What I Drink: Apple & Quince Sparkler

Today on Kitchen Konfidence, we’re once again getting boozy.

Apple and Quince Sparkler The Ginger Snap cocktail that I shared last week is for all your Holiday parties.  This Apple & Quince Sparkler is for New Year’s Eve.  It’s light, crisp, seasonal and 100% fabulous.  It’s also the next signature cocktail in the What I Drink series, a spirited collaboration between me, Brian from A Thought For Food, and Vijay from Noshon.It.

The last time we got together, the three of us shared our go-to cocktails, including an Old Fashioned (made with Vanilla Sugar), a 1794 Cocktail, and a Blackberry Gin and Tonic.  Today, we’re sharing a number of alcoholic beverages perfect for a New Year’s Eve bash.  On the last night of the year, I often find myself drinking champagne or sparkling wine spiked with some sort of flavored liqueur.  Last year, it was St. Germain.  This year, it’s my homemade Roasted Apple and Quince Liqueur.  Sounds fancy, but it’s super simple to make.  Continue reading for the recipe plus links to Brian’s and Vijay’s cocktails.

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Savory Waffles with Rosemary, Ham and Dubliner Cheese

I hate to admit this, but I recently spent $200 on a new waffle iron.

Savory Waffles Crazy, I know. But I love waffles. And so does Jorge. So I feel like it’s more of an investment piece for the kitchen ;).

Since purchasing this beast of a machine, I’ve been cooking up waffles almost every weekend. Buttermilk waffles topped with fresh fruit and nuts. Pumpkin waffles drizzled with ginger syrup. Spiced vanilla waffles dotted with leftover cranberry sauce. And these Savory Waffles with Rosemary, Ham and Dubliner Cheese.

Studded with rosy chunks of Black Forest ham, these buttermilk waffles are laced with woodsy rosemary and caramelized bits of Irish cheese. Similar to mature cheddar, Kerrygold Dubliner has a complex flavor with both sweet, nutty tones and a sharp bite like Parmesan. The marriage of these flavors just works.

Serve these savory waffles with warm maple syrup, a sunny-side up egg or fried chicken. Eventually, I’d love to use them as the bread component in a BLT.  Cook up a batch of these cheesy waffles for a special Holiday breakfast or serve for dinner with some more savory accompaniments.  You could even cut them into smaller squares and serve as an appetizer.  Fried chicken and waffle bites, oh damn!!  Continue reading for the recipe.

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The Ginger Snap Cocktail

Happy Friday!!

Ginger Snap Cocktail And Happy Holidays as well.  I can’t believe there are just 13 days left until Christmas (and 15 days until my Birthday)!  This Holiday season is flying by, but at least we’ve got 2 weekends left before the big day.  Ample time for Holiday cocktail parties.  This year, I’m serving up this Ginger Snap Cocktail.  Ginger is a favorite spice of mine, so I decided to come up with an easy-to-make cocktail that’s just bursting with ginger flavor.

The Ginger Snap starts with Malahat Spirits Co. Ginger Rum.  Malahat Spirits Co. is a local San Diego distillery that makes small batch rum and flavored rums (spiced and ginger).  With their Ginger Rum, Malahat Spirits Co. infuses rum with fresh, peeled ginger.  100% natural!  You can actually see bits of ginger floating around in the rum, so you know it’s legit.  Next, the rum is balanced with homemade ginger simple syrup and freshly squeezed lime juice.  Finally, the drink is finished with ginger beer and a simple lime wedge garnish.  That’s right, we’ve got some triple ginger action here!  Crisp, light and refreshing, the Ginger Snap is the perfect libation for any festive Holiday fête.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Five-Spice Shortbread Cookies with Candied Clementines

Let’s talk Holiday cookies.

5 Spice Shortbread with Candied Clementine My standards are chocolate chip cookies, and super spicy ginger snaps.  But each year, I like to throw a new cookie into the mix to keep things interesting.  This year, it’s these Five-Spice Shortbread Cookies with Candied Clementines.

I don’t even try to hide the fact that I love Chinese Five-Spice Powder.  The five spices are: cinnamon, clove, star anise, fennel seed and Szechwan peppercorns.  Traditionally, it’s more of a savory spice, but I love using it in desserts and drinks.  It’s similar to pumpkin pie spice, but with a bit more intrigue.  Here, I’m spiking a traditional shortbread cookie with a tablespoon of fresh, fragrant Chinese Five-Spice Powder.  The rich buttery flavor of the shortbread works perfectly with the bouquet of pungent spices.

The cookies are finished with a slice of freshly Candied Clementine.  Clementines just scream holiday to me, and I always have them in a bowl in my kitchen during the season.  The Candied Clementines provide a mellow, sweet citrus note that really compliments the not-so-sweet cookie.  They also give these cookies some contrast in texture.  The cookies are tender and crumbly.  The clementines are a bit more substantial with a pleasant chew.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Thanksgiving Meat & Cheese Board + Cranberry Mostarda

I know we covered Thanksgiving Appetizers here, but I’d like to elaborate a bit more on the Meat & Cheese Board element.

Cheese Board A Meat & Cheese Board is a simple way to serve a variety of crowd-pleasing flavors with minimal effort.  For a smaller dinner party (6-10 guests), start with 2 cheeses, 1 meat  and 3 types of crackers or bread.  For a larger party (20 – 25 guests) up the amounts to 5 cheeses, 2 meats and 4 types of crackers or bread.  Each meat, cheese, cracker and bread should vary in flavor to give your guests plenty of tasting options.  To up the ante, serve something homemade that will complement the Meat & Cheese Board.  This could be homemade pickles, chutney, dip, spread, aioli, or compound butter (to name just a few).  Here’s what I have going on in the picture above:

Cheese: Kerrygold Dubliner, Kerrygold Sharp Cheddar with Irish Whiskey
Meat: Proscuitto
Crackers and Bread:  Trader Joe’s Rosemary Raisin Crisps (best crackers EVER), Trader Joe’s Rosemary Crackers, Sliced Baguette
Homemade:  Cranberry Mostarda

When preparing an appetizer spread for a smaller party, I like to serve high impact cheeses.  The Kerrygold Dubliner and Sharp Cheddar both have big, bold flavor that can easily be enjoyed as is or on a cracker topped with mostarda.  For a large party, I like to layer in some lower impact (but still delicious) cheeses, including brie and goat cheese.  Another nice touch is to serve 1 cheese that’s a personal favorite.  When my guests come over for a dinner party, they can always expect to see Manchego on the table.  I just love it!

For meat, Proscuitto, salami, mortadella, sopressata or hard chorizo are all good options.  Don’t go overboard with the meats though.  With too many options, guests might fill up before dinner!  For crackers and bread, I always hit up my local Trader Joe’s.  They have a wide variety of basic and unique crackers, plus they are continuously releasing new seasonal flavors.  Trader Joe’s also sells several types of baguette perfect for slicing and serving.  The two crackers I selected above are flavored with rosemary, a flavor I associate with the Holidays.

Finally, let’s talk about this Cranberry Mostarda.  Sweet and sour, a mostarda is an Italian condiment made with fruit and a mustard-flavored syrup.  Here, fresh cranberries are cooked in a bold mixture of white wine, white wine vinegar, sugar, mustard powder, mustard seeds, cinnamon, ginger and clove until tender and collapsed.  The sauce is finished with kosher salt and a bright hit of fresh orange zest.  This seasonal sauce pairs well with most cheeses, and could event be used as cranberry sauce for dinner!  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Smoked Turkey + Garlic-Herb Dry Brine

I should start by saying that turkey isn’t really my thing.

Smoked Turkey Year after year, I’ve failed miserably at making that perfect, picturesque Thanksgiving turkey.  The first Thanksgiving I hosted in 2009 (pre-Kitchen Konfidence) was the worst.  The night before Thanksgiving, I was fumbling around trying to wet brine a 22 pound turkey, salt water and turkey contamination splashing all about my kitchen.  The next day, I got the turkey out of the brine (hands burning from the salt), dried, and on to the roasting pan.  A roasting pan that I later realized was too big to fit in the oven.  At the time, I didn’t own a meat thermometer, so I kept the turkey (which was sitting cramped in a 9 x 13 baking dish) in the oven until it “looked good.”  I remember the smile on my face as I brought the glorious golden turkey to the table, and the disappointment that quickly followed as I started to carve.  The turkey was bone dry with the texture of powdery saw dust.

In 2010, I surveyed all my friends and family for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey recipe.  Results and processes were widely varied.  Bake the turkey in a bag.  Roast the turkey covered in cheese cloth and baste in butter every 15 minutes.  Deep fry the turkey.  Start in a high oven.  Start in a low oven.  Cook the turkey in parts.  Somehow, everyone was cooking their turkey perfectly except for me!  Overwhelmed by the options, I chose what I thought was the easiest suggestion, “cook the turkey in parts.”  After a significant struggle to actually get the turkey in parts, the finished bird was blasé at best.

The next  year, I cooked 2 smaller turkeys side-by-side, slathered in truffle butter and fresh herbs.  Results were juicy, but underwhelming.  I was expecting a WOW moment given the white truffle butter.  And in 2012, I reverted back to turkey in parts.  Uninspired, and a bit dry.

In 2013, everything changed.  Last year, I put Jorge in charge of making the turkey.  He prepared this Smoked Turkey, and the finished bird was incredible.  Juicy insides with a mouthwatering, smoky flavor.  Our Thanksgiving guests couldn’t stop raving about it.  Preparing the turkey on the grill also freed up some much-needed oven space.  We had such an awesome turkey experience last year, that I just had to share it with you all this year!  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Rice Krispie Topping + 5 Other Thanksgiving Sides

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m definitely a sides man, and this year is no different.  I’m sharing a killer sweet potato side dish today with a curious crunchy topping.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Rice Krispie Topping This recipe starts with a mix of sweet potatoes and yams in the oven, covered in butter, and flecked with glistening bits of kosher salt and black pepper.  After an hour roast, the skins will develop patches of golden caramelization, and the flesh inside becomes tender and melting.  With skins removed, the sweet potatoes and yams get whipped together with butter, cream, cayenne pepper and orange zest.  The finished flavor is sweet and bright with just a hint of after-burn.  You can enjoy these mashed potatoes as is or take them over the top with this Rice Krispie Topping.

I usually have Rice Krispies in my pantry for making frequent batches of these.  Here, several cups of this crunchy cereal are drizzled with a quick caramel flavored with salt and cayenne pepper.  The topping-to-be is spread out on a baking sheet, sprinkled with fresh chopped rosemary, and cooled until brittle.  Break the Rice Kripsies into various sized bits, and serve beside the Mashed Sweet Potatoes mentioned above.  The crunch of the topping is the perfect counter to the rich, creaminess of the potatoes.  And the rosemary and cayenne provide pops of flavor that liven up each bite.  PS. I would highly recommend making a double batch of this topping, because it’s down right snackable.  Continue reading for the recipe plus five other Thanksgiving side dishes!

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Miso Deviled Eggs + 5 Other Thanksgiving Appetizers

I’m sure you are all well aware that I love me some deviled eggs.  For the past several years, I’ve served kimchi deviled eggs for Thanksgiving, but this year, I’m switching things up.

Miso Deviled Eggs Miso Deviled Eggs start with a standard base of egg yolks and mayonnaise.  To this, I add yellow miso, dijon mustard, chive and lemon juice, a combination of flavors that just jumps in your mouth.  These deviled eggs are finished with a Japanese-inspired bread crumb topping of golden panko, toasted nori, and crispy chopped bacon.  The crunch of the topping balances the creaminess of the yolk mixture, and the bacon-nori-miso umami bomb is down right addicting.

You may think it’s strange to serve a kimchi or miso-centric dish at Thanksgiving dinner, but these global flavors provide an intriguing contrast to more traditional appetizers.  Fill your table with baked brie, mixed nuts, red pepper jelly, crackers, dips, and plenty of meats and cheese.  But also serve something unexpected like these Miso Deviled Eggs.  They can spark both excitement and conversation around the appetizer table.  Continue reading for the recipe (plus 5 other Thanksgiving app ideas!).

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Pumpkin Chicken Chili [Giveaway]

Today I’m giving away a gorgeous KitchenAid 4 Quart Cast Iron Pot PLUS I’m sharing an easy (and healthy!) recipe for Pumpkin Chicken Chili.

Pumpkin Chicken Chili Let’s start with the chili. Freshly ground chicken thighs, skin and all, are sautéed with onions, bell pepper and garlic until fragrant and brown. Flavor and body are added by way of chile powder, red pepper flake, cumin, pumpkin beer, pumpkin purée, red beans and fire-roasted tomatoes. The chili is finished with a dollop of rich sour cream, cilantro, crunchy pumpkin seeds, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Made in just one pot, this comforting fall soup comes together in under an hour!  Rich, bold flavors.  Hearty, satisfying texture.  So.  Yum.  Continue reading for the recipe, and giveaway details.

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Rosemary Spiced Mixed Nuts 2014

Let’s remix this business.

Rosemary Spiced Mixed Nuts I first featured Rosemary Spiced Mixed Nuts back in 2010.  2010??  Sometimes it still shocks me that I’ve been blogging for over 4 years!  Anyway, despite the fact that I made these nuts a long time ago, they’re still a staple at my house.  I serve Rosemary Spiced Mixed Nuts each year at my Thanksgiving extravaganza, and I also like to prepare them occasionally as a travel snack.  The 2010 nuts are tasty, easy to prepare and completely addicting.  So, why would I update the recipe?

To be honest, I’m just switching things up a bit.  I love the flavor profile of the original recipe, so I’ve kept most of the flavors in this recipe similar.  Brown sugar, rosemary, cayenne pepper and sea salt work harmoniously together with notes of caramel, grassy wood and a faint heat that provides just enough intrigue.  I’ve also added some maple syrup for good measure.  The notable difference in my 2014 recipe is in the process.  Here, I toss a mix of cashews, almonds and walnuts with butter, maple syrup and flavorings, then bake until the nuts become golden, fragrant and slightly sticky.  I then sprinkle over additional sea salt and chopped rosemary once the nuts come out of the oven.  This process helps to really infuse the nut mix with all those tasty flavors.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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