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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Lemonade

Lemonade

Lemonade

Lemonade

BREAKING NEWS: We’re working on our second book!  Even as “Winter Cocktails” was enjoying its moment in the sun (or snow, rather), its summer mate was already being thought about. And drunk about.

Expect boozed up iced teas, milkshakes, and granitas, as well as classic cocktails and antidotes for those raucous summer nights we all indulge in.

Have a taste! This is one of the recipes in progress (much better than what that kid down the block is peddling).

AND! If you have any suggestions for the name, do tell. We’ll send you an autographed copy of the book when it’s out.

AS YET NAMELESS COCKTAIL
Makes 4 (about 4-ounce drinks)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 6 lemons
4 ounces (1/2 cup) demerara simple syrup*
6 tablespoons hibiscus tea*
4 ounces (1/2 cup) pisco
2 ounces (1/4 cup) Lillet blanc
2 ounces (1/4 cup) St. Germain elederflower liqueur
Ice cubes

- Combine all ingredients in a shaker (we sometimes use a mason jar) and shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.

- Cheers!

Be sure to follow the “Summer” girls on Instagram for behind-the-scenes #summercocktailsbook and for our usual shenanigans and wacky hijinks!
@tstriano @sacasastylist @misspaloma @emilyrickardstylist

Expect “Summer Cocktails” (Quirk Books) next year.

*For the demerara simple syrup: Combine 1 cup demerara sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved entirely. Remove saucepan from heat and cool syrup completely. Syrup may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Yield: About 2 cups.
*Dried hibiscus flowers (or flor de jamaica) can be found in many specialty stores and also in the Latin American aisle of many supermarkets. Alternatively, order online or substitute with sachets of hibiscus tea. I like to use a 2-to-1 ratio of water to flowers. Bring the mixture to a boil, allow to steep off the heat for 30 minutes, then strain through a sieve and discard solids. Whatever amount you decide to make, store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

 

Skillet PizzaSkillet PizzaSkillet Pizza

 

This is one of our easiest recipes to date (just like those cheater doughnuts). It’s a non-recipe of sorts, casual and simple. Store-bought pizza dough, a raging hot skillet, and your choice of cheese and toppings — done.

SKILLET PIZZA
Makes 3 personal pizzas

We prefer to use fresh mozzarella or burrata (similar to mozzarella, but with a creamy center) and picholine olives, but feel free to substitute the olives with your favorite variety; hit up the olive bar at your grocer and skip the canned, water-logged variety.  Look for good quality anchovies – boquerones are sweet and plump, not the bristly, über-salty cadavers you tend to see distressing pizza-eaters.

1 (1-pound) fresh pizza dough, sitting at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes
All-purpose flour for work surface
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella or burrata, torn into pueces
4 ounces full-fat ricotta
4 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup picholine olives, pitted and lightly crushed with the back of a knife
½ cup boquerones  (marinated anchovies) or pickled anchovies

- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 475°F. Place a large (10- to 12-inch) cast-iron skillet or large heavy-bottomed, oven-safe skillet on the rack.

- Cut the dough into three pieces.  Lightly dust a clean, dry, work surface with flour. Using a flour-coated rolling pin or empty wine bottle to roll out each piece of dough into an circle about 10-inches in diameter. The circle doesn’t have to be perfect.

- Place the hot skillet (keep a kitchen rack or oven mitt on the handle so you never forget it’s hot!) on the stovetop and turn the flame to medium.  Place one pizza round on the skillet and drizzle generously with oil. Top with some of the mozzarella, ricotta, and ricotta salata. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and return the skillet to the oven.

- Bake until the cheese is melted and the dough is puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough and cheese.

- Once the last pizza is finished, heat a small amount of oil in the skillet, add the olives and cook them over high heat until blistered and browned. Sprinkle the olives on the pizzas and top them with the boquerones.

- Serve with a chilled white wine or rosé.

Homemade Tagliatelle

We like to indulge in food, drink, and good company. This post is a glimpse into what fuels our friendships, our work, our lives. Here are chef Jessica O’Brien and interior and prop stylist Emily Rickard, helping in the kitchen, giving our gathering ambience, and making sure everyone’s glass and forks are full.

Ingredients

TAGLIATELLE WITH VANILLA BEAN LOBSTER AND MAITAKE MUSHROOMS

For the Lobster

2 (2 ½ to 3 pound) live lobsters

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.

Set one lobster on a cutting board. Hold the tail down, and, with a chef’s knife, cut down the line on the head, lengthwise and firmly (you should feel the tip of the knife touching the cutting board) until you hit the horizontal line where the tail begins. The lobster will die instantly, and I much prefer this method to dumping it into a pot of boiling water. It will continue to move a bit, but trust me, it is no longer. Repeat with second lobster.  Remove elastic bands from claws.

Cook the lobsters about 6 minutes. They will turn bright red. Remove them from the pot with tongs and run under cold water briefly. Tear the claws off, then, tear the tail off. Discard the head, unless you’re planning on making stock.

Lobster 101

Use shears to cut vertically down the tail on both sides – this will make it easy to remove the shell and the meat in a single, clean piece.

Cover the claws with a dish towel and tap them with a mallet to crack them. Pry off some of the shell, and pull out the meat.

Chop the lobster into bite-sized pieces.

Tagliatelle with Lobster & Mushrooms

For the Pasta

Note: Vanilla bean accentuates lobster’s sweetness, while the maitake mushrooms beefiness rounds out and anchors the dish.

1 recipe fresh pasts (see our previous post)

6 to 8 tablespoons salted butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Chopped lobster from recipe above

8 ounces maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms, chopped

3 vanilla beans, seeds scraped out, pods reserved for other use

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small bunch chives, chopped (about ¼ cup)

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl it in the pan until it begins to turn golden and aroma is nutty. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and allow to evaporate, about 1 minute.

Add the lobster, mushrooms, and vanilla bean and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until they are golden. Add more butter if desired.

Toss mixture with pasta and chives. Serve immediately. Mangia!

Time to Eat!!

Supple and full, biting into fresh pasta is like biting into a bottom lip. Sold? Yes, it’s a bit of an effort, but pressing palms into soft dough as you push and extend is an addictive release.

This is how we like to do it.

FRESH PASTA

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Note: You can use equal parts semolina and all-purpose flour in this recipe.

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface and adjustment

5 large eggs, at room temperature

Salt

Extra-virgin olive oil

On a clean, dry work surface, combine the flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Form the flour into a hill, then create a well in its center. Add the eggs and a drizzle of oil to the well and begin vigorously stirring them, breaking the yolks and mixing them with the whites.

With the fork, quickly and steadily begin pulling the flour into the eggs, making sure no lumps remain – remember, steady.  Continue doing this until the flour and eggs are completely incorporated. Use a bench scraper to gather any scraps and press them into the dough.

Begin kneading: use your palm to gather the dough towards you, press it into the table, rotate, and repeat. Essentially, you want to shape the dough into a ball as you knead.

Making pasta, like making pie dough and bread, is highly tactile. The more you make it, the more you’ll understand its texture. It will start smooth and pliable, then begin to get sticky (add a bit more flour at this point – you want to keep the surface dry enough to be able to knead,  but don’t go crazy), then a bit rough and tough, like a muscle after you’ve been on the stairmill for a few minutes, then it’ll become smooth and terse like Hollywood starlet’s well-trained bum.  The whole process will take about 15 minutes.

Set the dough aside and cover it with a dish rag that has been dampened and extremely wrung out. Allow it to rest at room temperature 30 to 45 minutes.

Set up your pasta roller (I use a traditional hand-cranked one) and adjust the knob to the widest opening. Cut the dough into 4 pieces and pat each one into a rectangle about ¾-inch thick. Crank the dough through the machine twice. Adjust the knob one setting down and repeat the process. All you’re doing is thinning it out, one level at a time. Eventually, your dough will be a long, thin sheet.

At this point, you can use the attachment on your pasta maker to cut the dough into fettuccine strands, but I prefer a thicker noodle. To make the tagliatelle, fold the dough onto itself, almost as if you were making a wide jelly roll, then cut it crosswise with a knife into 1-inch thick ribbons. Unspool them and set them aside on a lightly floured sheet pan.

Store the pasta, refrigerated and tightly wrapped in plastic, for 2 to 3 days, or eat immediately.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta about 4 minutes until all dente. Drain. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil or a knob of good butter and Maldon salt.

Thank you to Emily Rickard & Jessica O’Brien for their amazing work on this post.

Stay tuned for our lobster tagliatelle recipe in the coming weeks!

Red Red Red

A potion for Valentine’s Day… For those stung by cupid, and to those rebuffed. To those in love, in lust, indifferent. To the poets and masochists and loners and users. To the hopeless romantics, the fools, the obsessives, and the cold-hearted…

Blue and orange flame love.
Searing love. Scorching love.
Hungry, gnawing, constantly craving love.
Chocolate, marshmallows, melting, luxuriously dripping.
Saccharine love. Love that bites and chews and sucks and savors and gulps. Satiating, quenching, filling.
Hot berry pie love, caramel cake love, velvety icing love.
Filled, layered, frosted, can’t wait to devour. Ice cream and cherry-on-top love.
Whipped cream. Gluttonous, greedy, can’t get enough love.
Bonbons, macarons, Marie Antoinette confections and pink champagne, bubbly love.
Sticky amber honey, lavender, agua de azahares, fragrant love.
Paper-cut and lemon juice love. Under the skin, cut-to-the-quick, stinging.
Hiccupping love. Heartburn love. Nauseating love.
Drunken, aching, choking.
Chamomile tea, tiny cube of sugar, soothing love. Warm, still, pool of gold; gentle lullaby and dreamless sleep love.
Root cellar love, dark, dank, buried. Forgotten icebox drawer, stale bread, molding cheese.
Blushing apple, falling, rotting, worming. Burnt toast, fallen soufflé, curdled custard love.
Extinguished love, white ashen coals, wisp of smoke.
Bony, famished, gum-in-hair love.
End of the feast love.

RED RED RED … an original recipe from Winter Cocktails
A sparkling drink made blush with a tart beet granita.

8 ounces cooked beets (see Ingredient Tip)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
6 star anise pods
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
1 (750-milliliter) bottle prosecco, chilled

- Pulse beets until completely pureed in food processor. Set aside.

- Combine sugar, water, vinegar, star anise, and allspice berries in medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir in beets. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

- Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into 13- by 9-inch baking pan and discard solids. Place pan in freezer. After 20 minutes, scrape with fork. Repeat scraping procedure until mixture is fully frozen and has a slushy-like consistency.

- To serve, spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons granita into champagne flutes and top off with prosecco. Serve.

Serves 6

INGREDIENT TIP Beet Red: Use homemade roasted beets or store-bought vacuum-sealed beets. Avoid canned beets, as they are too soft and water-logged.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

We know: it’s freezing. We’d offer to come over and snuggle, but, no way we’re leaving home today. Try our remedy instead!

 

SALTED CARAMEL HOT CHOCOLATE
A dark, rich, and perfectly seasoned elixir from our book,  Winter Cocktails

In this variation, sugar cooks down to an amber, bittersweet caramel that blends seamlessly into hot chocolate.
Cooking Tip: You will need a large saucepan for this recipe: the addition of cream to the caramel causes the mixture to bubble aggressively.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Maldon salt, plus additional for garnish
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
4 cups whole milk
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or chocolate chips
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Ingredient Tip: Maldon salt is a sea salt whose large flakes are ideal for seasoning: they melt slowly but easily into warm items, and also provide a nice crunch and textural contrast. See page 000 for resources.

- Stir sugar and water together in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar turns dark amber and just begins to smoke, 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately add cream and salt, stepping away from pan while bubbling and sputtering subside. Reduce heat to medium and stir just until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

- Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa and brown sugar and stir with whisk until a paste forms. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Whisk in caramel. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, then, reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in chocolate and cook, stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Serve in warm cups and sprinkle with Maldon salt.

- Spike each serving with 1 1/2 ounces Amaretto per serving, if desired (trust us, you desire).

Serves 4

 

 

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

2014. Here it begins with trying to tidy up and pack up the old year, looking back to reflect, and making resolutions, of course… New projects, fresh ideas, daydreams, decisions.

And celebrations. This is our first, with our dear friend and talented chef, Jessica O’Brien. These recipes are delicious and lovely to look at, as well. Gather your friends, toast the new year, and tie on that apron.

About our charming guest…

Occupation: Private chef

Culinary background: The Spotted Pig, Le Cirque, Tasting Table to name a few

Residence: West Village, NY

Most humiliating moment in the kitchen: When Chef April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig threw a bowl of salad across the kitchen room because she said it was over-dressed.

Most rewarding moment in the kitchen: When I got promoted to the Grill Station at the Pig. It meant you’d made it to the top.

Favorite food to cook at home: In the fall and winter I cook a lot of soups and stews for their heartiness and comfort. In the spring and summer I like to cook fish or shellfish for their simplicity and lightness.

Favorite takeout: Chinese, for sure. I order almost everything off the menu.

Favorite thing to cook for company: Surf & Turf. Best of both worlds.

Tip for entertaining at home: Shop and prep as much as possible in advance.

About these recipes: A menu that is simple, delicious, and elegant. Perfect for any occasion. And can prepare so many of the steps in advance.

Favorite drink: Jameson. Straight and to the point.

Music at your parties:  Pop or dance music. It has to be fun and upbeat. It’s a party after all.

New year traditions:  Spending the first day of the New Year with my husband.

Resolutions:  I like to set myself up for success, and resolutions usually end up being a disappointment so I don’t make any.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

HERB-CRUSTED PORK LOIN WRAPPED IN PANCETTA

2 pounds boneless pork loin
Kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper
Olive oil, as needed
¼ cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped, plus 1 whole sprig
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Dried red chili flakes, to taste
1 pound assorted small potatoes, such as fingerling, Peruvian, and Yukon Gold
½ pound baby carrots
1 baby fennel (about ¼ pound), or 1 regular fennel, cut into 6 wedges
¼ pound small Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed and exterior leaves removed
½ cup dry white wine
1 pound thinly sliced pancetta (about 20 slices)

- Remove pork from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

- Pat pork dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 tablespoon oil (enough to coat) a large skillet over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Sear the pork on all sides until deep golden brown, then transfer to a plate and allow to cool.

- In small bowl, stir together chopped rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, and chili flakes. Stir in 6 tablespoons oil. Rub half of the herb mixture all over the pork and once again, season with salt and pepper.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

- Cut kitchen twine into four 2-foot-long pieces and two 3-foot-long pieces.  Lay the 4 pieces horizontally, a few inches apart from each other, then the 2 longer pieces crosswise.  Arrange 12 slices of pancetta on top of twine, overlapping them slightly in a rectangular shape about 3 inches wider than the pork on all sides (since you want the pork to be completely wrapped).

- Place pork loin in center of pancetta slices and roll pancetta slices over it using the parchment paper as a guide. Place remaining pancetta on top of pork to fully cover, then, lay rosemary sprig on top. Tie shorter, horizontal twine pieces first, then tie longer ones. Transfer pork to a roasting pan.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

- In large bowl, toss vegetables with remaining herb mixture and season with salt and pepper. Arrange vegetables around the pork and pour wine over them.

- Roast, basting occasionally with wine and pan juices until an instant read thermometer registers 138°F, 40 to 50 minutes. Allow pork to rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

ROASTED TOMATO TARTS

2 pounds (10 to 12 medium), plum tomatoes halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped, plus additional leaves for garnish
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
All-purpose flour, for work surface
½ cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reddiano cheese, plus ¼ cup (.5 ounce) shaved for garnish
Aged balsamic vinegar, as needed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed backing sheet with parchment paper.

- In large bowl, toss the tomatoes, oil, 2 teaspoons of the chopped thyme, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and toss once again to combine. Arrange tomatoes in single layer, cut-side up, on prepared baking sheet.

- Roast 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 325°F and continue to cook until the edges of the tomatoes are slightly browned, about 1 ½ hours.

- While the tomatoes are roasting, prepare puff pastry. Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with flour, unfold pastry, and cut crosswise into 3 rectangular pieces (the creases will be your natural guide to where you should cut).  Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll each rectangle pieces into 11- by 4.5-inch rectangles.

- With a sharp pairing knife, score around the edges to create a ¼-inch border. Using a fork, prick wholes inside the border (to release steam while cooking). Repeat with remaining 2 pieces pastry.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

- Whisk egg and water together in small bowl and brush all over pastry. Sprinkle the center of pastries with grated cheese and remaining chopped thyme. Carefully transfer to parchment paper-lined trays and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

- When tomatoes finish roasting, return oven temperature back up to 400°F. Bake pastry until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Top each tart shell with shaved cheese while still warm, then top with roasted tomatoes, cut sides down. Sprinkle more cheese to taste and thyme leaves, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Cut into pieces and serve.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

SPICED BAKED CHICKPEAS
Makes about 3 cups

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

- Pat the chickpeas dry with paper towels and transfer them to a medium bowl. Toss them with the oil, rosemary, garlic, cayenne, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour chickpeas onto prepared baking sheet, spreading out into single layer. Bake until crisp, 45 to 50 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure even baking.

- Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack and cool completely. Serve, or store them in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

ZUCCHINI LATKES WITH APPLE-BEET COMPOTE

For the Zucchini Latkes
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes
1 ½ pounds zucchini
1 medium Vidalia onion
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup fine plain breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch ground cumin
Generous pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Schmaltz, bacon drippings, or canola oil, as needed

For the Apple-Beet Compote
2 pounds firm apples, such as Granny Smith, Gala, or Pink Lady, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound red beets, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt

For Serving
Crème fraîche (optional)

- For the Zucchini Latkes: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°F.  Set a cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.

- In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all the ingredients.

- Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop the vegetable mixture in 1-tablespoon-sized spoonfuls  into the skillet and lightly flatten with a spatula, being careful to not overcrowd the skillet.
Cook the latkes until light golden brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer the finished latkes to the prepared cooling rack and baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm and crisp.

- Repeat cooking procedure with additional oil and remaining batter.

- For the Apple-Beet Compote: Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and arrange on platter. Dollop latkes with compote and (optional) crème fraîche.

Holiday CocktailsHoliday Cocktails

Until recently, I thought one of the lines in “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” was “Have a cup of GIN.” It’s actually a cup of “CHEER.” In my book, the words are interchangeable.

This Christmas we’re adding to cheer to our gatherings with Latin American versions of eggnog: rompope and coquito, and also, with an unexpected punch. All recipes are from our book, Winter Cocktails, and we’d like to share them with you and yours here.

ALSO! Listen to my spiel on Eggnog on NPR!  

ROMPOPE
serves 6 to 8

The first rompope, a derivation of Spanish ponche de huevo (egg punch), was brewed by seventeenth-century nuns in the Santa Clara convent in Puebla, Mexico. According to legend, Sister Eduviges requested that the nuns be allowed to drink the rompope they were only permitted to make. Legend also has it that there was one secret ingredient in the recipe that Eduviges took with her to the grave.

Rompope is served chilled, often over ice, but it can be served warm, which is how I prefer it when cold weather sets in. Either way, it’s rich, velvety, fragrant, and certainly full of cheer.

2⁄3 cup blanched almonds
11⁄2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
6 cups whole milk
2 cinnamon sticks
Rind of 1 lemon*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
8 large egg yolks
1 cup white rum or aguardiente**

*Remove the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler, being careful to avoid the white pith, which will impart a bitter flavor.

**Aguardiente literally means “burning water” in Spanish. It is a strong (29% or higher) spirit distilled from fruits, grains, and commonly sugarcane.
It’s available at most liquor stores; for additional sources, see page 156.

Pulse almonds with 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor until ground to a fine paste.

Bring milk, cinnamon, lemon rind, vanilla, and baking soda to a boil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, and ground almonds until thick and pale. Remove cinnamon and lemon rind and discard. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk to the yolk mixture.

Return mixture to pan and cook over low heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool completely, about 2 hours.
Stir in rum or aguardiente. Serve.

COQUITO
serves 8 to 10

Coquito brings a refreshing and tropical twist to the winter season. Like rompope, it is traditionally poured and shared on nochebuena (Christmas Eve) and given out as a gift in festively wrapped bottles, but it will fit in at any holiday celebration. The recipe is similar to rompope, but with a few tweaks: sweetened condensed milk acts as a sweetener, evaporated milk takes the place of milk, and, of course, the island influence is asserted with coconut milk and rum.

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk 8 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and cut crosswise into thin rounds
1 (15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk*
1 cup white rum
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish

*Do not substitute cream of coconut for the coconut milk, because the drink will be too sweet.

Bring evaporated milk, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and discard solids. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Place spiced milk mixture, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, rum, egg yolks, vanilla, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg in a blender and blend until fully combined and foamy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour into chilled glasses and dust with additional cinnamon and nutmeg.

SWEET SURRENDER, a chamomile punch
makes about 13 cups (about 3 quarts), serves 24

This punch marries chamomile’s delicate floral notes to honey and champagne, with a dash of infused alcohol thrown in for good measure. The result is sure to soothe your winter-weary bones.

Ice mold*
1 (750-milliliter) bottle gin or vodka, chilled
2 cups brewed chamomile tea, chilled**
2 cups Honey Syrup, chilled***
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
2 (750-milliliter) bottles champagne, chilled

*To make the ice mold, fill a Bundt pan or medium metal mixing bowl with water and freeze until set. To unmold, run the container under warm water, just until the ice begins to loosen. Turn the mold over onto a surface covered with a clean kitchen towel to grip the container and lift it off the molded ice. Place the ice in punch bowl or other serving vessel as directed by punch recipe.

**To make chamomile tea, bring 2 1⁄2 cups water to a boil in a small sauce- pan. Add 1⁄2 cup dried chamomile flowers or 8 chamomile tea bags and allow to steep until mixture comes to room temperature. Strain through a fine- mesh sieve, pressing down on solids to release all liquid. Discard solids.

*** To make the honey syrup, combine 1 cup honey and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until honey is completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature and store, refrigerated, in an airtight container. Makes 2 cups.

To make the punch: Stir gin or vodka, tea, syrup, and lemon juice together in a punch or other serving bowl. When ready to serve, stir in champagne and slide in ice mold. Serve.

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