Scaring up a Ginger Scald · 2 May 2011
The Lies of Locke Lamora is fertile ground for cooking through a good book. Locke and his band of Gentlemen Bastards not only revel in swindling their way to fortune, they enjoy cooking the fruits of their labor. And while the feasts described sounded scrumptious, the recipe that really characterized the story was the ginger scald. Locke, in one of his many guises is hosted on a pleasure barge to discuss business. He's playing an outsider, an acute businessman from a neighboring realm in which the customs are quite different, and when his hosts offer him a drink, he conveys suspicion borne of experience.
'A drink would be very pleasing,' he said. 'But, ah, I fear that you shall have no reassurance for my condition, kind Doña Sofia. I have done much business in your city; I know how drinking is done here, when men and women speak of business.'
It struck me that his hosts took this as a challenge, and perhaps it was meant that way, because the ginger scald ordered for Locke was so demanding, it could be construed as a hazing ritual.
Conté moved adroitly to fill this request, first selecting a tall crystal wine flute, into which he poured two fingers of the purest Camorri ginger oil, the color of scorched cinnamon. To this he added a sizable splash of pear brandy, followed by a transparent heavy liquor called ajento, which was actually a cooking wine flavored with radishes.
This description was so exotic, so unlike any mixture of flavors I've ever tried, I had to make one. As you might surmise, putting together the ingredients proved to be somewhat of an adventure and since the recipe is straight from the book, I'll include instructions only for the parts of the sum.
Ginger Scald – The assembled ingredients
- 1.5 cups sliced or shredded ginger. You really want to maximize surface area here, so slice thinly.
- About 1.25 cups canola oil (selected for its mild flavor, the better to taste the ginger)
You can buy ginger oil, but finding large quantities proved both inconvenient and expensive, so I made my own. If you do opt for purchasing, make sure you are buying ginger infused cooking oil, and not ginger essential oil.
Place ginger in a saucepan (one with a pour-spout if you've got it) and cover with oil.
Using medium heat, bring oil to a just below a simmer. As soon as you see the tiniest bubbles in the oil, turn the heat to low, and if bubbles continue to surface, turn it down even more. The idea here is to give the ginger a nice lukewarm bath in oil, just enough to activate infusion without actually cooking the oil.
Bathe ginger for twenty minutes, uncovered.
Let cool and strain oil through fine meshed strainer or cheesecloth and into a tightly sealed container.
Store at room temperature (or refrigerate after making your scald for longer shelf life). Ginger oil can last several months. Toss if it starts to turn cloudy.
I imagined a milky brandy could exist. After all, brandy is distilled from fruit, pulp is somewhat milky, and so it seems logical that a raw brandy (such as one which would go into a drink intended to burn its victim's throat) would be cloudy.
If there is such a thing as cloudy brandy, I couldn't find it, and since I abhor dairy products mixed with alcohol (excepting when The Big Lebowski is involved), I declined to induce my brandy to milkiness more literally. Instead, I selected Maraska Kruskovac Pear Brandy. Though quite tranlucent it's colored an orange that is not natural to any pear I've ever seen and so seemed appropriate for this otherworldly drink.
- 1 pound radishes
- 2 cups white wine. I wanted something sweet to balance the ginger, so I chose a Gewurztraminer
Remember bathing the ginger? We're going to do the exact same thing for the radishes. Repeat instructions for ginger oil substituting 'radish' for 'giner' and 'wine' for 'oil' until you get to storage.
Store the ajento chilled. As with most wine, it will go flat rather quickly once uncorked, so plan on using it within a week.
And the outcome? A drink just a demanding as I anticipated. I have to admit, I skimped on the full recipe; I wasn't quite willing to invest in food-safe metals that could be heated to forge-like temperatures.
When this cocktail was mixed, Conté wrapped a wet towel around the fingers of his left hand and reached for a covered brazier smoldering to the side of the liquor cabinet. He withdrew a slender metal rod, glowing orange-red at the tip, plunged it into the cocktail; there was an audible hiss and a small puff of spicy steam. Once the rod was stanched, Conté stirred the drink briskly and precisely three times, then presented it to Locke on a thin silver plate.
As such, the oil refused to mix with the brandy and ajento, and rose stubbornly to the top, where it coasted every sip of the ginger scald. Perhaps truly scalding it would have help fuse the ingredients, but I think the overall effect would have been a drink garnished with fried ginger oil instead of raw ginger oil. Oddly enough, while the drink tasted mainly of ginger oil, the dominating smell was radish. And while I can't say that my version of the scald
hit my lips and limned
”every tiny crack with stinging pain, and (outlined) every crevice between teeth and gums in exquisite pain”, the unorthodox oily texture and pungency of the radish made this drink quite uncomfortable.
I had a suspicion that I wouldn't want to imbibe a full serving of the scald, and made an alternate version with ginger beer instead of ginger oil. Although much more palatable in texture, the strong radish smell refused to be subdued, and I think I've probably drunk my two and only ginger scalds.
How About Some? · 9 July 2007
I have spent the last 4 days doing homework (and driving). My poor bookshelf has been woefully neglected, as has my pantry. But even overworked blogging college students need to eat and drink, and the last few weeks I've stumbled upon some truly wonderful examples of one of college life's staple foods, beer.
A few years ago I visited Belgium, and in it found the country that thinks beer should taste the way I think beer should taste, full of flavor with fruity influences.
I visited one of the last existing traditional lambic breweries, Cantillon and fell in love with their brews.
Not only does Cantillon produce very tasty beverages, they have that unique charm that attracts me to small specialty crafters of any trade. The produce large bottles of traditional beer with winsome illustrated labels (the images I’ve included are examples). Their entire brewery fits into a space I’d estimate as no larger than 4000 square feet. When I took the “tour,” I showed up at the door and was greeted by one of the brewing family, then told to look around at my leisure. The tour started and ended at the front of the brewery, which houses the tasting room. After poking around the vats, barrels, and various brewing mechanisms, I was served a glass of lambic and the rest, as they say, is history.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find most varieties of Cantillon in the United States. Beverages and More usually stocks the Vigneronne and the Rose de Gambrinus but they don’t have the magnificent traditional Kriek cherry beer or 100% lambic that I’ve been craving.So, when I went to pick up a bottle of wine for a friend’s birthday party, and saw another Belgian beer that is supposed to be difficult to obtain, Rochefort, I had to buy a few bottles. I selected a Rochefort 6 and a Rochefort 8. The Rochefort beers are brewed by the monks of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance and they too have captured the excellent Belgian character of beer.
A good beer deserves a good meal. A good beer deserves to be savored while sitting on a sunny patio and lazing the afternoon away. Unfortunately my Rochefort got neither of these things. What it got was a hurried meal of Round Table Pizza squeezed in between homework and scholarship essay writing, but this in no way lessened my enjoyment of the beers.
My boyfriend poured the 8 first. It filled the glass with a huge frothy head which took up all but the lowest half inch of the 10 oz glass. We had opened the 6 at the same time as the 8 and while the 8 was pouring, the 6 threatened to erupt over the top of the bottle. Like the 8, the 6 had a generous full-bodied head, but it wasn’t quite as extreme; it only took up ¾ of the glass. After letting the beers settle for a few minutes, the tasting began.
Both beers were excellent, but the 6 was more my style. While not a “lite beer,” it didn’t have the woody flavor and slightly bitter aftertaste that the 8 did. The 8 is a serious beer, full of complex flavors and reminiscent of the smell of a heady day outdoors in the woods. The 6 is the 8’s more sprightly cousin, with a slightly fruity taste and less loamy tones. It had the lightest of aftertastes and was very refreshing.
After adoring my Belgian beers for a sadly short-lived time, it was back to the grind, where (with a few exceptions) I’ve been ever since. I hope to return to my normal 3 posts per week schedule next week. I've got a ton of amazing looking books that that I can't wait to read and share.
Science Fiction Party Food – Part 2 · 27 June 2007
This is the second installment of my entry for Stephanie’s Sci-Fi Blog Party. After snacking on the Oozing Flying Saucers and Tentacle Creatures made in the first installment, you’ll need something nice and refreshing to wash them down (or something nice and mind numbing to help you forget that you just ate something with “tentacle” in the title).
I took the alien concepts I outlined in my first post and incorporated them into a mocktail and a cocktail. After my experiences in making both, I’m going to add “surprising” to my list of definitive characteristics of alien food.
I decided that I wanted tapioca pearls for one of my cocktail drinks. I thought they would add a nice squishy and slimy texture to the mocktail. Now, I’ve never made tapioca pudding, much less attempted to boil the sort of gummy pearly gobs you’d find in “bubble tea,” so I looked around for some recommendations on how to prepare the pearls.
It seemed pretty straightforward. Combine tapioca and water, boil, let sit, drain. What the good people over at Bubble Tea Supply forgot to mention is that you need to stir the tapioca constantly, and boil on the gentlest of settings.
I was never more surprised than when my previously well behaved tapioca changed from a polite boil to a roiling volcanic explosion of clumpy pearls in less than 10 seconds. Even more outstanding was that the boiling didn’t stop when I turned off the burner, nor when I removed the pan from the burner entirely and and put it in the sink. It wasn’t until I watched it spit and hiss at me for about 20 seconds, and finally doused it with cold water, did the tapioca finally calm down.
Alien food indeed! It seemed to violate the very laws of food thermodynamics.
My second surprise in experimental food was with (yet another bowl of) Jell-O®. Did you know that Jell-O® will form a beautiful crystalline crust when frozen? Me neither. I attempted to save this beauty and float it on top of the Swamp Monster Cocktail, but it ended up cracking during my attempt. I did discover that frozen Jell-O® floats, but it looked so ugly, all mashed and mangled from my unwieldy cutting, that I ended up just using the normal refrigerated Jell-O® as sort of a marshy bottom for the cocktail.
The alien results are pictured above. The Earthly goods are pictured below.
The aliens must not have taken my good natured tribute to their possibly culinary activities in stride. After years of virus free operation, I picked up a particularly hard to remove bug on my computer. I believe it may have been planted in the tapioca and spread to my computer via shrapnel from the earlier volcanic explosion in my kitchen.
Also, after a run of supremely enjoyable books, I started one that may not pass the 50 page test. Again, I blame aliens, somehow they infiltrated the random used book store that I visited in Hillcrest and convinced me that out of all the possible gems on the shelves, I needed this one. (Yes, I’ve already ordered my tinfoil-lined lead helmet to prevent future such instructions being transmitted directly to my brain).
Honeyed Words returns to more “serious” endeavors with the next installment. In the meantime, those pining for a bit of the normal routine can check out my latest posted review on, A Clash of Kings.
Alien Egg Mocktail
- 1/4 cup small tapioca pearls
- Chilled cranberry lemonade
Bring tapioca pearls and 2 cups water to a gentle boil, stirring constantly.
Boil approximately 10 minutes, being careful to keep stirring so that tapioca does not clump or burn.
The tapioca pearls should absorb the water and the end product should be a gelatinous mass with small tapioca pebbles encased in the mass.
Once cool, spoon a quarter cup into the bottom of glasses.
Pour ½ oz Grenadine gently down the sides of each, attempting to penetrate the gelatin in artful veiny ways.
Carefully fill with cranberry lemonade.
Swamp Monster Cocktail
- 2 oz rum
- ½ oz blue curacao
- 1 ½ oz chilled cranberry lemonade
- Jell-O® as garnish
Add rum, curacao, and lemonade, and ice to a martini shaker.
Pour into chilled glass.
Top with Jell-O®. Watch Jell-O® sink to the bottom, resembling the mucky stuff found on the bottom of marshes on water logged worlds.