Monday, August 1, 2011

August is National Coffee Month!

“Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.”
Johann Sebastian Bach

When I realized August was National Coffee Month, I got a sudden jolt of much needed energy. My initial thought was to dig out one of my favorite "liqueur" booklets featuring Kahlua. But then, I got to thinking, how about a post aimed at exploring coffee as an ingredient? Many of us are already quite aware of the benefits of a good cup of coffee in the morning, not to mention the relaxing aroma of a pot of freshly brewed coffee after dinner. That's coffee history! Fact is, "java" adds a dynamic dimension to many a baked, braised or grilled dish. It may surprise you to learn that coffee as a beverage was actually an after thought, it did me too!!! At first, it was used as a food (and not only by those infamous berry eating goats)

According to a coffee history legend, an Arabian shepherd named Kaldi found his goats dancing joyously around a dark green leafed shrub with bright red cherries in the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Kaldi soon determined that it was the bright red cherries on the shrub that were causing the peculiar euphoria and after trying the cherries himself, he learned of their powerful effect.  The stimulating effect was then exploited by monks at a local monastery to stay awake during extended hours of prayer and distributed to other monasteries around the world.  Coffee was born. (source)

Discerning coffee drinker that I'm not, the notion of cooking with coffee intrigues me. What of the perks? In my travels, I read that some tribes in Africa eat coffee as portable little cakes. They crush the berries up, add some fat and shape them into balls much like meatballs!

Coffee was believed to have medicinal properties. Avicenna, an Islamic physician and philosopher of the eleventh century, said of coffee: "It fortifies the members, it cleans the skin and dries up the humidities that are under it, and gives an excellent smell to all the body." (source)

Coffee Cuisine is not a new concept.

...Thanks to celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse making it a part of their repertoire, more and more people who only cook for family or as a hobby are discovering the many ways coffee enhances the flavor of every dish from the appetizer to the entrée and, of course, dessert...Coffee’s nutty, chocolaty or fruity undertones make it the ideal complement to a number of dishes. In fact, coffee experts have identified and categorized no less than 900 unique flavors that may be present in coffee. Most cooks recommend utilizing coffee in the same method that a spice would be used. Coffee’s naturally robust flavors require other accompanying strong flavors so that the coffee taste does not dominate the entire dish. Essentially, the coffee should enhance the dish’s flavor, rather than providing the main thrust of the overall taste...Pairing the often bittersweet flavor of various coffees with the sweetness of desserts makes a natural and pleasing contrast, one that many people enjoy. Yet the more recent innovation of using coffee in savory dishes seems less intuitive. However, the complex flavors inherent in most coffees actually serve to bring out the flavor in meats. A coating of coffee and other spices also helps seal in juices and can also actually tenderize a cut of meat, making for a more succulent and tasty main course...For instance, coffee can be an excellent spice for meat dishes like ham, game and beef. Use it in a marinade or add it to a gravy for a unique, distinctive flavor. Coffee has been used as part of a rub for various grilled meats and adds an interesting kick to any barbecue. Try using a dark, heavy roast for red meats while matching a lighter roast with more delicate dishes like chicken and fish. In many ways the use of coffee in cooking can be compared to the use of wine. Just as red wine goes hand in hand with red meat, so dark roasts go best with red or dark meat. (Daily Shot of Coffee)

Couldn't you just dive into that roll of goodness? No surprise it's a winner!!! I found the recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Annual for 2003. And yes, coffee is an ingredient!

Barbecue sauces, glazes, chili and even pot roast all lend their flavors to coffee enhancement. The next time you're braising meat, use brewed coffee in place of wine and enjoy the rich, bold flavor it imparts. Brewed coffee also makes a wonderful deglazing liquid. That delicious southern favorite Red Eye Gravy comes to mind. Personally, I'm addicted to Red-Eye Mayonnaise.

Coffee should be used just like you would use any strong spice. Similar to cinnamon or cumin, coffee flavors are best carried through tepid oils and moisture. Whether gently infusing the brunette characteristics into delicate liquids, invigorating meats with spicy rubs, or adding the distinctive brew to soups, stews and even tomato-based sauces, coffee has the ability to heighten other flavors with similar profiles. Adding a small amount of coffee to chocolate-based recipes, for example, or incorporating coffee into recipes with chilies intensifies the chocolate or chili essence because those flavor profiles are inherent in all ingredients. (Chef 2 Chef)

Pot roast is simply delicious when "brewed" with coffee. Whether you prepare it in the oven, on the stove or in a slow cooker, be sure and add at least a cup of leftover coffee to the liquids. Not only does it act as a meat tenderizer, the coffee adds a depth of flavor without imparting any coffee residue.

Grilled Chocolate Coffee Steak? Oh, yeah!

The Perks of Leftover Coffee

I don't know about you, but I always have leftover coffee in the morning. Not much, since I still use a good old fashioned percolator, but enough to hesitate when dispensing with the leftovers. The grinds are no problem, I throw them in the compost or around my house plants. However, the less than a full cup of liquid that is left seems to pose a problem. I just detest tossing it. Sometimes, it too becomes liquid fertilizer. Lately, I've been freezing it in ice cube trays. After they are frozen, I store them in freezer bags for future frozen coffee drinks.

1. Use leftover coffee in place of the water in chocolate cakes.
2. Add black coffee to pot roast to create a rich, brown gravy.
3. Acid loving plants such as begonias and tomatoes adore leftover coffee as a mild fertilizer.
4. Add to leftover coffee to your favorite chili recipe.
5. Use it to dye fabrics (some use it to dye their hair too but that's an entirely different post:)
6. Use a cotton swab and rub it on scratches in dark furniture.
7. Make a mocha sugar glaze for donuts.
8. Mix freshly brewed cooled coffee with equal amounts of sweetened condensed milk and pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Wah la, Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles.
9. Jazz up some ribs!!!

Bonne Bouche

In French, the term Pousse-café, literally means "push the coffee." In general, it refers to cordials and brandies that might be served after dinner with coffee.

There is no better way to conclude a fine meal than with brandy, served at the same time as the coffee. Without it a dinner composed of the most splendid dishes, accompanied by the noblest wines, remains incomplete. Coffee, small and black, high roasted and strong, provides a perfect complement. Together they facilitate digestion. (Coffee by Claudia Roden p. 101)

The Pousse-café {poos ka-FAY} was introduced in New Orleans in the mid-19th century and was all the rage by the early 1900s. Here's a recipe from The Bartender's Guide by Jerry Thomas (1862) that also gives us a dollop of history.

Santina's Pousse Cafe
(Use a small wine-glass)

Take 1/3 fine old Cognac brandy

1/3 Maraschino
1/3 Curacoa

Keep all the ingredients separate (and in order, yes the cherry goes second:) The Pousse was invented by Santina, proprietor of Santina's Saloon, a celebrated Spanish Cafe in New Orleans.

According to the Online Bartender's School, there are two versions of the "coffee chaser" story. Here's one:

The name Pousse cafe is said to have been derived from chasse cafe, literally "chase coffee" or a coffee chaser," a potion of liquor taken after a meal ostensibly to remove the taste of coffee, tobacco, or what have you. The term, usually shortened to chasse, was applied as a rule to brandy, creme de menthe, or like cordials, but in time became definitely attached to the ringed drink of various cordials, now known as Pousse cafe.

Pousse Cafe is a general description for rainbow like drinks which are gingerly layered into a glass. There is no one pousse cafe. As a matter of fact, there are many Pousse-café recipes. Just be sure and carefully layer the ingredients in the order they are given. With a bit of practice and patience, you will quickly discover how to make easy layered drinks. Here's an Alcohol Density Chart and a video to get you started.

"Art of the Drink" Sunset Pousse-Café

Here are a few more "tasty {coffee} morsels"

Café Chocomalt
1 cup cold strong coffee
1 cup milk
1 cup chocolate ice cream
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons of malted milk powder

Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend on high until smooth.
(The Coffee Book; A Connoisseur's Guide to Gourmet Coffee) ©1976 pg.85
Note: My sister drinks this with low-fat ingredients and a sugar substitute. She LOVES it!!!

"Inspired by the drinking of tea with milk, Nieuhoff, the Dutch Ambassador to China, was officially the first person to try coffee with milk, around 1660." (Claudia Roden; Coffee © 1977.)

Here's another recipe from the The Coffee Book (I'm thinking this could easily start in the food processor. I don't have one of those:)

Coffee Cream Horns
1/2 pound butter or margarine, well chilled, divided
2 cups plus 2 tbs. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ice water
1 tbs. lemon juice
12 foil-wrapped ice cream cones
1 egg, slightly beaten
Coffee Almond Cream (recipe below)

1. Cut 1/4 lb. butter into flour until mixture resembles cornmeal.
2. Add water and lemon juice all at once.
3. Stir with a fork until pastry stays together. Cover; Chill 1/2 hour.
4. Roll out 1/4-inch thick into rectangle 18x12 inches.
5. Cut remaining butter into thin pats; Cover 2/3 rectangle.
6. Fold uncovered third over middle third.
7. Fold opposite end over top. Then fold pastry in thirds crosswise
to form a block.
8. Roll out again 1/4-inch thick. Repeat folding.
9. Wrap in foil. Chill 1/2 hour.
10. Repeat rolling, folding, and chilling
three more times. Wrap pastry. Chill overnight, or longer.
11. Roll pastry 1/8-inch thick into rectangle 20x12 inches.
12. Cut into 12 inch-wide strips. Brush with water.
13. Wrap each strip, slightly overlapping, around foil-covered cone, starting at point.
14. Brush with egg, chill 1/2 hour.
15. Bake at 450F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F. Bake 15 minutes or until puffed and golden.
16. Cool on Racks. Remove cones carefully. Before serving fill with Coffee Almond Cream.

Coffee Almond Cream
Combine 1/2 cup whipping cream, 2 tbsp sugar, and 1 tbsp instant coffee. Chill. Whip until stiff. Fold in 1/3 cup diced almonds.

Just around the corner
There's a rainbow in the sky
So let's have another cup o' coffee
And let's have another piece o' pie!

Irving Berlin

1. Coffee Terms - Drinks and Recipes
2. Making Iced Coffee- Tips And Tricks
3. 14 Coffee Recipes and 7 Other Ways to Use Leftover Coffee
4. Affogato al Caffe (sounds heavenly:)
5. Coffee & Brown Sugar Bacon
6. Coffee Nut Muffins
7. Coffee & Nocello-Glazed Duck
8. Coffee Beef Stew
9. Chicken Mole with Coffee Extract
10. Flan de Cafe "Coffee Flavored Flan"
11. 5 Minute Creamy Coffee Frosting (uses Betty Crocker pre-made frosting)
12. Basic Campfire Coffee (check out the new products reviews in the left column; cool:)
13. Coffee Poppy Seed Cake
14. Coffee Pairing
15. Cooking with Coffee: Our Favorite Recipes (@ epicurious)
16. A Tribute to Jerry Thomas author of The Bartender's Guide 1862.
17. Cocktail 101: How to Make Layered Cocktails
18. Feasting Our Way in August (more August celebrations:)