Alton Brown Adventures: Good Eats Company Punch

We’re always looking for fun drinks to make on our weekends, and Andrew *loves* punch, so when we watched an episode where Alton Brown showed us how to make legitimate punch that was used by pirates, we knew it was only a matter of time before we were going to make it.

Basically, it follows the recipe of:

1 part sour
2 part sweet
3 strong
4 weak

We ran into a few snags while making it, which almost always happens when embarking on a new cooking adventure. The first was that we couldn’t find the alcohol suggested. Alton Brown makes his with Batavia Arrack, which is a golden rum, but it just wasn’t at our local Mariano’s, so we substituted with cachaca. Since Batavia Arrack is partly made from sugar cane, I figured it would be a good enough substitute and hoped that it wouldn’t change it too much.

The second is that we couldn’t find a container big enough to do the whole recipe in, so we halved it and made do with a large plastic bowl that we use for any big adventure.

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Lots of limes!

 

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Make some black tea and put in some sugar
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Cachaca!
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We made spherical ice by freezing water balloons!
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We strained it into the punch bowl and grated some nutmeg over it

Overall, it turned out delicious, and it’s more than a little dangerous. We really weren’t able to taste the alcohol in it, and it was POTENT. Definitely more of a party punch rather than a two-people-hanging-out-on-the-weekend punch. Also, we are now converts to freshly grated nutmeg — it really made a difference and made it so much more delicious.

Want the recipe? Get it from the Good Eats page on the Food Network website!

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Alton Brown Adventures: Grenadine

When I first introduced this thing we’re doing with Alton Brown’s recipes, I mentioned that what got us started was his alcohol episode. That was for two reasons: Andrew and I love a good drink; making great cocktails is actually rather simple if you put in some time. So, we finally took the plunge and made ourselves homemade grenadine.

I actually don’t like store-bought grenadine very much. As long as it’s just a splash or two, it’s fine, but the stuff is way too sugary and sticky for my taste. Turns out, grenadine isn’t supposed to taste like just sugary syrup — it was originally made from pomegranates! In his “Good Eats” episode, Alton Brown goes through the origin of the name “grenadine,” and it actually comes from the French word “granade” which means pomegranate. Having taken a lot of French, I was embarrassed to have never thought of that, but in my defense, store-bought stuff tastes very little like pomegranates.

Basically, to make a homemade grenadine, you take some pomegranate juice, add some sugar, and then reduce it into a syrup. So simple! Alton Brown recommends that you get juice not made from concentrate, but we found that too difficult to accomplish and couldn’t find any anywhere, so we just bought some Pom and went with it.

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Mmmm Reduction.

Overall, it was a success. I don’t think it reduced as much as it should have, and that could have been a cooking error or due to the fact that we used stuff made from concentrate. I hope to repeat the experiment once we’ve used up all the grenadine (which might take a while, honestly). But, overall, a success! We made ourselves some mimosa sunrises (I know it’s not a thing, but we didn’t have tequila), which were surprisingly good. Highly recommend trying it out for yourself.

Places We Like: La Mexicana Taqueria

Where:

La Mexicana Taqueria
815 W 35th St Chicago IL, 60609
(773) 890-1090
Website

My number one complaint when I moved to the Midwest was that there wasn’t enough good Mexican food. Seriously. There are generally two options: overpriced and decent or cheap and terrible. I don’t understand what makes it terrible, but people in Evanston just couldn’t figure out how to do a good salsa or, really, any Mexican sauce. So when Andrew and I moved to an area close to the Mexican neighborhoods of Chicago, I was so excited. I could actually order good Mexican food and not have to make it myself? Really? I felt like life in Chicago was finally becoming the best it could be.

We ordered online from La Mexicana Taqueria before and really enjoyed the steak and chicken tacos. But, there’s such a difference between food that’s been sitting for 15-30 minutes while on its way to you and food straight out of the oven, so we decided to actually visit this place a week or two ago.

SERVICE

The workers were incredibly nice and did a nice job of hitting the right balance between giving good service and checking in too much. They made sure we were taken care of, but also left us to enjoy our dinners.

DRINKS

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I got a pina colada, because there was a $5 special for them, and Andrew got a margarita, because he loves his margaritas. It came in such a cute glass! The pina colada was a little too sweet for me, and I made a note not to order just based on specials next time, because I probably would have been happier with a margarita.

Andrew: The margarita was good, but nothing super special. I will say that the amount of alcohol in it was substantial.

DINNER

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I ordered a steak burrito suizo — with rice and beans, of course, because it’s my favorite part of Mexican food. I know that’s silly, since they aren’t very complicated, but they’re delicious. The dinner was so good — really, everything I look for in a Mexican meal. The burrito had really nice cilantro and onion flavors cooked into the steak. Delicious. Of course, along with the rice and beans, it was way too much food for me to finish, so I had to save half of it. Luckily, when heated up in an oven for a bit, it holds up great as leftovers. As someone who frequently gets overexcited about food and has a small stomach that can’t fit a lot of food in it, the quality of how it holds up for the next day is incredibly important to me.

Also, the price was incredibly reasonable. $9.95 for my dinner. Not too bad.

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Andrew ordered the carne asada — his favorite Mexican dish. It came cooked medium rare and he thought it was delicious. I swear, we hardly talked during dinner, because both of us were shoveling food into our mouths and thoroughly enjoying the experience. Andrew didn’t take his eyes off that carne asada until it was finished. I took a piece and also thought it was yummy.

His dinner was a bit more expensive, and I can’t remember exactly how much it was, but I think it was around $15 or so. For what is basically a steak dinner, incredibly well-priced.

In short, I believe this is very much going to be our favorite local Mexican place. The food is delicious, reasonably priced, and the people were really nice to us when we went there. They also have good rotating specials, which makes trying new things exciting, since we can eventually branch out to something we don’t usually eat and not have to spend a lot to do so. Guess we’ll have to go back often so we can try everything. 🙂