AMBER SEXTON New York City 917-207-2375

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Aviation-a drink to make for folks who don’t know they love gin

image by Amber Sexton

My friend Julie Keane posted a picture of of an Aviation maybe a year ago and that began the major cocktail craze I’ve been on since then. Of course I’ve always made lovely drinks. And there is nothing more perfect than a gin and tonic in the summer. But I hadn’t been mixing drinks with gin at home. Bourbon, margaritas, mojitos, dark and stormy’s, and actually if I correct myself I was making some nice gin drinks with Aperol and grapefruit. But that picture of an Aviation and the ingredients set me off. And it wasn’t even blue! I bought some Luxardo maraschino liqueur and made one without the creme de violette, and it was delicious, but became determined to do it right. I haven’t let go of this thing since. It is perfect.

If you are unfamiliar with maraschino liqueur, you should get familiar with it because a lot of classic cocktails need it. It is made from both the pits and the flesh of the Marasca cherry, which is why it’s got a strong almond note to the taste. Creme de violette is just what it sounds like, a sweet liqueur made of violet flowers, possibly with other colorants added. There used to be none imported in the US, but now you can find the Rothman & Winter brand everywhere, though that’s about the only brand you can get in the US. Aviations are so popular I don’t even know why I’m posting this.

The original recipe for this drink sounds sour as hell, it’s got a lot of lemon, and very little maraschino or creme de violette to take the edge off that lemon. Here are the proportions I usually end up using, but this time I tried it with a meyer lemon and it was maybe a little sweet, I would back off on Luxardo and creme de violette. So this is how it went last night:

2oz Greenhook Gin (if you want a sweeter drink you can go 1.5oz)
1/2 oz lemon juice (in this case meyer, but that’s just a twist on it)
1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
anywhere from 2 barspoons to 1/4 oz of Creme de Violette

The goal is enough of the violet stuff to get the drink blue, but not as purple as here and not gray which it will be if you use too little. I find when I’m making one drink, just under a 1/4 ounce works, or 3 barspoons. There is perhaps a little much in the drink shown here but it’s pretty.

The traditional garnish is a lemon peel. But you often see them with a beautiful red maraschino cherry in them. They look great that way and I love the way that a stem on cherry has a handle to take little bites. However those store bought cherries have a lot of cinnamon in them, and taste kind of like garbage. I actually bought Luxardo’s marasca cherries, which are delicious and black, but do not pretty up this drink. I think the solution will be to make my own stem on cocktail cherries when cherries are in season.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/23 at 02:18 PM
Cocktails • (3) CommentsPermalink

Monday, February 18, 2013

More inexpensive prints, now in slideshows….. wheeeeee

Prints start at $5 depending on the size.

St Louis Cemetery_gallery - Images by Amber Sexton

February prints_gallery - Images by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/18 at 09:22 PM
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My mom and her friends playing Johnny on the Pony

image by Amber Sexton

I don’t know when this is from but it’s Washington Square park in the very early 60’s. Mom is the “pillow” which is what she called it, I don’t know if that’s the real name. I’ve never learned the rules for this game but it’s so photogenic.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/18 at 12:13 AM
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Friday, February 15, 2013

Rollei film backlog: Saint Louis Cemetary 1, circa 2009

image by Amber Sexton

On Mardi Gras itself, (which I have never been to) one of the disks I finally got files off of was from my first trip to New Orleans. I was really pleased with these images. I am generally not a confident person, and so it’s often true that it’s hard for me to like the things I do sometimes. Sometimes I feel so in doubt and vulnerable about it that it’s best to just put it out there and then let the inertia of it being already out there suffice for owning up to it. But I liked these a lot and I was immediately afraid I must be mistaken to like them so much. Anyway ever in doubt about whether they are “good” these still still please me anyway.

image by Amber Sexton

image by Amber Sexton


image by Amber Sexton


image by Amber Sexton


image by Amber Sexton


image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/15 at 11:30 PM
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Rollei film backlog: third edition

image by Amber Sexton

So I got the lab to replace the two disks that weren’t reading. One of them had these images of my niece and my sister from several years ago, but not so long ago as the Italy photos. Because I had pulled a random roll from another pile. Anyway my niece is 14 now, and my sister became a doctor since this photo was taken. This is in Westbrook, CT where my dad rents a vacation house in July.
image by Amber Sexton

image by Amber Sexton

image by Amber Sexton

image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/11 at 09:48 PM
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Brandy Crusta, a drink I’ve wanted to write about for a while

image by Amber Sexton

This drink is one I’ve had a few times, but none have been camera ready looking though they were tasty. If you do a google image search on this drink you will see a lot of variation on how to create and present the garnish. Mostly the drink itself is cognac or brandy where the other ingredients only slightly modify the flavor of the cognac.

I used the recipe from Imbibe magazine, and purchased Cointreau finally after trying to finish this cheap triple sec I bitterly repent buying two summers ago. I poured the last 1/2 inch in the bottle down the drain.

image by Amber Sexton

The main thing with this drink is preparing the garnish, which is done ahead of time, I got out the new really sharp peeling knife I bought and peeled a curl starting about 1/3 down the lemon. Denuding the center of the lemon till I got about to the same spot on the other half.  Then I got out the glass and used a lemon half to wet the lip and dipped it in castor sugar by rolling, concentrating on the outside. Then I chilled the glass in the freezer.

So the rest of the drink is super easy its:

2 oz Pierre Ferrand Ambre cognac
1 bar spoon Cointreau
1/2 bar spoon lemon juice
dash of Angostura bitters

I put these in the shaker, removed the glass from the freezer and inserted the lemon peel in the coupe glass hugging the inside of the glass. It was maybe too big and the curly end hung down into the glass which I’m OK with. Many pics show this garnish sticking out of the glass, some pictures have it so far out that you obviously have to push it in to drink it. Sticking up I think it’s supposed to be around your nose so the lemon peel fragrance is there with each sip. I could try a smaller glass with more upward styling of the lemon peel. I’ve tried this drink with Myer lemon, and the peel is just too soft and mushy and does not really have the kind of body to hold it’s shape in the glass, it just kind of falls in the middle of the drink.

So all my ingredients are in the shaker and my garnish is ready. I put in ice and just stirred it with the bar spoon rather than shaking and then strained into the glass. This coupe has some space so the sugar rim isn’t in contact with the drink and with each sip I use a different part of my sugared rim. The lemon under the sugar is good too. This is like sipping cognac mostly, but it’s chilled and citrusy while being mostly the brandy. Yummy, a dessert drink for sure.
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/10 at 01:35 AM
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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Seitan Bourguignon

image by Amber Sexton

This is my second time making this dish and it was good the first time and fantastic the second time. Here is my take on making the Julia Child classic as a vegan dish. I looked at two recipes for vegan versions of this here and here and I also looked at the traditional recipes. I agree with the idea in the picky vegan, that long cooking times such as 3 hours don’t make sense, and for similarity, more fat and smokey flavors should be added because bacon supplies those things to the beef dish. I also decided to use my pressure cooker for both the seitan making and the final dish instead of a long braise which wouldn’t make sense when using seitan instead of meat. When I first made this dish I followed the first recipe very closely and found it lacking in sweetness. I saw some recipes for traditional beef bourguignon which called for a small amount of cognac, which I decided to try. I also used some fenugreek in the simmering broth because it adds sweetness, of course sugar is a possibility too, but I did not need it.

The vegan recipes start with packaged seitan. I never use it, I find it costly and inflexible in terms of seasoning and always make my own. I use the same basic Joanne Stepaniak recipe that appears all over the web and is in her cookbook Vegan Vittles. I do alter the seasoning depending on the ultimate use of the seitan.

image by Amber Sexton

To make the seitan itself, for this recipe (if using packaged skip this part):

1-1/2 cups of instant gluten flour, aka vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast, (vegetarian support formulas, such as by Red Star are the best)
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (if I had liquid smoke or smoked salt I would have used that, I love smoked paprika but it can dominate, so I used very little)

stir dry ingredients together and mix together the following liquid ingredients

1 cup COLD vegetable stock (I used packaged but often make my own)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil (this is optional in a seitan recipe, but adding fat in a few places is key to this dish)
1 tablespoon Pino Noir wine
1/4 teaspoon salt (these last two are subbing for a the third tablespoon of soy sauce the basic recipe calls for)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 shakes Angostura bitters (experimental umami adding move on my part)

Add liquid to the dry all at once and mix together, you will quickly need to use your hands, my dough was too dry, normally when this happens, you may add one or two tablespoons of extra water, I added a similar amount of the wine. Then you knead a bit and you end up with a spongy dough mass called gluten. This is raw and a normal recipe will call for dividing it in three and simmering for an hour. I tore this into small pieces and chose to cook it it in a pressure cooker with a smaller amount of broth than in standard cooking instructions. If not using a pressure cooker double the cooking times here. Whatever you do, always use cold liquid to make the seitan dough, and place the dough for cooking in the pot before it has been turned on and the liquid is cold. The gluten should come up to temperature with the broth, this has a huge influence on the texture of the seitan, and I like a softer, open cell seitan that allows sauces and tastes further within the “meat”

Prepare a pressure cooker with this cooking broth:
6 cups COLD water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 veggie bouillon cube
fistful of fresh thyme sprigs
tablespoon of dry fenugreek leaves
teaspoon of whole celery seed
bay leaf
3 or more cloves of peeled but unpressed garlic
fistful of fresh parsley sprigs
(these are nearly all flavor elements in the bourguignon dish so you should have them around, the rest is optional but I strongly suggest you not skip celery seed or celery itself for this)

Add the uncooked seitan pieces, place the pressure cooker cover on, lock the seal, use high heat to bring to pressure, and then turn down to medium and set a timer for 20 minutes starting from when the pot is at pressure. About ten minutes in the pressure cooker will start spitting more, and turn it down to low for the remaining cooking. When time is done, turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally. When done remove the seitan pieces with tongs and place in a bowl, drain out cooking liquid, strain and save for other recipes and such. This yields about two pounds, but I did not weight it this time.
image by Amber Sexton

While that’s cooking prepare the ingredients for the bourguignon which are:
4 small or two large carrots peeled and sliced
1 large shallot diced
10 oz package of pearl onions, peeled (about 18-25 onions)
2 large oyster mushrooms diced
3 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stalks, stalks discarded.
1 bay leaf
1/2 750 mil bottle of Pinot Noir or other red wine from Burgundy region
1 oz cognac
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (if you have smoked salt I would use it instead)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
several healthy shakes of Angostura bitters (optional)
flour for dredging the seitan, salted and peppered, it probably ended up being about 1/2 cup in the end
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil and Earth Balance butter substitute for browning seitan and cooking veg. I did not measure but amounts were healthy.

image by Amber Sexton
Begin by meausuring out 375ml of wine into a measuring cup, then pour yourself a glass as everything left in the bottle is for you to drink. Peel the pearl onions as follows. Pour boiling water over whole onions in a bowl, soak for 1-2 minutes and then drain and immerse into a bowl of ice water, strain and then squeeze them out of their little skins by pressing them between your fingers, trim ends where needed to speed that along.
image by Amber Sexton

Peel and slice the carrots, dice the shallot, thinly slice and dice the oyster mushroom, chop the garlic and the parsley, set aside.
image by Amber Sexton

Take your seitan pieces and tear them up further if needed, I left some bigger chunks at first but then decided to go smaller. Fill a plastic storage container with a 1/2 inch of flour and add dash of salt and pepper, place 5-8 seitan pieces in, cover the top and shake. Repeat with all the seitan, in batches using more flour and seasonings as it gets absorbed. Brown these in olive oil and Earth Balance, do this in several small batches. Crowding a pan will inhibit the maillard reaction therefore affect brownness and make food less crispy.
image by Amber Sexton

I put the browned pieces on a wire rack but did not put down paper towels to absorb excess oil because this fat becomes a necessary part of the bourguignon dish, as I’m not using bacon rendered into fat or braising cuts of meat for a long time to release fats in the connective tissues.

Clean the pressure cooker, and place the pot only on the stove and turn on medium high, add olive oil and Earth Balance and put in shallots and carrots and saute till shallots begin to brown. Add mushrooms, garlic and pearl onions. Turn down heat and saute a few more minutes till the onions brown lightly and the shallots are quite brown. Add the seitan and all the liquid ingredients and spices, all remaining ingredients, bring to boil.

image by Amber Sexton
(my parsley looks very green because my fridge actually froze it which really pissed me off, and it’s why I garnished with thyme on the finished dish)
Place cover on pressure cooker and bring to pressure, lower flame and set timer for 30 minutes, when pressure starts to spit, turn the flame down very low. When timer ends, release pressure through the rapid method, either with the quick release setting on the valve or by immersing the whole pot under cold running water in the sink.

All the diced veg and even the pearl onions were falling apart soft, the gravy was very thick from the flour from the breading on the seitan, and the seitan was flavored throughout and a nice soft texture. This was so delicious and rich, lightyears ahead of my first try.
I ate it with french bread, and would have had a nice salad had I the energy to make it.
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/09 at 08:18 PM
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Friday, February 08, 2013

Nemo is here

image by Amber Sexton
So we await the big snow, I like a blizzard that leaves deep drifts. But so far it’s slushy and messy though the flakes are big and fluffy. I don’t look forward to the sidewalks being encrusted with a deep layer of ice if that’s the result. That causes me to walk in tiny baby steps and fear with each one that I will do a major ass over teakettle spill. Fingers crossed for big fluffy piles of snow, I wish I knew people with a sled because I would be down for that.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/08 at 04:34 PM
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Thursday, February 07, 2013

I just made a good rye cocktail

image by Amber Sexton
So a quick post, boring lighting. But I made a yummy rye cocktail, that is pretty much a smash, julep, fizz sort of variation and it’s DELICIOUS

2 pinches mint (not as much as for a mojito or julep)
healthy squirt of rich simple syrup
2 oz McKenzie Rye
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 bar spoon of orange flower water

I put the mint in the cocktail shaker, and just used the flat end of the handle of the bar spoon to lightly crush the leaves rather than do a full muddle and break the skin of the leaves giving that heavy green taste. Then added other ingredients with ice, shaken and strained in a frosty glass that was in the freezer. YUM.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/07 at 09:18 PM
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Friday, February 01, 2013

Goodbye Ed Koch RIP

image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/01 at 09:44 AM
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