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.

Drinks by the Gallon: Manhattans and Prairie Punch

As part of my Cocktails 101 series over at the cityhomeCOLLECTIVE blog, I recently wrote a history/rant on that gorgeous hit of rye, The Manhattan. For this very tough and hard-hitting bit of research, I spent an afternoon chatting and drinking with bartender extraordinaire Amy Eldridge at the classic Salt Lake watering hole, Bar X. Somebody’s gotta do it. Quite a few folks have been asking me lately about drinks by the pitcher or punch bowl for a crowd over the holidays, so here are a couple of my standards: one is for Manhattans pre-made in the freezer, the other for a citrusyManhattans at Bar X punch that you need to plan about a day of lead time for to make the classic oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”). Both with whiskey, of course!

Manhattans by the Gallon This edition of “How to get your family shitfaced in large batches” courtesy of Amy Eldridge. Perfect for the holidays!

1) Take a very large freezer-safe pitcher or hefty gallon jug, and fill it with:

one bottle sweet vermouth

two bottles rye whiskey

and the equivalent of one bottle filtered water

2) Put upright in the freezer for at least a couple of hours or overnight [it won’t freeze because of all of the alcohol, but may get a little slushy].

3) Portion out cocktails directly into chilled glasses as needed, with a couple of dashes of bitters dropped into each glass first, and a cherry garnish to finish. Or, fill a pretty glass pitcher with the booze and one of those wicked cool ice insert thingies so your Manhattans stay icy cold without getting diluted. Let your guests serve themselves until you call them a cab and boot their ass to the curb. Cheers!

High West Prairie Punch

Prairie Punch: perfect with cheese and savory snacksFinca’s bar man Scott Gardner resurrects the concept of an artisanal punch in this recipe, harkening back to the time when every bar or local watering hole worth its salt had a proprietary and exclusive house punch.   The traditional oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”) preparation takes some lead-time to assemble, but is worth the effort to create a well-blended traditional punch. Here’s his recipe, which makes A LOT (good for a party of 20 or more guests):

1) At least two hours, or up to one day ahead, prepare oleo saccarum by gently muddling 8 oz. granulated sugar and the peels of 6 lemons.

2) After the sugar has turned to a syrup/paste consistency, add 6 oz. lemon juice, stir to combine, and let sit for an additional 30 minutes.

3) Strain out the lemon peels from the mixture and discard

4) In a large punch bowl (or two pitchers), combine:

  • lemon sugar
  • 1 bottle (apprx 25 oz.) High West American Prairie Reserve bourbon
  • 40 oz. cold water
  • ½ oz. angostura bitters
  • Just before serving, add ice to chill your punch
  • Float 8 oz. brut cava on top of the punch
  • Garnish with lemon wheels and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Note from A Bourbon Gal: Lovely served in shallow ‘coupe’ stemmed glasses

For more punch recipes made the old, old fashioned way [um, not with 7up and floating sherbet], check out David Wondrich’s history of the flowing bowl, Punch [Penguin 2010].

Beehive Bombshell

A million thanks to all y’all who took the time to vote for my cocktail the “Beehive Bombshell” over on the CocktailersAnonymous Instagram competition. Haven’t voted yet? Pretty please with cherries on top, go on over there, and pronto! Voting closes today and it’s a close one [though thanks in no small part to y’all, the Beehive Bombshell is ahead by a frog hair right now. Squeeee!]. It’s a riff on one of my favorite celebratory beverages, the festive French 75. I made this one using locally-produced Beehive Distilling Jack Rabbit Gin, and Utah-owned VIDA tequila añejo.

So. Good. It’s made even prettier [and tastier IMHO] by the kickass addition of Meyer lemon juice and sparkling rosé.

The Beehive Bombshell, as featured over on the Cocktailers Anonymous feed.

The Beehive Bombshell, as featured over on the Cocktailers Anonymous feed.

Beehive Bombshell

1.5 oz Beehive Jack Rabbit Gin

0.5 oz VIDA tequila añejo

1.25 teaspoons superfine sugar

0.5 oz Meyer lemon juice

Top with sparkling rosé [2-3 oz.]

In a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice, add all ingredients except for the wine. Shake briefly to combine, then strain into a champagne flute. Top slowly with sparkling rosé. Garnish with an extravagant lemon peel, of course! Oh la la.

For an extended history-slash-rant on my love of the French 75, check out this story I wrote last winter over at the cityhomeCOLLECTIVE blog: “There’s something about a champagne cocktail that cranks the flyin’ high freak-flag level of any event right up to 11 from the first toast, and the French 75 is arguably THE classic bubbly cocktail. Fair warning: it’s the kind of cocktail that sneaks up on you like a velvet sledgehammer. After a few of these, you’ll be stumbling into the next day wearing nothing but a tuxedo jacket and false eyelashes. That don’t belong to you.”

The Old-Fashioned Way

I wrote this piece for the cityhomeCOLLECTIVE blog last year for their “Cocktails 101” series. See more delicious photos from the party, as shot by Tristan Shepherd, here. Edited by the lovely and talented Amy Tibbals.

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned.  Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned. Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

It only takes one sucky Old-Fashioned to put you off this drink for life. My first introduction to the Old-Fashioned was the one served for pretty much every holiday gathering with my family. It looked like fruit vomit, and tasted like booze-tinted water. My-relative-who-shall-remain-nameless [he meant well, really] smashed great masses of fruit—orange slices, godawful red maraschino cherries, sometimes some lemon—in the bottom of a glass, stirred in a spoonful of sugar, a spoonful of grenadine, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Then he filled the glass with ice, added a splash of Canadian Club, and quite a few glugs of club soda [ladies, after all, shouldn’t be served full-strength cocktails. Psh.]. I’d smile weakly and say thank you, and then later my brother-in-law and I would scrounge for the bottle of bourbon I gave them the year before at Christmas and make our own drinks. Booze: the gift that keeps on giving.

In defense of my relatives, the aforementioned version of this wayward drink is the one that most post-Prohibition-era Americans drank, and expected to be served if they ordered one at the club. And until Don Draper’s character made it sexy again on Mad Men, nobody without an AARP card would be caught dead ordering one at a hipster bar. It’s the version I’d been taught to make at my first bar gig in the 1990s. And it’s a goddamn shame, too, because in its purest form, the Old-Fashioned is a tasty thing of beauty: just a bit of citrus, sugar, bitters, a large cube of ice, and booze. Barmen in the late 1800s started making drinks by request “the old-fashioned way” in protest against what their patrons saw as unnecessarily elaborate cocktail chicanery of fruit concoctions, fussy garnishing, and flashy shaker work. Ironically, that original Old-Fashioned recipe was hijacked after Prohibition and turned into just the sort of muddled-fruity-watery vulgarity that the 1880s bartenders had been protesting. Cocktail history, my friends, is a fickle bitch.

Many Old-Fashioned's later.... [photos by Tristan Shepherd]

Many Old-Fashioned’s later…. [photos by Tristan Shepherd]

Flash forward to now, people, and keep up, ‘cause this is where it’s going to get tricky. In today’s bourbon-is-sexy-again cocktail-crazed scene, you never know what you’re going to get if you order an Old-Fashioned. You may get a stunning—and short [I’m not gonna lie, 2 oz. of liquid looks pretty puny with only a big ‘ole ice cube keeping company]—Old-Fashioned at a place like Bar X, or as mixed up by the booze slingists of C&S Spirits. They’ll kill it, you’ll love it. Or, you could end up with my in-laws’ version at the golf club. Sucks to be you.

*Solution: start making your own. Try a few out and find what you like. Here’s a few basics to get you get started:

THE BOOZE: It doesn’t have to be the most expensive bottle on your shelf. Bourbon? Classic. Rye whiskey? A nice touch, and historically accurate. Southern Comfort? Um, not what I’d pick, but okay for a 21-yr-old frat boy. Brandy? Way sweet, but it’ll work in a pinch. Tequila? WTF, people. No more experimenting. Bottom line, I prefer a 90 proof or higher bourbon or rye for making Old-Fashioneds; make the booze the star.

THE BITTERS: You can get super ambitious and make your own artisanal bitters, and in a couple of months, if they turn out, you’ll be ready to make a drink. You can buy fancy-schmancy fruit bitters, like Fee Brothers, online, but Angostura bitters are available at most supermarkets and are a classic addition.

THE SWEET: Use white sugar, Demerara or turbinado sugar, hand-harvested by virgins, organic beet sugar, sugar shaved raw from a pressed loaf smuggled through customs from your last Cuban vacation. Sure, why the hell not. Stay away from brown sugars.  

THE FRUIT: Please, for love of all that’s holy, try to keep the fruity additions to a minimum, and make them the background notes to support the flavor of your liquor. Avoid a fruit salad that you have to slurp around to get to your drink.

THE WATER: If there’s one thing you remember when making this drink, it’s to watch your water content; a mere baby splash of club soda or water [less than ½ oz.] will open up the nose of your booze nicely, but a watery Old-Fashioned is just fuckin’ gross. If you’re pulling your rocks from an ice bucket, make sure that they’re cold and hard..not floating sadly in water. Oh, and the bigger your cube, the better. Now, let’s make drinks, shall we?

The Classic Old-Fashioned [by booze historian David Wondrich for Esquire]

Place ½ tsp of loose sugar in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass, then add two or three healthy dashes of Angostura bitters and ½ tsp of water. Muddle until the sugar is dissolved. Add three ice cubes to the glass. Stir. Add 2 oz straight rye or bourbon whiskey. Stir again. Twist a thin-cut swatch of lemon or orange peel over the top, add a stirring implement, and let sit for one minute. After that, enjoy thoroughly.

 

Cranberry-Clementine Old-Fashioned [a cross ‘twixt the 1880s classic and a mid-century cocktail, with a sparkly rim for festivities’ sake. I made a cranberry-rum citrus jam to use as the sweetening/fruit element, but you can totally use leftover, cold, cranberry sauce from your holiday dinner and it’ll rock, just the same.]

Rub ½ of the rim of a lowball glass with ¼ of a Clementine wedge; dip the citrus-coated rim of the glass in turbinado sugar to coat. Then, to a short glass add: juice of ¼ Clementine wedge [drop it into the glass, if you want to be like Don Draper’s daughter], three dashes bitters, ½ tsp. cranberry jam [or cranberry sauce], ½ tsp sugar. Stir with a spoon until sugar dissolves. Add 2 oz. bourbon and 3 to 4 cubes of ice, then top with an optional tiny-baby splash of club soda. Stir gently to combine, garnish with 2-3 sugared cranberries, and enter the gates of heaven.

Bourbon Caramel Spiced Bar Nuts

Perfect to go along with your Thanksgiving cocktails!

I love making handmade gifts for the holidays, and these bar nuts fit the bill perfectly:  tasty, easy to throw together quickly, and gorgeous in a pretty jar or crinkly bag.  Plus, they make your house smell hella good when they’re roasting!  I made these for our Supper Club a few years back and they’ve been a favorite ever since; great with salads or alongside cocktails.  Technically, they’re really not a ‘caramel,’ but the presence of sugar and butter together gives it that distinctive caramel-ly flavor.  I fix up a few batches of these sweet-spicy-savory treats just before Thanksgiving and have ‘em on hand for football tailgating, hostess gifts, and impromptu cocktail parties through the New Year.  For the mixologist in your life, snuggle a box of bar nuts alongside a great bottle of booze and some swanky mixers.

Cheers, y’all!

Bourbon Caramel Spiced Bar Nuts

Bourbon Caramel Spiced Bar Nuts

Bourbon Caramel Spiced Bar Nuts

2 ½ lbs. unsalted nuts (just pecans, or any combo you like)

3 Tbs. butter, softened to room temperature

½  cup brown sugar

¼ cup bourbon

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 ½ Tbs. smoked sea salt (any variety, any color)

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

1 Tbs. raw, turbinado, or other large-grained sugar (for finishing)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread nuts evenly out on a large rimmed cookie sheet.

To a very large mixing bowl, add all remaining ingredients except for the raw/turbinado sugar.  Stir to combine well (it’s okay if the butter is a little lumpy, it will melt later).

Toast nuts on the center rack of the oven until they are fragrant and golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Immediately toss the nuts into the large bowl with the other ingredients and stir with a large spoon until evenly covered.  Spread all of the nuts out in an even layer on the rimmed cookie sheet; sprinkle with turbinado or sanding sugar. After cooling for about 15 minutes, taste, and adjust with a little salt or spice to your liking.  Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for one month.

I recently served these nuts for a photo shoot on a piece I wrote for CityHomeCOLLECTIVE about Hot Toddies.  Check it out!