#29: Chrysanthemum, with Curried Cauliflowerettes

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#29: Chrysanthemum, with Curried Cauliflowerettes

I do very much love chrysanthemum the flower, and it’s a pretty fabulous word; I would be disappointed if it got used for a lame cocktail. Disaster averted: the Chrysanthemum cocktail is perfectly pleasant. (Further reading: Erik Ellestad’s Savoy Stomp take)

Chrysanthemum

2 parts dry white vermouth (Lillet Blanc, Noilly Prat)

1 part Benedictine

absinthe rinse (Kübler Absinthe)

Rinse cocktail glass with a small amount of absinthe, discard excess. Stir vermouth and Benedictine with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Y’know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually tasted Benedictine before. Oo-de-lally, that’s some sweet stuff. Tastes sort of like a horehound candy. I tried making the Chrysanthemum cocktail with both dry vermouth (using Noilly Prat), and with Lillet Blanc. I often find that Lillet acts like sandpaper to drinks, smoothing out the rough edges. Here I found it too sweet, and the vermouth did a better job of balancing things out, I think. Even so, it’s a solidly sweet cocktail, but not so much that the sweetness is clobbering the horehoundy, absinthey, orange oily good stuff. Also: my orange peel game could use some work, I think if I did a better job of getting the oils on the surface of the drink, it would have made a more interesting contribution.

Curried Cauliflowerettes

1 med. cauliflower

2 tbsp oil

1 tbsp curry powder

1 med onion, chopped

1 med green pepper, chopped

1 cup water

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 c plain yogurt

(salt to taste)

Cut up cauliflower, set aside. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet, brown curry powder for a minute, then add onion & green pepper and sauté until onions are translucent. Add water, tomato paste, ginger, cayenne and cardamom. (I chose to add a pinch of salt at this point; the recipe doesn’t call for it.) Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir in cauliflowerettes and simmer while covered for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and stir in yogurt. Let stand at room temperature for an hour to let the cauliflowerettes absorb the flavors.

“Cauliflowerettes” sounds like a dance squad at a San Joaquin Valley high school. I say this with admiration; I think “cauliflowerettes” is more efficient and adorable than “cauliflower florets,” which is an admirable speck of the English language to begin with. This is very easy to eat, and I’ll happily gobble up this batch… but there has to be a better interpretation of curried cauliflower out there. I opted to skip the scraped-together chutney made out of marmalade, vinegar and raisins… it’s 2012, and thank goodness, we can get actual chutney at the store.

#290: Salty Dog, with Trout Barquettes

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#290: Salty Dog, with Trout Barquettes

A Salty Dog is just a Greyhound with a salted rim, and a Greyhound is just vodka with grapefruit juice. Salty Dogs are my go-to in venues where I have reason to think the juice will be good, but the drinks won’t, which means I order them approximately never. It’s just as well, as this exercise has reminded me that it’s really just a rather dull drink, even with freshly-squeezed juice.

Salty Dog

1-1/2 oz vodka

grapefruit juice

salt

Moisten rim of glass and dip in salt, fill glass with ice, add vodka, fill with grapefruit juice, stir.

Barquettes are a style of French pastry cup, so called because they are shaped like little boats (a barque is a sort of ship). You will note that neither the pastry cups in the recipe card photo nor in my photo are boat shaped. This is because that is a pain in the ass, and no one is going to go out and buy little boat-shaped tins for this when a mini-tart pan works just fine.

Trout Barquettes

canned trout fillets (Trader Joe’s canned trout, looks like a sardine tin)

barquette shells (Pillsbury pre-made pie crusts)

tarragon aspic

black caviar

sour cream

Cut trout fillets to fit in the cups, pat dry with paper towels. Top with semi-jelled tarragon aspic, chill until set. Top with a dollop of sour cream, rim with caviar.

Tarragon Aspic

1 cup clam juice

3/4 cup white wine

2 tbsp tarragon

1 envelope gelatin

Bring clam juice, 1/2 cup of wine and tarragon to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle gelatin over remaining 1/4 cup of wine to soften, then stir into the clam juice. Remove tarragon leaves and chill.

This tastes about as good as it sounds, which is to say, not particularly. It wasn’t as awful as I’d feared, but it was not a hit with me or anyone else. Rich called it “a face-full of fish” and spit it out. If I were to try to make a tastier variation, I’d use fresh or frozen fish instead of canned, and I’d cut way back on the caviar by just putting a little on top of the sour cream instead of ringing the whole danged thing with the stuff. But let’s just not ever make it again.

#210: Between the Sheets, with Pere Ripiene

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#210: Between the Sheets, with Pere Ripiene

If you like to think that the Universe plops down little signs that one is on the right track, here you go: Between the Sheets. This could not be more in keeping with what I like, and specifically what I like about this recipe card set. My favorite classic cocktail is the Sidecar, and my favorite spirit is rum. Between the Sheets brings those two things together, with an “Oh, Seventies, what are we going to do with you?” name. While the name seems to scream “Hey baby, what’s your sign?,” it actually dates back to at least the ’30s, when the drink appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book. (Further reading: Erik Ellestad’s Savoy Stomp take, Kaiser Penguin’s Between the Sheets recipe comparison)

Between the Sheets
1/2 jigger brandy (Hardy VSOP Cognac)

1/2 jigger light rum (Mount Gay Eclipse Silver)

1/2 jigger Cointreau

1/3 jigger lemon juice

Shake & strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with lemon wedge.

I skipped the garnish, because I am a naughty little minx. In addition to the Mount Gay Eclipse Silver, I tried making this with Banks rum. While Banks is a rum I enjoy, it brought too much funk; I’d stick with a straightforward silver rum. Of course I like it. It’s a Sidecar with a bit of rum. I wasn’t going to not like it.

Pere Ripiene (Cheese-Stuffed Pears)

12 small Seckel pears (Comice)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 c Gorgonzola cheese

1 c crushed walnuts

Peel pears, cut in half lengthwise, remove seedy guts. Blend butter & cheese together until creamy, spoon into pear halves. Place pear halves together, and cover with crushed walnuts.

This was good! Really quick to throw together. I learned that the way to check the ripeness of a pear is to press your thumb into the neck, right against the stem. I wouldn’t know a Seckel pear if it bit me in the rear, so I went with Comice. I ground up the walnuts in a coffee grinder. I liked this quite a bit. Rich doesn’t dig Gorgonzola, and this was not the magical dish that converted him. I liked it enough to save it in Cookooree. While we didn’t agree on the tastiness of the pears, we did both agree that the pairing with the drink was a good one.

The 2 in 1 International Recipe Card Collection for Mixed Drinks and Hors d'Oeuvre

Here’s a thing that has my attention lately: The 2 in 1 International Recipe Card Collection for Mixed Drinks and Hors d’Oeuvre, which was published by Random House in 1977, with Michael Dorn (not that one) credited as author. It’s a set of 300+ recipe cards, each one with recipes for a cocktail and a paired hors d’oeuvre, with full-color photographs.

I learned about it from my friend Rochelle, who recently bought a bar & restaurant in our neighborhood, Doctor’s Lounge, with her partner David. They plan to use the cards to decorate the men’s room walls. When she showed it to us over brunch a few weeks ago, I fell in love instantly.

It could not be more of its time; it is the Regal Beagle in a box. It’s a perfect Technicolor snapshot of how things were changing, cocktail-wise, in the ’70s. A great example is the recipe for the Clover Club cocktail: that it’s here at all is a pleasant surprise, and the recipe looks right… but what’s that floating in it? Is that a… no, it couldn’t be. A green cherry. Oh, dear. On the whole, the set seems to fall more frequently on the good side. Naturally the first recipe card I checked was for the Mai Tai, and it is spot on, right down to the credit given to Trader Vic. The paired hors d’oeuvre have all the charm of midcentury appetizers, only they look more edible. Sold! I had to have it, and thanks to eBay I’ve got one of my very own.

The first conversation that I ever had with Rich, beyond “nice to meet you,” was about his Joy of Cooking project. Our first date was a double date with Erik Ellestad and his wife Michele; Rich’s Joy of Cooking project was a major inspiration for Erik’s now-famous Stomping Through the Savoy project. I briefly dabbled with making all of the salads in the Marysville United Methodist Women 1979 Church Cookbook, but mixing lime Jell-O with things like canned corned beef, cream cheese, asparagus and horseradish is just too gross to be sustained for the long haul. Maybe this could be my project?

The Trotts love a system, and here’s mine: I’ve whipped up a little Ruby program, which I’m calling the Select-O-Matic until I come up with something better, that keeps track of which cards I’ve already made and randomly selects one for me to tackle next. If I’m not in the mood for what the Select-O-Matic has suggested, it’ll pick another one until I settle on one I like. If I want to select a card on my own, it’ll keep track of those, too.

This recipe card set needs a better shorthand name, though, because “The 2 in 1 International Recipe Card Collection for Mixed Drinks and Hors d’Oeuvre” is downright terrible. Suggestions?