Mashed Potatoes with Sage-Infused Brown Butter, Fresh Thyme, and Black Truffle Salt

Truffled Mashed Potatoes6_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2020_94One of the most important side dishes on the holiday table is the humble potato. Whether it’s au gratin, baked, roasted, or mashed, everyone loves potatoes, and we all have our favorites. My favorite is the old standby mashed potatoes, and this year I want to elevate the old recipe with some of my favorite additions; browned butter, butter-fried fresh sage and thyme, and most importantly, a hint of black truffles.

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Truffled Mashed Potatoes2_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2020_94

Now, truffles can be polarizing; while some will love the deep earthy flavors, others may perceive them as pungent. The secret is to use them in moderation and to know your audience. For the slightly more advanced palate, nothing compares to the rich flavor of truffles; and though they can be quite expensive, it only takes a pinch or two to transform an entire dish. Truffles have an intensely earthy nature which naturally pairs with root vegetables of all sorts. Potatoes are a natural, but other root vegetables such as parsnips, celeriac, carrots, yams, beets, onions, shallots, garlic, and even fennel are all even more delicious with a dose of truffles.

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Every year in Chicago during the late fall to early winter, when truffles are in season, Chicago restaurants begin rolling out their holiday menus featuring black winter truffles, which some chefs refer to as “the diamond of the kitchen” for their transformational ability. Although a top-grade whole truffle can easily cost $95 per ounce, very few home kitchens could justify or make use of such an investment. For the rest of us looking for prime grade truffle flavor, the Truffleist offers pure, prime-grade truffle salts, honey, and oils, which bring the flavor of fresh truffles to your kitchen.

For this mashed potatoes recipe, I’ll be using black truffle-laced French sea salt by the Truffleist. A 4oz. jar lasts a long time and is the perfect finishing salt for all kinds of dishes, especially a juicy steak.

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Mashed Potatoes with Sage-Infused Brown Butter, Fresh Thyme, Black Truffle Salt

4lbs Yukon gold potatoes, washed
1 1/2 T Truffleist sea salt (potatoes need a lot of salt; don’t be afraid to go heavy, this will bring out their buttery flavor).
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and an additional 2T for topping.
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
8-12 fresh sage leaves, plus some for garnish
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stems, plus some for garnish
1/2 t freshly ground coarse black or white peppercorns
Pinch of additional sea salt, to taste

In a stockpot, cover potatoes with cold water and a pinch of sea salt. Bring to a vigorous boil and cook until soft, 18-20 minutes. In a saucepan, add the stick of butter and fresh sage, melting over medium heat. When the butter starts to become foamy, start whisking and watch for browning. Browned butter can easily go too far and become bitter, so watch carefully for the color to change to golden, then remove from heat and discard sage leaves. When potatoes are done, drain and return to stockpot. Using a potato masher, mash thoroughly while slowly incorporating milk. Once smooth, add the sage-infused brown butter, roasted garlic cloves (see preparation, below), Truffleist sea salt, and black or white pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in thyme leaves. Top with remaining butter, thyme, and sage leaves and crown with a few pinches of truffle salt. Serve immediately.

Roasted Garlic
1 large, fresh head of garlic
2 T Olive oil
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 400’F
To roast the garlic:

Peel off the papery outer layer, leaving the whole bulb intact. With a sharp knife, trim approximately 1/2” from the top of the cloves, exposing all of their interiors. Don’t take off too much. Wrap bottom half of bulb in aluminum foil, leaving the top exposed. Drizzle generously with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Close the foil uptight and bake for 35 minutes until golden brown and soft when pressed. Cool and remove cloves from skins by gently squeezing each one out. An entire head should be the right amount for the batch of potatoes, but feel free to add and taste as you go.

Products Included

Truffliest Black Truffle Salt 
Emile Henry Garlic Pot (Color featured in Flour)
Mauviel  250c Copper Stainless Steel Splayed Saute Pan
Mauviel 150s Copper and Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Lid
Emile Henry Mixing Bowl Small (color featured in Flour)
Emile Henry Mixing Bowl Medium (color featured in Flour)
John Boos Walnut Fusion Cutting Board with Contoured Feet (20” x 15”)

Baked Blueberry Brioche French Toast with Blueberry Compote, and Crème Anglaise

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Here in the midwest, it seems there was almost no fall season this year, and already the deep winter weather is upon us. We Chicagoans are accustomed to brisk winters, but they usually don’t begin in early November with bone-chilling blasts. But here we are, leaves still green with late summer’s warmth, now frozen to the limbs in a grim warning of the long, cold months ahead.

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Baked Blueberry Brioche French Toast3_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2019_923.1-Recovered

This week I’m in need of some warm and cozy comfort to start my day, and summer blueberries I had frozen for much later in the season are just the thing to cheer us up. Blueberries are one of my favorite berries, and I can’t pass up desserts or pastries made with them. While brainstorming a recipe to feature these lovelies, I start to reminisce on recipes I would make in our tiny kitchen in Germany, and instantly, I remember the rich decadence of crème anglaise, what a perfect pairing! Brioche French toast baked with whole berries, topped with warm blueberry compote and a generous drizzling of cool crème anglaise would bring these lovely flavors together perfectly and with ease.

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Baked Blueberry Brioche French Toast7_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2019_923.1-Recovered

Baked Blueberry Brioche French Toast5_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2019_923.1-Recovered

Blueberry Brioche French Toast
1 loaf brioche, thickly sliced
2 pints of fresh or frozen blueberries
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 T. sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
3 egg yolks
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. nutmeg
2 T. butter
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs yolks, milk, heavy cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract until well blended. Grease a 13’x9’ baking dish with butter, and arrange the brioche slices in a row, overlapping by about 1/3. Take a handful of blueberries and arrange on each slice and a few between, then pour the egg mixture over the top. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate 4 hours.

While bread is chilling, prepare blueberry compote and crème anglaise – once completed remove the brioche French toast from the refrigerator and bake at 375’ for 40 minutes or until golden brown on top and soft to the touch.

To serve, spoon the blueberry compote on top, drizzle with crème anglaise and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated up to a week in the back of the refrigerator, or portioned and frozen for a chilly day.

Blueberry Compote
2 pints of fresh or frozen blueberries
1 T. butter
3 T. sugar
1/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Adjust flame to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes until sauce thickens.

Crème Anglaise
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 large egg yolks
3 T. turbinado sugar (you can use any sugar you prefer – turbinado sugar can be found in your grocery store)
2 t. pure vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, bring cream, milk, and vanilla extract to a gentle simmer, carefully avoiding a full boil. Remove from flame. In a large bowl whisk egg yolks and sugar until smooth and pastel yellow. While whisking vigorously, gradually add the hot cream and milk in a very thin stream to temper the eggs, this should take several minutes to avoid curdling and a broken texture. Once complete, return to saucepan and gently heat over a low flame, stirring constantly, until it thickens to the point that it coats a spoon and the swipe of a finger leaves a solid line. Serve warm if desired, or chill before serving.

Sweet Georgia Peach Jam (in Collaboration with Fresh Farms and Mauviel Cookware)

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No fruit tastes as summery as ripe peaches, and late-season Georgia sweet peaches from Fresh Farms are the most luscious of all. The aroma of the ripening fruit is as intense and irresistible as the soft, sweet and tangy flavor. They’re also a treat for the eyes with their deep orange-yellow hue and vibrant patches of red. So when a case of sweet Georgia peaches found their way into my kitchen, I knew as soon as I smelled them I had to preserve these beauties to enjoy their deep summery flavor all winter long. When it comes to making jam, I like the classic recipes, and I love to cook them in a gorgeous Mauviel copper jam pan.

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Boiling fruit in a heavy, unlined copper pan is the traditional French way to make jams, jellies, and preserves. Intended for making old-fashioned sugared jams, bare copper shortens cooking times preserving the vibrant colors and flavors of fresh fruit, and also enhances the gelling of natural pectins resulting in significantly enhanced texture and flavor. Mauviel’s hand-hammered jam pan is both beautiful and functional; the hammering hardens the copper creating a durable pot that will last for generations, while also adding a stunning look that guarantees it will be a treasured heirloom. Founded in western Normandy in the small village of Villedieu-les-Poêles (also known as the ‘city of copper’) Mauviel cookware is made by local craftsmen with eight centuries of experience and tradition. Mauviel has been crafting cookware since 1830 and is still family-owned.

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Farm Fresh Peach Jam5_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2019_580

My jam recipe is so simple that anyone can make it, even without an unlined copper pan. While jams are totally at home with butter on bread, croissants, and muffins, I think this peach jam pairs perfectly with ripe, creamy brie and hearty crackers.

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Farm Fresh Peach Jam 7_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2019_510.2

Peach Jam
makes two dozen half-pint jars

20 cups ripe peaches, coarsely chopped
14 cups raw sugar
6 T dry pectin
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T butter

If cooking in unlined copper, combine all ingredients before pouring into the jam pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil hard for 25-35 minutes or until mixture reaches 220’F. Remove from heat, rest 5 minutes then hot-fill sanitized jars using a ladle to within 1/4” of the top. Wipe rims and apply clean lids, tightening to finger-tip tightness. Lower jars into simmering water to cover by 2 inches; once boiling commences, boil hard for 10 minutes then remove from the water bath and allow to cool slowly. Do not re-tighten loose lid rings. Allow 24 hours to cool, then check for a proper seal by pressing center of the lid which should not give at all to moderate pressure. The jam will keep for 1 year in a cool, dry place.

Mark Bittman’s New Orleans Shrimp Boil (in Collaboration with Random House and Peapod)

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There’s something about a seafood boil that brings people together. The irresistible sight of a steamy pile of jumbo tender shrimp, perfectly cooked potatoes, and corn steamed in fragrant cajun spices with a splash of hot sauce is hard to pass up. When I was asked to feature a recipe from Mark Bittman’s new cookbook Dinner for Everyone – 100 Iconic Dishes Made 3 Ways Easy, Vegan, or Perfect for Company I knew at once that his New Orleans Shrimp Boil was the recipe I wanted to try.

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Mark Bittman is an American food journalist, author, and former columnist for The New York Times, and one of America’s best-known and most widely respected food writers. Mark has written over 30 books on every facet of cooking from How to Cook Everything, The Minimalist Cooks Dinner, Eat Vegan Before 6:00am, Kitchen Matrix, Food Matters, and A Bone to PickDinner for Everyone is a collection of recipes he makes instinctively with a mix of memory and improvisation in the kitchen, that has been carefully measured documented and refined to help you recreate his original flavors as close as possible.

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After reading his cookbook and trying this recipe, I was impressed with how clean and clear the flavors were with lots of garlic, a hit of fiery cayenne, and the vinegary pop of tabasco. I prefer mine, however, a little more ‘dirty’ so I garnished with a sprinkling of Old Bay just before serving. Overall I thought it was a crowd-pleaser and was easy enough to pull together for a weeknight meal. To save time and make sure I had all of my ingredients on hand, I ordered them from Peapod, and they arrived the next morning. I chose a delivery time that was convenient for me, and automatic tracking updates let me know the arrival time within minutes. For those among you who are curious to give Peapod a try, I’ve included a link to save $20 off your order of $75 or more and 60 days of free delivery, simply by using the code CANVAS20.

New Orleans Shrimp Boil 
Slightly adapted by using (1 1/2 T Old Bay Seasoning)
Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

One 12-ounce bottle of beer, or 1 1/2 cups water (I prefer Temperance Birdsong Beer)
1 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 large onion, cut into chunks
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Salt
1 1/2 pounds whole large shrimps (frozen are fine), peeled if you like
4 ears corn, husked and broken in half
Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce
Lemon wedges

Put the beer (or 1 1/2 cups water) in a large pot with 8 cups water. Add the potatoes, onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, cayenne, Old Bay seasoning, and a couple big pinches of salt and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the liquid bubbles steadily and cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are tender around the outsides but not quite done at the centers, 10-15 minutes.

Add the shrimp and corn and return the liquid to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat, cover, and let the pot sit until the shrimp are pink and opaque and the potatoes are fork-tender, just a minute or two. Drain through a strainer set over a large bowl, reserving at least the cooking liquid for serving (preferably in a pitcher or gravy boat).

Taste the shrimp and vegetables, and sprinkle with more salt if you like. Serve right away, passing the hot sauce, lemon wedges, and cooking liquid at the table.

Blackened Barramundi Fish Tacos with a Mango-Jalapeño Salsa and Pickled Red Cabbage (in Collaboration with Australis Barramundi)

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I love fish, all kinds of fish and whether it’s baked, seared, grilled or fried, I’ll happily eat it. When I try out a new restaurant, I usually start with the seafood section of the menu and work my way back to traditional fare. Jason, on the other hand, isn’t such a devoted seafood fan, and one dish, in particular, he has sworn against is fish tacos. Since we make tacos two or three nights a week, I am determined to convert him to a fish taco fan.

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Australis Barramundi_Image 6_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2019_580

Lighter and more delicate than salmon or tuna but richer in flavor and texture than cod and whitefish, Barramundi makes an excellent choice for casual weeknight meals or weekend entertaining. I knew the moment I tasted a steamed fillet that if charred it would make an excellent taco. My first impulse was to grill the Barramundi, but because of our stormy and raining weather lately, here in Chicago, I decided to give it a heavy pan-searing, and it turned out wonderfully. I garnished with pickled red cabbage a mango-jalapeño salsa; the results were outstanding.

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The plate of tacos in the refrigerator was too much for Jason to resist, and with a bit of hesitation, he grabbed one and took a bite. The surprised look on his face said it all, and he asked if we could have this again soon! So much lighter than beef, pork or even chicken, the barramundi tacos were deeply satisfying. Sustainable farming, along with the exquisite flavor and texture makes Australis Barramundi my go-to choice for summery seafood dishes.

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For The Tacos
4 Barramundi fillets
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, for searing Barramundi
Corn tortillas
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Thai chili sauce

Directions
Preheat skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Combine paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl; pat dry the Barramundi and score with shallow cuts on both sides to allow the spice blend to penetrate the surface. Coat fillets liberally on both sides with seasoning blend and sear fillets skin side down in skillet for 4 minutes per side or until dark golden brown. Allow fillets to rest for 5 minutes then pull apart with forks. Load generously into warmed corn tortillas and top with pickled red cabbage, fresh salsa, cilantro and a drizzle of Thai chili sauce and enjoy!

Pickled Red Cabbage
3 cups shredded red cabbage
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Set aside.

Mango Jalapeño Salsa
2 ripe mangos, diced
1 jalapeño seeded and minced
1/2 small red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a serving bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes for best flavor.

Cilantro Lime Rice
1 cup basmati or long-grain white rice
2 cups water
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse rice until water runs clear. Bring water, rice, olive oil, garlic, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce to simmer for 15 minutes covered. Remove from heat, fluff rice with a fork then add lime juice and fresh cilantro. Serve warm.

Products Pictured
Australis Barramundi
Equinoxe Coupe Plate
Mise en Bouche Bowl 
Caractère Service Plate in Mint

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

The holiday season is already well underway and if you’re anything like me then you’re still looking for gift ideas for the foodies in your life! To help out my readers I have compiled a list of the most dependable, beautiful, and high-quality products I use in my own kitchen, all of which I have thoroughly tested in the production of my site, and any of which I wholeheartedly recommend to my readers as excellent gifts. From kitchen essentials and barware to bakeware, dinnerware and small appliances, this is my list of the best products of 2018.

M.O.C. Woodworks
Magnetic Knife Holder

Retail Price:$55.00 +

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2018 Holiday Gift Guide1_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_111These beautiful knife holders are my go-to favorite! M.O.C Woodworks handcrafted magnetic knife holders are available in a variety of woods and can be custom engraved to make the perfect gift. Powerful hidden magnets hold even large kitchen knives securely while keeping them within easy reach. Available in a range of woods from common furniture grade species like cherry, maple, walnut, oak, and beech to more exotic hardwoods like wenge, bubinga and zebra wood. The dimensions can be customized to fit perfectly in your kitchen.

Growler Works 
uKeg Copper 64 Retail $169.00
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Looking for a perfect gift for your craft brew lover? Look no further! Growlerwork’s uKeg 64 is small enough to take along to outdoor get-togethers while the vacuum insulated construction and internal pressure regulator ensure your beverage stays ice cold and carbonated all day long.

The 64oz size pictured holds a half gallon of craft beer or home-brew and will keep it fresh for weeks. If beer isn’t your thing use it to carbonate and serve craft cocktails, sparkling wines or even kombucha! Dispense your drinks with style via the integrated tap and keep an eye on the pressure with the pressure gauge. Need more capacity? Growlerworks also makes a 128oz version; both sizes are available in brushed stainless steel or classic copper finish.

Revol

Set of Three French Classics Individual Baking Dishes 
Retail $149.99

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Three elegant rectangle bakers are perfect for baking side dishes, and casseroles as well as sweets and desserts. The sleek, handle-less design makes them also ideal for serving nuts, fruits, and cheeses. Available in three colors: all white, black clay with a matte black finish or black clay with a pepper grey matte finish. Oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe.

Crumbled Coffee Mugs 
Retail $13.59

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Truly a Revol design icon, these little beauties are available in a range of colors and capacities making them perfect for almost anything. From serving coffee, espresso, cappuccino or teas to baking individual desserts or as a pot for kitchen herbs to dress up a window sill, the durable porcelain construction makes them oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe. The large size makes a lovely utensil holder and doubles as a champagne bucket.

Solstice

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Bold contrasting tones and subtle metallic sheens transform your plating and create a striking tablescape. Reactive glazes create one-of-a-kind pieces with distinct zones for food presentation. Bowls feature a reflective interior for eye-catching presentations that beg to be photographed. Available in a range of color palettes, each celestially inspired and strikingly beautiful.

Peugeot
Whiskey Tasting Set

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Truly worthy of a connoisseur, Peugeot’s Impitoyable whisky glass features an elegant and modern glass form specially shaped to enhance aromas. The glass sits atop a polished cast metal base which chills spirits without diluting or changing the flavors the way ice cubes do. Pop it in the freezer a few hours before use, or I like to store the metal base in the freezer, so it’s always ready to go. Includes a stitched leather coaster to protect table surfaces and extend the effect of the chilling base. Makes an excellent gift for the whisky aficionado on your list.

Cuisinart
Chef’s Convection Toaster Oven

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This is an excellent gift for that foodie in your life. Lightning-fast preheating, ultra-precise temperature control and sized perfectly for everything from baking a 13” pizza, toasting sandwiches, baking bread and roasting a whole chicken to firing off individual desserts and pastry. With fifteen pre-programmed cooking cycles, powerful 1800 watt performance and a gleaming stainless exterior, this is the perfect countertop oven for serious cooks!

14 cup 2.0 Food Processor (Elite)

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The Truffleist

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I love black truffles; they are one of my favorite menu specialties when dining out. When it comes to cooking at home, I turn to The Truffleist for easy to use truffle-infused ingredients that make it a snap to incorporate the rich flavor of summer truffles into my cooking. Their black truffle butter is packed with 6% black truffles from northern Italy; this is perfect for finishing a steak. Truffle infused sea salt makes it easy to add truffle aroma and a salty crunch to any dish, and black truffle oil is perfect for adding truffle flavor to pasta and roasted vegetables. Truffle-infused fresh ground mustard is incredible on hot and cold sandwiches, then experience sweet truffle notes with black truffle honey.

Epicurean Butter

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Colorado-based Epicurean Butter offers a broad range of artisanal compound finishing butters. Both sweet and savory flavors add variety and flavor to your cooking with high-quality butter and chef-inspired formulas. Made with the freshest all-natural ingredients, each flavor is carefully balanced to lend an expert touch to your cooking. Convenient tubs keep your butters fresh and are easy to store. Portions are perfect for the home chef and store well until needed making it convenient to keep a range of flavors on hand.

Apologue Liquors

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I’ve been working on a seasonal cocktail with a tequila base featuring local Chicago-based spirits by Apologue. Their exquisite line of liqueurs are the result of some of Chicago’s best and brightest mixologists and spiritologists; Robby Haynes of Violet Hour, renown bar chief and beat virtuosos Ziyad Asrar, and local ingredient sourcing guru Jordan Tepper. This gifted trio has created three all-natural liqueurs: Aronia Berry, Persimmon Bittersweet, and Celery Root Herbal. Their liqueurs are presented in a 100% natural state, made with organic cane sugar, and all ingredients are sourced in the Midwest.

Apologue also fulfills an important role in the community by forming partnerships with nonprofit groups such as Growing Solutions Farm, which teaches agricultural skills to people with autism. The farm has dedicated some of its land to growing celery root for the exquisitely savory Celery Root herbal liqueur.

Jura Ena Micro 90 in Micro Silver

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The ultimate in push-button coffee convenience, this amazing machine prepares an array of coffee specialties including steamed and frothed milk drinks. Just fill the hopper with freshly roasted coffee beans, and you’re ready to go. A high-pressure pulsed extraction system is the first of its kind in a one-cup machine and delivers incredible aromas and a gorgeous crema. An easy-to-clean waste tray, internal water filter, and a self-cleaning cycle make it easy to own and maintain. Lightning fast heat up and fully-automated brewing at the touch of a button means that crucial first cup of the morning is only a few moments away. Each pre-programmed drink can be customized for strength and size to suit both your tastes and your mugs.

How To Assemble A Charcuterie Board (in collaboration with Formaggio Kitchen)

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Over the next several weeks many of us will be busy hosting holiday parties to entertain friends and family. While I’m working on main courses and desserts, my guests will be making merry; to keep them happily entertained and take the edge off their appetites I will lay an ample spread of cheeses, wines, and charcuterie. My suggestions for assembling a stellar charcuterie board are below.

If selecting and gathering the components sounds daunting, or if you find yourself pressed for time, I suggest you delegate the task to the delightfully friendly and knowledgeable folks at Formaggio Kitchen of Cambridge, Mass. In fact, this charcuterie spread was assembled by them, including suggested wine pairings, and resulted in a stellar feast for the senses.

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To provide a little something for every palate, you should offer a selection of crusty breads, cheeses ranging from mild to pungent, and charcuterie including mild and spicy salumi, aged Jamón and Prosciutto, and dried fruits, assorted olives, honey, mustards, and sweet and savory roast nuts. To make it easier, my suggestions are below.

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Beaufort Alpage – Gruyère has a flavor very close to our hearts; while living in southwestern Germany not far from the French and Swiss borders we came to love this style of cheese. Beaufort is a distinctive French member of the Gruyère family produced in the town of Savoie. This fine cheese is creamy and smooth with a gently assertive flavor and a pleasantly pungent character. Excellent with wild honey and dried figs, it is an easy point of entry into the world of funky cheeses for the slightly adventurous palate.

Valençay – A French goat’s milk cheese from the Loire valley. An intensely creamy cheese dusted with vegetable ash, it is delicately tangy and incredibly smooth in flavor with delightful hints of citrus on the finish. Exquisite with apricot jam and salumi, I really love this cheese.

Langres Boites – Hailing from the Champagne region of France, this cheese can be pungent at first but mellows after a day or two at room temperature in its wooden box, during which time the pungent aroma subsides and is gradually replaced with a rich creamy aroma and hints of wild mushrooms.

What many Americans would consider a ‘scary’ cheese, the compact and wrinkled exterior gives way to a creamy and tangy interior with nutty, caramelly flavors and deep, funky notes with a bright sunny tang on the finish that is deliciously difficult to describe.

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Westcombe Cheddar – This English cheddar has been hand-crafted for more than a century. Deeply savory with hints of hazelnuts and delicate caramel, subtly sweet grassy notes linger on the palate. An excellent cheddar which pairs well with dried fruits, Jamón, salumi, and olives.

Parmigiano Cravero Riserva – This beautiful cheese reminds me of my time in Italy. Emilia-Romagna is handmade by the Cravero family in the area of Bologna. Rich and nutty with a smooth salty bite and a pleasantly fruity finish. Sun-dried tomatoes and dry-aged olives are the perfect accompaniment to this Italian classic.

XO Aged Gouda – One of Jason’s favorite cheeses are aged goudas with crunchy calcium crystals that form during extended aging; very few deliver the sweet and savory punch of this XO aged gouda. Presenting an intensely salty start which gradually sweetens into a lingering caramel finish, this cheese is excellent on its own but also pairs perfectly with the juicy intensity of fresh pears and grapes or sliced baguette and fresh butter.

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Now let’s talk wines.

Any respectable charcuterie board is accompanied by a range of carefully selected wine pairings. Below are some suggested pairings for the cheeses listed above.

Valencay – 2017 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, a Sauvignon Blanc from Loire, elegantly dry with a delightfully tart acidity that balances the smooth, rich flavors of this goat’s milk cheese.

Beaufort Alpage – 2014 Bouchard Père & Fils Grand Vin De Bourgogne Pouilly-Fuissé, with restrained buttery notes, this Chardonnay brings fresh pears and light florals to counter the deep, creamy richness of Gruyère.

I paired both Parmigiano Cravero and Langres Boites cheeses with an exquisite 2002 Piper-Heidsieck Millesime Rare. Honeyed fruits and freshness and acidity, ending with a crisp mineral snap that cuts through rich, dry cheeses to refresh the palate.

For the Westcombe Cheddar and XO Aged Gouda, I like a nice Grenache/Syrah blend, or a Spanish Rioja.

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Spiced Nuts
1 1/2 cups cashews
1 1/2 cups almonds
1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 T. Honey
2 T. sunflower oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325’F

Place the first 7 ingredients in a bowl and combine. Bake for 15-20 minutes on parchment paper, stirring occasionally until evenly golden. Add black pepper, sea salt, and cayenne to taste and toss. You can keep the nuts in an airtight container for two weeks.

Maple Cinnamon Spiced Nuts

1 1/2 cups pecans
1 1/2 cups almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T. maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne

Preheat oven to 350’F

Place all ingredients in a bowl and combine. Bake for 20-30 minutes on parchment paper, stirring occasionally until evenly golden. You can keep the nuts in an airtight container for two weeks.

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