So my friends at Maker’s Mark called to ask if I’d like them to send me a big ol’ bottle of their premium Kentucky bourbon.
“To use in some of our recipes,” they say.
Really? Can’t I just sip and savor this liquid gold as one should? But if I’m going to agree to accept the sample, I need to play by the rules and give their recipes due diligence.
So it was with great pain that I poured four precious cups of Maker’s Mark into a pitcher of lemon and orange peels, sugar, fruit juice, nutmeg and Champagne to stir up a creation called “Fancy Bourbon Punch.”
And it was with baited breath that I blended two tablespoons of top shelf bourbon into a brick of cream cheese for a “Blueberry Bourbon Cream Cheese Pie.”
My first thought as I was mixing up both creations was … SACRILEGE!
Would you use Kobe beef to make Hamburger Helper? Would you break open a $100 bottle of wine to make a pitcher of sangria? Well, maybe. I guess it would be better than using lesser-quality ingredients.
But when bias gave way to objectivity, I’ll have to say both treats were pretty tasty – especially after their respective flavors had a chance to meld overnight.
The cocktail still had the depth and punch of bourbon, but with a sweetened, fruity, spiced twist. (The nutmeg did wonders!) And the dessert was like a traditional blueberry pie atop a thin cheesecake base, with a hint of bourbon laced through both layers.
Well played, Maker’s Mark. Not a waste after all!
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The folks at www.delish.com recently compiled a list of “All-American Eats: Must-Try Foods from the 50 States” featuring the ingredients or dish they felt best represented each place.
Some interesting items showed up, including white barbecue sauce fromAlabama, prickly pear cactus from Arizona, buffalo burgers from Montana, knoephla (a German potato and dumpling soup) from North Dakota, and fried chicken and waffles from Georgia.
There were some pretty unusual entries, too. Chocolate gravy and biscuits from Arkansas, a horseshoe sandwich from Illinois (an open-faced meat sandwich covered with fries and cheese sauce) and cashew chicken from Missouri. Who knew Missouri was so … oriental?
But there were no such surprised when it came to West Virginia. Ramps, baby!
“Garlicky, pungent ramps are a rare green with a short growing season, but they are ample in the Appalachian region, and seem to thrive in the cool mountains of West Virginia,” the article said.
“Also known as wild leeks, these strongly flavored greens are highly sought after when available. They are used in all types of dishes, from roasts to pastas to egg breakfasts. But their unique flavor might be best savored in a quick, simple sauté with a quality olive oil, salt, and pepper.”
The site also suggested where to get you some good ones.
“Richwood is the capital of the wild ramp. The town is home to the National Ramp Association and the Annual Feast of the Ramson, which takes place every April. Because ramps are such a seasonal food, it can be difficult to find them on restaurant menus, even in the heart of ramp country,” it said.
“But at the peak of the season, in very early spring, check out the Bluegrass Kitchen in Charleston. The restaurant focuses on making fresh, local food packed with regional vegetables and other West Virginia specialties.”
The feature also included an elegant recipe, courtesy of Oprah Magazine, for flash-sautéed ramps with sugar snap peas and pattypan squash with toasted walnuts and fresh pea tendrils. We’re a little late in the year for fresh ramps, but clip this idea in case you saved any in the freezer or to tuck away for next spring.
Have your own ideas about what dish should represent the Mountain State? Share your suggestions socially at www.facebook.com/delish.
Blueberry Bourbon Cream Cheese Pie
4 cups fresh blueberries
¾ cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 Tbsp. Maker’s Mark bourbon
½ cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1 pre-baked pie shell
- Mash 2 cups of the blueberries with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of bourbon. Place the berry mixture in a medium pan and place it over medium heat. Bring the filling to a boil, stirring, and boil it until it is thickened and clear, about 3 minutes. Let the filling cool to room temperature.
- Beat together the cream cheese and the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon. Spread the cream cheese over the bottom of the pie crust.
- Stir the remaining blueberries into the cooled berry filling. Spread the berry filling over the cream cheese layer. Chill the pie at least 2 hours, or until it is cold. Serve with lightly whipped cream.
Recipe by Ian Knauer, Food Writer and Cookbook Author
Sauteed Ramps, Sugar Snap Peas & Pattypan Squash
1 bunch ramps or scallions
1 pound sugar snap peas
2 Tbsp. walnut oil or olive oil
½ pound baby yellow pattypan squash or 2 medium yellow squash, chopped
1 Tbsp. orange zest, finely grated
salt and pepper
½ cup pea tendrils
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
- Trim roots from ramps and finely chop white bulbs. Slice green leaves into 1/4-inch strips. String sugar snap peas, cut off stem ends and leave whole.
- Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add white part of ramps and cook 1 minute. Add peas and pattypan squash. Sauté until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in zest, salt and pepper to taste and ramp greens.
- Remove from heat and stir until greens slightly wilt. Add pea tendrils and walnuts before serving.
Recipe from O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine