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3 oz. Gin + 7 oz. Lemonade + 1.5 oz Club Soda = Tom Collins = Friday Night Fun With Friends

Basically add gin, ice, and lemonade to a shaker. Pour and add a splash of club soda.

This is a great drink for several reasons and one of our favorites. A cheap Collins still tastes pretty ok, but each incremental upgrade really pays off.  Furthermore even the most picky bitch guest can enjoy a Tom Collins. Even better, good gin comes much cheaper than other spirits of comparable quality. As a word to the wise, when entertaining on a budget avoid tequila and think gin.

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Whiskey, whether Bourbon or otherwise, is generally the favorite spirit here at the Garlic Press. The word “whiskey ” comes from an English approximation of the Gaelic uisce beatha, itself a translation of the Latin aqua vitae, or “water of life.” As an ingredient or beverage this spirit certainly lives up to the name. In fact, as of 1964 whiskey is the official spirit of the United States, in honor of its importance culturally and as a trade good in the development of the nation. Steeped in history and full of flavor, it should come as no surprise that we are among the devotees of this spirit. As such, we hold this complex drink to very high standards.

This month we have decided, after a friend’s recommendation, to review Bulleit Bourbon. The Kentucky native is unique among whiskies, weighing in at 30% rye – the highest by far of any non-rye whiskey. This results in a sweet, nutty, and complex flavor. Bulleit is aged  for a minimum of six years in the traditional white oak barrels.

Review

The bottle is an absolute classic, with a shape inspired by antique medicine bottles. The raised lettering in the glass and cork stopper give Bulleit the look of a much more expensive bourbon (Think 1792 Reserve.) The label is inspired in a similar fashion and applied diagonally, giving the aesthetic character of a true small batch whiskey.

Tasting notes begin with honey and herbs and a mild spice note. As it rolls across the palate the careful taster will pick up oats and sweetness, not unlike corn. The finish is long and warm but without the fire typical of Jim Beam products.

On the nose, Bulleit is equally complex floral, earthy, sweet, and has in its background a slight cinnamon aroma. The smell should be pleasant even to those that may cringe in the face of Irish water.

The Bottom Line

Overall, for $23 – $32 dollars Bulleit Bourbon is a great choice, especially in states where it is closer to $23. Look for this whiskey in PA or MD to really impress your friends on the cheap. The attractive bottle makes Bulleit more than appropriate as a gift, especially for friends in their mid twenties.  At $23 for 750ml of 90 proof deliciousness you can drink yourself clever without so much as ice or a glass to pour it into.

  • For bonus points marinade a filet in a mix of Bulleit, honey mustard, garlic and rosemary.

To quote an angry Peruvian,

“If you don’t like the smell of burning meat, get off the planet!”

Here at the Garlic Press, we agree wholeheartedly. As the grilling season comes to a close (for cowards, anyway) here on the Mid-Atlantic, we decided to craft the best burger ever. In a lot of ways, we succeeded – and in a few, it ended in bitter, bitter failure. Nevertheless, the Ancho Relleno burger delivered a serious smack in the taste buds that brought me to the verge of a flavor-gasm of the hottest variety. This burger is a Southwestern take on Minnesota’s famous Juicy Lucy Burger. The Lucy Burger, invented in the Twin Cities, is essentially 2 burgers pressed together with a core of molten cheesy goodness. After being introduced to this beautiful crime against nature, we knew we just had to make it our own.

I’ve loved Southwestern cuisine since long before I learned how to say mas carnitas.  Of course, by ‘Southwestern cuisine’ I’m referring to the earthy and unpretentious food popularized by the kind of Texan we love. This is not to be confused with that chipotle mayo garbage promoted by morons like Guy Fieri or a that particular chef who runs a certain bar and grill in the city. Flaming aside, the Lucy Burger begged for the spicy treatment and some gourmet flair. Some hot inspiration came in the form of a shaker of chili flakes and powders from the good folks at Dave’s. Really, you should get some.  Now. Furthermore, I was seriously missing Keswick Creamery‘s Dragon’s Breath pepper jack cheese, my absolute favorite! As a side note, this cheese hails from central PA, close to where I attended college. However, you can pick it up at the DC farmer’s market every Saturday, and you may recognize it from their feature in the Washington Post. Although I have run out of their sexy dairy products, I had some random pepper jack around that would suit the recipe nicely.

What resulted was a match made in West Texas Hell, sinfully delicious and a touch north of picante. The test kitchen often has a pound of 80/20 ground chuck on hand, because anything made of 90%+ lean ground beef is crime,  the punishment for which involves having to eat that crap. It is one of those staple items we can’t be without, and thus we have a standard burger format: 1 lb. of 80/20, 1 beaten egg, 1/4 cup of grated hard cheese, sea salt, cracked pepper, and some oil. This burger base is almost infinitely versatile and easy to style up. Spices, herbs, and other bits of amazing can safely be mixed in without fear of destabilizing our beef sculpture. Once the ancho chili and pepper jack had been selected, it was just a matter of raiding the garden and pantry. Some ciabatta bread, spinach, thyme, mushrooms, orange pepper, and Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard made the cut. We fucking love that mustard. Arugula would have been better, but someone behind the scenes here at the Garlic Press refuses to plant or buy any…ever. Such shortcomings aside, we all thought the burger was better than opium and Fake Plastic Trees.

Ingredients

Burger Mix

1lb. 80/20 ground chuck (no substitutions)

1 egg beaten

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tsp. oil

1/4 cup finely chopped thyme (or marjoram or oregano, just as long as its fresh)

1 tsp. fleur de sel (kosher salt is okay too)

2 tsp. cracked pepper

1 tbsp ish Ancho Chili Pepper

1 tsp Green Yucateco Sauce *9000SCU

The Rest

2 slices pepper jack cheese

1/2 orange bell pepper

1/2 cup sliced baby portobella mushrooms

  • 2 tsp. butter (for mushrooms)

4 slices of ciabatta bread

  • 1 tbsp oil

Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard

Process

Add all of the burger mix ingredients to a large meat safe bowl. Mix carefully by hand until the ingredients are evenly spread throughout the the ground chuck, but do not over mix. Remember this isn’t an erotic massage, the beef only has egg holding it together. Next divide the meat into 4 sections as shown below.


This should be done by hand and roughly as shown. Next, move the meat to the refrigerator. Brush the orange pepper in oil and char it lightly on a hot grill. Then begin sauteing the mushrooms in butter on low heat. Retrieve the burgers, and remove 2 of the 4 sections. Roll each and press lightly onto a plate as shown.

oh yeah

From here, simply fold one slice of cheese in half twice and place it in the middle of one of the patties.

Place the other pattie on top and begin to carefully crimp and mold the edges together until the seam disappears.

Repeat the process with the two remaining portions of burger mix. Then mold the the two burgers roughly into the shape of your slices of bread, only a little larger as they will draw up as they cook.

The burgers should then be placed in the refrigerator again. Finish the mushrooms, and brush the ciabatta with oil. Grill the bread a little on each side until grill marks appear. Go back or the burgers, and place them on a hot grill for 4-5 minutes on each side. Do not press or poke the burgers EVER. Remember they, are 1/2 lb. each.  Remove them from the grill, and let them sit 1-2 minutes while you add mustard to your bread and cut and slice the cheeks of the pepper. The cheese needs a minute to cool inside the burgers. Assemble roughly in accordance with the following or initial photo and enjoy.

From there its up to you to man up to a mighty burger, and to remember that ketsup is for poseurs. Enjoy this burger with with a strong ale or lager. We like it with Chimay Red Ale, and Rogue Dead Guy Ale.

-Chase

We’ve temporarily moved to a new test kitchen after a move and a long break. I’ll try and post some photos soon. Stay tuned for great food and great ideas.

photo credit to luke.nicholas at Picasa

photo credit to luke.nicholas at Picasa

While working on a citrus-based marinade in the test kitchen last week, we accidentally made something so unbelievably thick and spicy that it couldn’t be called a marinade, but instead had to be named a hot sauce. The accidental dish was based primarily on thick pulpy orange juice, orange blossom honey, and my favorite pepper, the habanero. The habanero tips the scales between 100,000 and 350,000 Scoville units, so for those of you who can’t stomach Tabasco sauce (topping out at 5,000 SCU, max) it might be time to pack up and go home. This fiery chili, for those with the properly-suited palate, has a wonderfully fruity citrus flavor that absolutely sings in the presence of sweeter fruit-based flavors such as oranges or  honey.

Once we decided to develop a hot sauce, there were several things we needed to consider. Color, flavor, heat, and geschtalt are all crucial to concocting the perfect sauce. We proposed early on to avoid the use of vinegar in all of our sauces, as it is a poor excuse for an ingredient in hot sauces that is used more often to dilute than to flavor. Heat was an easy feat to accomplish – we just played with the number of habaneros and the use or exclusion of the seeds and veins (the spiciest part of a pepper). The orange juice , honey, and our ubiquitous garlic did the heavy lifting in the flavor department. Color was a bit of a trick, because at the Garlic Press, we don’t use food additives like coloring or dyes. The milky yellow that resulted from the blending of garlic and orange juice just didn’t cut it aesthetically-speaking, so we had to root around for something colorful, tasty, and subtly flavored. Ultimately, a container of paprika and a bag of organic baby carrots came to the rescue. The result was a pleasantly orange sauce that danced spicy-hot circles of fire around our mouths.

Ingredients:

2 habanero peppers, whole

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup Orange Blossom honey

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup carrot, chopped

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. sea salt

Process

Combine all of the  ingredients in the blender and pulse until you have a thick but pourable consistancy. Use with caution.

Wet Ingredients

2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil

Dry Ingredients

1/4 cup white rice
1/4 cup lentils
2 cups veggie stock
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/8 sliced red onion

handful green onion (finely chopped)
Gouda

Spices

1 tsp. paprika
cayenne
oregano
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Process

Combine the wet ingredients and a pinch of sea salt in a medium sauce pan and heat to medium. Once the honey dissolves add the red onion, garlic, and carrot.  Bring the soup to a a slow rolling boil for 2-3 minutes, and add the rest of the spices. I would take it easy on the oregano, more than a dash or two will over accentuate the lemon. 1 tsp. of paprika will add color and a smokey taste that pairs well with the Gouda used to finish the soup. As for the cayenne, use your own discretion, I prefer a lot, but start slow or you’ll ruin your whole meal. A few more minutes will give the onion and carrot some time to soften and release their flavor into the soup. At this point it is time to add the lentils and rice. Most white rice has about the same cook time as lentils, which is one reason why I don’t use brown rice. Simmer on med-low for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked.  When you are ready to serve the soup add the green onions and grated Gouda to each bowl and serve.

Spicy lentil soup is a great 3 season lunch or dinner. The quick prep time, under 30 minutes, gives you plenty of extra time to spend with the person you’re cooking for. As an added bonus lentils are full of protein which is great for vegetarians, and for those of use who love meat, this soup pairs well with a nice chorizo sandwhich. If you enjoy wine with lunch, I would reccomend a semi dry tempranillo like La Vendimia. The fruity notes of this variety of wine are excellent with any mild to moderately spicy dish.

Welcome to The Garlic Press and Company, a new blog with a new spin on culinary press. We provide a number food information services. But what are food information services? Quite simply, they include recipes, restaurant reviews, video guides, and product reviews to name a few. Each week we will be in our test kitchen, crawling the pubs, and drinking a lot of wine all so that you can benefit from our experience.

The Garlic Press and Co. will be up and running soon. Check back in 24 hours.