Snuggle Up with 3-D Hot Chocolate

Looking for an indulgent reason to snuggle around the fire pit? Look no further than this delectable recipe. Yes, this hot chocolate is dark, decadent, and delicious, but it actually gets its name from three “D” ingredients: dark chocolate, dulce de leche, and Drambuie liqueur (scotch whiskey flavored with honey and spices). Using half-and-half instead of milk makes the hot chocolate extra creamy and rich. Adults will love this grown up, not-too-sweet take on hot chocolate, but it’s also great (and kid-friendly) without the Drambuie. Make this hot chocolate truly over-the-top with a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of dulce de leche, and a few crunchy chocolate rolled wafer cookies on the side. Yield: 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup canned or jarred dulce de leche, extra for topping
  • 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, extra for topping
  • 1/3 cup Drambuie
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • chocolate rolled wafer cookies (such as Pirouette)

How to Make

  1. Whisk together 4 cups half-and-half and 1/2 cup canned or jarred dulce de leche in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium, stirring constantly, until heated through, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, and whisk in 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, 1/3 cup of Drambuie, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Next, beat 1 cup of cold heavy cream in a cold bowl with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
  4. Pour hot chocolate mixture into 4 serving cups. Top each with whipped cream, a drizzle of dulce de leche, and chopped or shaved dark chocolate. Serve with chocolate rolled wafer cookies (such as Pirouette).

If prepping the recipe in advance, prepare the hot chocolate mixture as instructed but omit the alcohol and store the mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat the hot chocolate mixture gently, then add the alcohol once the mixture is heated through. Do not boil the mixture, or the alcohol will burn off.

Recipe and photo courtesy Southern Living and Time, Inc. Photo by Greg DuPree.

Champagne Cocktails
to Ring in the New Year

The countdown is on, and it’s time for a new and refreshing way to ring in the New Year. At this year’s gathering, try one (or all) of these specialty champagne cocktails. To reduce or eliminate the alcohol content, you can always substitute with sparkling cider instead of sparkling wine.

Corduroy Jacket

1 fresh orange slice
1 brown sugar cube
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/4 cup cognac
6 tablespoons chilled sparkling wine
1 (3.5-inch) strip orange peel
Fresh thyme sprig

Preparation: (1 serving)

  1. Muddle orange slice, brown sugar cube, and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker to release flavors.
  2. Fill shaker with ice cubes, and add cognac; cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds). Strain into a stemmed 10-oz. glass.
  3. Top with sparkling wine or sparkling apple cider. Garnish with orange peel and fresh thyme sprig.

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Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail

1 turbinado sugar cube*
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1/2 cup chilled sparkling wine
*1 rock candy stirrer or granulated sugar cube may be substituted.

Preparation: (1 serving)

Place sugar cube in a Champagne flute; add 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice and 1/2 cup Champagne. Serve immediately.
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Black Currant Champagne

Chilled sparkling wine
Chilled black currant nectar*
Garnish: fresh blackberries
*Other fruit nectars — such as peach, mango, tropical, or pear — may be substituted.

Preparation: (1 serving)

Fill a Champagne flute or tall glass with equal parts chilled sparkling wine and fruit nectar. Garnish, if desired.

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Mint-Champagne Shrub

1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup elderflower liqueur
1/3 cup Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Chilled sparkling wine
Garnish: fresh mint leaves

Preparation:(8 servings)

  1. Muddle first 2 ingredients in a cocktail shaker to release flavors.
  2. Add elderflower liqueur and next 3 ingredients. Fill shaker with ice; cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds).
  3. Strain into 8 (8-oz.) glasses; top with sparkling wine.

•   •   •

Berry Bubbly Punch

3/4 cup raspberry syrup
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 (750 ml) chilled bottles sparkling wine
Garnishes: fresh, halved strawberries and blueberries

Preparation: (makes 2.5 quarts)

  1. Combine raspberry syrup, orange juice, pineapple juice, and lemon juice in a medium bowl, stirring until blended.
  2. Cover and chill 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Pour mixture into a punch bowl, and top with chilled sparkling wine.

•   •   •

Remember to drink responsibly, and have a safe and prosperous New Year!

How to Cook a Cajun-Style Deep-Fried Turkey

Before we get started, don’t be intimidated by the word “Cajun” in reference to food. Many people have the mistaken impression that Cajun cooking is all about seeing how high you can get on the Scoville heat scale. That is inherently untrue. Although some dishes, like sauce piquante and boiled crawfish, will definitely leave your mouth tingly, the overwhelming majority of Cajun and Creole cooking is more about intense flavor versus intense heat. When talking about a Cajun-style deep-fried turkey, the description is more about the cooking method than the seasoning. In fact, this blogger lives in south Louisiana and regularly fries turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and we like to try different flavor profiles. A family favorite is one we call the “Casian” Turkey (which is Cajun-fried, but marinated and rubbed with Asian flavors).

The Equipment

setup

You will need a 30-quart fryer, a propane burner, a meat thermometer, a turkey rack (which goes inside the bird), and a turkey lifter (which hooks to the rack to lift it). You can buy the full setup online from Academy, Walmart, or other big-box stores. Next you will need about 3 gallons of peanut oil, which is the best choice for frying turkey because it has a high flash point (less likely to catch fire), high smoke point (ensures good flavor), and can be used multiple times before disposal — in case you’re frying more than one. In Louisiana, neighbors often like to get together and take turns using the oil. Basically, men love to cook when there’s danger involved, and there’s an excuse to get together and drink a little beer. If you’re making an event out of it and frying multiple turkeys, you may need a little extra oil.

The Bird

Your turkey should be no more than 14 lbs. If you have a lot of people to feed, you can fry more than one and can even experiment with different flavor profiles for each. Make sure every turkey is completely thawed. This is very important. Frying a frozen turkey is VERY dangerous. The ice reacts with the hot oil in an explosive manner. Once thawed, a turkey is completely safe to fry. Just be sure to remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey.

The Fill Line

Remember that the turkey will displace the oil when you place it into the fryer. Do not overfill the pot with oil. You want enough oil so that it will cover the bird once submerged, but not overflow the pot and catch on fire. Many turkey fryers come with a max fill line, but you can determine the exact amount you will need by placing your thawed turkey in the empty pot and filling it with water until the top of the turkey is barely covered. Remove the turkey, allowing the water to completely drain out of the turkey and back into the pot, then measure and mark the water line.

The Marinadecajun-injector-creole-butter-injector

The flavor profile is completely up to you, but you will need to generously inject your marinade into the meat of the entire bird. The recommendation is 2 oz. of marinade per pound of meat. You can create your own marinade, or for a variety of marinade flavors that each come with an injector, visit the Cajun Injector website. For our “Casian” turkey, we add a little dry sherry to a basic teriyaki marinade.

The Rub

Insert the turkey rack through the cavity of the turkey (neck side down), pat the skin of the turkey dry with paper towels, then generously rub the bird with your favorite seasonings. For our “Casian” turkey, we make a rub with salt, pepper, garlic powder, ginger, and a little bit of curry powder. Too much curry will take over, but you can be generous with the garlic and ginger.

The Fun Partslhcb_04_fry_174d

Set up your frying station OUTSIDE on a flat surface, a safe distance from structures and wooden decks. To avoid oil stains, do not place the fryer on top of concrete pavers. Heat the oil to 350° F. You can actually begin heating the oil while preparing the bird, but don’t leave the pot unattended. Hook the lifting tool to the turkey rack and slowly lower the bird into the oil. Cook the turkey about 3 to 4 minutes per pound, until the dark meat has an internal temperature of 175-180° F and the white meat has an internal temp of 165-170° F. It takes about 45-60 minutes to fry a 13-14 lb. turkey. When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the pot and place it in a pan on paper towels to drain. Let the turkey stand for 15 minutes before carving it.

Turkey photos by Oxmoor House, courtesy of Time, Inc.

It’s Pizza Grilling Time!

Alison Miksch - Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar - Food Stylist

Grilled pineapple dessert pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch – Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar – Food Stylist)

October is National Pizza Month…as if we need a reason to eat pizza! Whether you’re talking about flatbread with caramelized onions and shiitake mushrooms, grilled fruit dessert pizza, or just a good old-fashioned pepperoni and cheese, once you try making pizza on the grill, you’ll never want to cook pizza indoors again.

If you’re in a rush, you can actually place a store-bought frozen pizza on a hot grill for around the same length of time you would cook it in the oven. Be sure and rotate it occasionally so that it cooks evenly, and keep an eye on it so that the crust doesn’t burn. Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, it will create a nice crispy crust and will be much more flavorful than if cooked in a standard oven. Using charcoal or wood chips will help give it a gourmet smokey flavor.

If you have a few extra minutes, creating your own grilled pizzas is so much more fun! Everyone can be involved in the prep process and enjoy experimenting with combinations of their favorite ingredients. You can go low-tech by buying pre-baked pizza crusts, get a little more adventurous with store-bought pizza dough, or go full-on gourmet by making your own dough at home. If you’re using raw dough, be sure and spray the grill with cooking spray to keep it from sticking and cook the dough for 3 to 4 minutes prior to adding your toppings.

Smoked sausace, corn, and sweet onion grilled pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch - Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar - Food Stylist)

Grilled smoked sausage, corn, and sweet onion pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch – Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar – Food Stylist)

If you’re making an afternoon of it, you may want to considering pre-grilling some toppings to put on your pizzas. Grill-worthy toppings include chicken, ham, shrimp, pineapple, smoked sausage, corn, and garden vegetables. In addition to any pre-grilled toppings, other topping ideas can include artichoke hearts, spinach, banana peppers, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, kalamata olives, and fresh herbs. Of course, don’t forget the pepperoni, or the kids may revolt.

For a fun family activity, create a “pizza bar” prep station where each person can create his or her own fabulous pizza. For sauces, you can offer traditional pizza sauce, pesto, olive oil, BBQ sauce, and buffalo wing sauce. For cheeses, offer mozzarella, goat cheese, feta cheese, and crumbled blue cheese. If you want to finish off your pizza-palooza with a yummy dessert pizza, check out our recipe for grilled dessert pizza.

Happy grilling!

Grilled pizza photos courtesy Time, Inc.

Winging It for Backyard Tailgating

Add zest to your next backyard tailgate party with mouth-watering chicken wings and three delicious sauces that are sure to please every palate.

Grilled Wings

Ingredients

3 pounds chicken wings
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Light one side of grill, heating to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat; leave other side unlit. Dry each wing well with paper towels. Toss together wings and oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  2. Place chicken over unlit side of grill, and grill with lid closed 15 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to lit side of grill, and grill with lid open 10 to 12 minutes or until skin is crispy and lightly charred, turning every 2 to 3 minutes. Toss wings immediately with desired sauce. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 5 minutes before serving.

Alabama White Sauce

Ingredients

1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Creole mustard
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, finely grated

Preparation

Whisk ingredients together. Use as a drizzle or toss wings in sauce to coat. Yields about 2/3 cup.

Buttery Nashville Hot Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter, melted
3 to 4 tsp. ground red pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preparation

Cook butter, ground red pepper, brown sugar, salt, paprika, and garlic powder in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove from heat, and stir in vinegar. Toss wings in sauce to coat. Yields about 1/3 cup.

Vietnamese Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 to 3 tsp. Asian chili-garlic sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped toasted peanuts
1/4 cup torn cilantro and mint leaves

Preparation

Sauté garlic in oil in a small saucepan over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until golden. Stir in fish sauce, brown sugar, and chili-garlic sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and stir occasionally for 4 to 5 minutes or until thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup. Stir in peanuts. Toss wings in sauce to coat. Sprinkle coated wings with cilantro and mint leaves.

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Photo Credits:

Photo courtesy Time, Inc. Photographer: Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Erin Merhar; Prop Stylist: Caroline Cunningham

The Secret to Restaurant-Quality Steaks at Home

Imagine this scenario: a special occasion is nearing. It’s your significant other’s birthday, or perhaps a distant relative is coming in. The point is that you want, and in some cases need, to treat them to something special. What is the first thing that comes to mind when the ole “special” word is tossed out? Why, it’s steak of course! Doesn’t just reading the word “steak” bring you to a happy place? Anyone who is a fan of steak probably already knows his or her favorite place in town to get a quality steak. Unfortunately, having a fancy chef at some restaurant cook this steak will not work for this special occasion. This one must be made from the heart by Chef You. Although grilling a steak properly can be tricky, it is well worth the effort for that special occasion. Here are a few tips to consider. For the sake of brevity, we’ll just focus on two of the most popular steaks to cook: the Tenderloin and the Ribeye.

Tenderloin

Ribeye

Also called a filet, this will be your most expensive piece of meat. However, this steak is most definitely worth the price because it is considered by many, this writer included, as the most delicious steak that can grace your palate. Sometimes with these steaks, less is more. Heat your grill to high heat, add some black pepper and coarse salt to the top of your steak, then throw it on the grill. You want to cook these steaks over high heat until they are brown, which will take about five minutes per side, depending on how “done” you prefer your steak. For a particularly thick piece of meat, you may also want to brown the sides a bit. While some people prefer their steak rare or well done, there is nothing quite like a medium-rare steak. In fact, most chefs agree that medium-rare steaks give you the maximum amount of tenderness and juiciness while ensuring that the center of the steak is actually warm. To test if your steak is medium-rare, press your finger in the middle of the steak. If your steak gives ever so slightly then bounces back, you have yourself a medium-rare steak. A mushy steak will tell you that it is still rare. Keep going until you get that bounce-back. To get that restaurant-quality flavor, before the steak is finished, liberally baste it with garlic-infused butter. Garnish the top of the steak with a sprig of one of your favorite herbs, and proceed to blow the mind of your special guest.

Ribeye

This next steak can be one of the most flavorful and juicy steaks you can find. Where most the flavor comes from is up to you. If you prefer a simple flavor, liberally applying coarse salt and black pepper to your steak, and even some garlic powder if you choose. However, to get the most out of your ribeye, make sure to marinate it in a plastic bag for a couple of hours. Once it is in the bag, pour in plenty of balsamic vinegar or red wine. Another tasty addition to a ribeye marinade is Parmesan cheese. Feel free to marinate your steak with whatever your heart desires, or whatever the person you are cooking for desires. These are only suggestions. Just remember to allow plenty of time to let the flavors sink in. Once done marinating, throw that baby on the grill over low flame for about five minutes. Flip to the other side where you will most likely cook a little longer than the first side. Again, test the doneness by pressing the meat with your finger. Ribeyes are a little harder to judge than filets because they’re not as thick, but with a little practice, you’ll quickly get the knack. Once you think it is ready, pull it off and let it rest for about five minutes. This is very important to do for all steaks! Cut in too quickly, and the juices all run out, leaving the meat a little dry.

Charcoal vs. Gas

Ah, the classic grilling debate. In this writer’s opinion, always go for charcoal over a gas grill. With charcoal, it is a slower process, but it tends to give your steaks a more distinct flavor. Also, do not be afraid to experiment with wood chips. Cherry or pecan are both particularly good choices. But don’t throw the chips directly onto the charcoal, which will cause them to burn off too quickly. Wrap the wood chips in some tin foil and place them next to the fire. This will deepen the flavor profile of your charcoal-grilled steaks.

Happy Grilling!