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Hungry Man's Gide is content about food and cooking, dining, travel, drink and lifestyles for readers who hunger for adventure, fun and a great life.

The Hoke File

We’ll Drink to Thanksgiving

Tim Rutherford

By JL Hoke

   Holidays can be stressful. Cocktails can help.

   I live in Kentucky, so I usually tend toward bourbon. It’s ubiquitous, it’s rich in history – just like Thanksgiving – and it’s delicious. As lovely as it is neat or over ice, sometimes a special occasion calls for a bit of flair. Relax and get the party started with one of these tasty cocktails inspired by the heart of autumn. Wild Turkey is a cheeky bourbon choice, but use your favorite.

   The first one comes from a name you see a lot around this time of year: McCormick, the popular spice, herb and flavoring company. The recipe could easily be doubled or tripled for ease of service.

Molasses-Bourbon Sour

Serves 4

Note: Freeze apple cider in ice-cube trays to serve this over.

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  • 4 cups cracked ice, divided
  • 1 cup apple cider, divided
  • ½ cup bourbon, divided
  • ½ cup sage-molasses syrup,* divided
  • ½ cup lemon juice, divided

   For each cocktail shaker of Molasses-Bourbon Sour, fill the shaker with 2 cups cracked ice. Add ½ cup apple cider, ¼ cup bourbon, ¼ cup sage-molasses syrup and ¼ cup lemon juice; shake until well-mixed and chilled. Place apple-cider ice cubes into each of 2 rocks glasses. Strain cocktails into glasses. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 4 cocktails.

*Sage-Molasses Syrup:

  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon rubbed sage

   Mix molasses, water and sage in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled. (This makes enough syrup for 4 cocktails.)
(Adapted from mccormick.com.)

2016 Thanksgiving Guide: Full meal recipes, shopping list, a cue sheet on when to prepare AND tips from a mental health provider on coping with holidays.

New take on a old-fashioned cocktail

   I’d seen this New Fashioned recipe around before, and always wanted to indulge, because I love herbaceous cocktails (see above). Even just a sprig of rosemary in a Champagne flute is aromatic and kind of fancy. The New Fashioned is a nicely balanced cocktail that’s not too fruity, not too timid and looks pretty in the glass.

New Fashioned

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 4 blackberries
  • 1 orange wedge
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Splash club soda

   In a rocks glass, muddle sugar, blackberries, orange, thyme and bitters until combined, then add bourbon, and fill with ice. Stir well, and top with club soda. Garnish with a blackberry, an orange twist and sprig of thyme.

Holiday flair with south-of-the-border pizzazz

   For something a little lighter, give a tip of the pilgrim hat to our dearly departed summer with a big batch of cranberry margaritas. For extra kick, cut a jalapeno or Fresno chili in half and infuse the tequila with it the night before. I highly recommend this step. Use chilies as part of your garnish so guests won’t be surprised….

Cranberry Margaritas for a Crowd

  • 3 cups 100 percent cranberry juice
  • 1½ cups fresh lime juice
  • 1½ cups blanco tequila (infuse a 750ml bottle overnight with a split jalapeno or Fresno chili; optional. Alternatively, muddle a slice of jalapeno in the glass before adding ingredients.)
  • ½ cup triple sec

   Mix all ingredients together until blended. Serve over ice in sugar- or salt-rimmed glasses, garnished with fresh cranberries and a lime wedge, and a sliver of fresh chili, if you used it. Add fizz with a topper of club soda if desired.

Benedictine: Who, What, Where, How and…Why?

Tim Rutherford

Heitzman's Benedicitne

Heitzman's Benedicitne

By JL Hoke

   There’s nothing complex about Benedictine spread. It’s cucumbers and cream cheese, essentially. Not even solid cucumber, in some cases….just the juice. Often, there’s food coloring. So what elevates this simple concoction to a Western Kentucky must-have? Like the ubiquitous mint julep, this green sandwich filling is served with pride, and distinctly Kentuckian. But what is its appeal?

   My neighbor Marietta, age 89 and a Kentucky native, says, “It’s good. It’s nothing. If you can stand to eat nothing, it’s fine. Just thin as a razor blade, a little bit of green.” Marietta is an accomplished cook, but admits she has never taken the initiative to make Benedictine.

   Benedictine was formulated in Louisville, Ky., by the late 19th-century caterer, restaurateur and cookbook author Jennie Carter Benedict, who trained at the Boston Cooking School under culinary legend Fannie Farmer. Jennie served Benedictine in her tea room – Benedict’s – but never published the recipe. A 2008 re-release of her most successful book, “The Blue Ribbon Cookbook,” did include it. According to the Southern Foodways Alliance, Jennie may have thought the recipe was “too boring to include.”

   During my conversation with Marietta – before I learned about Jennie attending the BCS – she directed me to a cabinet in her sitting room. “Get that big book out,” she said. “We’ll look for the recipe.” It was the “Boston Cooking-School Cookbook.” Marietta had also attended the school. Fannie had many recipes for cream cheese-based spreads in that book. Benedictine was not among them. Maybe she thought it was boring, too.

   The recipe was originally published in the Louisville Courier-Journal as follows:

Benedictine Spread

Ingredients
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 tbsps. cucumber juice
1 tbsp. onion juice
1 tsp. salt
A few grains cayenne pepper
2 drops green food coloring

Method
Blend all ingredients with a fork.

   Modern recipes tend to call for grated cucumber and onion, and with the current aversion to artificial ingredients, often omit the food coloring, opting to get some green from cucumber skin, scallions or maybe spinach. They also prefer a food processor over a fork.

   Benedictine is considered party food, served at brunches and weddings and teas, and really comes out of hibernation during Louisville’s grandest event, the Kentucky Derby. It’s enjoyed dainty finger-sandwich style, usually on white bread – no crusts, please – stacked on pretty trays alongside pimento-cheese sandwiches and lemon bars and such. If there’s Benedictine, it’s an “occasion.” It’s also served standard-size sandwich-style in delis, but if so, it’s almost ALWAYS paired with bacon. It really does need crispy slabs of pork in order to become a meal. Packaged versions turn up on grocery shelves in the city now and then, but you don’t want those. I mean, you REALLY don’t want those.

   So, what’s all the fuss about some cream cheese and a bit of vegetable?

Marguerite Schadt

Marguerite Schadt

   It wasn’t until I spoke with Marguerite Schadt that I started to understand Benedictine’s importance. She and her husband, Dan, operate Heitzman Traditional Bakery and Deli in Louisville, which has been in business locally for 125 years. The topic of Benedictine really lit her up. “Benedictine is a staple when you talk (the Kentucky) Derby or think of Louisville! It has been around for four generations. Our family has been making Benedictine since 1891. When my mother, Mary Agnes Heitzman, did a catering event, she ALWAYS had heart-shaped Benedictine finger sandwiches. She always catered to the customers with her own flair, and today, I, walking in her footsteps, am doing the same thing,” she said.

   She continued, “This luscious spread of cream cheese, cucumbers, hot sauce and a little secret has been a tradition that we still use today in that recipe. …. We serve 20 pounds a week, and at Derby time, we sell 200 pounds.”

   Heitzman’s serves its food-coloring-free Benedictine as a sandwich with crispy bacon on scrumptious house-baked breads, and as a dip. And that’s one tasty sandwich. It seems that the key to good Benedictine is a scoop of enthusiasm, a pinch of love and a whole lot of tradition – green food coloring optional.

   I’ve lived in Louisville for seven years. I’m from the Midwest, and always considered Lou to be far more Midwestern than Southern. But the way the city clings to its traditions ­– especially its culinary ones ­– is very “under the Mason-Dixon line.” Hot Browns, mint juleps and yes, the humble Benedictine, are Louisville, Kentucky, at its most Southern. 

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Got a favorite guilty pleasure or copycat recipe? Drop JL a note at our inbox, hungrymansguide@gmail.com.

Throwback Thursday Meal Is a Guilty, Guilty Pleasure

Tim Rutherford

By Joni Hoke

#TBT. It’s Throwback Thursday, or Trashy Burger Thursday….

I try to eat well – the whole 80/20 thing. I buy a couple bags of fresh spinach and a couple pounds of sweet potatoes per week. Steel-cut oatmeal, cooked in tea. Wild-caught salmon. Grass-fed beef. Roasted broccoli. But recently, I got the hankering for a Big Mac.

I sketchily skulked around the grocery store looking for what I’d need: beef patties (frozen, thin sliders in a tube bag from, shall we say, a major retailer; they purported to be a great value), Thousand Island dressing, PRE-shredded lettuce – a nod to my gal Sandra Lee (it’s not pre-shredded, Aunt Sandy; it’s just shredded) – ahem-erican “cheese,” pickles (“Fast Food Chips,” to be precise), minced onion and, of course, sesame-seed buns. Those seeds are the most nutritious element of this dish. And how can you not have fries? Fast-Food Fries, of course, courtesy of Ore-Ida.

I assembled my lurid ingredients and dashed off a quick Facebook post. My friends seemed to be….into it. And once the burgers were made, so was I. Yum. It tasted like sin.

Names pixelated to protect the guilty.

I didn’t photograph the bag of fries, but all told, not one but TWO of my ingredients actually had “fast food” right in the title.

Having scratched that itch, I went back to the vegetable frittatas and mashed cauliflower and Greek-yogurt chicken salad on whole-wheat pitas that are my norm. But one day, the siren song of the greasy flat-top lured me in again, and I pined for my all-time favorite McDonald’s menu item: the Cheddar Melt.

The Cheddar Melt, rest its bovine soul, was an addictive blend of a quarter-pound patty, grilled onions and REAL cheddar cheese sauce. You know it’s fancy when it’s REAL, and when it’s served on a light rye bun. Oh, yeah. And you know it’s special when it’s available for a limited time only, like the McRib….except the Cheddar Melt never came back. The last were sold in this country in 2014, but only in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. (WTF? Had I known, I’d have made a road trip.) Before that, it hadn’t been around since 2004, and even then, only briefly.

Thirty percent more fries, yo.

Oddly, the Cheddar Melt DOES still exist on Earth – in Brazil – and it’s all the rage there, under the name Cheddar McMelt.

So let’s Go for the Bold. Let’s make one of these bad boys.

I tried using grass-fed beef patties, sliced horizontally while still partially frozen, but it’s no use. You’ve gotta go for that tube of frozen sliders from that one place. Cook them from frozen, on a griddle pan, covered with nonstick foil and weighted with a heavy skillet, so they cook up flat and quick.

And if I really cared, I could’ve made a cheddar sauce with Wondra flour and butter and milk and cheese, but let’s not kid ourselves – this is a McDonald’s copycat. I went for the jarred Prego.

The onions I did slice myself and sautée, for a long time, in a little oil, then glazed them with teriyaki sauce.

I couldn’t find rye buns, so I did make one healthful concession: sprouted rye bread from Trader Joe’s.

Ketchup packets, for authenticity.

With an actual bun and 30 percent more fries, this would be a dead ringer for that tasty, trashy underappreciated throwback. Being bad tastes pretty good. But maybe I should whip up a McSalad Shaker next time.

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Got a favorite guilty pleasure or copycat recipe? Drop JL a note at our inbox, hungrymansguide@gmail.com.