A Bourbon Gal in Utah

cocktails, cookery & occasional domestic badassery

Basil Mojito

No mint? No problem! Make your Mojito with basil, instead:

Basil Mojito!  Now does that look refreshing or what?

Basil Mojito!
Now does that look refreshing or what?

Basil Mojito

1 oz. gold rum

1 oz. silver rum

0.5 oz Cointreau or triple sec

juice of 1 lime, plus save hull of ½ lime

5-6 basil leaves

1.5 oz basil simple syrup*

3-4 drops lime bitters

2 oz (about) club soda

 

To a tall glass add lime juice, hulls, and 2-3 basil leaves. Muddle until basil is a bit bruised but not black and in a million pieces. Add all remaining ingredients except club soda. Stir with a long spoon to combine. Fill glass with ice, add club soda to rim of glass. Garnish with basil leaves and more lime wedges.

 

*to make basil simple syrup: to a pint mason jar, add 1 cup sugar, and pour over with just less than 1 cup boiling water. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add 4-5 large basil leaves, and stir again. Add enough ice cubes to almost fill jar. Let sit at room temperature until cool to touch (about 3-4 hours). Remove basil leaves, seal with lid. Will keep in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

 

The story behind the drink…

Don’t y’all love how much credit “The Grillmaster” gets for charring up a bunch of food? Seriously, and this is with completely gender neutral observation: whoever pulls the stuff off the flames usually gets the credit for the meal, even if another partner in the equation spent most of the day butchering, marinating, making side dishes, and harvesting all that damn zucchini out of the garden. To be fair, in our house my man, The Macallan, and I generally share grill duties 50/50. But when it’s regular old cooking in the kitchen it’s a total 1950s marriage, mostly because I’d like our family to see the occasional vegetable on the plate. Though I love him dearly, the man’s specialties are pasta sauce from a jar, Steakums, and fish sticks with tater tots.

 

My therapist and feminist friends here will have a field day on the analysis of this breakdown, but for the most part it works for The Macallan and I, and it has for years. I really do enjoy cooking (the clean up? Not so much). And I love to grill. But so does he, so when the opportunity to pass the tongs comes along, as it does almost every hot weekend night at our casa, I let him at it. Then I make both of us huge honkin’ Mojitos, and I go cozy up in a comfy chair with a good book and let him take the credit. After all, nothing goes with passive-aggressive martyrdom quite like juicing the hell out of limes and plenty of rum.

 

Sugar House Distilling and Beehive Bitters Company did not pay me to use their products for this story. I just think their shit’s really awesome. I was thrilled as punch the guys at SHD hired me to work on the label copy for their rum and other spirits, hence the lovely signatures from their swashbuckling crew on the bottles. If you’re in Salt Lake City, stop by their distillery, take a tour, and buy a bottle or two. They’re good people. 

 

Whiskey n’ Goobers

Whiskey n' Goober highballs. Along with pickled yummies and white BBQ sauce.

Whiskey n’ Goober highballs. Along with pickled yummies and white BBQ sauce.

Whiskey n’ Goobers

2 oz. peanut-infused whiskey*

3-4 dashes Tabasco or other southern-style hot sauce

3-4 oz. Mexican or full strength Coke

lemon wedge

peanuts for garnish

To a Collins glass or tall Mason jar, add peanut-infused whiskey and hot sauce. Stir with a long-handled spoon to combine well. Fill the glass with ice cubes, top to rim with Coke. Squeeze lemon wedge over top and garnish with a few more roasted salted peanuts. Sip with a straw.

*Peanut-infused whiskey: To a lidded glass jar, add 1/3 cup salted roasted peanuts and 1 cup bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey (I used Jack Daniels). Let sit at room temperature for about an hour, gently shaking contents whenever you think of it passing by. Any longer than two hours and beware: the whiskey starts to pick up too many peanut oils and gets a slick, oily finish. Strain whiskey through a fine mesh strainer into a clean jar. Discard peanuts, or use them as a yummy topping for fudge sundaes. Makes enough peanut-infused whiskey for four drinks.

The story behind the drink:

Beach hair don't care. The boys and I with my cutie-patootie niece visiting from Kentucky. She looks very fierce in this photo - probably watching for sharks.

Beach hair don’t care. The boys and I with my cutie-patootie niece visiting from Kentucky. She looks very fierce in this photo – probably watching for sharks.

Our family just got back from a week-long vacation on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and stayed at a cute cottage a short walk from the beach in the village of Salvo. Yes, right about where all the shark attacks were happening a couple of weeks ago. Loved the beach time and hanging out with the family, and this history dork reveled in all of the wonderful shipwreck, pirate, and aviation history right at our fingertips. But it was definitely one of those times where this Mama was taking the show on the road: still made breakfast, packed beach lunches, and made dinner most nights. And laundry. That shit never stops, especially with beach gear. Like at home, but sandier.

Crabbing! Check regs before you go, but where we were the crabs needed to be at least 5 inches across to keep.

Crabbing! Check regs before you go, but where we were the crabs needed to be at least 5 inches across to keep.

This far south on the Outer Banks meant that many evenings we had the beach entirely to ourselves.

This far south on the Outer Banks meant that many evenings we had the beach entirely to ourselves.

The last day of a vacation rental is like an episode of "Chopped!" Trying to put together actual meals out of leftovers is a pain in the ass, but I feel guilty wasting good ingredients. We made crab and shrimp salad sandwiches with the leftover pickings of our crab boil, mixed with lots of Duke's mayo and Old Bay seasoning. YUM.

The last day of a vacation rental is like an episode of “Chopped!” Trying to put together actual meals out of leftovers is a pain in the ass, but I feel guilty wasting good ingredients. We made crab and shrimp salad sandwiches with the leftover pickings of our crab boil, mixed with lots of Duke’s mayo and Old Bay seasoning. YUM.

 

Shrimp and Grits with andouille at Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe in Nags Head, NC.

Shrimp and Grits with andouille at Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe in Nags Head, NC.

One of the many upsides to a coastal vacay is access to terrific ingredients. We took the kids crabbing, did some surf casting, and there were a couple of great little seafood markets within a short drive of our place. In this bountiful place of vinegary BBQ and the motherland of shrimp n’ grits, I was definitely in my happy place. Even better, I came back with an unfashionably dark tan (hey! Tan cellulite is much more bearable than whale-belly white cellulite. Just sayin’) and a bunch of southern goods we just can’t get in Utah unless I order through Amazon Prime or I make it myself: peach hot sauce, Duke’s mayo, really good roasted or boiled peanuts.

Being back home, I’ve been wallowing a bit in nostalgia for a taste of the South (um, except for the stifling humidity and mosquitos. I’m happy to live without that shit), and have been playing with flavor combos reminiscent of my years there when I’ve been mixing up cocktails for friends back here in Utah. You know, in between the loads of still-sandy laundry. I don’t remember which of my college friends in Memphis introduced me to throwing a few shell-on roasted peanuts into our Jack n’ Cokes on hot summer afternoons, but I do remember that initial taste of salty-sweet and a little roasted nuttiness being a flavor touch-point that I’ve come back to again and again with fondness. Southerners, especially those in the deep and Delta South, call peanuts “goobers,” a term also used to describe a human especially gifted at being a goofball. Much nicer than being known as an asshat. A couple of these spicy-sweet-nutty cocktails with my girlfriend Amaretto Sour while the kids race around having Nerf gun wars, and I’ll gladly relax into full-on Goober status all long hot afternoon. The laundry can wait.

Firecracker Moonshine Jell-O Shots

Layered Jell-O shots.  Party like it's 1847!

Layered Jell-O shots. Party like it’s 1847!

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) is a general request from friends who’ve been asking for my recipe for patriotic moonshine jell-O shots. I make mine with PopRocks and cherries. This recipe originally posted in 2013, but IMHO jell-O shots are a classic appropriate for any old time of the year!

That’s right, people: We are making Freaking Moonshine Jell-O Shots.  With PopRocks on top!

The verdict:  Pretty damn good

The verdict: Pretty damn good

I made the ones photographed here for a July 4th party hosted by Lemon Drop and IPA (a.k.a. Hoss on Hops) in 2013 and blogged about it back then. They were a freaking HIT.  Half I made without alcohol; those were topped with cherries (to make sure the kiddos, pregnant women, recovering alcoholics, and Mormons didn’t get the boozy ones by accident).  Half were made using 80 proof white corn whiskey (commercially available “moonshine”) instead of the frat party favorite Everclear. I left those unadorned until just before serving, then I scattered about ¼ teaspoon of Pop Rocks (yes! The exploding in your mouth candy!) on each shot. The combination of the whiff of Moonshine with the sweet gumminess of the Jell-O was perfectly balanced by the acoustic and sensory bang of the Pop Rocks.  And nobody died from combining Pop Rocks and alcohol, so take that, urban mythologists. As a basis for this recipe, and for help figuring out how to make the “white” layer, I turned to a Wiki-how tutorial on making Patriots football Jell-o shots.  Of course, you can substitute any colors/flavors you want, and you can always use plain old vodka if you don’t have corn liquor on hand. This recipe makes about 35 shots, depending upon what kind of containers you use and how full you fill them.

Layered Moonshine Jell-O shots

(makes about 35)

1 – 3 oz. box blue Jell-O

2 packets plain gelatin

1 can (1 cup) sweetened condensed milk

1 – 3 oz. box red Jell-O

3 cups boiling water (divided use)

2 ½  cups clear relatively flavorless liquor (corn whiskey or vodka)

3-4 packages Cherry or Watermelon (red) Pop Rocks

To assemble your shots: Place 35 small plastic cups on a large rimmed sheet tray.  Lightly spray all of the cups with flavorless cooking spray to reduce sticking.

Blue layer

Blue layer

For the blue layer:  combine blue Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved.  Let cool slightly (otherwise your liquor will evaporate from the heat- we don’t want that!!).  Add the liquor, and pour equally into small cups.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.

For the white layer:  sprinkle gelatin packets over 1 ½ cups water just off the boil; whisk quickly to dissolve completely.  Keep whisking and add the condensed milk and ½ cup liquor.   After it’s all combined, pour gently over the blue layer 2/3 the way up the cup.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.

White layer

White layer

For the red layer:  combine red Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved.  Let cool slightly.  Add the liquor, and pour equally into small cups.  Add fruit to top at this point, if desired.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set. For the PopRocks Firecracker finale!  As you are serving the Jell-O shots, have guest sprinkle about ¼ tsp. Rop Rocks on their Jell-O shot.

Everything was a little blurry by this time, including this shot

Everything was a little blurry by this time, including this shot

Rhubourbon Smash

Rhubourbon Smash Rhubarb, strawberry, sugar, lemon, rhubarb bitters, and lots of bourbon.

Rhubourbon Smash
Rhubarb, strawberry, sugar, lemon, rhubarb bitters, and lots of bourbon.

Rhubourbon Smash

2 oz. high proof bourbon

3 dashes rhubarb bitters

3 oz. rhubarb smash*

1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

To a pint glass add rhubarb smash (including fruit pulp) and bitters. Smash with a muddler or the back of a spoon to further break up the fruit. Add remaining ingredients, plenty of cracked ice, then stir, stir, stir with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a rocks glass filled with cracked ice. Serve with a straw and strawberry garnish, if so desired.

Rhubarb-strawberry smash. Basically, macerated fruit.

Rhubarb-strawberry smash. Basically, macerated fruit.

*Rhubarb smash: combine 2/3 c. rough chopped rhubarb, 1/3 c. chopped strawberries, and 1 cup sugar in a large non-reactive bowl or quart jar. Rest in the warmest part of your fridge (or in the cellar) for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days, until fruit has released all its juices. Stir to re-incorporate sugar and evenly distribute fruit before using. Smash syrup will keep refrigerated up to 3 weeks.

The story behind the drink….

Growing up, my sibs and I spent summers with our maternal grandparents in rural Indiana, and my Gram had rhubarb plants spotted along her drive like landscaping features from the Little Shop of Horrors. They were massive plants, or maybe just remain that way in my childhood memory. Mostly they were shudderifically scary because they were inevitably full of spiders, and harvesting stalks from them was an arachnophobic kid’s freakin’ nightmare. After much squealing and squawking about the spiders, I’d chop off the toxic leaves, and blast the stems with a garden hose before I brought ‘em inside. They were transformed into preserves, pickles, and my everliving favorite: pie. Gram made the best pie crust (using chilled shortening and oleo) and there’s nothing I liked better than helping her make the criss-cross lattice weave delicately topping a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Nothing says "Spring" quite like peonies and rhubarb-strawberry cocktails.

Nothing says “Spring” quite like peonies and rhubarb-strawberry cocktails.

One of the first perennials I planted in our Utah garden when we moved here 10 years ago were two rhubarb plants. Only one of ‘em survived the first winter, but it supplies a shit-load of stalks for our family starting in April and going all summer long. Right now I’m in the midst of putting up all things rhubarb, usually with it’s sweet-tart Gemini sister strawberry right along side. I’m brewing up a huge batch of rhubarb-strawberry shrub, and last night skimmed some of the fruit and sugar mash prior to adding the shrub vinegar blend to make a zippy bourbon concoction. It’d be in the ‘smash’ category of cocktails (think along the lines of a julep, but adding fruit to the muddle), which is a half-assed way of saying you smash whatever you like and add booze. Excellent.

For more on how to make seasonal fruit cocktail shrubs, check out my previous post, here.

Charred 3 Pepper Ketchup

Charred 3 Pepper Ketchup

Charred 3 Pepper Ketchup

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Guy/Gal, Yeah?) is a recipe request from my boys’ ski coach, Ben, who I don’t know well enough to bestow a liquor nickname, yet. Gimme time.

As some of y’all know from previous posts, both of my boys downhill ski race for the Brighton Ski Team, and race parents spend an inordinate amount of time during the season freezing our asses off huddled under tents in blustery conditions clutching travel mugs of whiskey-spiked coffee. Our team’s parents are also known on the circuit for some pretty spectacular tailgating spreads. My job? Usually I pitch in with Bloody Marys and the condiment bar [which in text messages often gets misspelled ‘condom,’ much to the hilarity of my girlfriends. ‘Cause we’re still 12 maturity-wise]. Last year I canned up three different kinds of mustard and a couple varieties of ketchup, along with the usual assortment of kickass pickles like okra, carrot, dilly beans, mushrooms, peppers, etc. for Bloody Mary garnishes galore.

Ski racing tailgating at Park City this season. This was a particularly lovely bluebird day; perfect for vodka spritzers.

Ski racing tailgating at Park City this season. This was a particularly lovely bluebird day; perfect for vodka spritzers.

Of all this delightful shit, the crowd favorite is hands-down my charred three pepper ketchup [bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, and cracked black pepper], which I’ve very loosely adapted over the years from a recipe I found in a home preserving guide. It’s that perfect combo of spicy-sweet-salty that’s more than a little addictive. We smear it liberally on buffalo burgers, dunk sweet potato fries, and it’s guilty indulgence epitomized alongside crispy potato chips. This recipe makes a lot [like, 10-12 cups], so if you are only looking to put it in jars and refrigerate it for a couple of weeks before it turns, I’d cut the quantities by half or a quarter. If you’ll be canning to make it shelf stable using the boiling-water method, keep to the usual rules of health and safety, please. Because botulism.

My son (in the middle) with his racing coaches at Snowbasin this year.

My son (in the middle) with his racing coaches at Snowbasin this year. I know. They’re all ridiculously adorable.

Charred 3 Pepper Ketchup

4 lbs. tomatoes

6 lbs. red bell peppers [about 24]

10-16 red jalapeño peppers

2 large yellow onions, chopped

3  1/2  c. apple cider vinegar

1 c. molasses

2 lbs. dark brown sugar

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 Tbsp. (or more to taste) fresh cracked black pepper

To prep the tomatoes: Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl or clean sink. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Dunk the tomatoes in the water until the skins begin to split; remove from the boiling water into the ice bath until just cool enough to touch. Remove the tomatoes to a colander to drain. Peel, core, and crush the tomatoes and keep them in a large clean bowl. No need to be too tidy, all this shit’s going to all get thrown through the blender anyway.

Peppers on the grill getting all charred up.

Peppers on the grill getting all charred up.

To prep the bell and jalapeno peppers: Set gas or charcoal grill to med-high heat. Char peppers on all sides until skins are just starting to blacken and split. Remove to a very large non-reactive bowl or pot; cover steaming peppers with plastic wrap and set aside for about an hour (or until cooled enough to handle). I wear gloves for this next part—ever gotten jalapeño juice into your fingers and then rubbed it in your eyes or other, ahem, sensitive places?—peel off pepper skins, and remove stems and seeds.

To a very large stockpot, add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are softening and translucent. Remove from the heat and purée with a stick blender [or if using a blender or food processor, do so in small batches so you don’t get hot goo all over yourself and your kitchen]. Return purée to the heat and simmer over low heat until thickened; about 2 hours. Remove from heat.

For preservation and storage:

Refrigerator: Store in clean bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and use within 3 weeks.

Canning: Use the boiling water method. Ladle into clean, hot jars [4 or 8 oz. jars], leaving ¼ inch headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center new lids on the jars and screw on jar bands until hand tight. Process for 15 minutes [that’s for sea level; add additional time for your elevation. For SLC process for 21 minutes total time]. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the canner for an additional 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside at room temp for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

Sugar House Slingshot

Sugar House Slingshot: silver rum, charred lemon, honey-thyme syrup, cardamom bitters, and salt.

Sugar House Slingshot: silver rum, charred lemon, honey-thyme syrup, cardamom bitters, and salt.

Sugar House Slingshot

2 oz. silver rum

1 oz. honey-thyme syrup*

1 oz. charred lemon juice**

2 dashes cardamom bitters

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake like crazy. Rub the rim of a highball glass with charred lemon, and dip half the rim into coarse salt (I used Utah-sourced RealSalt). Fill glass with fresh ice, strain drink into glass over ice. Pop a little club soda floater on top, if desired. Garnish with thyme and a slice of charred lemon.

The story behind the drink:

This week I was thrilled to hear that my friends over at Sugar House Distilling got the go-ahead for sales of their latest release, a molasses distilled silver rum. Rum gets me all excited for spring imbibing: tiki drinks, mojitos, anything umbrella embellished and slurped through a straw. Slings are usually short cocktails made with liquor, citrus, sugar, and water, so this is a riff on that theme but using a honey-thyme syrup, instead of sugar.

ImageThis freaky unseasonably warm weather lately means we’ve uncovered the grill for the season—no doubt we should anticipate snow any day as a result of this arrogance—and I always throw on a few extra halved lemons when I’ve got some free space on the grates. The juice of these charred lemons makes a spectacular smoky sour mix, and in this case kicks some serious ass paired with the sweet-spicy notes of cardamom bitters. I’ve been playing around with making homemade cardamom bitters, but until I tweak that to satisfaction, you can find several varieties (like Fee Brothers) at specialty stores.

*To make honey-thyme syrup: in Mason jar mix ½ cup honey with ¼ cup water just off the boil; stir until honey is dissolved. Drop in a generous sprig of fresh thyme. Cool to room temp, remove thyme. This syrup will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

**Charred lemon juice: Halve a bunch of lemons. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar over each cut surface. Grill, cut side down, over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until lemons are smoking and well charred. Remove from heat and rest at room temperature for an hour or two. Keep several lemons aside for use as garnishes, and juice the remaining charred lemons, straining out seeds and excess pulp. Juice will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

The MacHattan

Here’s an Irish-American twist on that New York classic, the Manhattan, made in the drier style of a Perfect Manhattan. A Manhattan crossed with a Tipperary Cocktail, y’all. Yum! 

The MacHattan

The MacHattan

The MacHattan Cocktail

To a bar glass with ice chunks add:

1 dash orange bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters

1/2 oz. Chartreuse

1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

2 oz. Irish whiskey

Stir, stir, stir with ice using a bar spoon for about 50 revolutions. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a lime zest.

The story behind the drink…

Over the weekend, our family celebrated our 21st annual St. Patrick’s Day Bash. What started out over 20 years ago as a bunch of wild land firefighters and field biologists drinking whiskey in our cabin smack dab  in the middle western Washington’s nowhere has morphed a lot over the years. In the early iterations, guests were free to bring their dogs along for the festivities, as long as they didn’t drink all the Guinness. When we lived in Boston while my hubster was in graduate school, we had crazy late ragers with all kinds of guests; one year we suspect there was an actual leprechaun in attendance. Okay, maybe we stereotyped, however, if you’re a redheaded 5’0″ man with a neck tattoo of a feckin’ shamrock that covers an area from ear to collar, you’re just asking for it. We had one disastrous year of dog/baby overlap, then had to Ix-nay the canines. Y’all won’t be surprised to hear that later the toddlers and primary school aged kiddos proved to be even more shitty guests than the dogs.

From Beehive Distilling's Instagram feed. Love y'all! Everyone's a little Irish at our fest.

From Beehive Distilling’s Instagram feed. Love y’all! Everyone’s a little Irish at our fest.

This year we made it a ‘no kids’ party. Sure, there were fewer guests in attendance overall, but my stress factor was practically cut in half not having to entertain the little bastards. And feedback from our guests was all about the keeping it this way for a while, at least until the kids are old enough to be designated drivers. I didn’t have the space or time to mix MacHattan cocktails for the masses, but our friends cleared out three cases of Guinness, and 7 bottles of Irish whiskey [and no, we don’t serve green beer. We’re grown-ups, and that shit’s disgusting]. Guests knowing about our “only Irish beverages provided” rule brought their own bottles of wine, whiskey, and beer beyond number. We even had our local friends from Beehive Distilling stop by and they nudged a bottle of gin onto the bar. It magically disappeared rather quickly! Y’all are sneaky like that. Here’s my favorite Irish toast to you:

That those who love us love us well. And those that don’t, may God turn their ankles so we may know them by their limping!

Quick and Easy Irish Soda Bread

Every year I get requests for an Irish Soda Bread recipe, and this is my favorite. It’s a wonderful quick bread I should really make more often. Great slathered with butter and accompanied by a nice dram of Irish Whisky, of course. Enjoy!

A Bourbon Gal in Utah

Image Photo from the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. These folks are serious.

Every year I make Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day –slathered with butter and served, of course, with corned beef and cabbage—and I think, “Geez, this stuff is so easy to make.  And super tasty.  I should make it more often!”  Then, I drink too many Irish Coffees, run out of buttermilk*, and forget all about this stroke of brilliance until I start seeing corned beef in the cases at Costco in late February.

As many of y’all know, I really only bake under duress (excepting the “3-Bs”: brownies, biscuits, and birthday cakes).  All that measuring, weighing on scales, perfect ratios.  Accounting for altitude.  Ugh.  There’s a wonderful bakery down the street from my house to which my very responsible children Sprite and Tim Collins can go as my representatives and pick up…

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Wild Goose Chorizo with tequila and pork

Chorizo made with wild Canada goose, pork, and tequila. Awesome for Taco Tuesdays!

Chorizo made with wild Canada goose, pork, and tequila. Awesome for Taco Tuesdays!

I know, usually I write about what I’m drinking, but this is one of those domestic badassery moments that my friends Cosmopolitan and Pink Lady always request I share with all y’all. I think its the chronic mess and mayhem factor of my life they find so amusing. Here’s to you, girlfriends!

Early morning decoy setup.

Early morning decoy setup.

The week before Christmas our family went on a waterfowl hunt near Ft. Collins, Colorado with badass hunting guide and hilarious human Tad Stout from Good Times Guide Service. My husband hunts with Tad a few times a year, often with clients for “work” [ahem], and our boys have gone along on a handful of hunts. This was my second time in their blind with the guys, but this year was a first for me and for my 10-year-old son to be active shooters. Although the weather didn’t cooperate for optimal goose hunting—only waterfowl hunters and skiers bitch about the weather being too warm and sunny—we still hauled in several geese, a handful of ducks, and during mid-day downtime the boys nailed some fat rabbits.

Making friends in the duck blind. Good dog, Lad!

Making friends in the duck blind. Good dog, Lad!

Yes, friends, you may have caught that little scheduling fact on the first read-through: the week before Christmas. Who in the hell plans a gear-intensive hunting trip with the kids AND dogs along, especially when the family expects the usual holiday hoopla? Well, apparently my husband does. AND, my in-laws were arriving from out of town the morning after we get back, which also happened to be my birthday. In addition to our house looking like fucking Cabelas had exploded out of the laundry room and all over the garage, I still had to finish cleaning up [our guide Tad did the up-front dismembering grunt work, thankyoubabyJesus] and prepping for the freezer the meat from eight geese, five ducks, and four rabbits, plus Tad very generously sent us home with two additional gallon freezer bags full of goose breast meat. But I still had to get it all done, done, done. Over Christmas. Cleaned up the rabbits [they were a mess, since they boys hunted ‘em with shotguns], into the freezer. BAM. Cleaned up the duck meat, went as-is into the freezer. Ka-POW.

Nice haul, guys!

Nice haul, guys!

Started the sausage-making process for my usual parade of goose charcuterie in hog casings: an Italian-style red wine sausage, Andouille with moonshine to pop in the smoker [a story for another day], and a garlic and sage-forward breakfast sausage. Hot Damn. By the time I’d gotten through all of those, I was so damn tired of cleaning out hog casings and sanitizing the stuffer yet another time—during Christmas— I went for my loose goose raw sausage fallback: chorizo.

I love chorizo. It’s the perfect blend of smoke, heat, and meat with just enough fat to keep things a little naughty. Whether first thing in the morning alongside some soft scrambled eggs and flour tortillas, or in place of ground beef or venison in tacos or chili, it’s all good. I’ve seen it sold in uncooked sausage links, in smoked links, and without casings, but it’s actually a pretty simple example of charcuterie to make at home for most cooks with basic equipment. Chorizo has become my go-to staple for the last few pounds of game meat—antelope, goose, whatever—that I’m not quite sure what to with and am in no mood to get out the sausage stuffer and set up the whole curing set-up: I just grind up the game with some pork fat, a heavy hand with the spice, and a splash of tequila, and it all gets portioned up raw and sealed for the freezer in under an hour. Done and done, friends. A little glug of tequila blanco in the chorizo, a big glug with a squeeze of lime and a pinch of salt for mama’s glass, and everyone’s happy. And we did end up having a very lovely Christmas, in spite of the Cabelas laundry overload and a kitchen full of butchering equipment.

I love this grinder! No more pushing the KitchenAid to its limits.

I love this grinder! No more pushing the KitchenAid to its limits.

This recipe is adapted loosely from the chorizo recipe in Michael Ruhlman & Bryan Polcyn’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. Like with most of the game sausage I make, I add quite a bit of pork shoulder, butt, and backfat for flavor and texture, since wild game is so lean and tends to get dry and crumbly without the added fat. For a gazillion reasons, please consider buying your pork [and hell, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, whatevs] from a small local producer with responsible animal husbandry practices. I get my pork from Utah Natural Meat. Check ‘ em out; they’re doing delicious work. Any good white [unaged] tequila will do; I used Utah-owned VIDA tequila for this batch [yum for sausage, and for cocktails!].

Wild Goose Chorizo with tequila and pork

[makes about 5 pounds]

2 ½ lbs. goose meat, cleaned and trimmed

1 ½ lbs. pork shoulder

1 lb. pork backfat

1 ½ oz. kosher salt [3 Tbs.]

2 Tbs. ancho chile powder

1 Tbs. smoked paprika

1 Tbs. chipotle chile powder

1 Tbs. finely minced garlic

1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. ground cumin

¼ cup tequila blanco, chilled in freezer

2 ½ Tbs. red wine vinegar, chilled in freezer

Method: cut up all goose meat and pork shoulder into 1” cubes, and pork fat into ½” or smaller dice [this will ensure good even grinding]. Combine meat with all of the remaining ingredients except for tequila and vinegar. Cover and keep chilled until ready to grind [I like to wait at least 24 hrs for flavors to develop].

A little VIDA tequila blanco for the chorizo. A good sized glug goes in Mama's glass, of course!

A little VIDA tequila blanco for the chorizo. A good sized glug goes in Mama’s glass, of course!

Before grinding, set grinder parts and collection bowl in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Grind the entire mixture through the small die of the grinder into a bowl set in ice. Immediately add the chilled tequila and vinegar, and mix thoroughly with the paddle attachment of a stand mixture or put some muscle behind using a sturdy wooden spoon. Keep mixing until the mixture has developed a uniform, sticky appearance [this means all of the fat is well-distributed].

If you want to adjust seasoning, take a pinch of sausage and sauté it in a skillet until cooked through and then taste.

The guys got me one of these fab vacuum sealer dohickies for my birthday. I'm sealing EVERYTHING now. Even if it doesn't need it. Just 'cause it's So. Fun.

The guys got me one of these fab vacuum sealer dohickies for my birthday. I’m sealing EVERYTHING now. Even if it doesn’t need it. Just ’cause it’s So. Fun.

Portion the chorizo into freezer storage bags, remove all air, and freeze or refrigerate immediately.

Disclaimer: Good Times Guide Service, Utah Natural Meat, and VIDA Tequila did not pay me to say these great things about their services and products. I just think they’re wonderful.

Oh! You Sexy Beets Dirty Martini – a hot & pink cocktail

Hot Pink Dirty Martinis. My kind of Valentine’s cocktail!

A Bourbon Gal in Utah

SexyBeetsDirtyMartini

Why I don’t dine out on Valentine’s Day, and you shouldn’t either.

I avoid dining out on Valentine’s Day.   With few exceptions, restaurants are packed with starry-eyed lovers ordering off of prix fixe menus with cloyingly sweet and often watery cocktail offerings, cheap champagne and the Cosmopolitan being the most egregious of these, in my book.  The servers and kitchen are overtaxed trying to run a fast turn-over service to a bunch of people who are too busy groping each other under the tablecloth to really enjoy the meal.

My  girlfriends Sangiovese and Saketini argue that Valentine’s Day could be considered the epitome of the asshat guy holiday – he can be a complete douche to his girlfriend/wife/partner all year, but shell out some bucks for awful milk chocolates and dinner out and he’s –at least temporarily- redeemed himself.  Why can’t a guy just be nice, generous and considerate all the…

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