Archives for category: seasonal recipes

Local Flavor: Wintery Chicken Soup

By Tom Brooks, Director of Food & Beverage, The Essex Resort & Spa

As I write this, it’s a typical cold, wintery night in Vermont—and it’s got me thinking about a refined and sublime experience: There’s nothing quite like a deliciously satisfying (and hot) dinner while the snow is swirling outside.

One of my favorites is a steaming, piping hot chicken broth that’s clear as ice and teaming with homemade noodles, plus chicken, celery, and carrots. All you need is some crunchy Italian bread and a CD of your favorite Farucca music, and you have the ingredients for a warm, soothing night in.

Enjoy!

Classic Chicken Soup
4 quarts water
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
2 large carrots
3 long celery stalks, peeled
2 Bay leaves
1 lb. fresh dried (or frozen) noodles

Fresh Pasta
8 eggs
5 cups flour

Bring the water to a boil. Clean chicken breast under cold water, making sure to clean off all blood spots.  Put chicken into pot of boiling water, and then simmer for 2 to 3 hours, depending on the size of the breasts.  Cut peeled celery and carrots into large battonette (a little larger than a julienne cut).  Bring the water back to a boil. Take breasts out of broth and separate the meat from the bone. Discard the skin.

To make the pasta, combine the eggs and flour well-style until the dough is smooth to the touch.  Cut into flattened pieces and roll through the pasta machine on the thinnest setting, making wide noodles or thin spaghetti noodles. Cook in salted boiling water until al dente. In the other pot, bring the vegetables, chicken and chicken broth to a simmer.  When vegetables are at the desired tenderness, add noodles and serve piping hot with any favorite chopped herb. And don’t forget the crusty bread!

Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

I’ve never been much of a skier. I know, I know– born-and-bred Vermonter and not a skier? That’s tantamount to being born in California and not being much of a surfer.

For some reason, though, I’ve never seen going down the side of a mountain with two pieces of wood hooked to my feet, dodging trees at high speeds as a good time. Now the base lodge, on the other hand? That’s my idea of fun. Good conversation, a warm fireplace, plenty of friends, and of course, plenty to drink.

So I sit here wondering what kind of drink would appeal to the sophistication of skiers, be seasonally appropriate, and have a good name. Enter my right-hand man, Mark Elwell and his Aspen Mint Martini: Stoli Vanil, creme de menthe, White Godiva liqueur, and Baileys Irish Cream.

If you will remember from previous articles, Baileys is a liqueur that has been distilled and includes additives such as nuts, flowers, fruit, spices, cream, and sugar. These are great flavoring agents, but also are quite delicious on their own as aperitifs or digestifs. Baileys has been around for a long time and is a great mixer for cocktails, including martinis and coffee additives.

One of the primary ingredients in Baileys is Irish whiskey (which comes from the Celtic word usquebaugh meaning “water of life”). And what better place to make whiskey than Ireland; the oldest surviving distillery license was granted by King James I in 1608 to a distillery in there. Another marked characteristic of Ireland is its farms. Baileys relies on more than 1,500 hundred farms (and their 40,000 cows) to produce its cream. The cows are fed on four different strains of grass and are outside grazing more than nine months of the year. Through a clever process of homogenizing alcohol, Irish whiskey and cream, the products are emulsified along with some vegetable oil (to prevent separation). Baileys then adds cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, sugar and caramel to get the finished product.

This week I’ve included two recipes for you: the Aspen Mint Martini along with Water’s Homemade Baileys Irish Cream, which comes from my friend Erin Waters. It’s a pretty good recipe to make ‘your own’ Baileys. Be aware, though, that it will separate after awhile– so I recommend you only make what you’re going to use in a sitting. Both are tasty, both will warm you up after the slopes, and both are easy to make.

So, calling all ski bums! Please enjoy.

The Aspen Mint Martini
1 ½ oz. Stoli Vanil vodka
1 ½ oz. Baileys Irish Cream
¾ oz. crème de menthe
¾ oz. Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
Hershey’s syrup

Combine vodka, Baileys, crème de menthe, and Godiva in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Take a chilled cocktail glass and slowly turn while drizzling in Hershey’s syrup (creating a pattern). Strain Aspen Mint Martini into the cocktail glass. Serve garnished with chocolate shavings.

Water’s Homemade Baileys Irish Cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half & half
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tbsp. Hershey’s syrup
1 ½ tsp. instant coffee
1 ½ -2 cups Jameson Irish Whiskey (based on your tastes)

Combine ingredients in a blender until incorporated. Refrigerate and enjoy.

Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

With the birth of the year, comes the beginning of a new decade as well. In the past decade, the trends in the beverages and liquor included micro-mixology (the beverage side of micro-gastronomy), pomegranate and other exotic fruit liqueurs, and the rebirth of classic cocktails such as the Sloe Gin Fizz, Sidecar, and Brandy Alexander. This coming decade will prove to be, I think, a continuation of these themes.

We also will see significantly different cocktails that explore flavors as they relate to texture and mouth feel. The classics will continue to be replicated and improved upon with different twists. And we know that the abundance of flavors found in the world will only increase — perhaps a smoked salmon vodka served with Frangelico and Bailey’s to duplicate the classic bagel and lox? (Although I sincerely hope no one tries to do this!)

Whatever the future holds for us, I hope we will continue to rely on the classic cocktails that bring full circle the tradition and memories we enjoy. In addition to Bloody Mary, one of the most classic cocktails served on New Year’s Day is the mimosa. The name is derived from the mimosa plant, whose flowers are very yellow and appear frothy at a distance.

The standard mimosa, of course, is served with one part champagne or sparkling wine and two parts orange juice. But, as you know, I enjoy putting a little twist on things. There are many different classic ways to improve the mimosa, and all involve a little help from the spirit land. Try adding a floater of Grand Marnier, which ratchets up the alcohol content, flavor, and texture of the mimosa. Or try making a Kir, which classically is done by adding some Chambord to the top of the drink. Or you can try another rendition of the mimosa (and some say the original that was later plagiarized) called the Buck Fizz — add a little grenadine for a slight cherry flavor and a lot of color.

Or you can go completely different and prepare the following recipe, the St. Germaine Sparkling Cocktail, which I have recently fell in love with. It goes great with Sunday brunch (we recently started serving these at The Essex, and they’re a hit).

So have a safe and happy holiday, and the best to you for a wonderful 2010. Happy New Year!!

St. Germaine Sparkling Cocktail

1 part dry sparkling wine
1 part soda water
1 part St. Germaine liqueur

Combine ingredients slowly and serve in a champagne flute. Great for parties and goes well in pitchers.

Serves 6-8

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 orange, zested
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B or dark amber)
2 cups water
1-2 apples, sliced
Whipped cream

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, and nutmeg in a bowl. Blend in butter with pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork just until dough is evenly moistened. Do not over mix.

Bring syrup and water to a boil in a 4-quart pot at least 10 inches wide and lower to a simmer. Add sliced apples.

Using an ice cream scoop drop dough into syrup mixture, leaving space for dumplings to expand. Gently simmer over moderately low heat, covered, until tops of dumplings are dry to touch (15-20 minutes). Serve warm.

Garnish with whipped cream.

Tarragon Corn Chowder
Yields: 1 quart

1 potato, par-boiled
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup Spanish onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2-3 sprigs fresh tarragon
Pinch Salt
Pinch Pepper
¼ cup white wine
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen or fresh corn

Place the diced potato in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a separate pot, fry the bacon on medium heat, stirring constantly.
Add the onion and celery, cooking until transparent.
Add the fresh tarragon, salt, and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds.
Add the white wine and reduce about 3 minutes.
Add the butter.
When butter is melted, add the flour to make the roux.
Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and mix thoroughly.
NOTE: Stir constantly and keep at medium heat to prevent soup from burning.
Add the other 2 cups of the stock, the corn, and the par-boiled potato.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Courtesy of Butler’s Restauarant & Tavern at The Essex Resort & Spa, a proud Partner in Education with New England Culinary Restaurant.

Written by Chris Benjamin, food and beverage director at The Essex.

Of all the holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite. It’s the one holiday that isn’t over- marketed. It doesn’t require spending gobs of money, and it still holds it original purpose– taking time to reflect on the year and giving thanks for the many blessings we receive in our life.

It’s amazing how difficult it is to find the time to appreciate all the good things that happen in our lives, especially when the concerns of the world, economy, war and everyday struggles bare their full weight on our shoulders.

At Thanksgiving, appreciate not only the bountiful food and beverages that laden the table but the friends and family that you love and hold dear.

Every year just before dinner, we stand in a circle as a family and say one thing for which we are grateful. This year I would have to say that I’m grateful for not only my wonderful wife and two kids, but for the opportunity to share my recipe and thoughts with all of my loyal readers. I appreciate the encouragement, the compliments, and the questions that I receive from all of you, and look forward to continuing to bring you trendy concoctions.

In the meantime– for this week’s selection, I wanted to find something with mass appeal, that works as an aperitif before dinner, and is seasonally appropriate, and while I’m sure there’s a pumpkin martini recipe out there somewhere, the other fruit that comes to mind this time of year is the cranberry.

Sweet, tart and easy-to-come-by, these little flavor bombs are just the thing to drink before dinner. It will awaken the palate and get you ready for a sumptuous feast.

My best wishes for a very safe and satisfying Thanksgiving to you and all of your loved ones.

Cranberry Margarita

2 oz. tequila (try Patron Silver)
½ oz. Cointreau
⅛ cup frozen cranberries, rinsed
2 tablespoons sugar
Splash of lime juice
2-3 oz. cranberry juice
Ice

Combine ingredients in a blender and puree. In a shallow bread plate, mound some sugar. Using a lime, rim the edge of a cocktail glass or Collins glass and dip glass into the sugar. Fill with cranberry margarita, garnish with lime wedge. Sip and enjoy!

SmoresMartini

By Chris Benjamin. Benjamin, director of food and beverage, The Essex Resort & Spa

The holiday season is right around the corner, so here are some tips on stocking the home bar if you’re entertaining family and friends this year. If you’ve been creating the recipes in my recent columns, you’re certainly on the right track to building the perfect entertainment bar. There are certainly some things that every bar should have, so you can cater to most folks’ tastes:

1) Have the liquor basics.

Basic white liquors:

  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Tequila
  • Triple sec

(You can also add dry and sweet vermouth for the martini and Manhattan drinkers).

With these base liquors and the right mixers, you can pretty much accomplish anything you need and most of the regular drinks friends will request.

Brown liquors:

  • Scotch
  • Bourbon
  • Whiskey

This should satisfy the requests of those pesky uncles or father-in-laws (my father-in-law is a big fan of Old-Fashioneds).

In terms of liqueurs, look for flavoring agents that also will serve as an after-dinner drink. Cream cordials, like Baileys, and chocolate-flavored liqueurs, such as Kahlua, are good mixes to have as they allow versatility for sweeter, cream-based drinks. They’re also are excellent flavoring agents for the after-dinner coffee or digestif.

2) “Well” vs. “Call”

I’m frequently asked which liquors are must-have (“call”) and which you can skimp on (“well”). Truth is, it really depends on the crowd, with a couple of exceptions.

Rum and tequila are almost exclusively used in blended drinks, so you can almost always go bottom-of-the-barrel with them.

Vodka and gin drinkers, on the other hand, tend to be very particular. If you’re making a basic punch, use the “well” version. For martinis, go with something better like Absolut, Ketel One, or the crème de la crème, Grey Goose.

Gin is very similar as most people like it with tonic. Use Bombay, Beefeater, or my personal favorite, Tanqueray.

Triple sec is mostly used as blending, so “well” is fine. Vermouth, too.

When it comes to Bourbon, Whiskey and Scotch, every person has a different taste. Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are safe Bourbon choices; it helps to have some Canadian LTD or Canadian Club around for anyone who has relatives from the north, eh?

For the Scotch drinker, it’s best to get a middle-of-the-road line like a Glenfiddich or Glenlivet, but be warned that Scotch drinkers are the hardest to please because the brands are so varied.

When it comes to cordials, you can get away with the lower-end stuff such as Kamora (for Kahlua). I’d stick with Baileys or Frangelico, though, if possible– the imitations are pretty poor.

3) Mixers

Some basic things will take care of your entertainment needs. Coke, Sprite and ginger ale are good soda choices. Grab some orange juice and cranberry juice (and pineapple, if you’re going all out), some half and half for cream drinks, and a few lemons and limes for garnish.

Keep in mind that you probably have some great garnishes in your kitchen already– chocolate syrup is great in White Russians and Mudslides, maple syrup can be used in tons of coffee drinks drizzled over whipped cream, sugar is great for rimming martini glasses and for muddling, salt is crucial for margaritas, and maraschino cherries work well for Manhattans and as garnishes on tropical drinks.

4) The tools of the trade

You don’t need a whole array of different tools here. A good pint glass and plastic keg cup work well for shaken drinks. A strainer is important for martinis. (If you’re more advanced, you can just hold the keg cup and pint glass horizontally to your drink glass, and make a small gap between the two to allow the drink to come out).

Use a channel knife for twists, but a paring knife can work, too. In terms of glassware, martini glasses are a must-have. Any sized tumbler should work for mixed drinks, and you should have at least a few small rocks glass on hand.

5) Have fun.

Bartending isn’t just about mixing the drinks, it’s also about the show that you put on. When shaking a drink, hold it high. Flip some glasses around if you can, and remember to interact with your guests. Cocktails taste a lot better when served with flourish, fun and a smile. I’ve included a recipe this week that’s pretty tasty, easy to make, and will appeal to a broad audience.

Enjoy!

S’MORETINI

Ingredients:

1 ¼ ounces vodka (the better the vodka the better the drink)
¾ ounces Dark Chocolate Godiva Liqueur (or any dark-chocolate flavored agent)
¾  ounces Navan Vanilla flavored Cognac
¾ ounces Toasted Marshmallow Syrup (you can find this in many coffee shops)
Chocolate syrup
Crushed graham crackers
Mini marshmallows

Directions:

Combine vodka, Godiva, Navan and syrup in a pint glass filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Rim a martini glass with chocolate syrup. Add the graham cracker crumbles to a small plate and dunk the rim of your glass into the crumbles. Strain the drink into the glass and garnish with mini marshmallows. Sip and enjoy.

BolsRemyDrink

by Chris Benjamin, Food & Beverage Director, The Essex Resort & Spa

“All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac!” These were the inaugural words spoken to me on my first of many adventures with Cognac, one of the finest brandies available on the market.

One of my greatest friends introduced me to this wonderful liquor after a round of golf. “Yak”, as it is sometimes nicknamed, is a fitting beverage after a great meal or after some time spent outdoors, as it warms the insides and is also a great way to promote digestion. Cognac, named for a small, French town near Bordeaux, is the crème de la crème of brandies (and is derived from the Dutch word brandewijn, meaning “burnt wine”). It is made from distilling grape juice, and it is classified as an eau-de-vie (“water of life”), since it is processed through the primary fermentation of grape juice and then through the distillation of the byproduct.

The secret is in the soil, which requires rich deposits of chalk– the more the better. The region around Cognac, and around its neighbor Armagnac to the south, has this key ingredient. The finest brandies are classified based on the region in which the grapes are grown, and the center of the region around Cognac — Grande Champagne — is the best.

They say that Cognac is the finest brandy, but those who appreciate a glass will fall in love with Armagnac. In my opinion, Cognac is smoother and more majestic, but Armagnac has the soul of the beverage with heftier smoke, more aggressive flavors, and a ruggedness that Cognac lacks.

The second secret to success is the amount of time spent in oak. The longer the aging time, the richer and more complex the flavors. Very Superior (VS) Cognacs spend a minimum of two years in oak (though most average four to five years) while Very Superior Old Pale (VSOP) is the next level up, with greater depth of flavors and smokiness, spending a minimum of four years in wood (though industry average is between 10-15).

Extra Old (XO) will probably break most people’s banks, but it is certainly worth the experience. These brandies age for over six years (though industry average is 20 years) and tend to be the most elegant and noteworthy. For those of you who remember the movie Cocktail, when Tom Cruise’s character and his buddy make a bet over a girl, the prize is a bottle of Louis XIII, one of the most expensive Cognacs produced today (complete with a $100 Baccarat Crystal bottle!)

Cognac can be an acquired taste. So to cut down the “burn”, and to make it more accessible to a wider audience, bartenders created the Brandy Alexander. I certainly wouldn’t waste a good XO on this, but the better the Cognac the smoother the flavor.

Brandy Alexanders incorporate crème de cacao (chocolate liqueur), which is a timeless flavor combination. During the holidays, it was a tradition to make truffles containing brandy and a cherry (these have degenerated into “chocolate-covered cherries”). The Brandy Alexander is making a strong comeback — as are many classic cocktails these days — and this one has a slight twist. Just remember the nickname “Yak” when imbibing– this is a drink truly enjoyed in moderation.

The Tavern Brandy Alexander
1 1/2 oz. Cognac
1/2 oz. crème de cacao
6 oz. heavy cream
1/4 oz. Navan Vanilla Cognac

Mix and enjoy.

coffee

by Chris Benjamin, Food & Beverage Director, The Essex Resort & Spa

Autumn has certainly come in and taken over our world, a prelude to the next longer season ahead. Seems like every day it’s 54 degrees, raining, and windy. The leaves are falling, and old man winter draws ever nearer.

It’s dreary days like these that make me seek out those comfort items that we keep around to lighten our mood and hearts; for some it might be a favorite sweater; others look for a place near the wood stove and a good book; still others might look towards a great comfort meal that was once a favorite as kids (mine happens to be my Dad’s Chicken a la King).  But for others, there’s nothing like having a solid cocktail in their hand.

I’m sure ‘Cork Dork’ Jason Zuliani might argue that a glass of wine is what’s needed, but to many folks in Vermont one of the most comforting beverages is coffee.  Warming on the inside, coffee in moderate amounts is also very healthy, recently linked to reducing the risk of colon cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and cavities (if you go sans-sugar).  Of course any beverage can be improved upon, in my opinion, with a little love from some distilled spirits, and liqueurs are the best marriage of flavors.

Liqueurs can be defined as any spirit (usually but not always low in alcohol) that are strongly flavored with either fruit, herbs or nuts and have higher than normal sugar levels (thus the lower alcohol).  Originally intended to be drunk after dinner as a digestif, these spirits are an ideal match for coffee as flavoring agents.  Examples of these types of liqueurs are wide and varied, and most have some an ancient, special recipe that’s been handed down for centuries (The Colonel’s seven herbs & spices has nothing on these guys).

One such liqueur is Grand Marnier, created by Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle in 1880.  It’s a blend of Cognac (more on this next week) and Citrus Bigaradia, a special orange hailing from the Caribbean.  It’s also one of the ingredients you’ll find in the Essex Warmer, this week’s featured cocktail.  While you’ll only find this at The Essex Resort & Spa, most restaurants carry their own specialty on their dessert menus, so take a look the next time you’re out.

I recommend sipping The Essex Warmer on the porch on a day like today, watching the leaves fall, or hosting friends for a celebration. While you can skimp and get cheaper liqueurs, I don’t recommend it.  The generics utilize more high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings than the real stuff, thus why they tend to be cheaper.

Enjoy.

The Essex Warmer
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
3/4 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
3/4 oz Kahlua
6-8 oz Your favorite coffee (6 oz if you want to really taste the liqueur, 8 oz if you’re looking for the sneak attack).

Combine all the ingredients.  Top with whip cream and garnish with three coffee beans (this is traditionally done in Italy with sambuca drinks. The beans represent health, wealth and happiness).

Jeff Baker, Beer & Wine Manager of the Winooski Beverage Warehouse came in to The Essex to interview Chris Benjamin, Food & Beverage Director for The Tavern and Butler’s Restaurant about featured brews in the two restaurants!

The Essex staff tries to create worldly, yet local tastes throughout their overall culinary experiences by pairing specific culinary creations with the world-class brews and wines of course.  Although food pairings are most often associated with different wines— beer and food pairings are really quite a treat and will shock your taste buds in delight!

Click below to read Jeff Baker’s blog on his experience at The Essex, other stories of micro-brews, fine wines and Vermont beverage news!

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