50 Shots of America: New York

Oh, man, New York, the Cocktail Capital of the World (okay, so the Web tells me that Tokyo is actually the cocktail capital of the world, but Hudson, NY, was the first place that the word cocktail can be c0nfirmed in use, so :P) comes in as the 11th state of the Union having ratified the Constitution on July 26, 1788. No pressure or anything, right?

Suddenly I’m thinking in TMBG lyrics:

just like old New York was once New Amsterdam

Of course we know why they changed it. Though originally settled by the Dutch and French, the Duke of York decided that Long Island just wasn’t enough for him and he took forceful possession of New Amsterdam in 1664.

I’ve been told that there is more to New York than just the island of Manhattan though, since I’ve not actually seen it myself (only been to the island for 2 days a few winters ago), I’ll have to take their word for it. Apparently those areas are great for apple orchards, cherries and a vast wine-producing segment as well as the largest cabbage production of the US. Maybe it should be called the Big Cabbage instead of the Big Apple?

But the Big Apple it is and, try as I might to avoid an apple drink I just couldn’t help myself when the following occurred to me:

Little Big Apple Dumpling

.75 oz Apple Pucker
.5 oz Apple Juice
.5 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
.25 oz Goldschlagger

Combine all in a small cocktail shaker over ice and give it a Bronx salute or two. Strain into a chilled double shot or cordial glass and think glittery apple thoughts.

I’m…  not even going to try and paint a picture of New York’s culinary landscapes. Books, entire websites, have been devoted to the subject, I’m not going to be able to do it justice in 5oo words. What I can do is share the menu I created for my American Regional class in Culinary School. I was assigned New York, obviously, and wanted to do something to highlight some of the more dominant cultures that the area represented. I figured there were 5 boroughs so I’d pick 5 cultures and serve 5 courses. This was our first opportunity to create a menu, play executive chef to our fellow students and actually have guests come to dine. We had to set the table/decorate, time the courses,  introduce and answer questions about each and deal with whatever came up. Crazy but fun is what I remember most from the evening. That and my salad guy not pitting the Kalamata olives for the Greek Salad (my mother had to ask our dean what the etiquette was on removing said pits from one’s mouth–oops!).

Appetizer (Jewish)
Potato Latkes w/Sour Cream & Applesauce
Soup Course (Russian)
Traditional Borscht
Entree (Irish)
Dingle Pie (lamb, parsnips & turnips), Creamed Mushrooms w/Chives
Salad Course (Greek)
Traditional Greek Salad
Dessert & Coffee (American-ish*)
New York Cheesecake

I don’t need to look it up (even though it was 10 years ago)–of course I got an A. I built a paper model of the top of the Chrysler Building for the centerpiece, for crying out loud (and can’t believe I finally threw it out during the last move–what was  I thinking?!). I also happened to have gone first, thankfully, as we lost a lot of students during that module.

*Cheesecake’s origin is technically from Greek cheese pie that was introduced to the rest of Europe by the Romans but bears very little resemblance to the cottage cheese pie immigrants made in early American days. Cheesecake, as we know it, is essentially an American invention with German and Jewish influences and new-world innovations like the graham cracker crust. We’ll just call it the ultimate melting pot dessert and enjoy it 🙂

Apple Dumplings

I’ve been thinking a lot about apples, lately, and with the weather cooling off, the cinnamon brooms showing up in the supermarkets and the idea that the holidays are right around the corner, I think of Mom making Apple Dumplings. This is her recipe, updated a little by me. They are especially good on cool Fall and Winter nights and actually travel fairly well for pot-lucks.

Apple Dumplings
serves 4*

1 sheet Puff Pastry Dough, thawed
4 medium apples, peeled and cored*
Cinnamon
Brown Sugar
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
Dried fruit (raisins, cherries, cranberries or blueberries all would go well)
1 beaten egg
White sugar

Roll out the puff pastry dough just a little bit to curb some of it’s puff tendencies (we want the flaky flavor, not necessarily the poofiness) and cut into quarters. [* If you are using very small apples you can actually get 6 dumplings out of one sheet.] Place an apple in the center of each sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon. Spoon some of the brown sugar (how much you use it up to you) into the hollows of the apples, top with a piece of butter and then the dried fruit.

Bring the corners of the puff pastry square up and around the top of the apple, pinching the corners together. Don’t worry too much about sealing up all the edges, it’s actually quite pretty to leave the little openings that the folded sides create. Place in a buttered baking dish and brush with the beaten egg mixed with a little water. Sprinkle with the white sugar and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or until the apples are tender, covering with foil if the pastry begins to brown too fast.

Serve warm with ice cream, freshly whipped cream or just plain heavy cream drizzled over them.