Monday, September 22, 2014

OMG a Recipe: Adventures in Cocktail Garnishes

Summer, we just CAN'T QUIT YOU. And why should we? It's still lovely outside. The heat has finally calmed to a comfortable warmth, but with just enough coolness in the evening to warrant a cozy blanket while we watch the stars come out. While I've done the typical avoidance of a hot stove/oven for the last few months, it gives me ample time to get my Cocktail-Fu on -- the Way of the Drank. So let's get it on like Donkey Kong, we need to savor these warm Day Drinking afternoons while we can!

The Orange Lady Marmalade - or whatever I'm calling it today - Photo by Wasabi Prime

My cocktail experiments started out as I was working on a recipe development project with local food artisans, Simple and Crisp. I was introduced to Simple and Crisp's product line a couple of years ago through the food event, Seattle Wine and Food Experience, and I've been pleased to see them at local stores like PCC, Whole Foods and Eat Local, along with being able to purchase their products on their website. They take paper-thin slices of fruit (apple, pear, oranges) and dry them until they're crisp like a cracker. It's gluten-free and the drying process makes it easier for some friends of mine with health issues to digest it, even more than raw fruit. It's so amazing how much the flavor of a fruit gets concentrated when they're dried. Sure, you can get dried fruit snacks anywhere, but look at the ingredient list, and they're often coated with additives, preservatives and just extra weird stuff that no one needs. Look at the ingredients on the back of a Simple and Crisp package: whatever fruit you see, and some organic cane sugar to balance out the flavor. That's it, yo. You don't need anything else.

Food and drink inspiration - Simple and Crisp goodness - Photo by Wasabi Prime
My recipe project was to come up with a dish that incorporated Simple and Crisp's products. Typically, they're used like crackers -- a quick swipe of a soft, fresh cheese, maybe some smoked salmon on top -- BOOM, it's a perfect appetizer. They are ideal for drink garnishes (more on that in a little bit), but I wanted to make something that really incorporated them into a dish. I'd used the pear and apple crisps as croutons for salads, which are perfect gluten-free crispy bits to mix with your greens. I put together a cold noodle Asian salad for Simple and Crisp's online journal of recipes and ideas -- you can get the recipe here. I loved working on that project, it had me breaking the crisps apart, trying them with different ingredients, and utilizing their flavor and texture to prove that they're not just a pretty face, they're a workhorse of an ingredient.

Cold noodle Asian salad using Simple and Crisp flavors and textures - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Since then, I tend to use the apple and pear crisps for salads, but the orange crisps are trickier. The flavor is so concentrated, it's not necessarily something I'd eat like a cracker, but I've found it's great to mix into things, like ice cream. If you're making a plain vanilla ice cream, smash up the orange crisps and mix it in to make it a pretty orange creamsicle dessert. I've been making batches of a vanilla ice cream base, with cardamom pods steeped and then strained out, then as it cools, I throw in crushed orange crisps, which add both texture and flavor to the ice cream. Vanilla + Orange + Cardamom = JOY.

Making cocktails pretty - Photos by Wasabi Prime
But on to business: cocktail time! You can't deny the visual appeal of these things. And I was playing with ingredients like orange marmalade because I had made a big batch of the stuff and had plenty to spare. I concocted a spiced orange cocktail using chai-infused vodka, Lillet, orange marmalade, and bitters to balance it out. I love the look of a frothy egg white, and it would guarantee a good surface area to rest a slice of dried blood orange atop as a garnish, so that's basically where this Spiced Orange/Lady Marmalade/I Don't Really Name My Drinks cocktail came about.

Recipe for the Orange Drink With Too Many Names:
1 oz chai-infused vodka (can buy it pre-infused or just infuse your own at home)
1 oz Lillet
2 oz simple syrup
1 heaping spoonful of orange marmalade (about a tablespoon)
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 egg white
1 Simple and Crisp Blood Orange wheel or regular Orange for garnish

Place all ingredients except for the garnish into a cocktail shaker with ice. Seal well and shake vigorously, like your life depends on it, for 30+ seconds to emulsify the egg white into a thick foam. Double-strain into a martini glass. Let the egg white foam rise to the top, and then place the crisp as garnish. Feel like a fancypants and enjoy your fancydrink.

Drink garnishes are tricky and seasonal - just use Simple and Crisp's goods - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Summer Day Drinking is the best. Half the enjoyment is making something pretty to look at, and it all comes down to the garnish with some drinks -- when my mint plant dies, what am I left with?! Dried fruit crisps will be my cocktail garnish savior in the cold months because my attempts at drawing designs with bitters in egg foam are AN EFFING NIGHTMARE. Earlier experiments with the orange marmalade drink yielded some horrifying My Bloody Valentine-looking foam art.

And so I leave you with these cocktail wishes and summer dreams for two weeks. I'm actually taking next week off from blogging, as the Wasabi Mom is in town - yaaay! Yes, that's a genuine yaaaay -- haven't seen family in a long while, and am overdue for some quality time. But fear not, I shall return with more food shenanigans!

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