peppercorn, so if you wanted to use something like that, you'd be wise to warn people. A piece of black olive or a bit of dried fruit should work, too. You probably don't need to run out and buy something - look around your kitchen and see what you have that would be edible and suitable.

Birdie Bread

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Chocolate pearls (for eyes)
Slivered almonds (for beaks)

You want the liquid to be at room temperature or just slightly warmer, so if your orange juice is straight from the refrigerator, use warmer water to compensate. You won't ruin anything by using cool liquid, but the dough will rise much, much slower.

Combine the water, orange juice, sugar, yeast, and bread flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Knead it with the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the salt and olive oil, and continue kneading until they are completely incorporated and the dough is smooth, silky, shiny and elastic.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn the dough out. Knead it briefly, then divide it into 8 even pieces.

Take one of the pieces and cut off about 1/4 of the dough. Form that smaller piece into a ball. Form the other piece into a teardrop shape.

Make a divot in the fat part of the teardrop-shaped piece, but not too close to the edge as shown in the photo.

Place the ball on top of the teardrop shaped piece on top of that divot you just made.

Place this on the baking sheet, with the pointy end facing the center of the sheet. This will make it easier to work on the face later.

Continue until all the birds are shaped.

Cover the birds with plastic wrap and set aside until nearly doubled in size, about 20 minutes.

Using a toothpick or skewer, poke holes in the first bird's head where you want the eyes and beak. Insert the eyes and beak, pushing them well into the dough. Keep in mind that they don't all need to be facing straight forward - you can position the faces so they're looking up, down, or to the side.

Continue with the rest of the birds, until all of them have eyes and beaks. Cover them with plastic wrap and let them continue rising until doubled - another 5-10 minutes, depending on how long it took to get the faces finished.

Uncover the birds again, and if the eyes and beaks have started protruding, push them back in again. 

Bake at 350 degrees until the birds are nicely browned, about 30 minutes.

Remove the birds from the baking sheet and put them on a rack to cool.

If the eyes and beaks need to be pushed back in again, do so while the buns are still warm. Let them cool completely on the rack if you're not serving them right away.

Don't forget to check out Bunny Bread!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cocktail Cherries

While you can use these cherries in your cocktails in place of jarred maraschino cherries, you sure don't want to give these to the kids.

Well, my mom probably would have given me one or two, but she's a pretty bad example.

The cherries absorb some of the liquor and they give up flavor to the alcohol, too, so you end up with boozy cherries for your cocktails as well as a cherry liqueur that you can use in drinks.

It's a two-fer.

I used frozen cherries because fresh ones are out of season. When they are in season, fresh cherries would sure as heck be better.

Once you've made these, you can adjust the spices and the sweetness the way you like. Have fun with it!

Cocktail Cherries

1 pound frozen pitted sweet cherries
6 whole cloves
6 allspice berries
1 star anise
1 tablespoon almond extract
1/4 cup cherry mosto cotto
1 cup vodka
1/4 cup sugar

Combine everything in a quart jar. If the cherries aren't covered by the liquid, add more vodka. Cover the jar and shake to dissolve sugar. You don't need to get it all dissolved at once - shake it occasionally until there's no sugar visible in the bottom of the jar.

Leave the jar cool place for 1 month to completely marinate.
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