Indian Home Cooking 2: Turkey Kofta “Curry”

Turkey Koftas

I noted in my #GrapeGate post yesterday that I would have a recipe for turkey koftas today and here it is; or at least here’s a recipe for a kofta “curry” made with turkey. I guess you could serve it at Thanksgiving but frankly I don’t recommend making this with turkey at all (though don’t be surprised if you see this listed as Minnesota’s Thanksgiving dish in the NY Times next year). It’s what I used because ground turkey is what we had in the fridge. It’s much better made with ground goat or lamb or even beef; turkey is much too lean which can result in koftas/meatballs that are too tightly compacted or dry (there’s no bread or milk added to the meat in Indian meatball preps that I know of). I made this with what’s at hand because that’s what home cooks do—if you’re going to go shopping to make this then get fattier meat.

By the way, I put “curry” in quotes up top because it’s kind of a word of convenience. It’s not really used much, if at all, in Indian languages other than English, and even in English Indians usually use it only to refer to dishes with a lot of sauce. In the West, of course, “curry” or “curried” is used more broadly to refer to anything made with vaguely Indian spices. And, by the way, what is referred to as sauce in the West is usually called gravy in Indian English; “sauce” is mostly our word for ketchup. Anyway, on to the recipe! (This time with more pictures.)
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#GrapeGate 2014: Some Annoying Opinions

What is grape salad, pa?

In as bad a case of pandering as you’re likely to see all week I will have on the blog tomorrow a recipe for a turkey kofta “curry”. If you serve it at your Thanksgiving meal you’re likely to provoke great outrage from your family and friends, and that’s before you try to sell it as an Indian recipe—then again, family conflict is one of the great Thanksgiving traditions and so perhaps this is indeed a proper Thanksgiving recipe. Before I get to the recipe, however, I want to say a few quick things about an actual recent, local Thanksgiving-related outrage. I am referring to #GrapeGate.

If you don’t know what #GrapeGate is you obviously do not live in Minnesota. For the better part of a week it has seemed to be the only thing anyone in Minnesota can talk about. Last week the New York Times published in their food section an article featuring “recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico)“. Minnesota was assigned something called grape salad. All hell, as I alluded to above, then proceeded to break loose. Local chefs, food writers, foodies etc. all took to Facebook, Twitter, newspapers, radio and television (and for all I know, to fax machines, telex and carrier pigeon) to describe their shock at this mystifying choice, to note that they had never encountered grape salad before and to ask why on earth anyone would associate Minnesota with grape salad—or some variations on these themes. In perhaps the only good thing to come out of all this Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl had a very witty rejoinder to the NY Times on the MSPmag website. Continue reading

Clynelish 14

Clynelish 14

The Clynelish 14 was my first foray into purchasing whiskies from distilleries whose names I had not previously heard much of. This was some time ago now. I’d seen mention of it in a few places and was a little bit intrigued but it was probably the tall, slim bottle that helped push me over the edge—it didn’t look like any of the other bottles on my not very crowded shelf. So it simultaneously represented both my shallowness and a willingness to take a chance on something that seemed out of the ordinary. I am happy to say that I loved it from the get-go—and, really, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t: it’s such an approachable malt. And after this experience I began to buy bottles from different distilleries without worrying about reputation—so I guess the Clynelish 14 was a crucial step in my eventual development into a crazed whisky geek.

I’ve always had a bottle on my shelves since that first purchase but it’s been a while now since I’ve opened one of them. This bottle was purchased in Minneapolis back in late-2010, so if there have been any changes in the profile since you will not see that reflected in this review. I opened it about 10 days ago for a Clynelish tasting I conducted for a few friends and it made a very good showing alongside some very nice independent bottlings (all of which will show up on the blog over the next month or two). Continue reading

Black Bull 30

Black Bull 30

I don’t really know too much about the Black Bull blends. I know the brand is owned by Duncan Taylor and that this 30 yo was blended at origin in the 1970s and then matured for the full term in an ex-sherry cask. So while this has grain whisky in the mix the grain component is also 30 years old and has been marrying with the malt the whole while (and I believe it’s 50/50 grain and malt whisky). That’s all pretty unusual for blends which are usually heavier on the grain and generally blended after the component casks have matured and then married for only a few months before bottling. As to what the sources of the components are, I have no idea. But I’m sure somebody more knowledgeable than me will be along shortly to fill in the details. I think this was released in the late 2000s and that it’s no longer part of the range (makes sense as one would imagine it would be hard to replicate).

I split this, and some other bottles, with friends some months ago. One of those people, Jordan Deveraux of Chemistry of the Cocktail coincidentally posted his own review a few days ago. I have studiously avoided looking at it and will do so only after this review has posted. [And here it is.] Continue reading

Indian Home Cooking 1: Rajma

Eye of the Goat

If it weren’t bad enough that this whisky blog now features weekly restaurant reviews here’s my first foray into cooking posts. Soon I’ll expand to regular reports featuring my vegetable garden (I’ll have updated pictures of the foot of snow it’ll be under for the next five months); parenting advice (Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom is not a family film); and my crucial fashion insights (the Nehru jacket is coming back, y’all!). It’s going to be so much fun!

Anyway, I’ve been an annoying food person for much longer than I’ve been an annoying whisky person. I’ve been discussing food online far longer than I’ve been discussing whisky (before the rise of food blogs, back when food forum wars were a serious thing—I was part of the second eGullet purge; “eGullet what?”, you say; exactly.) I’m also a prolific cook—other than a meal or two out on the weekend all our meals are home-cooked, and as my wife has a much longer commute than I do most of it is cooked by me. I have a pretty wide repertoire cuisine-wise but let’s face it nobody wants anything but Indian recipes from an Indian. And so here is yet another axis along which I can inflict myself on the world (though my old food forum friends will see this only as a return). Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS (2013)

Lagavulin 12, 2013

Let’s stick with Lagavulin but let’s take the exclusivity factor down a notch or two. Unlike the Feis Ile bottles, the Lagavulin 12 CS is not exactly hard to find—there are more than 31,000 bottles of the 2014 release.

I’ve previously reviewed the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 editions of the Lagavulin 12. As I’ve noted before, along with the Caol Ila Unpeated, the Lagavulin 12 is one of the few value propositions in Diageo’s annual slate of special releases. For some reason it’s not an universally loved expression but I’m yet to taste one that I did not like a lot. I’ve managed to get a bottle every year since I came to know of it (2009) and hope to get my hands on the 2014 release as well (I’m not sure if it’s in the US yet). I do have a bottle of this one too but as I’m trying to keep my number of open bottles under control I asked my friend Patrick for some from his recently opened bottle when we last exchanged samples. Continue reading

Sen Yai Sen Lek (Minneapolis)

Sen Yai Sen Lek: Kao Soy

An ongoing conversation on the MSP Chowhound forum about the disease of sweetness that plagues Twin Cities Thai restaurants reminded me that we had been meaning to eat at Sen Yai Sen Lek for some time now and had not gotten around to it, despite being up in that neighbourhood on a near-weekly basis for our Indian and Korean grocery shopping. Well, as of last weekend that box on our itinerary has been checked.

It was a pleasant meal on the whole, but nothing to get terribly excited about. And certainly nothing to drive through snow to get to as we did. (Though, as my wife noted with resignation, the real reason for the outing, and the endangerment of the entire family on the highway, was to get to a whisky sale even further up north on Central Avenue.) Continue reading

Lagavulin 17, 1995 for Feis Ile 2013

Lagavulin 17, 1995, Feis Ile 2013No, I didn’t go to Feis Ile 2013, and no, I didn’t buy a bottle at auction. This sample comes to me from my friend Rich who acquired a bottle somewhat complicatedly. It was purchased at Feis Ile by one person, passed on to another who lives in Canada, who then brought it down to other parts of the US from where it eventually made its way to Minnesota. All I had to do was go to a tasting in St. Paul last month featuring sherried malts and wheedle Rich into sharing a sample of it (it was one of the featured malts at the tasting and I knew I wanted to review it at leisure for the blog as well).

Feis Ile (in case you don’t know, this is the annual, week-long, festival of Islay distilleries) is something I’ve always wanted to attend, but the reports of queues of hundreds of people trying to get into every distillery are off-putting. I’m not a big fan of crowds. Still, if ever I go to a whisky festival it will be this one. The festival bottles are always very tantalizing, especially as only a small number of the distilleries make any of those available more generally. And the Lagavulin bottles are always the ones I crave the most. Quite apart from anything else, they’re sold at very reasonable prices. This one, for example, was about £100. That might seem a lot, and it is in the abstract, but full-term sherried Lagavulin is not easy to come by and when you look at the price asked for the most recent edition of the Lagavulin 21 it does seem like a very reasonable price. Say what you will about Diageo, at least they’re not gouging the faithful who’re willing to make it out to Islay in May.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 25

Glenfarclas 25

If ever there were a competition to select the “People’s Distillery” Glenfarclas would surely be in the running. Independently owned and almost entirely bullshit free (can you remember the last silly Glenfarclas release?) the distillery puts out a lot of whisky, most of it within reach of regular punters. I am thinking of course of their regular range. It is true that in their “Family Casks” series they release a lot of fairly expensive single casks—not always very old—but it’s hard to begrudge them this when they regularly release a 10, 12, 15, 17, 21 and 25 yo, none of whose prices have risen dramatically in the last half-decade, and all of which are priced more reasonably than the malts in the range of pretty much any other distillery in Scotland (Tomatin may be the sole exception). Their 21 yo can be found for less than $125, and this 25 yo can easily be found for $150 or less. And even their 40 yo was priced far, far below whisky of similar age from their competitors (less than $500 in most US markets)—though it doesn’t seem to be around any more. Their success doing what they do seems to be one of the strongest rebuttals of the arguments made to rationalize increasing prices and the rush to NAS—keep in mind that most of Glenfarclas’s spirit is matured in ex-sherry casks (which you would expect would be another driver of cost).

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Talisker 30, 2006 & 2012 Releases

Talisker 30, 2012Both these Talisker 30 samples came from the same gathering as the Clynelish 17, Manager’s Dram and the Supernova 2014. (There are samples of some other monsters brought home as well from that evening that will be showing up here in the next few months.) These were my first tastes of Talisker 30 (I’ve had a bunch of the 25s and also the 35) and I’ve been looking forward to spending a little more time and concentration on them. The Talisker 30, like the 25 yo, is no longer at cask strength—the 2010 edition was the last at cask strength (I have a bottle in the stash but who knows when I’ll ever open it).

Our impression at the tasting was that the 2012 just didn’t have the depth of the 2006 (which was also my finding re the 2012 edition of the 25 yo vis a vis the CS 25s). It is also true that on that night we’d been drinking a lot of fairly high-powered whiskies before we got to the Talisker 30, 2012; so it’s possible it may have suffered for that reason. Well, let’s see what I make of the juxtaposition tonight. I’ll start with the lower abv. Continue reading