It’s that time of year when we’re on our New Year Diet Plan, so not a whole lot of food or new dishes to blog about. Who wants to hear about salads, salads and more salads? Salad is what FOOD eats. Lots of stir fries (one with Dan Dan flavors may be worth blogging about later), chicken and seafood dishes. Meh. We have pretty much gone dry in the process too, which has been easier than I thought. With all this healthy crap, I’ve been twitchy on the weekends. Saturdays are usually when I go nuts on the more time-consuming meals, fresh pastas, more interesting sauces,…you know. Fun-cooking!
A couple of weeks ago I was digging through the refrigerator, trying to find something interesting and healthy (oxymoron) to do with broccoli, and stumbled across the last few drops of Liquore di Anice Arancia, an orange and star anise liqueur we brought home from Italy earlier this year. It was the most amazing thing either of us had ever tasted, but we didn’t bring home much in the way of souvenirs and the bottle we did bring home was quickly shared with friends and gone. I saved the bottle in the freezer, just so I wouldn’t forget about it and in case I could coerce one of my traveling friends to bring back a bottle if ever I ran into anyone going to the Amalfi coast.
Our friend Judy, whose blog Over A Tuscan Stove provides constant inspiration, was helping me with a purchase I was trying to negotiate from here and I mentioned the liquor. When I showed her the label, she clarified that what I loved so much was the faint star anise note in the background of the drink, and that it would be child’s play to make at home. She also advised me to get the purest alcohol I could procure, so I ordered a big jug of Everclear online.
What the hell, right? Another new (to me) website I’m really enjoying is La Tavola Marche, from which the Rosemary and Lavender Cake I mentioned in my last post originated. They have a recipe for a Blood Orange Arancello, so I figured it would be pretty simple to add the star anise, triple the recipe and make it my own…..hoping it would taste like what remember.
We finished the liquor last night, and you know what? It tastes EXACTLY like what we remember! This is most definitely a recipe I'll repeat until they wheel my poor, pickled corpse away. Fortunately, in the meantime we have enough orangy, boozy goodness to last at least a week when we’re off these damned diets.
A few notes about the recipe: You will need to skin the oranges carefully, with a very sharp knife. You don’t want to get the bitter pith in with the peel. It took me about 45 minutes to fully peel 20 blood oranges and remove any last bits of pith. Consider it a labor of love. When storing this mixture, both throughout the process and when you have assembled the simple syrup with the infused alcohol, store it in a cool, dry place. The amount of simple syrup used here makes for a liqueur which goes down pretty smoothly. If you want it a little bit boozier, reduce the syrup mixture at the end.
Liquore di Anice Arancia (Blood Orange and Star Anise Liqueur)
Adapted and shared with permission from the kind folks at La Tavola Marche
The two week boozy peel soak
1.75 liters Everclear, or as close as you can find to pure grain alcohol. In a pinch, use vodka. 1.75 liters is the huge handled jug. (For professional drinkers)
The skin of 20 blood oranges.
10-12 (about ¼ cup) star anise
1.75 kilo (3.85 lbs) granulated sugar
3 liters (~12 ½ cups) water
In a large jar with a lid, soak the orange-rind peels and star anise in the alcohol and leave in a cool dark place for about 14 days.
After it has sat for 14 days or so, filter the rinds from the alcohol. Boil the water & sugar, making a simple syrup, stirring to dissolve all the sugar in the water. Then add the orange flavored alcohol. Bottle.
Arancello, like limoncello will last a year or more in proper storage.
If the alcohol is too strong, it is also nice to serve it with a drop of heavy cream or dollop of whipped cream atop - then it is referred to as Crema di Arancello.