The Best Sidecar Cocktail

In honor of Dave’s 40th birthday (ahem…several years ago…), I threw a 1940s-themed party. We have both always been fascinated by the history of that time so this was a fun way to focus on the romance of those days. I found an old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook from the ’40s on eBay and began to research popular party food, and Dave started researching cocktails to select what would be the “signature” drink of the evening. It was a festive evening in mid-April, complete with about 2 feet of new snow that we’ll never forget. Last minute, we hired a couple of my brother’s friends (who were in high school) to be our valets so that when our guests arrived all done up on 1940s couture, they didn’t have to tramp down the street through heavy snow to our door. It was a great scene with ladies in their hats and furs, vintage lace dresses, velvet, and brown silk, feathers and beads, “sailors” just off the boat from the war, to dandies in their fedoras looking for the single ladies in the room, and even a star appearance by “Indiana Jones” (a.k.a. my dad; complete with bull whip). Dave wore a Bogart-esque white dinner jacket and was well-celebrated that night.

It was also the beginning of a Sidecar fascination, as Dave had selected a Champagne Sidecar as the signature cocktail of the evening. Through the years, though I must admit we are mostly wine-focused, Dave would fiddle with Sidecar recipes. Yet he never found one that stuck… Until a few months ago when we had occasion to revisit food and drink history again with friends (this time, Christmas of 1926 in North Yorkshire), over a Downton Abbey dinner. Leading up to the big night, I was “made” to sip Sidecars for final research purposes. Dave had been doing his own research online and found that he wasn’t the only one with the quest for the best Sidecar recipe. See this link for a fun read and background. Don’t you love when someone does full research for you and has all the resources (bars) of New York City? The proof was in the pudding, so to speak. Our guests came, they drank, and they said, “please sir, I want some more.” And since then, it has been a drink for weekend nights at home and has stirred in us (haha, did ya catch that?) a desire to bring back more classics to our cocktail glasses.

 The Best Sidecar Cocktail

recipe adapted by David Kunstle from Pouring Ribbons in NYC

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Pierre Ferrand Cognac for the brandy
  • 1 part Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao (though Cointreau works well too) for the orange liqueur
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice, Meyer lemons create the most delicious version of this cocktail
  • 1-2 tsp. simple syrup made with Demerara or Turbinado sugar; recipe here
  • 1 twist (how to here) and any fresh garnish you desire (go for something seasonal)

Preparation:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine brandy, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. If you use the juice from Meyer lemons, consider going a bit lighter on the simple syrup to keep this from being too sweet. Shake over ice, and strain into cocktail glass. No sugar rim wanted or needed here — the touch of simple syrup does the job seamlessly.
  2. Garnish with a twist from the lemon and something lovely…fresh rosemary sprig, just-picked lavender, thyme sprig, an edible flower…whatever makes you happy! Cheers!

 

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Oatmeal & Dark Chocolate Chip Scones

This is a riff on the Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Scones recipe I shared a couple of years ago, with a  couple of adjustments like less butter and the addition of dark chocolate. Win-win! We’re technically on the brink of spring time, although we’ve had such warm weather lately, if you weren’t a CO native, you could almost forget that we’ll still have plenty of cooler weather before we’re begging for mercy in May and into June. So I’m sharing this recipe for those rainy (snowy?) days that are still in our future. I refuse to let weather ruin a day, it’s more fun to embrace it and so I bake when it’s too cold and wet to venture out. More accurately, when I have ventured out into the cold for a hike with friends or errands, it’s so nice to come home and stir together a few ingredients and enjoy the delicious aroma as these scones bake and the oven warms the kitchen. Finally, the gift is to sit down to a cup of tea and freshly baked scone. Welcome, Spring!

Oatmeal & Dark Chocolate Chip Scones

adapted by Stephanie Kunstle from the “Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Scones” recipe in Bread for Breakfast by Beth Hensperger

Note: All you need is a large mixing bowl, and a light hand. Scone dough should be handled gently, so don’t muscle this together. You want light and airy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 and 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup mounded dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in the butter and olive oil until the mixture has the texture of soft crumbs with pea sized or smaller lumps. Add the oatmeal and dark chocolate, and toss to combine.
  3. Stir in the buttermilk until dough forms a soft, shaggy ball, adding more buttermilk a tablespoon at a time if you need a bit more moisture.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a clean and floured work surface, knead gently about 10 times, or just until dough holds together. Pat out the dough into a rectangle (9 inches wide, 12 inches long) no less than 1 inch thick. Cut with a sharp knife or pastry wheel to form 12 squares (3 cuts across and 4 cuts down).
  5. Place the scones 1/2 inch apart on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Give each scone a  sprinkle of turbinado sugar for a little sparkle and touch of sweetness. Bake on center rack of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the pan from the oven and cool to the desired temperature on the baking sheet (for me that means I wait, oh, maybe 2 minutes). Serve hot, warm or room temperature!

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Rosemary Saffron Aioli

This all began when Dave brought home some ground lamb to cook over the fire pit in the back yard a couple of weeks ago. He had volunteered to make dinner (he’d caught wind that I was probably going to offer up scrambled eggs and toast), and so when he returned from the store, he only had one small request — could I just make a simple rosemary aioli? Commence my eyes rolling into the back of my head. Does every exhausted spouse only have to make aioli? But he’s maybe just a little spoiled when it comes to menu requests, and I’m a total sucker for trying something new in the kitchen. At least we all know what we are.

He set to work making killer lamb burgers, and I started an aioli search on the web to see what I could find. I quickly narrowed it down to a recipe from Ina Garten — I fully agree with her philosophy of using good ingredients and letting them shine in her recipes. Of course, I needed to make my aioli with rosemary, but I loved her idea of using saffron. Aioli calls for raw egg yolks, which I’m all for, except, I’ve been having “issues” with undercooked eggs lately. SO SAD. I couldn’t just leave them out though. It wouldn’t be aioli without the rich, fatty, creaminess that an egg yolk offers. And that’s when I decided to pull out the labneh. That was the absolute trick. Suddenly, I had THE aioli. Huge flavor, super creamy, and no tummy aches. It was so delicious over the lamb burgers… and a couple of days later, we had to find a reason to use up the leftovers, so we grilled portobellos, zucchini, onions, and halloumi and slathered the aioli over that. Amazing. We repeated that one again over this past weekend, but with gorgonzola this time (that was another win), always topping these with fresh arugula. Which brings me to yesterday. Wild caught King Salmon was fresh off the boat (and in our land-locked case, airplane) and I had visions of the salmon broiled together with veggies, on a brioche bun, with lots aioli.  So, I am sharing this with you and I’m telling you, GO MAKE THIS NOW. And then over the course of the week, tell me how else you used your aioli!

rosemarysaffronaioli

Rosemary Saffron Aioli

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s “Fingerling Potatoes and Aioli,” by Stephanie Kunstle

Notes: With regards to Ina’s recipe, I obviously added rosemary, and doubled the lemon zest, and used much less olive oil…. Love Ina, but I think this is the flavor and texture you want to complete your aioli happiness. If you want to replicate this sandwich, I used 6 0z. salmon filets, rubbed in olive oil and salted, then broiled on high about 6 inches from the broiler for 5 minutes. I also broiled zucchini sliced thick (about 1/2 inch) and sliced red onion for about 7-8 minutes (both tossed beforehand in olive oil and salt). Just put them all on a big baking sheet, and pull the salmon out at 5 minutes and continue the veggies for a bit longer, checking to make sure they don’t burn to a crisp!

Ingredients:

  • 1 mounded cup of torn white bread pieces, crust removed (great use for a day or several day old boule)
  • 2 Tbsp. Champagne or white wine vinegar (I’ve used Cava and Sauternes vinegars)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary leaves, roughly chopped (about 1 and 1/2 Tbsp after chopping)
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 heaping Tbsp. labneh, or if you can’t find labneh, try substituting a plain, whole milk Greek yogurt (it must be a strained yogurt, like Greek yogurt, or it will have too much liquid)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper (I just do 8 cracks on the pepper mill and call it good)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Tear the bread into small pieces, place in a small bowl, and pour the vinegar over it. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, rosemary, saffron, lemon zest, lemon juice, Labneh, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor (I use a mini-prep size, but if you have a big processor, use the smallest bowl available). Add the bread that has been soaked for 5 minutes, and puree into a paste. Pour in the extra virgin olive oil and process until the aioli is smooth has the consistency of a thick sour cream.
  3. Now…. use this as a spread or dip for just about anything! Ok, maybe not for chocolate chip cookies, but you hear me. And then, would you please-o-please-o leave a comment about what you did with it? I have so many sneaky readers, but I love hearing your cooking stories, so share if you have a moment. Thanks, friends!

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