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I’ve Got Spirit, Yes I do . . .

November 2, 2015 | Frank Bonanno


(Doesn’t Rachel Adams make that Maple Bourbon pie look good??)

When I opened Mizuna (has it been nearly fifteen years? Yes it has . . .) there was no such thing as a “cocktail program.” Vodka was everyone’s spirit of choice—the dirtier or sweeter, the better–and you would no more think of “pairing” a cocktail with food than you would think of pairing wasabi and ice cream. How far we’ve come.

For me, the revelation came way back that opening year, in a story I recount often (so if you’ve heard it, skip the next couple of sentences). The entire Mizuna staff had a celebratory dinner at Per Se, and that Keller, he’s so fucking good. He not only created a signature cocktail for the Per Se opening, but damn if he wasn’t making tonic from scratch. Of course that’s the way it should be. It totally makes sense. If you’re putting all this time and energy into sourcing the best ingredients—trying to buy as close to home as you can, finding radishes that just ripened this morning and beef that only ruminates grass. . . if you’re rolling pasta by hand and butchering animals purchased at auction in Golden. . . if wine purveyors are coming in two or three times a week to taste you on every varietal in every region so that your cellar has the every possible flavor profile to match whatever food is coming out of your kitchen . . Well, why would you be serving those mysteriously reddish pink cherries? Why stock lime juice that looks to have been bottled sometime in the 1960’s? Why pour grenadine made from no-fruit-known-to-humankind or tonic from a can which boasts the primary ingredient as high fructose corn syrup?? Sometimes you need a smack upside the head to see what’s so obvious—and Thomas Keller, in a perfectly lit dining room by way of servers trained in ballet choreography, threw a can of Schwepps at my temple.

Once we shifted to juicing in-house, and making bitters and tonic and everything else we could from scratch, the next, natural step was to actually pair cocktails and food. I don’t agree with every cocktail pairing—but that’s ok, because I don’t really care for champagne with lobster either. The bottom line is what works for your palate. In truth, I still prefer wine with entrees or appetisers—but I love love to match cocktails and desserts. For me, it’s a natural fit. When you think about it, building a cocktail is actually a lot like making a pie. Start with a flavorful base, add fresh ingredients to enhance it, find a balance between sweet and savory.

So, in the spirit of the season—it is pie season, after all—and in the spirit of, well, spirits, I offer up two recipes. Wednesday’s Pie Crust and our Maple Bourbon Pie. You know what cocktail I would pair with this?? A Dickel’s Manhattan.

Getting hungry just writing about it . . .

Wednesday’s Pie Crust
Makes 9-inch pie
**Contains nuts!

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup almond flour
1 egg
3 oz melted, unsalted butter

This isn’t a typical American pie crust—it’s more of a pate frisee, which gives it a crispy, cookie quality. Sometimes it crumbles a bit when cut, but truly—it’s delicious.

Here in Colorado pie crusts can start off a little dry. With this crust—or ANY crust, or pasta for that matter—don’t be afraid to add a little milk or water to moisten up the dough and make it easier to roll.

Once the dough is in the pie pan, stab it liberally with a fork. This will allow the steam to escape if your blind-baking (baking without filling), and with or without filling, it helps prevent the crust from shriveling up and baking inconsistently.

Kitchen Aid stand mixer (or large mixing bowl and electric mixer); rolling pin; fork; pie pan; pie weights or dried beans; parchment paper

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly dust a rolling surface with flour.
2. While oven heats, place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large mixing bowl with hand-mixer) and blend on medium speed until a cohesive dough begins to form. Remove the dough with your hands to the lightly floured surface.
3. Roll to a thin, flat, pliable circle. Set this disk into a pie pan and gently press with with your fingers to fully fill the pan up and even over the rim. Give the rolling pin a quick run across the ridge of the pie pan to remove any excess pie dough.
4. Fork the dough, fill and bake.
5. If baking blind, line the crust with parchment paper before baking and anchor the paper to the dough with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes; cool.

Maple Bourbon Pumpkin Pie
Makes 1 10-inch pie

3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 T rye or bourbon
½ pie pumpkin, roasted & pureed (about 1 can cooked pumpkin)
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt

Whisk, rolling pin; medium bowl; 9 or 10 inch pie pan

When people cook with alcohol, they tend to use the cheap stuff. Why? Ingredients matter. Look at this recipe—it calls for an actual pumpkin rather than the canned stuff, fresh ginger, grated nutmeg . . . don’t skimp on the booze. For this recipe, I use Dickel because it’s not as sweet as say, Makers, which lets the rye flavor really come through.

Pressing the pumpkin through the tammy (strainer) twice gives this pie its velvety texture.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and rye together in medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Combine pumpkin puree, sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Simmer over medium flame, stirring and scraping down the sides of the pot continually until the pumpkin thickens and takes on a glossy sheen—roughly 15 minutes.
4. Remove pan from heat and slowly whisk the cream mixture into the pumpkin. Set a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl in your sink. Gently whisk the creamy pumpkin into the strainer, working it through the mesh and into the bowl.
5. Rinse the strainer well. Now push the pumpkin from the bowl and back through the strainer into the original pot. Once the contents are in the pot, give the pumpkin a quick, vigorous whisk, then transfer into pie shell.
6. Bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes. Reduce oven to 300 degrees and bake 25 minutes more. Remove from oven.
7. Extra, unnecessary but nice touch: as the pie cools, I like to pour a bit more bourbon over the top for flavor—about 2 tablespoon more.
8. Let the pie cool at room temperature 2 hours.

To Serve
Cut pie into slice and serve on dessert plates. Top with whipped cream.