Serious foodies and home gourmands can be tough to shop for. Is a gift basket of quick-bread mixes insulting? Do they already have a Himalayan salt block, or four? If your default for these folks is a gift card to the gourmet grocer, that’s fine. But at least tuck it inside one of the finest cookbooks you can find. We’ve pored over stacks of instructional tomes and have read critical reviews to present a short list of the absolute best cookbooks released in recent months. They’re all written by culinary pros who are garnering worldwide acclaim for innovative, artful creations coming out of their restaurant kitchens. Bonus that many are pretty enough to keep on the coffee table.
Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors From the Edge of the Yucatán, by Eric Werner and Mya Henry (Artisan, $40)
One of the best sustainable restaurants in the world is on the shores of paradise. Tucked away down a jungle road along the Caribbean Sea in Tulum, Mexico, Hartwood is a 90-minute drive off the beaten path from the tourist traps of Cancun. Its menu changes daily according to what’s plentiful on the land and in the sea, and its outdoor kitchen is open to the sky, so when it rains hard, the restaurant closes. Chef-owners Eric Werner and Mya Henry left New York City to build their restaurant in the jungle five years ago, and their first cookbook takes readers off the grid with them. Hartwood shares the techniques essential to layering and balancing flavors; it introduces readers to new tropical produce and fish found only in Mexican coastal waters (inquire about ordering it at better grocers), teaches uses for 18 different chiles and a range of herbs, and shares ways to cook on blazing hot grills. “Our cooking isn’t complicated,” they write, “because our kitchen — humid, smoky, crowded, exposed to the elements — can’t pull off anything that calls for extreme precision or control, but the food we produce is complex because we use what’s around us to build flavor.”
Sample recipes: Jicama Salad with Mint Crema; Avocado-Leaf Short Ribs with Serrano-Chile Creamed Corn; Pulpo Asado with Roasted Potatoes and Coriander Dressing; Grapefruit, Mezcal and Burnt Honey Cake.
Make this: Find the recipe for Ceviche with Aguja with Ginger and Mezcal at IndulgeDFW.com.
Crossroads, by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones and Serafina Magnussen (Artisan, $35)
Give this one to all the vegans, vegetarians and mindful eaters on your list. Chef Tal Ronnen’s sophisticated, stylish Crossroads restaurant in Los Angeles turns out some of the most refined, plant-based Mediterranean food in the world. Ronnen got a few minutes of fame when, several years ago, Oprah Winfrey employed him to cook meals for her 21-day vegan cleanse. He has also earned a rave from former President Bill Clinton, and a fellow chef called him “a plant-based food whisperer.” The vegan cookbook features 100 Mediterranean-inspired recipes for snacks, flatbreads, soups, pastas, desserts and more. None contains a single meat or dairy ingredient; there are no soybeans or seitan or weird meat substitutes in the cookbook. “As a lover of food,” he writes in the introduction, “what I really crave is the smoky paprika and fat in chorizo, not the pork itself; the richness of fresh pasta laced with a velvety, creamy sauce, not the eggs and butter; the smoky char of grilled steak, not the actual beef. ... By refocusing on what makes food rich and pleasurable to begin with, I realized I could create plant-based dishes that appeal to everyone, not just vegans.”
Sample recipes: Hearts of Palm Calamari with Cocktail Sauce and Lemon-Caper Aioli; Artichoke Oysters with Tomato Bearnaise and Kelp Caviar; Charred Okra Flatbread with Sweet Corn Puree and Cherry Tomatoes; Cannoli with Candied Kalamata Olives.
Make this: Find the recipe for Chive Fettuccine with Asparagus, Morels and Prosecco Sauce at IndulgeDFW.com.
The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, by Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry with Ben Schaffer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27)
Since they opened the doors to their Lower Manhattan pub The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog in 2013, Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry have been serving throngs of patrons pre-Prohibition cocktails and racking up prestigious awards. Dead Rabbit has been named Best American Cocktail Bar, World’s Best Cocktail Menu and World’s Best Drink Selection at Tales of the Cocktail’s coveted Spirit Awards. Now comes their first drinks manual by the same name. The book reveals the secret to crafting the perfect communal punches for crowds, as well as old-school fizzes, flips, juleps, slings, and there’s even a chapter on absinthe cocktails. Each recipe is preceded with the history of its origin, name or claim to fame. Muldoon and McGarry, who came to New York from Belfast, Northern Ireland, have their own how-I-got-where-I-am tales that they share in their book. And, as an added treat at the end, they offer their own recipe for Irish Coffee. “One secret: Buy ridiculously expensive heavy cream from your favorite local dairy,” they write. “Another tip: When preparing this classic, be careful not to slip on the Irish floor.”
Sample recipes: Pineapple and Rosemary Smash; Green Swizzle; Hot Buttered Blackstrap; Suissesse
Make this: Find the recipe for Mulled Egg-Wine at IndulgeDFW.com.
Food As Art
Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste, by Dominique Crenn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $50)
Dominique Crenn is being hailed as the greatest female chef in the United States right now. At her Michelin two-star San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn, food is showcased as art and poetry (a $220 tasting menu called “Spring” is presented as an 18-line poem about the season’s bounty). Her first cookbook shares dishes — many inspired by her upbringing in northwestern France — as works of art with evocative names. Their complexity is also their beauty. For example, a recipe called “The Sea” is a seafood sample platter that includes Squid Ink Meringue, Pickled Mussels, Fennel Puree and a powder made of anchovy, lemon and sesame oils. She reveals that the name of her restaurant, “Atelier,” refers to an artist’s studio or an artisan’s workshop. “When I first started cooking,” she writes, “it might have been laughable for a chef to claim to make art, but these days, I have noticed a dawning awareness that food can be a medium for artistic expression. ... But it’s deeper than a simple matter of making the food look pretty. ... it’s about creating and communicating an intention, a feeling, a memory or an idea.” This tome pulls no shortcuts or quick fixes; it is for anyone who enjoys a meandering journey in the kitchen as much as the delicious destination.
Sample recipes: Carrot Jerky with Orange Peel; Sea Urchin with Licorice; Broccoli and Beef Tartare; Mango-Douglas Fir Pâtes de Fruits
Make this: Fois Gras with Winter Nuances. Find the recipe on the next page.
of the Best
Olympia Provisions: Cured Meats and Tales From an American Charcuterie, by Elias Cairo and Meredith Erickson (Ten Speed Press, $40). Step-by-step instructions for dry-cured and fermented salumi, fresh sausages, confits, pâtés and more from the owner of Portland’s bustling Olympia Provisions empire.
Tacos: Recipes and Provocations, by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman (Clarkson Potter, $32.50). From the chef-owner of New York City’s buzzy Empellón Taqueria come riffs on traditional tacos using elevated ingredients like saffron, gooseberry and sea urchin.
This Is Camino, by Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain with Chris Colin (Ten Speed Press, $35). Open-flame, wood-fired cooking from the Oakland, Calif., restaurant that elevates cooking with fire to high art. Recipes include Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Grilled in a Fig Leaf and Grilled Squid with Tomatoes and Korean Perilla.
Sea and Smoke: Flavors From the Untamed Pacific Northwest, by Blaine Wetzel and Joe Ray (Running Press, $40). Part restaurant chronicle and part cookbook, Sea and Smoke goes into the kitchen of Wetzel’s acclaimed Willows Inn on Lummi Island, in Washington, and brings the sights, sounds and flavors to readers.
The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking, by Samantha Seneviratne (Ten Speed Press, $27.50). A collection of desserts that extol the virtues of spice rather than sugar; each chapter focuses on a different flavor profile, from cinnamon to peppercorns.
Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking, by Darra Goldstein (Ten Speed Press, $40). A travelogue, love letter and recipes for inspired cuisine — think Smoked Arctic Char and Swedish Almond Wreaths — from the region that’s home to Copenhagen’s Noma, one of the world’s best restaurants.
Foie Gras with Winter Nuances
Note: For best results, weigh some of the ingredients on a food scale, as the chef does.
• 1 whole lobe grade-A foie gras
• 1,460 grams (6 cups) whole milk
• 40 grams (1.4 ounces) kosher salt
• 19 grams (2 2/3 teaspoons) pink curing salt
1. Remove the foie gras from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours to soften. Rinse the foie gras with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Gently wipe away any blood spots.
2. To devein the foie gras: Gently pull the small and large sections apart without severing the vein between them. Find the main Y-shaped vein and use a butter knife or tweezers to gently scrape the vein from the foie gras, while keeping the vein intact, working alternately on each branch of the Y-shape, until you can use your fingers to tug the entire vein off the foie gras.
3. In a storage container, combine the milk, kosher salt and pink curing salt and whisk for 30 seconds. Submerge the foie gras in the milk cure, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
4. To cook the foie gras sous vide: Remove the foie gras from the milk cure, place the foie gras in a vacuum bag, seal the bag, and compress at 99 percent. Cook the foie gras sous vide in an immersion circulator set to 86 degrees for 2 hours.
To cook the foie gras on the stovetop: Remove the foie gras from the milk cure, place the foie gras in a resealable plastic freezer bag, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Fill a large pot three-quarters full with water and attach a cooking thermometer; bring the water to 86 degrees over medium heat and submerge the bag, closely monitoring the heat to maintain a consistent temperature and stirring often, for 2 hours.
5. Remove the foie gras bag from the water. While it is still warm and soft, use your hands to gently shape the bagged foie gras into a cylinder, then roll the cylinder along a cutting board to further smooth it. Transfer the bagged foie gras to the freezer and freeze until solid, at least 2 hours.
6. To slice the frozen foie gras: Unwrap the foie gras cylinder and lay it on a cutting board pointing away from you. Using a sharp, flat-bladed knife, gently slice as thin as possible and with minimal pressure along the side of the cylinder, following the contour of the cylinder, allowing the foie gras to curl away from the knife blade toward the cutting board. (If you imagine a clock face at the front of the cylinder, you would slice from 2 to 5 if you are right-handed and from 10 to 7 if you are left-handed.) One cylinder will yield about 30 curls. Keep the curls in the freezer until ready to serve.
Vanilla Puree: 4 hours before serving
• 400 grams (1 2/3 cups) whole milk
• 30 grams (2 1/2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
• 4 vanilla beans
• 4.4 grams agar-agar
1. In a medium pot, combine the milk and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then remove from the heat.
2. Split the vanilla beans in half. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the liquid and add the scraped vanilla bean pods to the liquid. Cover the pot and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer.
3. In a medium pot, bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in the agar-agar for 15 seconds and remove from the heat.
4. Line a 13-by-18-inch (half-sheet) pan with parchment paper. Pour the liquid onto the parchment paper and refrigerate, uncovered, until the liquid sets to a gel, about 30 minutes.
5. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth, about 2 minutes. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. Transfer to a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Apple Vinegar Gel: at least 90 minutes before serving
• 235 grams ( 3/4 cup plus 2 3/4 tablespoons) apple
balsamic vinegar, preferably Pommes brand
• 3.2 grams low acyl gellan
1. In a small pot, combine the vinegar and low acyl gellan and blend with an immersion blender for 30 seconds. Bring to a boil to activate the low acyl gellan and immediately remove from the heat.
2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a small rectangular container. Refrigerate, uncovered, until set, about 1 hour.
3. Once the gel is firm, without removing the gel from the container, cut it into 1-centimeter squares. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate in the container until ready to serve.
Compressed Apple: up to 2 days before serving
• 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
• 5 grams (1 teaspoon) ascorbic acid
• 4 farm-fresh Granny Smith or other tart apples
1. To prepare the simple syrup: In a small saucepan, combine 235 grams (1 cup) water with the sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. In a medium bowl, dissolve the ascorbic acid in 300 grams (1 1/4 cups) water. Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1-centimeter cubes, submerging the exposed pieces in the ascorbic acid solution while you work, to keep them from browning.
3. In a vacuum bag, combine the diced apples with 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of the simple syrup and compress at 99 percent.
4. Reserve the unused simple syrup for use in the apple puree component.
Apple Puree: at least 40 minutes before serving
• 4 farm-fresh Granny Smith or other tart apples
• 140 grams ( 2/3 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
• Fine sea salt
• Granulated sugar
• 50 grams (about 2 ounces) simple syrup (reserved from compressed apple component)
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Quarter and core the apples without peeling them.
2. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil together with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Toss the apple quarters in the olive oil mixture and transfer to a roasting pan. Bake the apples until the flesh is extremely soft and the skin has lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
3. Use a paring knife to remove the apple peels, which should come off quite easily, and discard the peels.
4. In a blender, combine the peeled apple with 50 grams (1.75 ounces) of the simple syrup. Puree on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Strain the apple puree through a fine-mesh strainer. Season with fine sea salt and transfer to a squeeze bottle. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
• Micro Thai basil (optional)
• Micro chamomile (optional)
1. One hour before serving, chill the plates in the freezer.
2. Immediately before serving: Working quickly, place 3 foie curls on each plate, slightly to one side. Squeeze large dots of apple puree and small dots of vanilla gel around the curls and scatter the compressed apple. Sprinkle the apple vinegar gel around the plate and on top of the foie curls.
3. Garnish with the micro Thai basil and micro chamomile, if desired. Keep the dishes very cold and serve immediately.
— Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste, by Dominique Crenn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $50)
Chive Fettuccine with Asparagus, Morels and Prosecco Sauce
Serves 4 (Makes 1 cup sauce)
There’s an old saying that “if it grows together, it goes together,” and this springtime pasta is a perfect combination of seasonal ingredients. The flavorful morel mushrooms pair nicely with the nuanced, grassy asparagus. The prosecco sauce, which is a snap to make, brings the whole dish together. If you somehow drink all of the bubbly before dinner, you can make the sauce with any dry white wine.
- “00” pasta flour, for dusting
- 1 pound Chive Pasta Dough (recipe follows) or store-bought dry eggless fettuccine
- Semolina flour, for dusting
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter stick
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small bunch asparagus (about 1/2 pound), tough ends trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1/2 -inch pieces
- 1/2 pound fresh morel mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, or 1 ounce dried morels, reconstituted (see note)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup prosecco or other sparkling wine
- 6 fresh chives, minced
- 4 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, chopped
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (see note) or Walnut Parmesan (recipe follows)
1. If using fresh pasta dough, make the fettuccine: Dust your work surface with flour, lay a sheet of pasta dough on it, and sprinkle with flour. Keep the remaining sheets covered. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out slightly to make it more pliable. Trim the edges so they are straight.
2. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour and semolina. Run the pasta sheet through the fettuccine-cutter on your pasta machine. Lightly dust the strands with flour and semolina. Coil the fettuccine into a nest and set on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining sheets of pasta, making sure to keep the pasta nests separated so they don’t stick together. Allow the fettuccine to dry until a little firmer and less sticky, about 10 minutes. This will help prevent the pasta from clumping and sticking together when cooked. (The fettuccine can be stored in an airtight container or resealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to 1 day or in the freezer for up to 1 month. You do not need to thaw the fettuccine before cooking.)
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Put a large saute pan over medium heat and add the oil and butter substitute. When the butter substitute has melted, toss in the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the asparagus and morels, season with salt and pepper, and toss until the asparagus and mushrooms are well-coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the prosecco, allowing it to bubble up, sprinkle in the chives and parsley, and cook the sauce down until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
5. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, give it a couple of good stirs with a wooden spoon, and cook until tender, yet firm, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce, if necessary.
6. Add the fettuccine to the sauce, tossing with tongs to coat. Season again with salt and pepper and toss to distribute evenly. If the sauce gets too thick, thin it with enough of the reserved pasta water so the fettuccine is thoroughly coated.
7. Divide the fettuccine among four plates or transfer to a pasta bowl and sprinkle with the nutritional yeast flakes. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 pound
- Half of a 14-ounce package firm tofu, drained
- 1 1/2 cups “00” pasta flour, plus more as needed
- 1 1/2 cups semolina flour, plus more as needed
- 3 tablespoons red palm oil (see note)
- 2 tablespoons filtered water, plus more if needed
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Add the tofu, flours, oil, water and salt to the bowl of a food processor and process until the flour is evenly moistened and crumbly; this will take about 10 seconds. Then continue to process until the dough comes together to form a loose ball and feels moist, but not sticky, about 2 minutes. Pinch the dough to test its consistency: If the dough seems excessively sticky, add more “00” flour 1 tablespoon at a time, processing until just incorporated. If the dough is too dry, add a teaspoon or so of water. Dough is all about feel.
2. Remove the ball of dough from the food processor and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. (The buzz of the processor blades heats up the dough and makes it too soft to work with right away.) Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm it up and make it easier to roll out. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 1 month.)
3. Flour the work surface and your hands. Cut the chilled dough into 4 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time (cover the others to prevent them from drying out), roll or press the pasta out on a lightly floured surface into a rough rectangle. Feed the dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine; pull and stretch the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. Lightly dust both sides of the pasta with a little flour, if needed. Run the dough through the machine 2 more times, and fold it into thirds when it is long enough. You’ll feel the dough starting to become silky smooth. Then reduce the setting by one and crank the dough through again 2 or 3 times. Continue reducing the dial setting and rolling the dough through until the machine is at the second-to-narrowest setting (No. 2 on most machines); the sheet should be about 1⁄16 inch thick. Cut the long sheet into 2 workable pieces, put them on a baking sheet dusted with flour and semolina, and cover with a damp towel. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
4. The dough should be cut or shaped shortly after being rolled out so it won’t dry out. Or, to store the sheets of pasta, stack between pieces of waxed paper, tightly wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 1 month.
Variation: Chive Pasta Dough
Add 1 bunch coarsely chopped chives (about 1/2 cup) to the food processor once the dough has come together and process just to incorporate. Do not overmix; you should see green flecks throughout the dough.
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 cup raw walnut halves, frozen
Nonstick cooking spray
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes (see note)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Using a truffle shaver, thinly shave the walnuts and put in a bowl. (Alternatively, use a Microplane to coarsely grate the nuts.) You should have about 1 cup.
2. Coat with cooking spray and toss with the nutritional yeast flakes, salt and pepper. The Parmesan keeps covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Note: Morel Mushrooms
Morel mushrooms are a springtime delicacy. Their earthy perfume marries well with other spring ingredients, especially asparagus and chives. When buying morels, look for ones that have a deep mushroom smell and feel firm; turn down any that have signs of mold or look shriveled or mushy. Morels have spongelike crevices where dirt — and critters — tend to get trapped, making them the only mushrooms you really need to wash.
To clean, flush the centers of the morels with a steady stream of cold water, then put the morels in a large bowl of lightly salted cold water; the salt will help to draw out any impurities. Quickly swish the mushrooms around in the water, then lift them out, leaving behind any grit or insects in the bottom of the bowl, and lay them on a clean kitchen towel or layers of paper towels. Pat the mushrooms dry before slicing them, and check for dirt or other matter in the center and crevices as you work. Clean morels just before using, as they will absorb a bit of water in the cleaning process, making them more susceptible to mold if stored.
To reconstitute dried morel mushrooms: Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour hot water over them to cover (here, about 2 cups). Soak for 30 minutes, or until the mushrooms soften. Carefully lift the mushrooms out of the soaking liquid with a fork, so as not to disturb the sediment settled at the bottom of the bowl. Coarsely chop the mushrooms. When reconstituted, 1 ounce dried morels will equal about 1/2 cup.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes
Nutritional yeast may not sound like the most appetizing ingredient, but it has a cheesy, nutty, savory quality that gives any dish extra oomph. Just a tablespoon or two adds a creamy, salty richness to dips, soups and sauces. Look for nutritional yeast flakes in the supplement section of the market or health food store. Be sure to select flakes instead of granules, which will deliver a bit of texture to whatever you add them to.
Red Palm Oil
Not to be confused with palm kernel oil, natural red palm oil is pressed from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Extremely high in antioxidants, it is regarded as one of the most nutritious oils in the world. It has a deep, rich orange-red color that gives this pasta dough an egg-yolk-yellow color. Palm oil originated in tropical West Africa, but it is now harvested in South America and Asia as well. Unfortunately, many of the palm trees grown commercially in other countries are extremely destructive to the environment and are threatening the rain forests. Be sure to purchase only unprocessed palm oil that comes from West Africa.
— Crossroads, by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones and Serafina Magnussen (Artisan, $35)
Makes 4 servings
Inspiration: William Terrington, Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks, 1869
And now, a posset. Never before attempted on stage or bar! Or certainly not for a very, very long time. Posset history goes back to the 15th century, when the English made them from hot milk curdled by wine or ale. By the 16th century, cream, sugar and eggs were used instead, and citrus did the curdling. In our Mulled Egg-Wine, a kind of universal posset appropriate to any occasion, elements of both periods are shown. Once, possets were so central to epicurean life that “posset sets” for serving them were common gifts. One assembled from crystal, gold and precious gems and gifted to Queen Mary I of England by King Philip II of Spain on their betrothal is still on display in Hatfield House. Check your attics. Our version, however, is not curdled, and the lemon component has been reigned in to just the peels. But whether or not you have a posset set to serve it in, it’s a proud beverage in your repertoire from centuries past.
- 3 lemons
- 3/8 cup superfine sugar
- 1 cup Spice Mixture (recipe follows)
- 3 dashes Dead Rabbit Orinoco Bitters or Angostura Aromatic Bitters
- 2 large eggs
- 8 1/2 ounces Barbadillo “Obispo Gascon” Palo Cortado Sherry
- Fresh nutmeg, grated, for garnish
1. Prepare an oleo-saccharum with the lemon peels and sugar (see instructions, below).
2. Combine all the ingredients, except the garnish, in a large mixing bowl and mix with a handheld blender. Pour into sherry glasses (or posset cups) and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Oleo-saccharum (or sugared oil) is the secret of great punch. Much of the flavor of citrus is locked up in the oil contained in its skin, not its juice. This simple process gets it out .
1. Peel each lemon, being sure to remove only the peel, with none of the white pith. A Microplane grater or vegetable peeler is best.
2. Add the peels to a bowl, along with the sugar. Using a muddler or heavy wooden spoon, press the peels into the sugar. You will see oil from the peels collect in the bowl. Let the combination sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. Mix to collect all separated oil into the sugar before using. You may use the peeled lemons for juicing as needed in the recipe.
Makes about 1 cup
1 1/3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground star anise
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Boil the water and add the spices. Allow to simmer until the liquid has been reduced to 1 cup. Strain through a chinois before using.
— The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, by Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry with Ben Schaffer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27)
Ceviche de Aguja with Ginger and Mezcal
Serves 4 to 6
The earthy, smoky flavor of the mezcal sets up both the sharpness of the citrus in the marinade and the fattiness of the avocado. When shopping for marlin, look for a lean fillet with no fatty layers between the muscle — that fat is too chewy for a ceviche. If you can’t find lean marlin, ask for lean swordfish. (Central Market can order either.) If the only marlin (or swordfish) at the fish market is fatty, then don’t make ceviche: Those cuts are best roasted in the oven.
Ginger Mezcal Agua:
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced ginger
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from 5 to 6 limes)
- 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons mezcal
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound marlin fillets, cut into 1/4 -inch-thick slices (see Note)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup Pickled White Onions (recipe follows)
- 4 radishes, julienned
- 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup 1/2 -inch cubes seeded cucumber
- 1/4 cup hoja santa leaves, cut into 1/2 -inch squares (optional)
- 1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea for garnish
- Radish sprouts for garnish (optional)
- Sea salt for garnish
1. Make the ginger mezcal agua: Combine the ginger, lime juice, cucumber, mezcal, honey, serrano and chamomile in a blender and blend on high for about 30 seconds, until well blended. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and add salt to taste.
2. Put the marlin in a bowl, add the ginger mezcal agua and salt, and gently mix to combine. Add the pickled white onions, radishes, serrano, cucumber and hoja santa, if using, and mix gently. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, divide the ceviche among individual serving bowls. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the ginger mezcal agua over each serving. Garnish with the avocado, chamomile, radish sprouts, if using, and sea salt.
Pickled White Onions:
1 white onion, thinly sliced on a mandoline or with a sharp knife
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Slice up onions and put them into a jar. Mix the brine solution of vinegar, sugar and salt, and pour it in. Most pickles are best refrigerated for at least 4 hours before using, or overnight, in order to allow the flavors to develop, but you can use them sooner if you must. They will keep in the refrigerator for a week.
Note: This recipe is designed to work for a 1-pint Mason jar, but the yield from the produce you use might be different from what we get in the Yucatán. If you have too much solution, don’t use it all; if you have too little, give the jar a shake every so often to distribute the liquid.
Note: How to Slice for Ceviche
When you cut fish for ceviche, angle your knife at 45 degrees and make thin cuts against the grain so that each piece is about 1/4 -inch thick. Make sure that you are slicing in one fluid movement — it’s like slicing through an apple, not sawing though a loaf of bread. Be mindful that the grain might change as you move along the fish, so be sure to adjust the angle of your cut accordingly. Take your time. You’re making ceviche for you and your friends, not trying to beat the clock.
— Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors From the Edge of the Yucatán, by Eric Werner and Mya Henry (Artisan, $40)