October 6, 2010

Proof Whisky - Thanksgiving Weekend Vol.1

Welcome to proof’s first installment of ‘the proof is in’. Our main theme is weekend entertainment. Every Thursday, we will feature a weekly ‘Thursty Thursday’ cocktail recipe to get your weekend off to an early start. Our newsletter will include special expert guest interviews, how-to videos and many other drink and eat-related tidbits to gear you up for a weekend of home entertaining or suggestions on some of the best spots to spend your sacred two days off. As we become better acquainted, we will look forward to hearing your recipes and suggestions. In the meantime, visit www.proofbrands.com for more about our brand.

Our first newsletter arrives just in prep time for our favourite long weekend – Thanksgiving. Although most of you have already planned where you will be spending this holiday, we can hopefully still offer you a few tips on making the weekend even more festive.
Our family has a tradition of taking a Thanksgiving forest walk before dinner. We pack a themed-appetizer and cocktail spread and head over to a wonderful trail near Georgian Bay where 11 small bridges span a gorgeous creek. www.simcoecountytrails.net/trails/lineartrails/maps/Penetanguishene.pdf It’s funny to see the looks of passing cyclists as we pull out our trays of food & drink. Hey, we know how to enjoy ourselves. Last year’s theme was gnomes and mushrooms. This year’s featured cocktail will be the peppered apricot. This drink is just as good pre-made, as it is mixed on the spot.

To start things off, here is our first ‘Thursty Thurday’ recipe.
Apart from a few typically soggy moments this fall, we have been graced with hours of gorgeous natural light and a wave of warm, comfortable temperature. This long weekend forecast is no different, with an amazing promise of 19 degrees & sunny across the board – It’s a perfect year to move Thanksgiving dinner to the backyard. Here are a few delicious apricot-inspired recipes to get you started.

The peppery apricot:
This peppery autumnal drink offers a perfect balance of sweet and zippy. It works beautifully as both an aperitif to your thanksgiving meal, and as a delicious afternoon sipper on your backyard stoop. We find that it is best enjoyed with peppery-aged cheeses, smoky nuts, caramelized onions and lamb dishes. (cocktail created by the Martini Club  www.martiniclub.com )

Here’s what you will need for the peppery apricot:
Single Size:
1 ½ oz proof whisky (www.proofbrands.com)
1/8 fresh lemon
½ oz vanilla syrup*
4 oz
Ceres apricot juice (available at most major grocery chains)
crushed peppercorns
LOTS of ice
In a rocks glass filled with ice, add 1 ½ oz. proof whisky, the juice of 1/8 fresh lemon, ½ oz. vanilla syrup and 4 oz. apricot juice. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Pitcher or Thermos-size:
12 oz proof whisky (www.proofbrands.com)
the juice of 1 lemon
4 oz vanilla syrup*
32 oz or 1L of
Ceres apricot juice (available at most major grocery chains)
Crushed peppercorns (to taste)
LOTS of ice
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, add 1-2 cups of ice, and stir well.
* Vanilla syrup recipe – Combine equal parts sugar and boiling water. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into a jar or bottle with a lid and drop in a 1 inch piece of vanilla bean (you can substitute a 1/4 teaspoon of real vanilla extract for the bean). Let cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. This syrup is also great in your morning coffee. You can re-use the vanilla bean once the syrup is gone by putting it in your sugar bowl for vanilla sugar. (You can infuse your simple syrup with a variety of flavours by adding ingredients like cinnamon sticks, cloves and other extracts.)
HINT: Maximize the juice from lemons and limes
Your citrus fruit should always be at room temperature. Roll the fruit on a wooden board with the palm of your hand to break up the internal pulp and release the oils from the skin. Before slicing the lemon/lime you can use a zester to remove its skin, which can then be used to garnish drinks or to add to your favourite recipe.
HINT: Here is a handy little tool offered through the lcbo.com website. It calculates how much $$ you will need to spend on alcohol depending on the size of your guest list
We have tested some great recipes to accompany the peppered apricot. They will also travel well on a nature walk.

Spiced Nuts
by Antony Thompson
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garam masala or mild curry powder
200g (7oz) mixed nuts such as pecans, brazils and almonds

Pre heat oven to 180°C
Put the oil, Worcestershire sauce and spices into the roasting tin with the nuts and toss together.
Roast for 10 minutes then stir and cook for a further 5 minutes until golden.
Turn out onto kitchen paper to remove excess oil and serve sprinkled with sea salt.

Leek, Prosciutto and Cheese Empañadas
yield: Makes 4 empanadas
The empanadas can be put together ahead of time and popped into the oven to bake just before serving.
3/4 cup chopped well-rinsed white and pale green part of leek (about 1/2 pound untrimmed)
2 tablespoons chopped sliced prosciutto or ham (about 2 thin slices)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons grated Manchego cheese or mild white Cheddar cheese
1 sheet (about 1/2 pound) frozen puff pastry, thawed an egg wash made by beating together 1 large egg and 1 teaspoon water
preparation: Preheat oven to 425°F. In a small heavy skillet cook leek and prosciutto in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until leek is softened. Add water and cook, covered, over low heat until leek is soft, about 10 minutes. Pour off any excess water. Remove skillet from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Let filling cool completely and stir in cheese. Roll out puff pastry on lightly floured surface into a 12-inch square and with a 4-inch round cutter cut out 4 rounds. Divide filling among rounds, mounding it in the center, and brush edges of rounds with water. Fold rounds in half, pressing edges together firmly, and crimp edges with tines of fork to seal well. Empanadas may be prepared up to this point 1 day in advance and dept covered and chilled. Arrange empanadas on a dampened baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Prick top of each empanada several times with fork (for steam vents). Bake empanadas in upper third of oven until puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Manchego with Almonds and Green Olives
by Shelley Wiseman
1 pound green olives such as arbequina or picholine (2 2/3 cups)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 (3- by 1-inch) strips orange zest, thinly sliced crosswise
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California, halved
3/4 pound Manchego cheese, rind cut off and cheese cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/4 pound toasted Marcona almonds (3/4 cup)
preparation: Toss olives with oil, garlic, zest, and bay leaves and marinate, chilled, at least 4 hours. Bring olives to room temperature. Discard bay leaves and garlic, then toss olives with cheese and sprinkle almonds on top.

Lamb & Apricot Kebabs
By Jennifer McLagan
2 lb (1 kg) boneless lamb leg or loin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
6 slices peeled fresh ginger
2 tsp (10 mL) coriander seed
1 tsp (5 mL) cumin seed
1 tsp (5 mL) mustard seed
¼ cup (50 mL) olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil

1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
½ tsp (2 mL) ground ginger
½ tsp (2 mL) ground coriander
2 tbsp (25 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp (25 mL) apricot jam
¼ cup (50 mL) apricot nectar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
9 ripe but firm apricots
2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh coriander
1. Cut the lamb into 1½-inch (4-cm) pieces and place in a bowl. Place the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin and mustard seed in a mortar. Using the pestle, pound the mixture into a paste. Mix the paste with the olive oil and then pour over the lamb. Stir to coat the lamb with the paste, then cover and refrigerate for least 1 or up to 6 hours.
2. While the lamb is marinating, heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the ground cumin, ginger and coriander and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the lemon juice, jam and nectar and stir until smooth. Cook over low heat until the glaze is slightly thickened, season with salt and pepper and set aside. You should have about 1/3 cup (75 mL).
3. Preheat the grill.
4. Cut the apricots in half and remove pits. Thread lamb pieces and apricot halves onto skewers, beginning and ending with lamb. Season the kebabs with salt and pepper and grill the lamb for 10 to 12 minutes or until cooked as desired. Brush the skewers with the glaze as they cook.
5. Serve the skewers sprinkled with fresh coriander and any extra glaze.
Makes 6 skewers – we place two on a skewer and serve as hors d'oeuvres

On the weekend we set out to find a few specialty items, not as readily available at most of the chain stores. We hopped on the 501 car and headed over to Leslieville. Not only is this eclectic east-end Toronto neighbourhood convenient, it is one of the few remaining ‘communities’ still run by local merchants and business owners. Leslieville runs east of Carlaw to Coxwell, and north-south from Gerrard East to Lakeshore, with the main shopping area located on Queen Street East. Queen is packed with unique shops, eclectic restaurants, bars and brunch spots.
Dinner spots:
The Ceili Cottage 1301 Queen Street East www.ceilicottage.com
Gio Rana’s 1220 Queen Street East
Tomi Kro’s 1214 Queen Street East
Baldini’s 1012 Queen Street East
Joy Bistro 884 Queen Street East
Barrio 896 Queen Street East www.barrio.ca
Brunch spots:
The Tulip 1606 Queen Street East www.tulipsteakhouse.com
Ed Leveque Kitchen 1290 Queen Street East
Leslie Jones 1182 Queen Street East
Pulp Kitchen 1129 Queen Street East
Toast Restaurant 993 Queen Street East
Lady Marmalade 898 Queen Street East
Specialty Food Shops:
Meating on Queen 1160 Queen Street East
Leslieville Cheese Market 891 Queen Street East
Rowe Farms 912 Queen Street East
Kristapsons 1095 Queen Street East
Brick Street Breads 255 Logan Avenue www.brickstreetbakery.ca

Because we were in need of some quality cheese, we started at the Leslieville Cheese Market. Michael Simpson opened Leslieville Cheese in the area in 2006. Four years later, he has opened two Toronto locations, and a third store is opening in Flesherton, Ontario. LCM not only offers a wide selection of Canadian and imported cheeses, it carries a fine sampling of charcuterie and specialty foods. It hosts the popular Night School for Cheese Fans with Julia Rogers and Beer School with Cheese Fans with Sam Corbeil. Check out their website for a list of staff picks. http://leslievillecheese.com/
When we asked Gregory, the retail manager, which cheese would best match proof brandsthe peppered apricot’, he suggested the 18-month manchego.

mmmmmmmmmm.....manchego is named for the Spanish region of La Mancha, also home of Don Quixote. This historic cheese is produced in the La Mancha region from pasteurized sheep's milk. It has a black gray or buff colored rind with a crosshatch pattern, the interior ranges from stark white to yellowish, depending on age. The aroma suggests lanolin and roast lamb. It has a number of holes and a mild, slightly briny, nutty flavor. It is sold at various stages of maturity: at the age of 13 weeks it is described as curado (cured) and, when over three months old it is referred to as viejo (aged). There is a peppery bite to cheeses that have reached a great age. www.cheese.com

Next, we moved north to Brick Street Bakery for a crusty baguette. The third Brick Street Bakery can be found in a tiny stand-alone building, just north of Queen and Logan. Unlike the Distillery, this location does not serve its tasty sandwiches, but it does bake a wonderful selection of warm organic offerings from its on-site ovens. Fresh scones, bread and butter pudding, chocolate brioche, walnut sourdough boule and purple grape-skin flour baguettes – heaven!
Don’t forget to grab an olive fougasse for the walk. www.brickstreetbakery.ca

Now for the taste test... Gregory, you are a cheese expert! The drink's spicy & sweet flavours are accentuated by the manchego's deep peppery piquancy.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

To learn more about our brands - proof whisky, proof vodka & proof rum, please visit our website www.proofbrands.com, or contact info@proofbrands.com

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