Monday, January 19, 2009

MxMo XXXV: Broaden Your Horizons...

...with a pinch of this, a dash of that - trying something new, whether it be a spirit one hasn't worked with before, a culinary technique applied towards some cocktailian end, or some other creative feat of mixological cleverness. That's the (frankly, rather clever) theme for this month's installment of Mixology Monday, as chosen by the Scribe over at A Mixed Dram. I can't help but think that this theme is certain to bring some serious entries - everything from molecular mixology items (or more fundamental, if still interesting, applications of technique) to rare & esoteric (even by my estimation) ingredients to odd cocktails from antiquity or otherwise.

I started my own considerations about topics for this event with a desire to try something simple - unique & new to be sure - but nothing too crazy, I said to myself. I had settled on a cocktail addition with which I've scarcely ever played - rimming glasses - whether to provide a contrast of flavor, added sweetness, an aromatic component, or any number of other applications.

But my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook just wouldn't stop staring at me from its place on the shelf, so that plan swiftly vanished in the resultant flurry of turning pages. So much for simple; but then again our man did say culinary techniques & tricks were fair game...

For those of you who may not possess or be familiar with this culinary gem, to say nothing of the genius behind it, The French Laundry Cookbook is the work of (3-star Michelin) Chef Thomas Keller - the fellow behind such landmark restaurants as Per Se, Bouchon, Ad Hoc and, of course, the French Laundry. The book highlights Chef Keller's use of and passion for quality ingredients - treated well and lovingly-prepared. It includes a wealth of gorgeous photographs, delightful anecdotes and highly-detailed recipes - many adopted for use by the home cook. And while none of these are specifically geared towards the cocktailian side of culinary tradition, many of the ingredients, concepts, flavor combinations, tips & tricks found within can be applied towards such ends. One such application includes the section in which my roving eye lingered - which focuses on making & using:

"are a primarily visual device, to make a dish look more appealing. They're typically a by-product related to the dish - tomato powder for a tomato salad [...] But some of our powders have a more pronounced effect on the finished dish. [Some...] are used as both a spice and as a powder [...] the oils in the spices add an exciting aromatic element to the dish." -Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook, p. 231

Upon reading that & summarily making several of the presented recipes with varying degrees of success, I was inspired to formulate a worthy cocktail rim. What follows is adapted from Chef Keller's published recipe & technique for Citrus Powder - a substance which, on its own, isn't too good for rimming cocktails with. But as a component of a more-complex mixture of sugar & spices, it makes a wonderfully-fragrant addition to any number of cocktails:

Lemon Powder
½ Cup: Lemon peel, pith removed & finely-julienned
¼ Cup: Meyer Lemon peel, pith removed & finely-julienned
Place Lemon peels in two separate saucepans and cover with cold water. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat and remove from heat, straining peels from the pans. Cover with water and repeat blanching two more times. Allow peels to cool to room temperature & pat dry with a towel before arranging separately on a parchment paper-lined, microwave-safe tray or plate. Microwave on lowest power setting for 7-10 minutes (depending on microwave) until peels are completely dry - check occasionally & if peels become dry early remove them. Allow to cool to room temperature before combining in a food processor or spice grinder. Process until peel is pulverized into fine powder (there will be a slight amount that will not fully process), then pour into a fine mesh strainer and stir with a spoon to sift into an airtight container. Makes a generous Tablespoon of powder; utilize in the following recipe (©):

Winter Rimming Blend
½ Cup: white Sugar
1¼ Tsp: Nutmeg, freshly ground
1 Tsp: Lemon Powder (as above)
½ Tsp: white Cardamom, freshly ground
Zest of one Tangerine, patted dry
Using a zester or microplane, zest the Tangerine onto some paper towels and allow to stand for a hour before patting dry to remove as much of the oils as possible. In a food processor or spice grinder, process the sugar until superfine. Add first the ground spices, processing until well-incorporated, before adding the Lemon powder & processing to mix. When Tangerine zest is no longer noticeably moist add to an airtight container, along with the sugar mixture. Stir well with a fork, being sure to incorporate the zest throughout & store for up to one week. Use in a variety of cocktails - extreme success has thus far has been had in adding a pinch to the top of Mimosas & Sidecars, as well as a rim on the following:

I absolutely love a good Ramos Gin Fizz - a harmonious blend of Gin, Cream, Egg white and Citrus - developed and made famous at the turn of the century by Henry C. Ramos, first in 1888 at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon, then later at his Stag Saloon. Though the drink has experienced a resurgence in popularity in the past few years - and it is amazing to me that it ever became unknown - I have not yet encountered any examples of variations on the (admittedly, perfect as-is) concept. In keeping with my habit of messing with classic formulas, I replaced the Lime juice originally called for with a bit of Tangerine juice, reduced the sugar and, in a nod to another classic - the venerable Pink Lady - combined a bit of Apple Brandy with a blend of Gins. The hints of Tangerine, Orange-flower Water and Gin botanicals are well-accented by the use of the fragrant Winter Rimming blend, which also plays off the reduced sugar & increased Lemon juice in this small, yet delicious, homage to Mr. Ramos' creation (©):

Winter Stag Fizz
½ oz. Plymouth Gin
½ oz. Distillery 209 Gin
½ oz. Laird's 100° Bonded Apple Brandy
¾ oz. fresh Lemon juice
¼ oz. fresh Tangerine juice
2 oz. Heavy Cream
¾ Tablespoon: superfine Sugar
2 drops: Orange-flower Water
1 fresh Egg white
1 oz. Seltzer
Winter Rimming Blend, for rim & garnish (see above)
Prepare a highball glass by running a wedge of Tangerine along the rim, then dipping it in the Wintertime Rimming Blend at a 45° angle & tapping off any excess. Combine all ingredients except Seltzer in a mixing glass & dry-shake hard for thirty seconds. Add plenty of ice & shake very hard for approximately one minute; Add seltzer to prepared glass before straining shaken mixture in. Add a pinch of the Winter Rimming Blend to the foamy top as a further aromatic garnish.

Cheers & Enjoy!


Kaiser Penguin said...

Nice use of Keller, Chris! You know what's annoying to make? Beet powder. From fresh beets.

The recipe looks lovely. I've not had Distillery 209 gin. What's it like?

Chris "Rookie" Stanley said...

Thanks! Truth be told, the first idea I had from the book was rimming Bloody Mary's with the Tomato powder (adding Wasabi or some such) Keller lists.

Trouble is I daresay it's impossible to make in the microwave - or at least my microwave. I must've wasted a whole bag full of tomatoes. I miss working in a restaurant at times like those...

As for the Dist. 209 (Stevi sent me some) - it's incredible. Very light on the juniper, with a pronounced emphasis on citrus, bergamot and cardamom. Very very good - certainly a unique product. I'll surely be playing with it in the future.


BonzoGal said...

You, sir, are a genius. Nice work incorporating culinary skillz.

I have a dehydrator at home- I wonder if this would work instead of the microwave...

Chris "Rookie" Stanley said...

I don't know about that BG, but thanks very much!

And I'd bet the dehyrdator would work fantastically - especially for the citrus powder. If you get a chance to try it out please let me know how it turns out.

Cheers & Thanks!

Stevi Deter said...

So glad you like the No. 209. It's my current favorite. As I can't get the bonded Laird's, I wonder if you think the regular applejack will work here?

Seems an awful lot of work for the lemon powder. What would you say to convince the lazy that it's worth the effort over just buying powdered lemon zest in the spice aisle of the grocery store?

Chris "Rookie" Stanley said...

As much work as it sounds to be, for what its worth the process isn't as bad as any of the other powders presented in the FL book. ; )

But as for already dried zest, that should certainy work - I just don't know if it will have quite the same zip that the fresh zest does.

I've also had problems playing with pre-packaged zests before in other recipes. Give it a go if you like and let me know how it goes!

Alternately, though I'm sure this would change the end product a little, you could just zest the lemon in with the tangerine and dry those & combine as before. Just not sure how this will alter the final rim..?

Chris "Rookie" Stanley said...

Applejack should be ok...might be a little milder in the final flavor, just like the diff in a pink lady between applejack & bonded.