Napoleon was Here

I like my cocktails the way I like my men; rich and sweet.

The Kid just nominated Chris Evans for the rich/sweet position. He has the added benefit of being hotter than a $20 Birkin bag…

That’s my colorful way of saying we had eggnog for Christmas and jazzed it up with a shot of brandy.

We decided spur of the moment, so we didn’t make our own.  We picked it up at the grocery store.

The Kid and I purchased what might be the best prepared version out there—from Hillsborough’s Maple View Dairy.  It’s really thick, creamy, sweet, but not too, and contains just the right amount of nutmeg.

We purchased the brandy at our local ABC store (a nightmare by the way, at 5PM on Christmas Eve). 

For most Americans that don’t have a butler or a bat cave, brandy is not a very familiar spirit.  Brandy is distilled wine.  This distillation changes the flavor to something deep, caramel-y, and not very fruity. 

Yes, it is served in a snifter, and warmed with the hands.  But for sipping you kind of need to buy the really good stuff.  To help you out, brandy producers have set up a system of achronyms.

VS-“Very Special”; at least three years old.

VSOP- “Very Superior Old Pale”; four years old.

XO or Napoleon-“Very Old”; at least six years old.

Hors d’âge- “Beyond Age”; at least ten years old.  This is the stuff Bruce Wayne and his squad sit around drinking, in really expensive crystal snifters.

For cooking with, or mixing into cocktails, the middle of the road that you’ll find at your local ABC is plenty good enough.  We payed $7 for a pint and it put the nog into our egg nog just fine.

The cream sauce recipe is a wonderful way to use leftover brandy.  The Brussel sprouts bring acid, freshness, and green to help keep the meal from becoming ridiculously rich.

Enjoy the sauce, enjoy the sprouts, and enjoy the new year.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Pub Sprouts

4 slices thick-cut bacon or pancetta

1 small yellow onion

1 pound Brussel Sprouts

2 tablespoons malt vinegar

Salt & pepper

Clean sprouts by cutting off ends and discarding any leaves that look funky.  Then either slice each very thinly, or using slicing disk, run through food processor.

Cut onion in half, then slice into thin half-moons.

Slice pork into ¼ inch wide strips (called lardons) and cook onto medium-low in heavy skillet until fully rendered and crispy.  Reserving fat in pan, remove crispy lardons to paper towel-covered plate.

Pour off fat from pan, leaving approximately 2 tablespoons.  Add onions and cook on medium until translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add Brussel sprouts, cover, and cook for 3 minutes until veg are wilted and have released their liquid.

Uncover, add vinegar and cook on medium until the liquid has cooked off and the veg are lightly browned (7-8 minutes-ish).  Taste for seasoning, and reseason, if necessary.  Serves 4-6.

Mushrooms in Brandy Cream Sauce

2 pounds mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 shallots sliced thinly

2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon dry thyme

½ cup brandy

1 cup chicken stock

¾ cup 2% milk

¾ cup heavy cream

Salt & pepper

In a large heavy skillet melt butter and add mushrooms, shallots, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cover, and cook on medium for five minutes.  Remove lid and cook until the pan is dry and veg are lightly browned. 

Add brandy and cook until the liquid has almost cooked out.  Pour in stock, milk, and cream.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer (use a splatter screen if you have one because this sauce will—a lot).

Cook until the sauce has thickened and is glossy (around 8-10 minutes).  Serve on meat or starch.

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