ASK MR. ALPENGLOW

Q: What do you recommend to spice up a diet of rice
and beans due to extreme fiscal irresponsibility?

A: Here are three variations on rice and beans
that should make austerity more palatable.

DIRTY RICE & BEANS FRITTERS 
Mix Cajun spices and an egg with your rice and red
beans, form them into discs, then pan fry them in oil.  

EDAMAME FRIED RICE
Saute frozen edamame, cooked rice, and eggs with
a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili peppers.  

BRAZILIAN FEIJOADA 
Stew black beans with flavorful meat (smoked bacon,
ham, or vegan hot dogs), canned tomatoes, 3 garlic
cloves, and a bay leaf for up to an hour; serve with rice. 

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SORRY, MY PLATE IS FULL

Mr. Alpenglow’s relatives are — how do you say it? — beasts in the kitchen. Our Christmas buffet is a primal affair. Each man, woman, and child gets a paper plate decorated with poinsettias. The rest is a strategic dilemma: To compose an elegant plate, one must resist the call of variety, running the risk that certain delicacies will be gone upon return; to maximize variety, one must embrace a cacophony of flavors, their hot mingled juices conspiring against a buckling paper vessel.

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A. Fried bean curd roll with pork, bean sprouts, scallions.
B. Lightly pickled cucumbers.
C. Melange of bamboo shoots, fresh and dried.
D. Potato salad with smoked ham.
E. Tea-smoked egg.
F. Gelatinous braised beef shank.
G. Stir-fried shrimp with ginger and scallions.
H. Pork and tofu meatballs.
I. Roasted duck.
J. Red-cooked pork loin.
K. Braised pork ribs.
L. Kabocha squash cake “noodles” with sauteed bok choy.
M. Rice cakes with sauteed pickled mustard greens.
N. Lightly pickled bean sprouts, stir-fried.
O. Roasted chicken with soy sauce and wine.
P. Dry-fried green beans.
Q. Red-braised beef short ribs with caramelized onions.
R. Sticky rice with Chinese sausage, shitake mushrooms, and shallots.

ASK MR. ALPENGLOW

Q: What would Mr. Alpenglow recommend for a quick
but elegant appetizer before Christmas dinner?

A: Here are some ideas:

CHIPS & CAVIAR
try domestic varieties: Hackleback or Paddlefish

DEVILS ON HORSEBACK
dates stuffed with Stilton and bacon-wrapped

SLICED RADISHES
with butter and sea salt on toasted baguette

SPICED PECANS
with Camembert and crackers

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CALIFORNIA, I’M COMING HOME

December in California brings the confluence of two glorious harvests: the Dungeness crab — prized for its sweet, abundant flesh — and citrus fruits. This season’s Metacarcinus magister haul is yielding “pleasantly plumpspecimens. There’s no debate: the crabs are best steamed (7 minutes per pound) and unadorned. Fragrant tangerines and Meyer lemons are ubiquitous this time of year, in yards and in markets, so everyone chipped in to make a feast showcasing the season’s best. We added fried chicken to the menu because, why not?

CURLY ENDIVE & TANGERINES
toasted pecans, bacon vinaigrette 

STEAMED DUNGENESS CRABS
braised leeks, lemon zest, anchovy croutons

LEMON-BRINED FRIED CHICKEN
roasted potatoes with chimichurri

MEYER LEMON TART
peace on earth

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Meyer Lemon Tart
(serves 8; Chez Panisse Desserts)

for the crust:
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon grated Meyer lemon zest
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the curd:
2 large effs plus 3 egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest
1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Heat the oven to 375. For the crust, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Cut in the butter into the dough until it begins to come together. Then stir in 1 tablespoon water plus the vanilla. Shape the dough into a disk and chill in plastic wrap for 30 minutes. When chilled, roll out the dough and press it evenly into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze it for 30 minutes. Then bake it for 25 minutes until golden. Let cool. Next, for the lemon curd, combine the eggs, yolks, sugar, cornstarch, lemon, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Whisk constantly on medium-low heat until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter gradually. Pour the curd into the tart shell and bake until the curd is set, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely.

SOUTHERN COMFORT

Mr. Alpenglow’s day job entails a healthy dose of rejection:
in person, by e-mail, on paper, and over the phone. Here is a
menu that functions unabashedly as a crutch in hard times.

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SHRIMP & GRITS
(4 servings, adapted recipe)

4.5 cups of water
1 cup of stone-ground white grits
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces shredded white cheddar
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, sliced
about 1/2 pound of Andouille sausage
(sliced, or 6 slices of thick-cut bacon)
1 to 1.5 pounds of shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 cup of low-sodium chicken stock
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Half a lemon
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Bring the water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt, then the grits. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the cheese and butter. Set the grits aside (covered) and keep warm. Fry the sausage or bacon in a skillet. Set the meat aside, reserving the fat. Saute the onions on low flame until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add the peppers, garlic, and black pepper. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and saute for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 4-5 minutes. To serve, spoon grits into a bowl. Spoon the shrimp and sauce on top. Add some lemon juice. Garnish with green onions.

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BANANA CREAM TARTS
(makes 6 individual tarts)

for the tart dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine the butter, sugar, and salt until smooth. Add the egg and mix. Gradually add the flour and mix until incorporated. Shape the dough into a ball and chill for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 350. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut circles about 6 inches in diameter and transfer to individual tart molds, pressing into place and trimming the edges off. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

for the pastry cream:
2 cups of whole milk
1/2 teaspoon of salt
4 ounces of granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 eggs
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the milk to a boil, then set aside. In a bowl, mix the sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add some of the hot milk to the mixture and whisk quickly. Then pour the egg mixture back into the hot milk. Return the custard to the stove and whisk until thickened. Allow the mixture to boil to cook off the cornstarch. Remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla. Allow the mixture to cool and then chill until ready to serve.

for the caramel:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan on medium-high until the sugar dissolves and the mixture turns a light golden color. Remove from heat and whisk the butter in. Carefully add the cream and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

To serve, spoon caramel onto the bottom of the tart. Spoon pastry cream on top. Add whipped cream. Spoon more caramel. Then arrange sliced bananas on the very top.

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WHITE CHRISTMAS
(adapted from The Crunkleton)

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce heavy cream
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce honey
1 fresh egg white
2 dashes of chocolate bitters

Shake all the ingredients vigorously. Add ice
and shake again. Strain into a chilled coupe.

L’AMOUR EN FUITE

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SMOKED TROUT BEIGNETS WITH FRIED SAGE
adapted from a recipe by Thomas Keller 

for the trout “brandade”:
8 ounces smoked trout fillet
1.5 pounds (about 2) russet potatoes
(baked and peeled)
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
a pinch of piment d’espelette (or paprika)
ground white pepper
fine sea salt
about 1 cup of olive oil
sage leaves
vegetable oil for frying

for the batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1.5 teaspoons fine sea salt
about 1 cup of beer, eg. pale lager

Place the trout, one of the baked potatoes, garlic, and half of the oil into a food processor. Pulse. Slowly add more potato and oil, tasting as you go to ensure the fish remains prominent. Season with salt, piment d’espelette, and white pepper. Form small balls out of the mixture (if it’s too soft, put it in the freezer for 15 mins), about two tablespoons each. Next, mix the dry ingredients for the batter in a large bowl. Add the beer. The batter should be thick and lumpy. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Heat the vegetable oil, about 3 inches deep, in a saucepan or pot to 350F. Coat about 5 balls at a time in the batter. Use a spoon to lift them into the oil. Do not crowd. Turn the balls so they brown evenly, about 5 minutes each batch. In the last 30 seconds of each batch, add a few sage leaves and fry until crisp. Remove beignets and sage leaves to drain on a rack. Repeat for remaining batches. Serve the beignets with sage leaves on top.

L’AMOUR EN FUITE (“LOVE ON THE RUN”)
adapted from a cocktail by Jamie Boudreau

1 1/2 ounces Plymouth gin
1 ounce Lillet blanc
1/2 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
absinthe

Rinse the inside of a chilled coupe glass with the absinthe.
Pour out the absinthe. Stir the gin, Lillet, and St. Germain
with ice and strain into the coupe. Garnish with lemon slice.

COCKTAIL HOUR

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SUNNY DECEMBER 
“Sunny D” 

1 1/2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce Cointreau
2 ounces fresh tangerine juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce cinnamon-clove simple syrup*
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all the ingredients with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass with large ice cube. Garnish with tangerine peel.

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*1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup hot water, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, 4 black peppercorns, and a tangerine peel. Bring everything to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. Allow the simple syrup to cool completely. Remove the hard ingredients.

PLEASURE YOURSELF

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Mr. Alpenglow typically cooks to bring pleasure to friends and family. Tonight he cooked to pleasure himself. And it was good.

DUCK BRAISED WITH PRUNES & ARMAGNAC
(serves 4; adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse)

4 duck legs
1 large onion, diced
4 shallots, peeled and halved
4 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cloves of garlic smashed
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup Armagnac
24 pitted prunes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 350. Season the duck with salt and pepper. On the stovetop, sear the duck in a large cast iron pot on medium-high heat, about 6 minutes each side. Set the duck aside. Drain half of the duck fat. Add the onions, shallots, carrots, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Saute for 10 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Then add the tomato paste, wine, Armagnac, and prunes. Finally, place the duck back into the pot, skin-side up. Cover with foil. Bake for about 1.5 hrs. Before serving (the next day is best), place the duck under the broiler briefly to crisp skin. Serve it on top of the braised vegetables and sauce.

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COCKTAIL HOUR

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NEW YORK SOUR 

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce dry red wine

Vigorously shake the whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice until the shaker is frosted. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Gently pour the red wine over the back of a spoon onto the drink.