Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Calvados-Spiked Mulled Apple Cider

I’m home in NYC with my parents for Thanksgiving, and it’s just the three of us. For dinner tomorrow, a whole turkey seemed like way too much food, so we decided to go with duck. The menu plan blossomed out from there, and I’m absurdly excited to spend most of tomorrow cooking (spice steamed and cranberry-chipotle glazed duck, apple and cheese empanadas, braised bok choy, and a tarte tatin for dessert). This weekend, I’ll post all the recipes, with the exception of the tarte tatin which comes from this cookbook (although I will write a post on the genius behind the book).

While I was planning the menu, I tried to include the same ingredients in multiple recipes, for two reasons. One: shared flavors in each dish will help give the meal cohesion, and two: I didn’t want to spend too much money on ingredients that my parents will never use – while they love food as much as I do, they prefer eating it to cooking it, and every time I come home I see that the mirin, or the chestnut honey, or the cheesecloth that I bought ages ago is still sitting in the pantry.

So, here’s a recipe I decided to make when I realized that I’d have leftover spices and Calvados tomorrow (Calvados in an apple brandy, which I got excited about when I read this excellent article about it in the New York Times). The duck will be steamed with these spices, the empanadas and the bok choy will both be flavored with Calvados, and the glaze basically includes one of these drinks dumped into it. I just drank one, and it was delicious and a half. No single flavor stood out (well, apple, but that doesn’t count), and they all blended into warming, lingering complexity. Feel free to omit the alcohol, but, let me tell you, the brandy really makes this drink special.

[Sorry about the lack of pictures for the next few entries, I left my camera in Syracuse, yeesh]

Calvados-Spiked Mulled Apple Cider

10 whole pieces star anise (or enough broken pieces to make up 10 whole)
2 sticks cinnamon
40 cloves
15 pods green cardamom
½ gallon apple cider (I used Red Jacket Orchards cider. It’s available all over NYC, including the Union Square Market, which is, in fact, the most magical place on Earth)
5 long strips of orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler, any white pith scraped off with a sharp knife (the pith is bitter and adds no flavor, it should never be included in any recipe that I know of)
3 long strips of lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler, any white pith scraped off with a sharp knife
Calvados, to taste (probably one or two shots per mug of cider), I used Christian Drouin Sélection, which was reasonably priced and wonderful.

1.) In a medium pot, toast the star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom over medium-high heat until they are browned and fragrant.

2.) Add the cider and citrus zests and bring to the liquid to a simmer. Do not let it boil, as this will extract all sorts of bitter compounds from the spices.

3.) Simmer for 2 hours, adjusting the heat if necessary. Taste periodically – you may want to increase or decrease the simmering time, depending on how strongly spiced you like your cider.

4.) Remove from the heat. Strain through a fine-meshed strainer. Add Calvados to mugs, then pour in hot cider, stir and serve (note: if you are reheating, heat the cider, then add the Calvados. Make sure it’s not scalding hot, as the alcohol could evaporate off).

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