Bachelor Dinner

Whenever Mrs. Underhill Lounge is away or out for the evening, it is traditional for me to make a big pot of Jambalaya.

I’m not quite sure how I decided Jambalaya would be my bachelor dinner of choice.

In any case, I’ve been making versions of this Jambalaya for almost as long as I’ve been cooking.

The recipe originally came from New Orleans Take Out in Madison, Wisconsin.

It’s since been tweaked and modified a bit, as I can never leave well enough alone. This is pretty spicy, so if you are a wimp, you might want to reduce the cayenne pepper a bit.

Current version:

Bachelor Jambalaya

Salt 1 tsp.
Cayenne Pepper 1 tsp.
White Pepper 1 tsp.
Black Pepper 1 tsp.
Bay Leaves 2
Dried Thyme 1 tsp.
Sage ¼ tsp.
Butter 2 TBSP
Andouille Sausage, Medium dice ½ lb.
Chicken, Medium dice ½ lb.
Celery, Medium dice 1 cup
Onion, Medium dice 1 cup
Green pepper, Medium dice 1 cup
Garlic, minced 1 TBSP
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, liquid reserved
Chicken Stock combined with reserved tomato liquid to make 2 1/2 cups
Long Grain Rice 1 ½ cup

Suggested cooking pot: 5 quart cast iron dutch oven

Method: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine seasonings; reserve. Heat pan slowly. Add butter; melt.

Turn heat to high; add Sausage. Stir frequently until brown. Add chicken; cook for 5 minutes. Stir often scraping pan bottom as needed. Remove chicken and ham with slotted spoon. To pot add celery, onion, and green peppers and saute briefly. Add garlic and spices. Stir constantly until vegetables are clear, for 6-8 minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken, and sausage. Stir in tomato juice and chicken stock and rice. Bring to a simmer. Check salt level. Cover and place dutch oven or pan in oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes.

Spoon into bowls and Serve with sweet crusty french bread and cold beer.

Serves 4 with leftovers.

Hint: If using a cast iron dutch oven, do not leave the jambalaya in the pot, as this will eat away at your painstakingly built up coating. Remove the food as soon it is done cooking and wash out your pot. Then dry the pot, put it on the stove, lightly oil it, and heat until the oil smokes.

Champagne Cocktail

Sometimes it’s nice to get away from cocktails involving liquor.

The Champagne Cocktail is a very nice aperitif cocktail which involves no liquor at all.

Champagne Cocktail
Put into a wine glass one lump of Sugar, and saturate it with Angostura Bitters. Having added to this 1 lump of Ice, fill the glass with Champagne, squeeze on top a piece of lemon peel, and serve with a slice of orange.

The other nice thing about the Champagne Cocktail, is it doesn’t really need a super fancy sparkling wine to be good. Any half way decent bottle will work.

Some other decent not too expensive options, include sparkling wine from regions of France other than Champagne. These are usually called something like “Cremant de blah”, where the “blah” is the region they come from. I’ve had some really nice ones from Alsace and Bourgogne. Usually these will run in the neighborhood of $10-$15 US, and taste like Champagnes or American Sparkling wines at twice or three times the price. In my case, I used a wine called, “Cremant de Limoux, J. Laurens Brut” I found at my local grocery store. It is an amazingly good dry style, sparkling wine for around $10.

If you want the cocktail to be a good appetizer or before dinner drink, stay away from anything too sweet or fruity. Even though they are also cheap, Italian sparklers with the word “Asti” in the name would probably be a bad choice, unless you are serving the cocktail for dessert. Proseccos from Italy and Cavas from Spain are also also cheap, dry and good. Though, I’ve run into a few stinkers when trying to save money by shopping in those categories.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Absinthe Drip Cocktail

There’s so much bullshit, myth, and just plain wrong information surrounding Absinthe, that it is hard to know where to start.

If you’re interested in Absinthe at all, I first must recommend stopping by the Wormwood Society or La Fee Verte Absinthe House for much more information than I can possibly include here.

First off, Absinthe is part of a very old tradition of flavored, fermented beverages. Basically, we’re talking about things like beer and vermouth here. Both hops and wormwood help to preserve the fermented beverages they are added to, giving them a longer shelf life. But, after a while of drinking them, humankind started to have a taste for hops and other bitter flavors.

And by the way, by OLD, I mean, VERY OLD. Before the Roman Empire, very old.

After distillation was invented, originally for use in the perfume and cosmetic industry in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, folks discovered that they could use it to concentrate the essence of alcoholic beverages, giving them an even longer shelf life. Thus, things like Whisk(e)y (distilled beer) and Brandy (distilled wine) started to show up.

What is Absinthe?

Like Gin, Absinthe is a spirit that is distilled with additional flavorings.

For both, one takes some distilled high proof neutral spirits (basically unaged whisk(e)y or brandy), macerates some herbs and/or spices in them, and then re-distills.

In the case of Absinthe, the primary flavoring herbs are: Grand Wormwood (Artemesia absinthum), Florence Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum), and Green Anise (Pimpinella anisum).

If you were to go to your local natural food store, buy these herbs, infuse some high proof vodka with them, and then distill it again, you would have a very basic Absinthe.

Note the very important “distillation” step after infusion. You cannot make Absinthe simply by soaking herbs in Vodka or everclear. Many of the flavors of Grand Wormwood are very unpleasant. Distillation leaves most of these flavors behind, and captures the fragrance of the plant, instead of the taste.

For the same reason, you cannot make Absinthe by adding wormwood extract to Absente or other liquors and liqueurs that purport to taste like Absinthe. Wormwood extract is made by maceration of wormwood in high proof alcohol. Simply adding the extract to any drink will simply make it taste vile. And by vile, I mean vomitrociously vile.

So now that we have those few things cleared up, what is a citizen of the US to do, if they want to sample Absinthe?

Your first choice is purchasing one of any number of the Absinthe-a-likes on the market. Pernod, Herbsaint, Ricard, Absente, La Muse Verte Pastis, etc. The big problem with most of these liquors, is that, well, they are really liqueurs. To a greater or lesser extent almost all of them are sweetened. Also, compared to real Absinthe, most have a simplistic Anise heavy flavor profile. I’ve tried a bunch of them, and really the only one I can wholeheartedly recommend is Henri Bardouin Pastis.

Your second choice is to spring for having real Absinthe shipped from England or elsewhere in Europe. Unfortunately, this is a rather costly option. Decent Absinthes, like those made by T.A. Breaux for Jade in France, will run you well over $100 US a bottle plus shipping.

Fortunately, a new company called Viridian has decided to enter the US spirits market. They contracted Mr. Breaux and asked him to make an authentic Absinthe that they would be able sell in the US. Early reviews are quite positive, and if we’re lucky, we should see Lucid Absinthe on the shelves some time this year. It’s not going to be cheap; but, it will be much cheaper than buying Jade Absinthes from England.

OK, so you’ve got your Absinthe, or Absinthe-a-like. What should you do with it?

The most traditional way to serve Absinthe is as follows:

Absinthe Drip Cocktail

1 Liqueur Glass Absinthe

Dissolve 1 lump of sugar, (leave this out if you are using a sweetened Absinthe-a-like,) using the French drip spoon, and fill glass with cold water.

A couple questions come up right away. First off, how much is a liqueur glass?

Traditional Absinthe is bottled at around 140 Proof, (or 72 Percent Alcohol,) so you’re going to want to start with a little less than a shot. An ounce or an ounce and a quarter of Absinthe should be plenty. At least to start out with.

Second what is this “French drip spoon” they speak of? The French Drip spoon is a perforated spoon. I use a tea strainer, not having yet invested in the more advanced paraphernalia of Absinthe.

So what do you actually do?

Have some ice water ready in a pitcher which you can easily drip water slowly from. Some people use water bottles with those nipple things on them. Other just poke small holes in the bottoms of clean yoghurt containers.

Pour an ounce of Absinthe in a double old-fashioned glass or small water glass. Put your tea strainer or Absinthe spoon on top of your glass. Put a sugar cube in your tea strainer.

Slowly drip water onto your sugar cube, allowing the water to drip over, and down into the Absinthe.

At some time while you are dripping, you will start to see the Absinthe cloud. What is happening is, as the alcohol percentage of the solution drops, less oils are able to stay dissolved and they precipitate out forming what is called a “louche”.

When your Absinthe appears milky, give it a taste. Too strong? Add a few more drops of water.

The traditional dilution is 5 parts water to 1 part Absinthe. If you’re using an Absinthe-a-like, which are usually bottled at 80-90 proof instead of Absinthe’s 140, you may not want to use that much water.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Absinthe Cocktail

Absinthe Cocktails.

Absinthe Cocktails.

Absinthe Cocktail

1/2 Absinthe (1 1/2 oz Absinthe Verte de Fougerolles)
1/2 Water (1 1/2 oz Water)
1 dash Syrup (Rich Simple Syrup)
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Absinthe (Special) Cocktail

2/3 Absinthe (1 oz Absinthe Verte de Fougerolles)
1/6 Gin (1/4 oz Beefeater Gin)
1/6 Syrup of Anisette or Gomme Syrup (barspoon Rich Simple Syrup)
1 dash Orange Bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Instructions for both are, “Shake Well and Strain into a Cocktail Glass”.

The Special is on the left.

I put off buying actual Absinthe for the longest time. But, once I tried making these cocktails with Pastis or Herbsaint, I realized it just wasn’t going to cut it. Fortunately, at the time I received a bonus at work for my, “exceptional commitment to customer service,” so I didn’t feel completely ridiculous spending the money on getting it shipped from England. Highly recommend Liqueurs de France if you are in the market for Absinthe. Great customer service and fast shipping.

For whatever reason, I preferred the plain Absinthe Cocktail. The Absinthe (Special) was a little rich for me.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Rosey Fizz

Rosey Fizz

1 Rose Scented Geranium Leaf (nice; but, optional)
Rose Hip Granita*

2 oz Apple Brandy (Laird’s Bonded)
2 oz Blood Orange Juice (juice 1 small moro blood orange)
1/2 tsp superfine (caster) sugar
1 egg white

Sparkling Dry Rosé Wine (Louis Boillot Perle d’Aurore Cremant de Bourgogne)

Rose Flower Water

Muddle Geranium leaf in the bottom of collins glass. Fill glass 1/3 with Rose Hip Granita. Shake Apple Brandy, Orange Juice, sugar, and egg white well in an iced cocktail shaker, and strain into glass containing granita. Top with sparkling wine (it will foam up) and a couple drops of rose flower water.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with combinations of rose hip “tea” and Apple Brandy. Initially I really liked the idea of a cocktail that was composed entirely of products made from plants in the Rose Family (Rosaceae). Eventually, I was forced to allow citrus and rose geranium leaves into the mix (and in this case Rosé wine and eggs.)

The smokey apple-ish flavors of rose hip “tea” do combine amazingly well with Apple Brandy. I think this grown-up version of an ice-cream float is the best combination of these flavors I’ve done so far.

Another in my continuing series of “drink your dessert” cocktails and sorbets.

*Rose Hip Granita

2 c water
8 tsp dried Rose Hips (available at health food stores and natural groceries)
1 c sugar
1 drop lemon oil

Bring water to boil and add rose hips. Simmer on low for 5 minutes. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Press through a sieve, food mill, or china cap, extracting as much of the pulp through as possible. Whisk in sugar to dissolve. Add a drop of lemon oil and refrigerate until cooled.

If you have an ice cream maker, process according to manufacturers instructions. Store in a sealed container in the freezer.

If you do not have an ice cream maker, chill an stainless steel or pyrex pan in your freezer. The sorbet mixture should not come up more than an inch along the side of the pan. Add mixture to pan, and stir with a fork every hour until well frozen. Store in a sealed container in the freezer.

This makes enough granita for 4 or 5 cocktails.

One interesting thing about the rose hips was that they seemed to have some sort of gelling or foaming property. When I was whisking in the sugar, I noticed it spontaneously formed a fairly stable foam. In addition, even though made simply with a fork procedure, this granita was very close in texture to a gelato. I guess the same substances in the rose hips which formed the foam also acted to prevent larger ice crystals from forming.