Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cooking for the Weekend: Rum-Spiced Cider

Finally getting sick of all those pumpkin spice lattes and peppermint hot chocolates?  I know you are, don't lie.  As fantastic as they are, and as much as I obsess about them when they first show up each year, eventually they've run their course.  So what do you do when you've run out of warm things to drink?  Heat up some cider, throw a pat of butter on top, and settle back for some full-body heating action.  This drink will put a serious dent in a cold night.  Promise.

Rum-Spiced Cider
Adapted from Cooking for the Weekend by Michael McLaughlin

2 quarts apple cider, preferably fresh and unfiltered
⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
2 pieces cinnamon stick, each 2 inches long
12 whole cloves
12 allspice berries
2 cups dark rum or spiced rum (optional)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, sliced into 8 pats (optional)
8 long cinnamon sticks, for garnish (optional)

In a non-reactive pan, combine the cider, brown sugar, short cinnamon sticks, cloves, and allspice. Set over medium-low heat, partially cover, and slowly bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally and skimming any scum that forms on the surface.

Meanwhile, divide the rum among 8 large mugs. Drop a pat of butter and a cinnamon stick into each mug, if desired. Strain the hot cider into the mugs and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Southern Plate: Green Bean and Shoepeg Corn Casserole

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but I review cookbooks for a website called ChefTalk.  Every couple of months they send out a list of available cookbooks, and I get to fight it out with my fellow reviewers to get the most interesting cookbooks.  I always try to get something interesting (and avoid things like a Crohn's and colitis cookbook, which I'm sure isn't a bad cookbook, just not up my alley).  I was super excited that I got my first pick, for Southern Plate (which is based on a blog), which I thought would be similar to a Paula Deen cookbook.  I made some recipes out of the book, which is very nicely photographed, but unfortunately, it just felt like a let-down to me.

I really hate it when cooks write cookbooks that basically amount to throwing a bunch of canned or frozen food together.  It's a shame really, especially with today's grocery stores being so well stocked.  I just don't understand it.  This casserole probably would have been fantastic with fresh haricot verts and corn straight off the cob, but the way it's written, I just can't get past the metallic flavor of the green beans and freezing destroys the integrity of corn.  Disappointment.  The sour cream adds a nice tartness to the sauce, but I'm also not thrilled with using condensed soup.  This might be good for a harried mom trying to throw dinner together after work while the kids are tearing the house down, but it just didn't do it for me.  At least the buttery Ritz crackers on top were delicious.

Green Bean and Shoepeg Corn Casserole
From Southern Plate by Christy Jordan

½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped bell pepper
½ cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 (11-ounce) can shoepeg corn, drained
1 (11-ounce) can French-style green beans, drained
1 (11-ounce) can cream of celery soup, undiluted
1 cup sour cream
½ cup crushed Ritz crackers
4 tablespoons butter or margarine

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together except for the crackers and butter.  Place in a casserole dish.  Melt the butter in a skillet and mix with the crushed Ritz crackers.  Spread over the top of the vegetables and bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbly.