City Gay and Country Gay

Monday, December 31, 2007

Spritz Cookies

Sorry, City Gay. This entry isn't directed to you.

Dear Girl with a Blog:

Here is the recipe for the spritz cookies you requested. It's really simple, but for some reason, I am the only one in my family who can/will make them. They can be a bit frustrating to make because the dough won't stay on a hot baking sheet when you send them out of the cookie press. I've read that a way to resolve this is to run the cookie sheet under cold water before preparing the next batch.

Spritz Cookies
Yields 5 dozen

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Sift flour and baking powder. (I don't actually sift them; I just stir them together.) Gradually add this to the creamed mixture. Do not chill the dough. (A challenge here is to not eat all of the raw dough because it tastes damn good.)

(At this point, I separate the dough into three different bowls and add red or green food coloring to color the dough. This isn't a necessary step, but it does add something for the holidays.)

Force the dough through a cookie press on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes and cool on wire racks.

(My grandma used to frost these and put sprinkles on them. I skip that part so I can just enjoy the cookies, which have a sweet almond flavor because of the almond extract.)

The nice thing about this recipe is it makes enough cookies to enjoy yourself and to give to people around the holidays. It's also fun to experiment with the different disks that create different cookies. I find the tree shape is the easiest to make. The less complicated the cookie design, the easier the cookie will take shape. The good thing is if the cookie doesn't come out of the press well, you just put the dough back in and try again.

Happy baking!
Country Gay

R.I.P. Lambchop

Dear City Gay:

Happy New Year's Eve!

I know you are basking in the glow of sunny Hawaii right now, while I am basking in the reflection of snow and a temperature of about 25 degrees. Not that I'm jealous or anything. (Maybe the locale for a future Gayest Trip Ever should be Hawaii...)

I decided to put the America's Test Kitchen cookbook you gave me to use and made the following meal centered around lamb chops.

Not that lamb chop...

Two parts of the meal were pretty basic.

The mashed potatoes, which you will notice look runny in the picture of the complete meal, were easy. (I used half and half and butter, which made them kind of rich, but I wasn't paying attention and put in too much half and half. They still tasted okay, though.)

The salad was inspired by a suggestion in the cookbook: romaine hearts, balsamic vinaigrette, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and feta cheese. The recipe called for radicchio, but I left it out to avoid the bitter flavor. I mixed everything together (except for the cheese) and refrigerated until right before the meal. I tossed the cheese with the salad right before we ate. I think what really makes the salad good are the chickpeas, but the combination of ingredients gives the salad a simple but great taste.

The lamb was pretty easy to make, but it took longer than I thought. I only have a few pictures because I forgot to document some of the recipe. Bill acted as photographer for the meal, lest you think I have constructed some impressive set up that allows me to take pictures of myself cooking.

The recipe for the lamb chops follows the pictures.

After preparing and frying the lamb chops, the chops rest under a foil tent for five minutes.

A red wine sauce is made with any browned bits after frying the lamb, red wine, chicken broth, shallots, butter, and rosemary. The sauce is pretty mild tasting, and the rosemary keeps the sauce from tasting too sweet.

Note the subtle gay images in the background: magnets with a near-naked man, a butch-femme magnet, Brad on the bar. Just keeping it gay real, City Gay.

The meal was satisfying, but it's probably not something I would make often for the basic reason that lamb chops are kind of expensive. However, when I do get a craving for lamb, this will be a recipe I know I can make easily. Out of the three parts of the meal, the salad will be thing I probably come back to in the future.

So, City Gay, while you are drinking fancy drinks out of pineapples and eating poi, I am making my way through the cookbook. Only a kabillion recipes to go.

May the new year bring you plenty of good eats!
Country Gay

Pan-seared Lamb Chops with Red Wine Rosemary Sauce
Serves 4
Start to Finish: 30 minutes

8 lamb loin or rib chops (4 oz each), 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Red Wine Sauce:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced
1 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into three pieces and chilled
2 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
salt and pepper

1. For the chops: Pat the chops dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the chops on the first side, about 4 minutes.

2. Flip the chops over and continue to cook until the desired doneness, 4-6 minutes. Transfer the chops to a clean plate, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.

3. For the sauce: Meanwhile, add the oil to the skillet and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and broth, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in any accumulated meat juice. Turn the heat to low and which in the butter, one piece at a time. Off the heat, stir in the rosemary and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the chops before serving.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Culinary Christmas prizes!

Happy post-Christmas, Mr. Country Gay!

I may or may not have remembered to document at least one of the things (stuffed mushrooms) I made for Christmas dinner, so I may or may not be posting about that a bit later.

But first, I thought I would quickly share my kitchen goodies from this year's Christmas haul.

In my stocking, I got a couple of mini silicone spatulas from Williams-Sonoma. I didn't realize it until looking for the picture, but you can get your Williams-Sonoma spatulas personalized if you order them online (i.e. where they usually print "Williams-Sonoma" at the end of the handle, it could say "City Gay is the hottness").

Also in my stocking was a little slate cheese board and a hard-cheese knife and soft-cheese knife from Crate & Barrel. Cute!

But the pièce de résistance was this stunning Le Creuset kiwi green French oven round (ou "la cocotte" pour les francophones).

Ooh la la! It is huge and super heavy and GORGEOUS. I'm currently reading Julia Child's autobiography "My Life in France," so I'm feeling very inspired to use this thing as soon as possible. Which won't be for awhile since I'm hauling my gay ass off to Hawaii soon (I'm trying to mention that as much as possible this week).

Dost thou or thine readers have any Christmas kitchen goodies to show off?

Love always,

Ms. City Gay

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday Snackies

Dear City Gay:

Now that I'm on Christmas Break, I have some time to share with you a gift I put together for a lunch table Secret Santa gift exchange. Our price limit was $5, and I knew there was no way I would be able to buy something suitable for my chosen colleague with only $5. Since Christmas is the season of eating too much unhealthy food, I thought I would spread the joy with a tray of (mostly homemade) goodies.

As you can see, this is no ordinary tray. To keep with the lunchtime idea, I bought an inexpensive (under $5) lunch tray from Target. I thought this would be much more interesting than a typical, cheap, plastic holiday tray.

The treats are also simple to make: (clockwise from the top left) Giada de Laurentiis's Holiday Biscotti, basic chocolate chip cookies (look on the back of a Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip bag for the recipe), Peppermint Hershey's White Chocolate Kisses, sour cream sugar cookies with cream cheese frosting, the famous balls, and spritz (or press) cookies from my grandmother's recipe.

If only holiday lunches had looked like this in elementary school!

Country Gay

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cheap wine for poor snobs: 2006 Tres Picos Borsao - Garnacha

Country Gay, we're back!

So, I recently discovered an affordable earthy, red wines from Europe that has delighted my palate to no end and decided it was time to revisit Cheap Wine for Poor Snobs.

The last time we took a look at an Italian Barbera D'Asti wine. This time, it's an $11 bottle of Spanish Garnacha by Tres Picos.

Here's what you need to know about Garnacha (Grenache), from the fine folks who populate Wikipedia:

"Grenache (pronounced gren-ash) (in Spanish, Garnacha) is probably the most widely planted variety of red wine grape in the world. It ripens late, so needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain and in the south of France. It is generally spicy, berry-flavoured and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results."

The wine is an impressive dark cherry and deep plum color and it may very well be the most fragrant red I've encountered at this price. I mean, it smelled GOOD. Inexpensive wine tends to have an overpowering smell of alcohol, but this was so much more.

The taste is just as complex as the fragrance and takes about two or three sips before the smoothness kicks in. The first sip or two was slightly overpowered by a distinct peppery spiciness that lingered in my throat for a minute or so.

I don't recommend drinking the Garnacha with super flavorful foods because of how complex the wine itself is. It's fantastic on its own or with mild foods. I imagine it would be great with a hearty steak. I started drinking it with a very flavorful pesto and pimento pasta dish and ended up ditching the wine until I was just down to some nice toasted Italian bread with a basic marinara sauce. It complimented those very basic flavors perfectly.

It's been rated 90-91 by the major wine publications, which is quite an accomplishment for a bottle of wine that sells for less than $15 in most stores that carry it. Unfortunately, I don't think it it's as widely distributed as it should be, so you might have a hard time finding it. But, if you do come across the label at a reasonable price... grab it, stat!

One interesting note: The foil on this bottle is thick as hell! Pick up a foil cutter if you don't already have one as this foil will likely slice your finger off. You've been warned.

Now let's get hammered,
City Gay

Nice balls

Dear City Gay:

I had grandiose plans of posting a whole series of holiday baking recipes, but with a week until Christmas, I only have one recipe to share (even though my counters are covered with cookies).

Many people who know my family look forward to Christmas because it's the only time of year peanut butter bon bons are made. This recipe is the perfect, rich holiday treat, and it also leads to plenty of jokes about balls, much like the cherished SNL skit below:

The recipe is incredibly easy and can be a nice thing to add to any holiday goodie trays.

Peanut Butter Bon Bons
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 12 squares, but boxed crumbs can be found in the baking aisle)
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 6 oz. package milk chocolate chips

Mix powdered sugar and cracker crumbs. Heat butter and peanut butter until melted. (I use the microwave for this.) Stir into crumb mixture. Shape mixture into 1 inch balls.

Heat chocolate chips with 1 tbsp. shortening. (You can do this in the microwave. Heat and stir in intervals of 15-20 seconds to make sure the chocolate doesn't burn.) Dip balls into melted chocolate with tongs (or special dipping tools found in cooking stores) and place on wax paper. Refrigerate until firm.

Yields: 3 dozen

As you can see, I also dip some balls into white chocolate. I also tend to swish a bit of white chocolate onto some of the milk chocolate balls, which makes things look a bit fancier.

So, City Gay, some of these balls are en route from the country to the city, and I hope they arrive safely, so you can enjoy my balls. (See? The jokes can already begin!)

Happy Holidays,
Country Gay

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Here a shmear, there a shmear

Dear City Gay:

We have a new bagel and coffee place that could become part of my new weekend routine. The new place is an offshoot of Java Jungle, but the new Java Jungle not only has the usual coffee selections, but it has bagels and shmear galore. There are also plenty of sandwich options (for breakfast and lunch), and I look forward to trying some of those in the future. The cinnamon and sugar bagel with honey butter was definitely a nice way to start a day full of holiday shopping.

Yay for new places in the country!

Country Gay