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Product reviews/recipes–alcohol edition

I will never complain that from time to time I receive some free alcohol to sample in exchange for writing something up about said liquor. With that, I’m going to talk about three such liquors and what a novice mixologist like me did with them. And when I say novice, I’m talking still-in-the-womb novice. Most of my experience with booze is opening up some beer or wine, but occasionally I step out of my comfort zone. But at least you know that going in.

Chef JimFirst, I was sent three different types of tequila from Hornitos–Reposado, Plata, and Anejo. I’m looking forward to having a Mexican themed party with margaritas and Coronas, but meanwhile, I used the Plata (clearest form of tequila) for the following recipe sent to me by the rep for X-Rated Fusion Liqueur and substituted the Hornitos for the tequila they suggested:

The Garden Fresh Skinny Summerita

By Travis London

Chef Jim1 oz. X-Rated Fusion Liqueur
1 oz. (Hornitos) tequila

Juice of half a lime
3 sprigs fresh cilantro
3 thin slices of fresh cucumber
3 thin slices of a fresh jalapeño pepper
Cucumber wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (except cucumber wheel) filled with ice and shake vigorously. Pour into a chilled glass and garnish with cucumber wheel.

I will say this–it’s not a sweet fu-fu drink. With the jalapeno in there, this is a downright spicy drink, but it’s also extremely refreshing. If you can take the spice, you can probably drink three or four of these without blinking on a hot summer day. And let’s face it–it’s freaking hot everywhere in the country right now.

Chef JimThen there is this drink I created using SKYY Infusions Coconut vodka. I’m a big coconut fan, so it was easy for me to like this one. I’m also a big fan of flavored carbonated water, and for this one I used La Croix Coconut and Lime flavors:

Mikey’s Lime in the Coconut (make sure the Harry Nilsson song “Lime in the Coconut” is playing when you drink this)

1 oz. SKYY Infusions Coconut vodka
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. sugar water (1 tsp. of sugar dissolved in 1 oz. water)
1 oz. La Croix coconut carbonated water
1 oz. La Croix lime carbonated water

Combine vodka, lime juice and sugar water in a shaker with some ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a glass with ice. Slowly pour in the seltzers and stir before serving. Garnish with a slice of lime.

This one was pretty refreshing as well, but perhaps it could use a touch more sugar. Or maybe more vodka. Hey, I told you I was a novice!

Bud Light Lime-a-Rita (and Bud Light Platinum)

I’m woefully behind on some posting, but wanted to pay homage to the fact that around Super Bowl, the fine folks from Weber Shandwick sent me a really cool case of Bud Light Platinum to try. But I don’t mean a case of beer. I mean four bottles of beer in a hard case that looked like an important brief case. Or like something that might carry a million one dollar bills. Anyway, the beer was (is) delicious….it’s a bit different than regular Bud Light–smooth and yet a bit stronger. It’s triple filtered so it’s got that “clean taste” that beer companies like to talk about. And my kid loves bringing that case to Trader Joe’s every Saturday–I have no idea why, maybe he expects to fill it up with more Bud Light Platinum?

Also, these fine folks (I’m not buttering up my publicist friends too much) sent me the new Bud Light Lime-A-Rita. It’s an 8 oz. can of margarita-flavored malt beverage with a twist of Bud Light Lime. If you like margaritas, and especially if you like beer too, this is the perfect summer cocktail for you. It’s potent for a canned beverage, and mighty tasty. And that lime and/or margarita taste is just perfect for summer cookouts. And with Memorial Day in the rear view mirror, it’s time for summer cocktails indeed. Cheers!

It’s Grilled Cheese Month!

Grilled cheese sandwiches. Who doesn’t love them? Well, it’s your month–April, specifically, is Grilled Cheese Month. I have a few ideas of sandwiches I’d like to create, but the first one I tried yesterday was killer–maybe literally if you eat too many of them, but I digress….and digest. I give to you, the Wisconsin cheddar/bratwurst grilled cheese.

First of all, as I may have mentioned before, it’s best to use real butter for these. Set a stick out and let it get to room temperature to soften. And get some good sturdy bread, preferably as I did that I cut from a loaf, but not too thick that the cheese won’t melt. This particular sandwich is best with white, rye or pumpernickel bread.

For this sandwich, I found some mini-brats at Trader Joe’s, and cooked those in a skillet over medium heat. I added water after they started to brown, just like cooking sausage, although these are fully cooked and probably didn’t need to be cooked through too much more. If you can’t find these mini-brats, you can use sliced regular brats. After cooked, slice two of the links in half lengthwise, and set them aside (or slice into 1/4 inch rounds for larger links). Shred some good cheddar and set that aside. Butter the outside of two bread slices, and spread some thousand island dressing on the inside of one or both bread halves (you can buy it or make your own mixing mayo, ketchup/chili sauce, and sweet pickle relish). Put a pat of butter in a small nonstick skillet and warm over medium heat until just melted. Lay the brat pieces on the inside of the bread, and then put about 1/3 of a cup of shredded cheese on top. Close the sandwich, and cook in the pan for about 2 minutes or until browned, and then flip it over and cook for another 1 minute or until browned. The second side takes a much shorter amount of time.

Slice and serve with pickles, chips and a cold beer (or a frosty root beer or cola is even good with grilled cheese). Oh, and tomato soup, but it’s getting too warm for soup already. Oh wait, I had mine with these kickass sweet/hot peppers from Trader Joe’s…..you’d think I was on their payroll, right?

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

He-Man fiery sausage and peppers

Hey guys. If you are like me, and like spicy food to the point that you sometimes crave it, I’ve got a great dish for you to try. This is probably not the kind of thing women will like, so it’s a good dish to make for your buddies for an NFL Sunday or other get-together. And the cool thing is you can make it extra spicy just by making a few adjustments. And hey, there’s beer in it! Are you ready? Oh, by the way, this was originally published on Bullz-Eye.com’s Grub for Guys.

Here is what you’ll need:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 links pre-cooked smoked bratwurst (or 4-6 hot dogs)
2-3 poblano peppers (the dark green, oblong ones)
3-4 jalapeno peppers (fresh, not from a jar)
½ cup beer
¾ cup diced tomatoes
½ cup barbecue sauce
Hot sauce to taste
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low-medium heat. While that is heating, cut the peppers—slice off the top stem of the poblano, remove the seeds and membrane and slice thinly. Then slice the jalapeno carefully—first cut off the stem, and then cut into rounds. I like to do this and leave the seeds in for two reasons. One, it won’t burn your hands (though you still might consider plastic gloves), and two, the dish will be spicier with the seeds intact. Throw the peppers into the skillet and stir fry until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes.

Then cut up the bratwurst into slices about ¼ inch thick, and add those to the skillet. Let them start to brown just a bit, maybe 2-3 minutes. Then pour in the beer slowly, which should loosen all the brown stuff at the bottom of the pan (if you use cold beer, you can drink the rest of the bottle). Add the tomatoes, barbecue sauce and hot sauce, then sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and let simmer on low to medium heat for about 30 minutes or until the sauce starts to reduce and thicken.

If you want the dish to be really hot, try any combination of these tips….use a hotter hot sauce, use Ro-Tel extra spicy tomatoes (trust me, the stuff is nasty hot), leave the seeds in the jalapenos, and maybe buy a sausage that’s already spicy—I’ve seen some habanero chicken sausage that would work well for this.

That’s it…you might want to serve this with bread or crackers to help soak up the heat, or just let it burn your mouth and cool off those taste buds with a frosty, refreshing beverage of your choice.

Happy Holidays (and you know what that means)

Happy Holidays everyone. That means for the next ten days (and for the past 20 for that matter), it’s time to indulge a bit, and to not feel guilty about what you eat or drink. Within reason of course, but still. Yesterday I think I exemplified that more than anything. I went to Brennan’s Market (the best cheese in Wisconsin, at least from what I’ve found so far), to buy some cheese for Christmas Eve and an amazing looking beef tenderloin for Christmas day. But before that, I stopped at Old Navy and bought two pairs of pants that are a size up from what I normally buy. I’m tired of squeezing into a 33 when my waist is more like a 34. Hey, it happens when you get older and all the dieting and working out make it hard to maintain those lower waist sizes, for anyone.

I’m going to work on that in 2011, but while it’s still 2010, I want to enjoy my food. I want to eat lots of cheese and sausage, drink beer and wine and Bailey’s, eat cookies and chocolate covered nuts, and drink hot chocolate and coffee spiked with Bailey’s (is there a trend here?).

My family back in New York follows the tradition of my brother-in-law’s family–seven fish on Christmas Eve. This year, we’re starting a tradition of seven cheeses on our first Wisconsin Christmas Eve–12 year cheddar, 5 year cheddar, peppadew havarti, gouda, butterkase (just tasted this yesterday, it’s amazing), bacon cheese, and asiago. Oh wait, we also have beer spiked cheddar spread, but that’s a bonus.

I’m also cooking a beef tenderloin for the first time. The butcher told me there were two kinds–the less expensive kind you eat with a knife and fork, and the more expensive kind you eat with a spoon. Guess which one I bought? I mean, it’s Christmas, so break out the spoons!

And hey, make sure you indulge a bit this holiday season. The holidays are about family, friends, good food and drink and enjoying the season. So with that, I raise a proverbial glass and wish you the best, and wish you happy holidays from Mikey’s Kitchen!

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