Scenes from an Austin Burns Supper

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This weekend we were fortunate to be invited to the home of our friends Kevin and Mary to celebrate Burns Night in high style. Not only is Kevin an accomplished piper, but he and his lovely wife have a deep love of British food and culture, as well as an impressive collection of single malt scotch whiskies. We celebrated the birth of Scotland’s national poet with an abbreviated form of the traditional order, followed by much poetry reading, feasting, and merry-making. It was a lovely evening. Here are some of our photographs–and a bonus video of the piping in of the haggis!

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Our sacred text.

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Starters.

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The haggis. It’s actually quite tasty.

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A selection of some of the delicacies on offer: baked salmon (before going into the oven), pork pies, and bangers.

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Our host surveys his Scottish spread.

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The haggis, festively decorated.

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Just a few of the fine selection of whiskies we gratefully and enthustically sampled (I plan to purchase a bottle of Scapa as soon as possible).

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The dinner (clockwise, from top): pork pie, baked salmon, bangers, baked beans, haggis with whisky sauce, and neeps and tatties.

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Eric and I (notice the haggis is in focus–priorities). Eric’s enjoying some Belhaven ale.

And, finally, the promised footage:

If you’d like to book Kevin for your next event, let me know, and I’ll get you connected.

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Cinco de Christos

My sidekick Alex and I decided to host another Greek Easter party this year, then noticed it fell on Cinco de Mayo.  So, in a typical stroke of utter brilliance, we threw a Cinco de Christos party!

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Alex, your host.

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And her amazing tzatziki.

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Eric, the grillmaster.

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Dolmas.

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The setting.

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Greek salad by Karen (Alex’s mom!).

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Melissa, Paola, and Karen.

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Hummus with carrots and pita crisps.

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The amazing Kris and Julie.

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Tsougrisma!

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Chips and queso. With sausage. Oh, yeah.

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The weather was practically Californian.  Not humid, for once!

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Melissa’s moussaka.  Unbelievable!

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Alex’s homemade baklava.  Heavenly.

Until next year!  Zapata anesti!

Guest Post: E’s Rock Candy Bulleit Julep

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Guest post from Eric!  With bonus Civil War trivia.

While I wouldn’t normally advise adulterating Bulleit with mint, making mint juleps with Jack Daniels results in a product that is only so-so, although the Jack Daniels honey version is passable. Bulleit is a prudent choice for this kind of thing because it’s a quality Mintbourbon at a reasonable price, so you don’t sacrifice taste and can still feel good about committing the deadliest of all sins (not simply enjoying bourbon for what it is).

This drink is great to make on a summer day in February (can you tell we live in Austin?). The actual work is only about 10 minutes, as most of the process is just letting the syrup cool and congeal in the fridge. If you have to walk to the liquor store, as I did today, that’ll add 20 minutes to the process, but again, it’s Austin so that’s just a bonus.

If you have a non-ironic portrait of Robert E. Lee handy, it’s best to toast it before your first sip. If not, just toast any nearby old people with beards, or walk to the statue on campus and toast the grackles. If you live in Baltimore, walk to the statue of Lee and Jackson on the eve of Chancellorsville and toast the horses. Okay, I’m done.

Ingredients:

3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint
1 small piece of rock candy, left over from Christmas
2 tbsp local honey
1 bottle of delicious Bulleit bourbon

Steps:

1. In a small tea pot, combine ripped up mint leaves and honey.

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2. Throw in the rock candy.

3. Add boiling water.

4. Let steep for at least 20 minutes, to make a mint/sugar tea.

5. Pour out mint tea into separate container, and throw in any additional mint that’s handy.

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6. Close container, put in fridge, let cool for at least an hour.

7. Take out container, strain contents (if loose mint is in there)now you have a simple mint syrup.

8. Combine mint syrup and delicious Bulleit1 part mint syrup to 2-3 parts bourbon, to tasteand one or two ice cubes.

9. Consume gleefully.

10. Discuss to anyone present how the South shall rise again.

11. Tip hat.

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/INSUFFERABLE HIPSTER IRONY

Sweet Potato Soup with Candied Bacon

Here’s a recipe for those of you who find yourself with a half a bag of leftover sweet potatoes after the holiday! It was a real hit at our house, and I hope you enjoy it.

Beware: the candied bacon is addictive.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 white onion, finely diced
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
two pinches of Old Bay
splash of bourbon
~2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (or to taste)

12 bacon rashers
brown or natural raw sugar

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion and cook about five minutes until just translucent, stirring occasionally. Add sweet potatoes and sauté for a further 10-15 minutes, while you prepare the bacon, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325°. Add bacon to a large plastic bag, leaving the top of the bag open wide. Sprinkle in sugar, seal the bag, and shake vigorously to cover each piece of bacon. You want each piece to be nicely covered in a thin layer of sugar, not clumping. I use just about 1/4 cup of sugar for a whole package of bacon.

3. Remove each bacon rasher from the bag and spread out flat on a cooking rack. Place a foil-lined cookie sheet under this to catch the bacon fat, and place the entire thing into the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy. Check it at 15 to see if it’s done. Do not raise the temperature to speed cooking.

4. While the bacon is baking, spices and salt to the sweet potatoes and stir thoroughly. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add a splash of bourbon to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Stir again, then pour in vegetable broth. Raise heat to high and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and easily crumbled with the back of your stirring spoon.

5. Pour sweet potatoes and broth into a large food processor or blender and blend to desired consistency, doing two batches if necessary (simply pour half in, process, and then remove to a bowl; pour other half from stock pot, process, and then return to pot along with the half in the bowl). I like my sweet potato soup a little chunky, so I processed about 3/4 of the pot, and smashed the remaining large pieces of potato up with the back of my spoon before returning the blended soup to the pot.

6. Stir thoroughly, taste to adjust spices and salt, and continue to simmer over very low heat until the bacon is cooked. Remove bacon from oven, allow to cool, and break into edible pieces (not bacon bits, but small enough to scoop up with a soup spoon!). Drizzle cream into soup and stir thoroughly.

7. Ladle soup out into bowls and top with candied bacon pieces. Serve immediately, while piping hot.

Serves 4.




Thanksgiving by Wheatsville

Our casual Thanksgiving table for three.

Yes, I should’ve cleaned the candlestick holders and ironed the napkins.

Our Thanksgiving dinner by Wheatsville (clockwise from top): green beans with almonds; spicy German potato salad; vegan macaroni and cheese with broccoli; cornbread dressing; white bread dressing with sausage; turkey medallions with mushroom and wild rice stuffing; cranberry sauce from a can (not my choice!); and, by Eric: roasted potatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes, with homegrown rosemary.  Plus red wine and rosemary biscuits from Wheatsville (possibly the best part—delicious!).

Wheatsville’s pecan pie was to die for. One of the best I have ever had.

And Fluffster didn’t even eat any turkey!

Of course, the leftovers are the best part:

For brunch on Friday, I made leftover turkey sandwiches with toasted rolls, cornbread dressing, and cranberry sauce. The best.

And we can’t forget the best part of all: Eric’s Pumpkin Roll.

We’ll probably be making another soon, as the crop of pumpkins down at our allotment garden is almost ready to harvest!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Check back on Thursday for an easy recipe idea for some of those holiday leftovers!