Ahhh, it’s coming. Summertime. Cut offs and cowboy boots. Oh, wait, I outgrew that when I was 6. It was an interesting look though. Maybe I’ll try to bring it back this year.
I digress. Texas has had a lot of distilleries pop up in the last decade or so, and some of them are doing tremendous business. When I was down there a few weeks ago, I went to the local hooch house and eyeballed what they had that was fun and new. I ended up bringing back to New York a gin called Old Highborn. It’s nice, smooth, and very affordable.
Now if you come here much, you know I like a cucumber. I wanted to fuse the summery cucumber and the dry gin in a glass with a lovely froth on top. I did a little testing and now present you The Gentleman Caller’s Texas Gin and Cucumber Martini. This makes two 4 to 5 ounce martinis or one fish bowl, ya lush.
What you need:
3 ounces dry gin (I used Old Highborn)
1 ounce elderflower liqueur
1 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces fresh lemon juice
1/2 of a large cucumber, rough peeled and chopped
1 egg white
Put 2 martini glasses in the freezer or fill with crushed ice.
Muddle the cucumber pieces thoroughly and then press the juice through a wire mesh, careful to keep seeds out of the liquid.
Fill a shaker halfway with ice. Add gin, elderflower liqueur, simple syrup, lemon juice, strained cucumber juice, and egg white. Shake like crazy.
Strain into chilled glasses. Garnish with cucumber skin if you like, but really the egg white froth is quite enough fanfare.
It seems, according to the TV cooking shows and commercials, that people are thinking about the upcoming Super Bowl. Now, I think that’s fun and all, and the halftime is usually an event, but it ain’t exactly the Tony Awards. Feel free to laugh at that sentence.
If you follow me regularly here, you know I am always trying to breed low-brow to high-brow. I am still trying to deduce a Spam chateaubriand.
That’s a joke.
But someone who shall remain nameless dared me. Challenged me. Threw down a gauntlet via social media. My initial response was NEVER NO NEVER. But the more I ruminated, the more intriguing the idea became.
So today I offer you Beanie Ween (shoved full of spaghetti noodles) and Lardon (and french fried onions) Spoon Appetizer.
What you need:
4 good quality hot dogs, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 package of spaghetti noodles, broken into thirds
1/2 of a large white onion, chopped
11 ounce can of Pork and Beans
1/3 cup lardon or coarsely chopped bacon chunks (www.Stantonmeats.com)
**This is the barely spicy version. I would ideally go for 2-3 teaspoons.
This is the fun part. Take your 1 inch wieners and stick the spaghetti pieces through them. Use about 5-6 per wiener. If you have kids or non-cooks around who like to “help,” this is a great assignment.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Bring about a quart of water to a boil in a sauce pan. Boil the “noodle wieners” for 6-7 minutes, just until the noodles start to bend. Remove and set aside.
In a sauce pan, cook the lardon until quite crispy. Remove from the pan. Add the onion to the bacon grease in the pan and sauté till translucent. Add the “noodle wieners”. Allow the wiener part to caramelize a little in the bacon grease. Don’t go crazy, just a light caramelization will do.
Turn off the heat. Add the can of Pork and Beans. Add all the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, adding the lardon back in the last couple of stirs.
Spoon into a pie plate lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. I actually used an aluminum one because, well, I am lazy.
Put into the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes. Check it, see how loose it looks. This is probably when you want to add the french fried onions. Sprinkle them on top, bake 8-10 more minutes, just until the onions start changing color.
Remove from oven.
Pre-set tablespoons or appetizer spoons on your serving piece.
Quenelle* the mixture using teaspoons into a football shape and ease into the pre-set serving spoons.
*Yeah, I am fancy. Get two spoons and with one, take a scoop, while with the other you sort of roll them back and forth between spoons to achieve an oval kind of football shape.
Try to get a french fried onion on top and make sure you can see the lardon.
Dazzle your guests! They are going to think you are KLASSY. I think you are, too.
It’s but a few days till we all begin our 2017 crash diets, but before that starts let’s keep the fatty food fiesta going! Here is one in a series of apps and starters that I am presenting moving toward New Year’s celebrations. Today’s is The Gentleman’s Miller Lite Shrimp Cocktail.
This dish is actually not fatty or gross, just a bit indulgent. It’s a luxurious starter and also can function as a passed hors d’oeuvre on little spoons with a dollop of sauce.
Ceramic asian soup spoons work well for individual servings of appetizers. They make them in recyclable plastic, too.
Dad and Poppa pretty much always drank Miller Lite when I was growing up, and they both loved a shrimp boil. So this is a bit of an homage to my dad and his dad.
What you need:
1 12 ounce can of Miller Lite (or your favorite beer)
6 ounces water
1 pound shrimp, peels on**
peels of one lemon
3 tablespoons crab boil***
2 teaspoons salt
**Shrimp are classified numerically by how many pieces you get per pound. 21/25 shrimp = you will get between 21 and 25 shrimp per pound. U15 means you will get Under 15 shrimp per pound. I like about 16 shrimp per pound. Indulgent, sizable, but not giant. Also, try to get E-Z Peel shrimp. That means they’ve been deveined and you won’t have to deal with removing the intestinal track. Gross.
***My preferred brand is Kalustayan’s House Blend http://kalustyans.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=8638&search=crab+boil – but Zatarain’s and Tony Cachere’s are fine, too. Just less complex. Be sure that salt is not an ingredient in your crab boil.
In a saucepan, combine liquids, lemon peels, crab boil and salt. Bring to boil.
Add shrimp. Boil for exactly four minutes and not a moment longer. Remove from sauce pan, put in a bowl with ice and lemon slices.
When they are a temp you can work with, peel them. Allow the shrimp to get very cold before serving.
I’m about to knock your stockings off with a donkey kick to the palate with my Holiday Mule.
Do you know what a pomander is? It’s when you take an orange and shove cloves in its skin in a decorative way. We used to make them when I was a kid. Very aromatic. This was my inspiration for this beverage.
Here’s what you need:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole cloves
Combine water, sugar, and cloves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. While that’s cooking, use a vegetable peeler to take the outer skin off the orange.
At the end of the 20 minutes, add the orange peel to the saucepan and remove from heat. Allow to steep and cool. Reserve a peel or two for garnish. Strain the solids out of the syrup once cool.
Fill your mule glass with ice. A traditional mule is copper with a handle. I found this ridiculously cute one at Pier One Imports.
To the ice add:
1 1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce cooled clove-orange syrup
1 ounce fresh orange juice (if not using fresh, reduce to 1/2 ounce)
2 ounces ginger beer**
3 ounces club soda
dash of orange bitters
**ginger beer has no alcohol. Make this kid and Designated Driver friendly by simply eliminating the vodka.
Swirl with a spoon to get everything happily married. Toss a reserved orange peel on top and chug-a-lug from that sweet copper mug!
I’m certain this will become one of your holiday staples.
This is an oldie but a goodie, friends. The classic ice wreath.
Now if you’re like me, you have sweet memories of cut glass punchbowls and ladies stirring concoctions of sherbet, 7-Up, pineapple juice and other sweet delights into it and watching the foam rise. Family parties, showers, holidays… A punch bowl was a staple. Granted you get a thimbleful of liquid in the dainty cups, but when it’s loaded with the calories of a traditional Southern style punch, perhaps that isn’t a negative.
Earlier I told you about a crisp Autumn cocktail with cranberries and cinnamon syrup. I made this beverage in a large quantity (just make all the ounces into cups…) in my vintage cut glass punch bowl and it was a hit.
Now if you know anything about me by now, you know half-assed is not an option. So I crowned the punch with a shining ice wreath. And it really did look like a crown.
Put a bundt pan in the freezer for a couple of hours. Make sure it’s flat/level.
Add about a cup of cranberries to the bottom. Add about a half cup of lemon Perrier mixed with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon syrup (see Vaccinium recipe). This shouldn’t cover the berries. Cranberries float; that’s how they are harvested. You only want to glue the berries down with the liquid mixture as it freezes.
Once that layer is frozen solid, add grapefruit juice to cover the berries and then some.
Allow that to freeze solid.
Slice and de-seed a lemon (thin slices). Leaving the mold in the freezer, adhere the slices into the broad side sections of the pan. The slices will freeze on contact like a tongue to flagpole.
Allow that to all freeze solid.
Mix about a cup of grapefruit juice, a cup of cranberry juice, a little cinnamon syrup and some lemon seltzer so you have enough liquid to almost cover the lemons. It should all be cold. Pour it into the mold.
Peek at it occasionally. When it starts to get good and slushy, poke a cinnamon stick into the narrower divots at the edge so that they will be visible.
Allow to freeze solid.
When you’re ready to serve the punch, run the bundt pan carefully under hot water. Don’t allow the water to come into contact with the ice ring. It should slide out quite easily. Add your crowning touch to the punch. You may put either side up; the one side will have red glistening cranberries, the other a crown of cinnamon sticks. You can’t go wrong.
I hope you wow your guests with this relatively simple show stopper.