Whiskey Alexander

When it comes to dessert, I’d much rather have a glass of wine with a bit of cheese than a piece of cake.  If I’m feeling fancy, we might even make cocktails instead.  You know I love whiskey and whiskey-based cocktails and this is one of my favourites.  It’s a variation on a Brandy Alexander, made with whiskey, crème de cacao, vanilla, cream and nutmeg.  I love to entertain with this recipe.  It’s wintery and sweet, and with a touch of nutmeg, perfect for the holidays or just dessert on a Friday night.  Choose a good quality whiskey, but one that’s not too expensive.  I like to use a local whiskey from Leopold Bros, but if that’s not available, Tullamore D.E.W.  – a subtle and smooth Irish whiskey (for only about $30 USD a bottle) – is a great alternative. Continue reading “Whiskey Alexander”

Pots de Crème au Chocolat

A homesick American

On a dim side street that cut through the buildings like a crack in a rock there was a nondescript little candy shop.  It wasn’t too far from our apartment on Viale Italia, in Livorno, and I passed it frequently on my way to the market. You could easily  have walked right by without noticing but for the aromas that slipped beneath the door – apparitions of caramelized sugar and bittersweet cocoa.  Though I didn’t often stop in to buy anything (willpower, you know), just knowing it was there was reassuring.  I was quite homesick during that first winter abroad and everyone knows that a little chocolate is the best cure for homesickness.   Continue reading “Pots de Crème au Chocolat”

White Christmas

Today, I sat down to finalize the Christmas menu before going to the market.  “Simplicity” is the name of the game this year, so the menu looks something like this:  The star of the dinner table will be a very traditional American baked ham with a maple glaze and spiced orchard fruits like apples and pears.  The ham will be accompanied by a few of my French favorites like potato gratin with hickory-smoked gruyere, Brussels sprouts lardons (Ina Garten’s recipe, and my kids’ favourite way to eat them!) and, of course, crispy sourdough bread.  For dessert, I will make the Bûche de Noël from my last blog post. Continue reading “White Christmas”

Bûche de Noël

I always return to traditions during the month of December.  Throughout the rest of the year traditions have a reputation for being  “stuffy” or “old-fashioned,” but at Christmas time, when the world seems to be moving at record pace, and not necessarily in the direction we want it to, there’s nothing more comforting than falling back into the old and familiar.  Pulling out the old cookie cutters and sorting through the recipe box for those cookies we bake only once or twice a year; dusting off the boxes of decorations, digging through sheets of tissue paper to find the ornaments we packed away so carefully last year.  It’s almost like a long over-due visit with dear old friends.  (And when the dog accidentally knocks one of those ornaments off the tree, like she did today, and it shatters on the floor there are always tears as I sweep up the pieces.) Continue reading “Bûche de Noël”