The good news is that there are great, classic martini recipes in Make Mine a Martini. The better news is that the book goes far beyond mere martinis.
Oh, have I offended? Do you view martinis as the ultimate drink, the only drink? I understand. I watched those first James Bond films, too, and I wanted mine shaken and not stirred. Although here, author Kay Plunkett-Hogge does explain that shaking a drink can chip off little pieces of ice that affect the ultimate flavor while stirring is the safer route to a superior martini.
That’s one of the insights that make this a very good cocktail book for you to consider. This actually is a cocktail party cookbook. Even experienced cooks, like my wife, can be a tad nervous when offering up a dinner party. How do you begin it? What beverages, what foods to start with. We often put all our time and attention into the main course and then, at the last hour, begin to worry about how the entire evening will begin.
That’s where Make Mine a Martini comes into play. Here, you have an array of beverage ideas, mostly classic but with some new ideas, paired with an extensive, excellent assortment of app ideas.
All the classic cocktails here: martinis, margarita, Cosmos, … The entire set. And, the drinks are arranged with interesting side bars and comparisons. What’s the difference between The Gin Fizz and The Tom Collins? Same ingredients actually, but different techniques to achieve a different cocktail.
Beyond the classics, assembled from bars around the world, there are some new ideas you’ll want to try. There is The Fine & Dandy: lemon juice, Cointreau, gin and bitters. The cocktail is a brilliant yellow offering of sophisticated flavor. I’m posting the recipe later this week.
You enjoy drink avocado? Yes, drinking. That is not a typo. From mixologist Julin Cox in LA there is The Avocado Project: rum, lime juice, agave nectar, and sweetened avocado puree. That puree is avocado, agave and more lime juice. My wife and I are ripening avocados now to try this out.
Where I think this book shines is its vast array of food ideas for cocktail apps. They are grouped by cuisines type, so you can find, say, an Asian Platter of ideas: Quick Curry Puffs, Asian Scallops, Thai Fish Cakes with Cucumber Pickle, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, and Thai Peanut Brittle Dipping Sauce. There you go, an incredible spread of tasty ideas, all packaged and ready for you to supercharge your cocktail party.
If you stress over your cocktail parties, this book is better than a bottle of Valium. Seriously, Make Mine a Martini makes your life blissfully tranquil.
The book is filled with excellent photos that are appealing and, yes, totally appetizing. It’s a great book for party novices. And even for nervous pros. I know. Our next cocktail party, we may do this Asian portfolio, but the French-Trimmed Lamb Cutlets with Salsa Verde is hard to resist.
If you are playing blackjack, you know there are times when you have to double down. I say “have to” because if you follow that rule, and some others, you actually can make money. You actually have an advantage over the house. It’s the only casino game where that is true. And if the casino catches you counting cards to apply this basic blackjack strategy, you will be shown the front door.
I know. Been there. And they would not let me take my complementary drink which I thought was tacky.
Heck, I still believe in doubling down. This recipes is just that. You cook pasta, put it in a pastry pie shell, surround with rich sauce, and bake it all up. That sauce is a combo of leeks, chicken livers, peas, ham, heavy cream and cheese. Oh, and the pasta should be cappelletti or tortellini filed with meat and cheese.
The recipe calls for peas, frozen but fresh would actually be better. You can make this dish in any season with frozen veggies or go fresh and local with, say, spring asparagus or late summer corn.
Needless to say, you don’t want to eat this the week before you go for your next blood tests. Unless you think you can visit that lab and double down.
This recipe is from As the Romans Do by Eleonora Galasso. The photograph is from David Loftus who makes As the Romans Do a work of Roman culinary art.
Cappelletti Pasta Cake with Cream, Ham, Liver and Peas
Yield: serves 8
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (ceps)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
7 ounces leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and sliced
5 ½ ounces chicken livers, trimmed, and chopped
1 ⅔ cups frozen garden peas
5 ½ ounces roast ham, cut into ¼-inch strips
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound 5ounces prosciutto cappelletti, Bolognese tortellini or cheese and smoked ham tortellini
¾ cup heavy cream
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Unsalted butter, for greasing
11 ½ ounces ready-made shortcrust pastry sheets, thawed if frozen
1 large egg yolk, beaten
Salt and pepper
Put the dried porcini into a small bowl and cover with ½ cup of warm water. Let soak for 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the leeks and chicken livers and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the peas, ham, nutmeg, and the mushrooms and their soaking water. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, add the cappelletti, and cook for 1 minute, or until they float to the surface. Quickly drain the pasta and tip it into the saucepan with the leek mixture, adding the cream and Parmesan as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 10-inch pie plate with a little butter.
Roll out the pastry sheets and use one to line the prepared pie plate, cutting off the excess pastry but leaving an overhang of 1 ¼ inches around the edges. Press along the sides to ensure the pastry adheres well, then fill the pastry with the cappelletti and sauce. Cover with the second sheet of dough. Cut off the excess pastry, fold in the overhanging edges, and press with your fingertips to close.
Use the remaining pastry to cut out whatever decorative shapes you would like to adorn your pie.
Brush the surface of the pie with the egg yolk and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving with a simple green salad.
Source: As the Romans Do by Eleonora Galasso [Mitchell Beazley, 2016]
Quickly now: what is Nashville famous for?
Music? The Tennessee Titans?
Good God, no. Where have you been? Have you no sense of culinary history?
Nashville is the home to Hot Chicken. I know, I had not heard about it before either. But I’ve in my cold hands this warm, no this outrageously hot, cookbook: The Hot Chicken Cookbook.
Nobody is sure when or how hot chicken evolve. The book has the story about a girlfriend, tired of her boyfriend’s wanderings, deciding to do him in. Not with a gun or knife. No, she wanted to avoid prison so she chose spice instead. Thing is, he loved the chicken and opened a restaurant. I hope this story is true. I’m a romantic.
This book is a combo of recipes and culinary history and tour of Nashville’s hot chicken best spots. There are some celebrity contributions: Carla Hall is from Nashville and her recipe appears, a recipe available at her new Brooklyn restaurant which I am walking to on Thursday!
You can use this book to burn your mouth out: just bop around Nashville tasting at all the best spots listed here. Or, you can stay at home and do the host of recipes from chicken to sides to desert.
Besides that hot chicken, the book boasts hot sides:
Pimento Mac & Cheese
Fried Dill Pickles
Spicy Dill Pickles
You’ll need to cool off after these recipes. Yes, there is relief offered here: recipes for Buttermilk Ice Cream and naturally a Buttermilk Milk Shake.
How do you make Hot Chicken? You deep fry chicken pieces that have been cover in a mixture of flour and Hot Chicken Paste. The classic ingredients for the paste include:
Bacon fat to serve as the binder
Now, that is merely the “standard” recipe. Go around the city, or now around the South as other places adopt the Hot Chicken idea, and you’ll find variations: different proportions and alternative spices. And there are alternative techniques, too. In Carla’s recipe, she has her own rub recipe of course, and, and you are rubbing chicken pieces that have been brined in advance. The brine is a combination of habanero hot sauce, salt, sugar, and water.
This is a lively, bright book. If you are tired of your chicken tasting, well, like chicken, then here is a zesty path for you to follow. I would suggest having available lots of soda, lemonade and beer. No, whiskey sours won’t work here. You’ll be staggering after two pieces of chicken as your try to cool down from that Hot, HOT Chicken.