Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 New Years Cocktail - The White Squirrel

OK, every year for the last several years, my spouse and I have rung in the new year with our dear friends, M and D. About 3 years ago we started including another couple, B and R.  The six of us have season tickets to a local theater company, and always attend a Sunday matinee together then head out for a dinner somewhere afterward.

So the six of us do this collaborative 5-course dinner for New Years Eve. This year I am responsible for the cocktail, the soup course and the seafood course.

The cocktail always poses a quandary, these dinners are an endurance event, wine with each course so you can't get too liquored up during appetizers or  you won't be able to enjoy the rest of dinner!  Let's just say, it's happened.  SO. I want to make something in the Cosmo-family of cocktails but not quite so boozy as a Cosmo - which are usually mixed with mostly vodka and cranberry juice dribbled in for color.

I thought I would make a sweet clear cocktail using Citrus infused Vodka (I used Burnett's, which is a middle shelf brand), DeKuyper's Triple Sec, and WHITE Cranberry juice (which is mostly white grape juice when you read the label)

We have had an unusual resident in our yard this fall and winter.  He/She is a White Squirrel!  Have you ever seen one?  He doesn't seem to be albino, because he's got black eyes and a black snout.  He's been hanging out here since late fall.  He's a beautiful squirrel, we call him Whitey - being really creative people as we are, so this cocktail is in his honor.

I tried this first without lemon juice because I wanted a totally clear cocktail, but it was too sweet. So I added the lemon juice to cut through the sweetness, and it works!  The lemon juice makes it slightly cloudy, but the taste is there, so that's the main thing.


2 oz Citrus Infused Vodka (Burnett's Citrus)
1 1/2 oz White Cranberry Juice
3/4 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Thyme Simple Syrup*
1/4 oz lemon juice

Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice, shake, pour into a martini glass or coupe. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

*Recipe for Thyme Simple Syrup

In a small saucepan, bring to a boil and dissolve:
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water

When it comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat, add 6 to 8 sprigs of thyme and steep for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and cool.  Use in whatever you want.  It's great in iced tea, lemonade and sparkling water!  It keeps in the fridge indefinitely.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Clark's Ham Potato Corn Chowder

Long time, no post.  I'll try to fix that this year.

This is something to do with leftover ham from Christmas.  It relies on a LOT of convenience items (condensed soups) that I don't use a lot.  These Cream of Whatever soups are fantastic shortcuts in the kitchen, but they tend to be a little heavy on sodium and bland - so you really need to add your own flavors to make the dish special.  

In a large skillet or sauce pan:
2 tbls butter

Add to the pot, and saute, until onions and celery are translucent:
2 medium onions, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced or shredded
1/2 cup celery, diced

Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender
3 cups potatoes, diced
4 cups chicken broth

1 can, Campbells Cream of Celery Soup
1 can, Campbells Cheddar Cheese Soup
2 - 3 cups diced ham
1 can of creamed corn

Simmer for another 10 minutes, and the chowder is ready to serve.  However, if your are feeling extravagant, and want to really bump up the comfort-and-joy you can add:
1 cup of heavy cream (optional)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Best enjoyed with some sourdough bread!