Tag Archives: alcohol

SUMMER CLASSICS SERIES: HOMEMADE GRENADINE

As you may already know, teaching is my day job.  Eighth grade English, to be precise.  And in-service started this week.  Hence this post involves cocktails.

back to school cocktails

I know; I’m very lucky to have a summer vacation at all.  My job is truly fabulous because I love my students and I’m able to have a big chunk of time off to do all kinds of other things I may be interested in doing.  But a big part of why my job works so well for me is that I was. not. made. to sit behind a desk and/or in meetings all day.  And in-service is pretty much one big meeting.

So.

Doubtless you’re familiar with grenadine—if you’re like me, from the Shirley Temples of your youth?—but it’s also used to add color and sweetness to “grownup” drinks.  Originally, grenadine was made from pomegranates, hence the signature fuschia color, but as you can see, the bottled pre-made no longer has such wholesome origins:

storebought grenadine

Therefore I suggest to you the simple, even meditative act of making your own grenadine and storing it handily in the fridge where it will be waiting for you when you come home from a long day of meetings.

Even though the summer is technically “over” now that school has started, it’s still hot as blazes and so we’re going to keep the Summer Classics Series going through Labor Day–be on the lookout for a lovely Farmer’s Market Pasta & a killer fresh-fig dessert.

HOMEMADE GRENADINE (pomegranate syrup) grenadine ingredients
adapted from Alton Brown

ingredients:

4 cups pomegranate juice
juice from half a lemon
½ -1 cup sugar (adjust according to the amount of sugar in your brand of pomegranate juice)

Combine all of the ingredients in a deep saucepan over medium heat, stirring while it heats until the sugar has dissolved.  Turn the heat down and allow the mixture to simmer until the syrup has reduced by at least half.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool at room temperature before transferring to a jar in the fridge.  This will yield between 1 ½ – 2 cups of homemade grenadine, which should keep in the fridge for up to six months.

There are a million cocktail recipes out there that involve grenadine, but here’s one classic & one that I just made up:

TEQUILA SUNRISE

These things go down like a vacation in a glass.  Ahhh…..

you will need: tequila sunrises

tequila
orange juice (freshly squeezed is extra delicious!)
homemade grenadine

The method is simple: fill a glass with ice.  Pour in some tequila, as much or as little as you’d like.  Pour in orange juice nearly to the top of the glass, leaving just enough room to drizzle a few tablespoons of grenadine over the whole thing.  Because it’s a syrup, it will ease down slowly to make a lovely pattern—like a sunrise—so don’t stir!  Just drink.

BACK-TO-SCHOOL TONIC

Because I just threw this one together, feel free to adapt it in any way you see fit.  Basically this is like a cosmopolitan, just with pomegranate flavor instead of cranberry.  And it was delicious.  Cheers!

you will need:

1 lemon
orange liquor (I used Cointreau)
vodka
homemade grenadine

If you’d like a fancy lemon garnish, I recommend peeling a curlique with a paring knife before you juice the lemon; much easier.

For two drinks, fill a cocktail strainer with ice.  Squeeze in the whole lemon, add a generous glug of orange liquor & two shots of vodka.  Pour in between ½ – ¾ cup grenadine.

Shake it all up, strain, and pour.  Garnish with lemon twists or orange slices, etc.

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FATHER’S DAY BRUNCH: EGGS BENEDICT & BLOODY MARYS

dad

There’s a self-consciousness that comes with grief, the consciousness that the people around you:

a) have never experienced anything like what you’re going through,

b) are utterly at a loss for what to do to comfort/support you,

c) wish you would just “get better” already,

d) are terrified by the thought of death and hate you reminding them that their loved ones will die.

Sometimes I feel like “that girl who talks about her dead father all the time.”

In the filing cabinet of my brain and heart, food and my father are inextricably linked. One of the great ironies of it all is that losing my father, an unabashed epicure, sent me straight into the kitchen, where I got really good at cooking all kinds of things I wish I could make for him now.

For example, Eggs Benedict and an excellently spiced Bloody Mary—robust, made with love, fit for a king. It’s the brunch I’d make for my dad if I could.

Pray tell, what are you feeding your father (or husband, partner, uncle, grandpa, etc) on Sunday? Are you cooking at home or taking him out? Does your family have a Father’s Day culinary tradition? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Wishing all Dads a very happy Father’s Day, with lots of love from BJG.

EGGS BENEDICT (BLUE JEAN GOURMET STYLE)

EB--decorated, close-up

There are lots of variations on theme of EB; this is just how I happen to like mine.  I really don’t think you can go wrong if you stick to the basic premise of  layering toothsome pork product & gooey egg on top of crusty bread and slathering the whole thing in hollandaise.

A word about hollandaise.  It’s really not as fussy as everyone makes it out to be–at least, it has not been a culinary-pain-in-the-butt for me.  I’ve heard tell that you can make hollandaise in a blender, and if you have done so with success and think it’s way easier than my method, please do share.  I’ve made mine several times the old-fashioned way with great success, so if you’ve been afraid to try the stuff, I urge you to give it a whirl.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

spinach (either a package of frozen, chopped or a big bunch of fresh)

English muffins (traditional) or another bread product

Canadian bacon (substitute thick-cut ham or many slices of thin-cut ham)

poached eggs*

eggs, butter, water, fresh lemon juice (for the hollandaise)

salt & pepper, hot sauce (optional)

TO MAKE HOLLANDAISE:

2 egg yolks

juice from 1/2 a lemon

6 T butter, cut into cubes

salt & pepper

Combine the egg yolks with lemon juice in a small saucepan.  Whisk to combine over low heat; the yolks should thicken quickly.  Toss in the butter cubes and continue whisking until the butter has melted.

hollandaise step 2

hollandaise step 3

hollandaise fin

The mixture will become a bit lighter in color, which is a good indication that you’ve got things well-emulsified.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

TO ASSEMBLE:

The trickiest part about making this breakfast is the timing.  You basically want to save the hollandaise for last, because it does best when served very soon after it’s made–it’s a little bit diva like that (na-na-na-a-diva-is-a-female-version…okay, yeah I’m going to have that song in my head now.)

My plan of action is usually this:

1) cook spinach, season with salt & pepper, set aside

2) brown Canadian bacon in a skillet, keep warm in a low oven

3) toast English muffins, add to the low oven

4) poach eggs* & turn out into a paper-towel-lined platter in, you guessed it!, a low oven

5) make hollandaise

6) stack ’em: English muffin half on bottom, top with Canadian bacon, then spinach, then a poached egg.  repeat.  pour on the Hollandaise with a generous hand!

* The internet is full of wisdom for how best to poach one’s eggs; I’ve done them the old-fashioned way, in a pot of vinegar-spiked water and I’ve done them the lazy way, in an egg poacher.  However you get your eggs poached is fine by me!

BEST BLOODY MARY MIX

bloody mary

ingredients:

1 large bottle spicy-hot V8

Juice of 2 limes

2 T. white vinegar

2 T. prepared horseradish

2 T. Worcestershire sauce

1 T. garlic powder

1 tsp. celery salt

1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

A generous glug of any of the following
olive juice, pickle juice, or juice from pickled jalapeños

Plenty of freshly-ground pepper

garnish: celery, spicy green olives, limes, celery salt

Combine all ingredients and store in a pitcher in the refrigerator. When you’re ready for drinks, first “salt” the rim of your glasses.  Rub the lip of each glass with a lime wedge; then, turn the glass upside down and onto a plate-full of celery salt.  Twist the glass to form a rim.

To mix a drink, combine 3 parts mix to 1 part vodka or gin over ice.  Garnish with a tall stalk of celery and a toothpick speared with an olive & lime wedge.

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SUMMER CLASSICS SERIES: SANGRIA

sangria solo I can’t vouch for the “authenticity” of my sangria recipe—it seems to me that at this point there are a million different ways to make the stuff—but I can promise you that it’s delicious.  This is not that sickeningly sweet, pre-fab stuff they often serve in restaurants.  It’s refreshing, impressive, and easy to make.  Even my beer-drinking guy friends like this version!

Consider the following more of a guideline than an actual recipe.  Feel free to mess with the types of fruit you use, based on whatever you have handy.  I’ve never tried a white-wine version, but I think a substitution would be easy to do.  The real winning point of this recipe, I think, is that the wine is sweetened naturally, with fruit juice, and isn’t messed with too much.  You also don’t have to use a very expensive bottle of wine here—just something drinkable, definitely under $10.

Like any good summer recipe, this one actually tastes better if you make it ahead of time. Sangria looks beautiful in a pitcher for a party, but will also keep in the fridge for a few days—not too long, though, or the fruit will go soft.  Really, you shouldn’t have that problem because this stuff is a little bit addictive anyway.  Enjoy!

SUMMER SANGRIA

1 bottle dry red wine (cabernet sauvignon or merlot) wine bottle necks

½ pineapple*

2-3 oranges (blood oranges are particularly nice if you can find them)

2 limes

1 lemon

various sliced fruit: peaches, apples, strawberries

one of the following: a citrus liquor (Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec), Peach schnapps or peach nectar

Pour wine into a pitcher.  Cube pineapple (if using whole) and add to wine.  Squeeze juice from pineapple rind (or pour from container) into wine mixture.  Squeeze the juices from 1 orange, limes, and lemons into the wine mix.
Make segments from remaining oranges and add, along with other sliced fruit, to the sangria.  Stir in a generous glug of liquor or fruit nectar.
Refrigerate until serving.  Be sure to portion a generous heap of wine-soaked fruit into each glass!  Enjoy.

sangria with pitcher 3
* If cutting a pineapple sounds like too much work, look in the refrigerated case of the produce section of your supermarket for pre-cubed pineapple.  Of course, buying a pineapple whole & cubing it yourself is much thriftier, but whatever you do, please don’t use canned!  Bleck!

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STRAWBERRY-BASIL MARGARITAS

STRAWBERRY-BASIL MARGARITAS straw-basil rita

To continue our ode to the summer strawberry season, and in celebration of the upcoming long weekend, we present you with a cocktail. Naturally!

There’s a fun neighborhood bar here in Houston called The Volcano, and in addition to its rockin’ patio and we’re-not-sure-if-it’s-ironic-or-not-Polynesian décor, The Volcano features delicious cocktails like frozen screwdrivers, Mt. Lychees, and strawberry-basil margaritas.

Strawberry-basil margaritas?  Oh yes oh yes oh yes.

Perhaps you think the strawberry-basil combination sounds like a strange one for a cocktail.  Believe me, I was a skeptic at first myself.  Normally I am not a fan of super-fruity drinks, and I really didn’t know how I felt about a strong herb like basil in my cocktail.  But now, I am a convert.  The grassy, clean flavor of the basil cuts right through what could be an overly-sweet strawberry drink.  Throw in some fresh lime juice & Cointreau, then welcome to happy hour!

My interpretation of The Volcano’s drink involves a strawberry simple-syrup, which infuses strong strawberry flavor and a gorgeous pink color.  You can easily make the syrup ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you’re ready for cocktails; this is also pitcher-friendly, so it’s great for a crowd.

If you’re not crazy about tequila, go ahead and swap in vodka–viola, a strawberry-basil martini!

straw-basil rita up close

No matter what you decide to drink this Memorial Day weekend, I would like to propose a two-part toast:

One = We are headed to Dallas on Sunday for the wedding of my friend Shining.  He and I were classmates at Rice, now he’s about to be a doctor, and his future wife Tricia is an amazing pianist/engineer/foodie.  I’m so excited about their wedding not only because it’s going to be a mini-reunion with some of my favorite people, but also because the happy couple really are a happy couple.  They are so great together, bring out the best in each other, & their love is infectious.  Congratulations in advance, you two!  A toast in your honor–I’m certain there will be many more come Sunday.

shiningtricia
Two = I’ve been doing my best to remind my students and myself just *why* we are off school on Monday.  Grateful as we all are for the three-day weekend, I know it’s much more important to be grateful to the men and women whose service we memorialize and to those whose service continues still.  It’s a reminder which really resonates this year with our school community, as our beloved Middle School Dean Tony is training in D.C. for his upcoming deployment to Iraq.  We honor you, Tony, and look forward to having you back with us in the spring.  Cheers & Godspeed!

STRAWBERRY-BASIL MARGARITAS
makes 2 generous drinks
tequila macerating basil
2 oz. tequila (1 oz = a shot)

1/2 cup strawberry simple syrup*

juice of 2 limes

splash of Cointreau (substitute any other orange-flavored liquor)

2 T fresh basil, chopped roughly

extra strawberries & basil for garnish

To mix the drinks, place the basil in the bottom of a cocktail shaker (or large cup).  Pour in tequila.  Use the back of a spoon (or a fancy muddler, if you have one) to mash the basil leaves into the tequila, so as to release the flavor.  Fill the shaker with ice, then add strawberry syrup, lime juice, Cointreau.  Cover and shake, then strain out into glasses.  Garnish with sliced strawberries and a chiffonade of basil.

To make the strawberry simple syrup:

strawberry simple syrup one 1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4-5 strawberries, sliced

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the strawberries look exhausted.  Cool the syrup, then strain the liquid through a sieve, pressing the strawberries firmly to extract all liquid.  Store in a bottle or jar in the fridge–will keep for up to 2 months.

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BLUE JEAN GOURMET IS BORN!

Salud! L’Chaim! Cheers!  cheers-bright-light1

Welcome, welcome, welcome—whether you are an avid foodie, beginning cook, food-blog enthusiast, or just here for the pretty pictures, I hope you’ll find Blue Jean Gourmet to be a fun, un-intimidating resource for really good food and straightforward kitchen advice.  Please make yourself at home.

We’re launching today on Cinco de Mayo–I can’t think of a better occasion!  What other holiday gives me an excuse (not like I need one) to whip up a batch of guacamole and a blender-full of margaritas?  I’m so excited to share these two recipes with you as they are the perfect encapsulation of what the Blue Jean Gourmet philosophy is all about: really good food does not have to be really fussy.  Both of these recipes are a cinch to make with quality ingredients and a little practice.  Sure, pre-prepared guacamole and bottled margarita mix are readily available, but neither can hold a candle to their homemade counterparts.   You’ll wow everyone (including yourself) and never go back to the packaged stuff.

I also love these recipes because they literally tell the story of how I ended up here in the first place.  You see, long ago my newlywed parents worked at a Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee.  My father was the manager, my mom a bartender–I really love the fact that my Indian immigrant mother used to tend bar in a Mexican restaurant in the deep South–only in America, right?

Mom’s good looks earned her many tips and opportunities to hone her margarita-making skills, and my father continued to work for Pancho’s for many years, cementing my family’s love affair with all things Tex-Mex.  When I make my own version of these recipes now, I feel I have earned my place in my family’s rich, weird culinary history.

Since Blue Jean Gourmet is just now making its way into the web-world, please check back periodically for added features and new posts.  You can also follow BJG on Twitter, become a BJG fan on Facebook, or use good-old-fashioned email to contact the Blue Jean Gourmet herself (that’s me!): bluejeangourmet (at) gmail (dot) com.  I’d love to have your thoughts and feedback: is there a food item you would like to see featured?  Cooking technique you want to master?  Let me know and I will do my best to help you out.

In the meantime, invite some friends over and give these recipes a whirl.  You can make Cinco de Mayo last all week!

MEMPHIS MARGARITAS

a well-stocked liquor cabinet

Makes 4 generous servings, doubles well!

8 oz (1 cup) fresh-squeezed lime juice (trust me, it’s worth the trouble)
juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup tequila (the better the quality, the better the margarita)
1/4 cup Cointreau or other orange liquor (Triple Sec, Grand Marnier)
2 T Minute Maid frozen limeade (more if you prefer a sweeter drink)*

Frozen margaritas–Fill a blender with 3 cups of ice.  Pour in liquid ingredients; blend, serve.
Margaritas on the rocks–Stir liquid ingredients together in a pitcher; serve over ice.
To salt glasses–Rub the rim of an empty glass with a lime wedge.  Pour 2 T kosher salt (looks pretty, but regular will do just fine) onto a small plate.  Turn glass upside down and, using a rocking motion, dip the rim in salt, rotating to coat the entire rim.

margarita-solo-avec-lime3

IT’S HANDY: Leftover margarita mix keeps perfectly well in a tightly-sealed jar in the fridge.  Cocktails at a moment’s notice!

* This is my mom’s genius secret ingredient–it’s cheap, keeps forever in the fridge, & saves you from having to make simple syrup.

GUACAMOLE

3 ripe avocados*
juice of 1 limeguacamole-serving-bowl
2 small cloves or 1 large clove garlic (less if you aren’t a fanatic like me)
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)
salt
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

First, sprinkle the garlic with a generous pinch of salt.  Using a knife with a wide blade, chop the garlic with the salt at an angle, making a kind of paste–mince the garlic, then smush it with the back of the knife, go back to mincing, etc.

Transfer the garlic/salt paste to a bowl with the onion, jalapeño (if using), and lime juice.  Muddle these ingredients together with a fork.  Next, halve the avocados, removing the seeds and scooping out the flesh with a spoon.  Add the avocados to the lime juice mixture and smash the halves with the back of a fork until the desired texture is reached (I like mine a little chunky).

Unless you are one of those people who think cilantro tastes like soap (and if you are, I feel sad for you), garnish with the chopped cilantro, stirring a bit of it into the mix.   Serve with blue or white corn tortilla chips.

* Okay, avocados.  Sometimes people are intimidated by them, but there’s no need!  I can offer two tricks:
1) Only buy the little, dark, bumpy Haas avocados, if you can get them.  You want fruit that gives a bit when you give it a squeeze–no mushy spots!

2) Ripen them at home on the counter using a paper bag & an apple or a banana.  Apparently, apples and bananas naturally give off gasses which conveniently help avocados to ripen.  I promise, this trick works.  Enjoy!

chips-margaritas2