RECIPE: TRADITIONAL MILK PUNCH

In certain areas of the South, you’ll most certainly find  Milk Punch on the menu for brunch, especially during the Christmas and Mardi Gras seasons. I always make them for Christmas morning and I cannot wait to have Milk Punch when I travel to New Orleans; it is one of my travel traditions. Favorites are from Commander’s Palace and Arnaud’s. The one pictured is from Tableau; so good, I had two.

This recipe can easily be doubled or multiplied for a crowd. For a big batch, pour the ingredients into a gallon container with a lid and shake well. Pour into a chilled silver or glass punch bowl and serve over crushed ice.

Traditional New Orleans Milk Punch Recipe

TRADITIONAL NEW ORLEANS STYLE MILK PUNCH

INGREDIENTS

Makes 1

1 ½ ounces brandy (brandy is traditional but you may use bourbon if you prefer)

½ ounce dark rum (optional)

2 ounces whole milk

¼ cup heavy cream (omit for a lighter drink)

½ ounce simple syrup* (substitute 1 tablespoon powdered sugar if you don’t have or want to make simple syrup for 1 drink)

1/4  teaspoon vanilla extract

Freshly grated nutmeg

Crushed ice

DIRECTIONS:

Put the brandy, rum, milk, cream, simple syrup, and vanilla into a cocktail shaker filled ½ full with ice. Shake until sugar is completely dissolved.

Strain into glasses of crushed ice. Grate nutmeg over the top and serve.

*To make simple syrup: Add equal parts granulated sugar and water to a pot, bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once it comes to a boil, immediately remove it from the heat and allow it to cool before using. Store up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

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RECIPE: CLASSIC MINT JULEPS FOR YOUR DERBY DAY PARTY!

Whether you are headed to the Derby or just watching the best two minutes in sports on your television, be sure to have my Mint Julep recipe on the menu!

I am a horse fanatic, I have been since I was a kid. So much so, I'd fall asleep with my entire plastic horse collection in my bed. I get excited about the Derby even though I don't follow horse racing. I've only been once but it was quite the experience... no other sporting event can compare. The hats, the pretty women, the dashing guys, the Southern charm, the majesty of the horses, and of course, the Kentucky bourbon and the Mint Juleps! I always crack up because the Mint Julep is THE drink associated with the South more than any other. When I meet people from other countries and they find out I'm from Alabama, they tell me their impression is that we all sit around on the porch, sipping Mint Juleps..... So in tribute to the horses and most magnificent race in sports, here's a classic Mint Julep recipe my way, just in time for Derby Day. 

MARTIE'S MINT JULEP RECIPE

A silver or pewter Mint Julep cup does make this cocktail more authentic and yes, even more delicious.

A silver or pewter Mint Julep cup does make this cocktail more authentic and yes, even more delicious.

To begin, make a simple syrup infused with mint. This will really bring a wonderful mint flavor to the cocktail and you can also use it to sweeten tea. For the simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water. For 6 drinks, I am using 1 cup each sugar and water. Bring it to a boil, and turn off the heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add 15-20 fresh mint leaves. Stir. Allow the syrup to cool completely. Strain and pour into a canning jar, secure the lid, and chill. This will keep in the refrigerator for a week.

For one cocktail:

3 fresh mint leaves (plus more for garnish)

3 tablespoons mint syrup (depending on how sweet you like it, I like 3)

1  1/2 ounces Kentucky bourbon (I like Four Roses bourbon)

Crushed ice

Powdered sugar for garnish, if desired

Chill your glasses prior to serving. A traditional silver mint julep cup makes this cocktail so frosty and delicious. Add the syrup and mint leaves to a pitcher or shaker. Use a wooden spoon to muddle (not tear) the mint into the syrup to release the oil. Add the bourbon. Fill the cup with crushed ice and strain the bourbon over the ice, almost like a snow cone. Add a straw, a mint sprig, and a dusting of powdered sugar over the top, if you like. Serve immediately.

For a lighter, less potent version, add 1/2 cup of unsweetened tea to fill the cup after you add the bourbon.

RECIPE: OLD FASHIONED SOUTHERN LEMON MERINGUE PIE

My mom was an amazing pie maker- I've said it a million times. She made a pie or cobbler almost every single day and when I'd come home to Birmingham from my travels, I always knew I could always count on there being a Lemon Meringue Pie waiting for me.  It is one of my favorite memories and certainly one of my favorite pies. Make one of these for someone special in your life and start a tradition of your own.

I wish I could take credit for those gorgeous swirled tarts on the right- those are from Chez Fonfon in Birmingham. I just wanted to show you that meringue can be a light to deep golden brown, depending on your taste. They make the swirls using a large pastry bag fitted with a wide, flat tip.

OLD-FASHIONED SOUTHERN LEMON MERINGUE PIE

For a 9 inch pie or 12 small tarts, depending on the size of your tart pans

INGREDIENTS

1- pie crust for a 9" pie plate, pre-baked (homemade or store bought)

LEMON MERINGUE FILLING

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks, beaten well. (Save the egg whites for the meringue)

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature

MERINGUE

4 egg whites

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (find it in the spice aisle)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

FOR THE FILLING: Separate the egg yolks and whites. Put the yolks in a heat-proof bowl and beat them well until they are slightly thickened. Add the sugar, salt, and cornstarch to a saucepan. Use a fork to combine the ingredients. Add the milk, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking each addition to incorporate very well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil exactly one minute, stirring constantly to keep it from burning. Remove from the heat. Carefully temper the egg yolks with the hot mixture by whisking 1/4 cup of the hot liquid into the eggs, stirring to incorporate. Whisk another 1/4 cup of the hot mixture to the eggs and then turn the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan.

Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and butter. Stir well to combine. Set aside. 

FOR THE MERINGUE: Put the egg whites in a mixing bowl. Add the cream of tartar. Beat on high speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time until all the sugar is added and stiff, shiny peaks form. This takes about 3-4 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

ASSEMBLY: Some people butter the bottom of a baked pie shell to act as a barrier between the filling and the crust so it won't get soggy. I did not do this step but you can if you like. Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust. Spread the meringue over the pie filling. The key is to make sure to spread the meringue all the way to the edges so the meringue doesn't shrink away from the crust as it bakes.

Bake the pie at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes or until the meringue is golden. Cool the pie on a wire baking rack until it is cool and then put it into the refrigerator to cool completely before cutting it. (I usually allow it to sit for 20 minutes and then put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.)

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