This article is the Beverage & Spirits online exclusive for the January 2009 issue.
It is well known that alcohol is the cash cow in the restaurant biz. Even in hard times, diners are still interested in cocktails, wine and beer to accompany their meals. That said, there's a growing number of customers out there who are interested in being included in the drink culture sans the alcohol. Consider customizing a mocktail menu. Your customers who wish to be alcohol-free will thank you for the creative beverages, and your bottom line will benefit from premium-priced nonalcoholic drinks.
Because Chef Magazine's January issue focused on health and nutrition, and many New Year's resolutions involve slimming down, here are some thoughts on more healthful mocktails to offer your diners. Think about low-calorie mixers and energy drinks, sugar substitutes, all-natural juices and teas--and don't forget the fun garnishes.
5 lemons 5 limes 5 oranges 3 qt. water Ice, as needed 1 1/2 c. Equal Bulk Pack Fresh citrus slices, for ganish
Method (1) Squeeze the juice from the lemons, limes and oranges. Pour into a gallon container. (2) Stir water and Equal into juices; mix well. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. Serve over ice. (3) Garnish each drink with a fruit slice, if desired.
1 c. (5 oz.) fresh or frozen blueberries, slightly thawed or 1/2 c. pineapple, orange and strawberry juice blend or pineapple-orange juice 1/2 c. low-fat vanilla yogurt 1 t. sugar
Method (1) In the container of an electric blender, all ingredients; blend until smooth, about 1 minute. (2) Serve immediately in a tall glass garnished. If desired, with blueberry skewers spiraled with a thin strip of orange peel.
1 hibiscus flower, from the new Wild Hibiscus Flowers In Syrup Soda water, as needed 1/2 oz. hibiscus syrup, from the new Wild Hibiscus Flowers In Syrup
Method (1) Place hibiscus flower standing up at bottom of glass. Pour in chilled soda water. (2) Drizzle some syrup into the cocktail for a layered effect. Stir the cocktail as you drink to distribute the syrup.
The Idaho Potato Commission's first Idaho Potato Happy Hour Recipe Contest ran from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2008, and challenged professional chefs and cooks at restaurants and other noncommercial foodservice establishments as well as culinary students to put pen to paper and share their surefire Idaho potato happy hour recipe secrets. In total, $35,000 was awarded in cash and prizes to the top recipe submissions in three categories: Appetizers, Side Dishes and Late-Night Snacks.
In total, seven recipes won first and second place in the three categories. The Grand Prize winner (and first-place Appetizer winner), Porcupine Idaho Potatoes With Hot Pepper Jelly Dipping Sauce (recipe below), submitted by Tommy Masaracchia, executive chef/owner of Tope La Restaurant in Hammond, La., dazzled the tasters. Other winning recipes included:
Second-place Appetizer: Parmesan Fried Diced Idaho Potatoes; Mark Newton, executive chef, Ohio State University
First-place Side Dish: Stuffed Idaho Potato Hashbrowns; Benjamin Thoen, chef, Good Thyme Woodfire Grill and Catering, Washburn, Wis.
Porcupine Idaho Potatoes with Hot Pepper Jelly Dipping Sauce
Tommy Masaracchia, executive chef/owner, Tope La Restaurant, Hammond, La. Image courtesy of the Idaho Potato Commission
Yield: 48 porcupine potatoes or 12 appetizers
6 (50-ct.) Idaho potatoes 3 1/2 oz. salted butter, melted 5 oz. sour cream 8 oz. American cheese, shredded 5 c. buttermilk 5 T. salt 2 1/2 T. black pepper 1/2 t. cayenne pepper 1/2 t. granulated garlic 1 box (15 oz.) shredded wheat, large biscuits All-purpose flour, as needed Hot Pepper Jelly Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)
Method (1) Clean Idaho potatoes, and place on sheet pan. Bake at 350°F for 1-1 1/2 hours or until cooked throughout. Remove from oven, and let cool. Cut each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the potato into a large bowl. (2) Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until 80% mashed. Add remaining ingredients, and mix well. (3) Form potato balls using a 1-oz. scoop. Allow to cool before breading. (4) In another bowl, add the buttermilk with the salt, black pepper, cayenne and granulated garlic. Mix well. (5) In a third bowl, add the shredded wheat, and crush with hands until all chunks have been crushed. (6) Dust potato balls in flour, and add to seasoned buttermilk. (7) Place potato balls in shredded wheat, and roll around until coated all over. Continue until all potato balls have been breaded. (8) To cook, fry in a preheated 350°F fryer until golden brown. Serve 4 porcupine potatoes per appetizer with 2 oz. of Hot Pepper Jelly Dipping Sauce.
Hot Pepper Jelly Dipping Sauce 3 c. red bell pepper, minced 1 1/2 c. green bell pepper, minced 2/3 c. apple cider vinegar 2 1/4 t. crushed red pepper 2 2/3 c. granulated sugar 1/2 oz. pectin
Method (1) Add all ingredients except pectin to a sauce pot. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. (2) Add pectin, and continue to cook for 1 minute. (3) Keep warm for serving. (Note: There is not enough pectin in this jelly to stiffen. This jelly will keep a sauce consistency.)
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