Woodwind Gourmet: Irish Coffee

IMG_8279“Frederick the Great [1712-1786] used to make his own coffee, with much to-do and fuss. For water he used champagne. Then, to make the flavor stronger, he stirred in powdered mustard.

Now to me it seems improbable that Frederick truly liked his brew. I suspect him of bravado. Or perhaps he was taste-blind.” — M.F.K. Fisher from Serve it Forth

Granted, history does not provide us with many examples of composers who were innovators in the home kitchen (though G.F. Händel [1685-1759] was a notorious gourmand). Rather than stimulating the taste buds with exotic combinations, composers are concerned with expanding our perceptions of sound and tempting us with unique timbral mixtures. Sometimes, however, those experiments receive a reception something akin to what I suspect coffee hour at Freddy the Great’s house must’ve been like! And yet many of the greatest works in Classical literature are the result of an intrepid, defiant composer asking musicians — and the audience — to try something new.

IMG_8318I recently discovered a brilliant new sonata for oboe and piano by Jenni Brandon (b. 1977), On Holt Avenue. Admittedly, she had me at the first movement, entitled “Morning Coffee”. Aptly, her tempo marking indicates “cheerful and caffeinated”. As the movement progresses, the graceful melodic line soars higher and higher as the composer begins to eliminate beats from the meter, quickening the pulse, propelling the soloist forward with wide-eyed gusto! You can hear all four movements of this lovely sonata on Jenni Brandon’s CD Songs of California: Music for Winds and Piano. You can also hear a live performance at an upcoming Manitou Winds concert (stay tuned for dates!).

In the third and final recipe in our series about Composers & Coffee, we hold the mustard and instead tame coffee’s octane with the mellowing power of Irish whiskey to create a cocktail that’s at once stimulating and soothing! While I don’t recommend it as your morning coffee, it would make an excellent encore to top off a special dinner. Sláinte!

Irish Coffee
Serves 2

4 tablespoons chilled heavy creamIMG_8336
2 ounces Irish whiskey (I like Bushmill’s)
2-3 teaspoons turbinado or brown sugar
2 cups strong, hot brewed coffee
Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

Rinse two Irish coffee mugs or any large coffee mugs in very hot water until mugs are thoroughly heated.

In a 1-cup measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk the cream until frothy but only soft peaks are reached; set aside. (You can do this step easily with a hand-held milk frother or a small whisk instead of getting out a hand-held mixer.)

IMG_8335Pour 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of whiskey into each mug and stir in 1-1.5 teaspoons of sugar into each, stirring to begin dissolving. While stirring, pour the hot coffee into each mug and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Divide the lightly whipped cream between the two mugs, allowing the cream to float on top. Garnish with a sprinkle of cocoa powder if desired.

The authentic way to enjoy this heart-warming, comforting drink is to sip the hot coffee through the cold whipped cream rather than stirring the two together.

The other recipes in the Composers & Coffee series:

Pan-Fried Chicken with Red-Eye Gravy
Tiramisu

Woodwind Gourmet: Tiramisu

IMG_8276“Every morning I have to write, correct, and score till one o’clock, when I go to Scheidel’s coffeehouse in Kaufinger Gasse, where I know each face by heart and find the same people every day in the same position: two playing chess, three looking on, five reading the newspapers, six eating their dinner — with me making up the seventh.” — Felix Mendelssohn from a letter to his family

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) is another example of a brilliant composer who enjoyed his daily coffee. Though renowned for both social and musical conservatism, he was apparently an avid fan of coffeehouses and the ritual of people-watching through the rising steam from his cup. Reading of his life, you get the sense that he might’ve lived longer had he taken time to smell and savor his coffee rather than swilling it down and moving on to the next task. Sadly, he died at the age of 38, grieved and overworked.

Incidentally, Mendelssohn’s great predecessor, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), was also a fan of coffee. We already know Beethoven was an exacting composer — his scores often demanding musicians push their techniques to the very limits of physical stamina. We also know he personally destroyed a piano or two simply by playing them forcefully. Thus, we owe the modern piano’s improved durability to Beethoven’s pianistic paws Beethovenof fury. But, did you know he insisted each cup of coffee he drank should contain exactly 60 coffee beans? No kidding — he counted them himself!

To test Beethoven’s coffee recipe, I weighed 60 average coffee beans. It turns out Beethoven liked about 6 grams of coffee beans per 4-ounce cup. Though I do drink my coffee in modern, 8-ounce cups, I was excited to discover Beethoven and I may prefer the same coffee-to-water ratio. Unlike Beethoven, however, I use a kitchen scale every morning to ensure I have 12 grams of beans per 8oz cup rather than counting out 120 beans. To those who can’t be bothered to measure their coffee in the morning, I raise a furry Beethoven eyebrow.

The second recipe in our Composers & Coffee series is for the serious coffee enthusiast — the kind of enthusiast who is exacting in their technique to ensure every bean counts and every bean is counted.

Tiramisu
Serves 8

3/4 cup brewed espresso (or double-strong brewed coffee)
3 tablespoons water
2 1/2 tablespoons Kahlúa (coffee liqueur)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
4 ounces neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat cream cheese), softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
24 each ladyfingers
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Combine the espresso, water, Kahlúa, and 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar in a shallow bowl; stir to dissolve sugar, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the mascarpone cheese, softened neufchatel, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and vanilla paste with a hand-held mixer until smooth (sugar will dissolve when the mixture is thoroughly creamed).

Dip half of the ladyfingers one at a time in the espresso IMG_8324mixture and arrange them so they line the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish (feel free to cut them to fit as needed). Drizzle additional espresso mixture over the ladyfingers so that you have about 1/2 of the mixture remaining. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture evenly over the layer of ladyfingers. Dip remaining ladyfingers in the espresso mixture, placing them atop the mascarpone layer evenly; drizzle remaining espresso mixture over ladyfingers. Spread remaining mascarpone mixture atop ladyfingers. Sprinkle top generously with the cocoa powder.

Cover and chill for about 4 hours before slicing and serving.

The other recipes in the Composers & Coffee series:

Pan-Fried Chicken with Red-Eye Gravy
Irish Coffee

Woodwind Gourmet: Pan-Fried Chicken with Red-Eye Gravy

IMG_8283Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was known to burn the midnight oil, feverishly scribbling out brilliance by candlelight. Responsible for creating reams of new, original music for very prominent performances for myriad occasions throughout the year, he may have felt his life was a long series of encroaching deadlines. Fortunately, J.S. Bach was a tireless workaholic who probably enjoyed his vocation with a zest and verve many of us could never hope to claim.

Still, no matter how much you enjoy your work, a deadline is a deadline and sometimes even the best composer needs a little boost. Fortunately for Bach, there was an exotic, miraculous new thing popping up in eateries all across Europe: coffee!

While we’re not at all certain how many cups a day Bach swilled down while scribbling away, we do know the beverage played a significant role in his life — so significant that he wrote an entire cantata about it: Schweight stille, IMG_8277plaudert nicht, BWV 211 (“Be Still, stop chattering”). The plot centers around its heroine, Lieschen, whose only goal in life is seeking out her next caffeine fix much to the chagrin of her father who wants to unload his jittery daughter on a suitor asap. To please her father, Lieschen concedes that she might give up coffee if it meant finding a lover, but we soon find out she intends to have both!

Lieschen proclaims in her aria (floridly accompanied by the flute): “Coffee — I have to have coffee!…if someone wants to pamper me, then bring me coffee as a gift!” Since Bach rarely wrote secular music, we can assume his inspiration must have been deeply felt enough to thumb his nose at the anti-java crowd who apparently existed even in his day. After all, the moral of the cantata stated clearly in the final movement is “drinking coffee is natural.”

To highlight the often intimate connection between composers and coffee, I’ve put together a small series of recipes to feature coffee in ways that go beyond that regular morning cup to get your juices flowing. Today’s recipe makes coffee a prominent part of a delectable dinner entrée.

Pan-Fried Chicken with Red-Eye Gravy
Serves 4

PAN-FRIED CHICKEN:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 6-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

RED-EYE GRAVY:
1 cup minced onion
8 ounces cremini or portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup double-strong brewed coffee, room temperature
2 ounces lean ham, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

For the pan-fried chicken: combine the flour, paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap; flatten to about 1/4-inch thickness using a rolling pin or meat mallet. Place the flattened chicken pieces in zip-top bag, seal bag, and shake to coat.

Heat the oil and butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until butter just begins to brown. Add chicken pieces, reserving any remaining seasoned flour; cook 3 minutes per side or until just golden. Remove chicken to a plate tented with foil; keep warm.

For the red-eye gravy: add the minced onion, mushrooms, and IMG_8311salt to the oil remaining in the skillet. Saute until mushrooms release their juices and liquid almost completely evaporates (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, in a 2-cup measuring cup or large bowl, combine the coffee, ham, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons water, all-purpose flour, and any reserved seasoned flour. Add the coffee mixture to the mushroom mixture; bring to a boil and stir until thickened slightly. Lower heat to a bare simmer; return chicken pieces and any accumulated juices to the skillet; cover and allow to simmer an additional five minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Serve chicken atop parmasean cheese grits or mashed potatoes topped with a generous portion of the red-eye gravy. Any leftover gravy is excellent served with brunch over eggs or omelets.

The other recipes in the Composers & Coffee series:

Tiramisu
Irish Coffee

Encore Winds 25th Anniversary Concert

Encore Winds Manitou Winds’ own Sam Clark, Anne Bara, and Jason McKinney will be performing in Encore Winds’ 25th Anniversary concert with guest conductors Peter Deneen and Nancy Brammer on Sunday, May 17th, 3:00pm at the First Congregational Church in Traverse City.

Also joining with Encore are several guest soloists: Tom Riccobono, trombonist; Harry Goldson, clarinetist; Lynne Church, soprano; and this year’s winner of the Young Artist Concerto Competition. The concert will feature works by Copland, Holst, Gershwin, Rogers & Hammerstein, Sousa, and many more.

It’s going to be a great concert! Tickets will be available at the door: $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for students.

Orange-Almond Scones

    IMG_8143

      “I always knew it helped to be both fruity and nutty if you wanted to be an oboist, but it never occurred to me to take those two elements outside of the practice room and bring them into the kitchen (another of my favorite places to spend time). I decided to put together a small series of recipes to highlight the musical union of oboes, oranges, and almonds.”

    The third and final recipe in our series about oboes, oranges, and almonds will be a welcome addition to your next breakfast, brunch, or even tea time. These scones are crisp on the outside, full of almond-y goodness on the inside, and covered with a sweet orange glaze to tie it all together. You can bake them all at once, or store them in the freezer (keeping the glaze separate) to bake as many or as few as you’d like at a time.

    Orange-Almond Scones
    Makes 12 scones

    1 large navel orangeIMG_8192
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    7 ounces almond paste, grated
    8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 tablespoon amaretto (almond liqueur)
    1 cup confectioner’s sugar

    Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Finely grate the orange zest then juice the orange, reserving 2 tablespoons of juice.

    In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, leavenings, salt, cinnamon, almond paste, and half of the orange zest; pulse 5-10 times until combined. Add the chilled butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and a few small lumps of butter remain. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Combine the buttermilk and amaretto in a measuring cup; stir into dry ingredients with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until evenly moistened and dough holds together. Dough should be fairly dry but hold together when pressed against side of bowl.

    Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Pat into a rectangle 6 x 8 inches and approximately 1 inch thick. Using a bench scraper or large IMG_8196knife dusted with flour, cut the dough into twelve squares (or any shape desired) and place on prepared pan. At this point, if you don’t want to bake all of the scones, you can freeze the unbaked scones on a parchment-lined sheetpan, then transfer to a freezer bag and bake within 3-4 months.

    Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes or until firm to the touch and golden brown. Remove from oven; cool for 5-10 minutes on a wire rack. Meanwhile, combine the reserved orange zest and juice in a small bowl with the confectioner’s sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir until a glaze is formed, adding a bit more confectioner’s sugar if necessary. Glaze should crystalize slightly when left standing for a few minutes. Glaze tops of warm scones; serve warm or at room temperature.

    Oboes, oranges, and almonds… the perfect brunch soundtrack.

    The other recipes in the oboes, oranges, and almonds series:

    Spicy Orange-Glazed Chicken with Almond Rice
    Orange-Almond Rice Pudding

NMC Concert Band

NMC LogoAnne Bara and Jason McKinney of Manitou Winds will be performing with the NMC Concert Band on Friday, April 24th, at 7:30pm in Northwestern Michigan College’s Milliken Auditorium.

Under the enthusiastic direction of Pat Brumbaugh, the ensemble will be performing Tchaikovsky’s epic 1812 Overture — officially heralding the arrival of summer in Northern Michigan. Also in this final concert of the season will be works by Frank Ticheli, Meredith Wilson, John Zdechlik, and many others.

The NMC Concert Band is comprised of talented community members from across Northern Lower Michigan. Come and support the local arts scene! Tickets are available at the door: $10 for adults, $5 for children and seniors, and free for NMC students.

Woodwind Gourmet: Spicy Orange-Glazed Chicken with Almond Rice

IMG_8139

    “I always knew it helped to be both fruity and nutty if you wanted to be an oboist, but it never occurred to me to take those two elements outside of the practice room and bring them into the kitchen (another of my favorite places to spend time). I decided to put together a small series of recipes to highlight the musical union of oboes, oranges, and almonds.”

The second recipe in our series about oboes, oranges, and almonds is sure to be a dinnertime hit on those weeknights when that everyday chicken could use a lilt. A spritz of fresh citrus, some herbs and spices from the pantry, an easy, nutty rice… all you need to add is a salad or a veggie side and then put on your favorite zesty oboe music!

Spicy Orange-Glazed Chicken with Almond Rice
Serves 4

      Spice Rub:
      3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
      1/2 teaspoon dried sage
      1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
      1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
      1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
      1/2 teaspoon sea salt
      1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
      1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
      1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
      1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

      1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
      1 large navel orange
      1 tablespoon olive oil IMG_8170
      1/4 cup dry white wine
      3 tablespoons orange marmalade

      Almond Rice:
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      1/2 medium onion, minced
      1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
      1/4 teaspoon sea salt
      1 cup long-grain white rice
      2 cups chicken stock
      Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

      Combine the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Rub chicken all over with spice mixture; let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the zest of the orange and then juice the orange, reserving juice; set aside.

      Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Add reserved orange juice, zest and wine to skillet; cover, reduce heat, and lightly simmer 6 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken to a plate tented with foil; keep warm. Bring juices in pan to a boil; cook until reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Remove from heat and stir in the marmalade until incorporated. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan. Cover and keep warm.

      While chicken is cooking, prepare the almond rice: in a 2-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion, almonds, and salt; cook, stirring frequently 5-7 minutes or until the onion is softened and the almonds are golden-brown. Add the rice; and continue to cook and stir for 1 minute. Slowly add the stock; and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Allow to sit 5 minutes then fluff with a fork and garnish with parsley.

      Serve the chicken and sauce atop the almond rice and garnish with additional chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

    Dinner’s done… now let’s tango!

    The other recipes in the oboes, oranges, and almonds series:

    Orange-Almond Rice Pudding
    Orange-Almond Scones

Woodwind Gourmet: Orange-Almond Rice Pudding

IMG_8143I was putting away my oboe after a practice session, the other day, when it occurred to me that I put a lot more in my oboe case than just my oboe. Inside my case is my oboe, a polishing cloth, the obligatory cork grease, a tiny humidifier, and orange peels. Why orange peels? The fresh, citrusy scent is merely a bonus. Actually, the orange peels keep the wood of the oboe from drying out during our long northern Michigan winters.

After thinking further, I realized my oboe has another meaningful encounter with food: a monthly rubdown with almond oil during the winter months. It’s just another way to help the oboe’s wood deal with humidity fluctuations that can lead to cracks and leaks if left unchecked.

So oranges and almonds… interesting! I always knew it helped to be both fruity and nutty if you wanted to be an oboist, but it never occurred to me to take those two elements outside of the practice room and bring them into the kitchen (another of my favorite places to spend time). I decided to put together a small series of recipes to highlight the musical union of oboes, oranges, and almonds.

Today’s offering puts a spin on an old favorite…

Orange-Almond Rice Pudding
Serves 8

    1 large navel orange or other sweet orange
    2 1/2 cups cooked white rice (basmati is great!)
    4 cups milk (2% or whole)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 cinnamon sticks (3-4″ each)
    3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
    1 tablespoon amaretto (almond liqueur) or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
    ground cinnamon, as desired

    Using a paring knife or a vegetable peeler, remove zest from the orange in large pieces (be sure to avoid the bitter white pith). Juice the orange into a small measuring cup, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. Set aside.

    Combine the orange zest, cooked rice, milk, salt, and cinnamon sticks in a two-quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until IMG_8150mixture is thick and creamy (about 25 minutes). Remove from the heat and fish out the cinnamon sticks and zest pieces; discard.

    Return to the heat and stir in the condensed milk, amaretto or almond extract, vanilla, and reserved orange juice; continue cooking, stirring constantly, until desired consistency is reached (about 5-8 minutes). The pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.

    Divide pudding into 8 serving bowls or ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least two hours. To serve, top with toasted almonds and a dash of ground cinnamon.

The other recipes in the oboes, oranges, and almonds series:

Spicy Orange-Glazed Chicken with Almond Rice
Orange-Almond Scones

Shrek: The Musical

PrintManitou Winds’ own Sam Clark is musical director for the upcoming Old Town Playhouse mainstage production of Shrek: The Musical. Sam has been busy for several weeks doing her part in getting the Old Town Playhouse pit orchestra and cast ready for this production.

“Based on the Oscar® winning DreamWorks film that started it all, Shrek: The Musical brings the hilarious story of everyone’s favorite ogre to dazzling new life on the stage. In a faraway kingdom an unseemly ogre rescues a feisty princess. Throw in a donkey who won’t shut up, a bad guy with a short temper, a cookie with an attitude and over a dozen other fairy tale misfits, and you need a real hero. Luckily, there’s Shrek! A romantic twisted fairy tale, it’s irreverent fun for everyone!”

The Old Town Playhouse production is directed by Brett Nichols, choreographed by Kristina Nichols, and features an all-local cast of talented performers.

Performances are March 6-28 and include a special family matinee on Saturday, March 28th, at 3:00pm. Go to the Old Town Playhouse website or call 231.947.2210 for more information and performance times.

NMC Concert Band

NMC LogoAnne Bara, Laura Hood, and Jason McKinney of Manitou Winds will be performing with the NMC Concert Band on Friday, February 27th, at 7:30pm in Northwestern Michigan College’s Milliken Auditorium.

The concert will feature works by Gustav Holst, John Williams, Frank Ticheli, and many others under the direction of Pat Brumbaugh.

The NMC Concert Band is comprised of talented community members from across Northern Lower Michigan. Come and support the local arts scene! Tickets are available at the door: $10 for adults, $5 for children and seniors, and free for NMC students.