~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ever Heard of a Kangaroo Cocktail?...

I bet you have..or a "Vodkatini?

Some order it shaken, not stirred.

Or you maybe you like it "dirty"?...(yeah, I know YOU do, but I'm not talking about that!)...I meant it's with a dash of liquid from the olive jar.

Yes, ladies and germs, I'm talking about the revered, the chic, the esteemed Martini.

Purists will state a true martini is only made with gin and if you want some sort of concoction made with vodka and vermouth…well then, you’ll just have to order it that way.

“Barkeep…please pour 1 & ½ ounces of XYZ vodka in a cold glass over ice, add a splash of vermouth, shake it around and pour it in a glass and please plop an olive into it while your at it”.

Or…back in the day you would order a “Kangaroo”…later a “Vodkatini” would be ordered…but who in the hell is going to order a “Vodkatini” and not get laughed at?

How about a "Gibson"...simply a martini garnished with a pickled cocktail onion.

A "perfect" martini uses equal parts sweet and dry vermouth (and of course the booze)

While there are no steadfast rules on the ratio, the basic recipe is:

1 ½ oz...Gin or Vodka

¾ oz...Vermouth

Garnish with an olive or a twist of lemon

Now, there has been a bit of transformation of the booze/vermouth ratio over the years. A ratio of 1:1 was common at the turn of the 20th Century, and 3:1 or 4:1 martinis were typical during the 30s and 40s. During the latter part of the 20th century, 6:1, 8:1, 12:1, or even 50:1 or 100:1 martinis became considered the norm

However, there have been many who reject the notion of adding any vermouth...

Noël Coward suggested that the ideal martini should be made by "filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy (a major producer of vermouth).

There are a few Winston Churchill quotes floating around, such as he liked his martini so dry he would...just glance at the vermouth bottle...or bow in the direction of France (another major producer of vermouth)...or he would whisper the word "vermouth" in the glass before pouring.

"One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough."
James Thurber

Now you could use both gin and vodka...that is, if you are James Bond. The website James Bond Lifestyle explains...

The recipe for Bond's "Vesper" martini, as described in the 2006 movie: 'Three measures of Gordon's (gin); one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel.

Kina Lillet is nowadays simply names "Lillet". Lillet (pronounced lee-lay), is a French Aperitif made from a blend of wine, liqueurs, fruits and herbs. It originated in the French village of Podensac. It is used as the vermouth.

In the movie Casino Royale, when Vesper (the "girl") asks Bond if he named the drink after her "because of the bitter aftertaste", 007 replies that he named it for her, "because once you have tasted it, you won't drink anything else."

Gin is:

Derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries (Juniperus communis). From its earliest beginnings in the Middle Ages, gin has evolved over the course of a millennium from a herbal medicine to an object of commerce in the spirits industry. Today, the gin category is one of the most popular and widely distributed range of spirits, and is represented by products of various origins, styles, and flavor profiles that all revolve around juniper as a common ingredient.

And here's a bit about Vodka:

distilled beverage composed primarily of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavorings. (yum!) Vodka is made by the distillation of fermented substances such as grainspotatoes, or sometimes fruits or sugar.

According to Esquire magazine..."Whiskey is liquor distilled from grain, and vodka is therefore whiskey. Underaged, overdistilled, heavily filtered whiskey, but still whiskey".

American didn't drink vodka until after WWII. In 1950, forty thousand cases of vodka were sold. In 1955, four million. Now that's marketing. In 1967, vodka outsold gin. In 1976, it outsold whiskey.

So, now that you are all knowledgable about all that...let's make one shall we?

First put on some Sinatra. Frank Baby preferred Jack Daniels, but when I have a martini I feel I should be in Vegas in 1964....up three C-notes playing craps...I polished off a nice medium rare New York and creamed spinach...settling in for a night on the town with my doll on my arm (which is of course Mrs. Blogger Man!) in a tux and it's not a rental.

Okay, so get all your ingredients out. The main player here is not the booze or the vermouth or the glass or the garnish or even the technique...it's the lowly ice cube.

Cold...ice cold is what is important here. Get your vodka and glass frigid in the freezer.

So, to shake or to stir? Martiniphobes say shaking will "bruise" the gin (really?), but shaking will aerate the liquids which will result in a more cloudy drink. The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario in Canada conducted a study, which determined a shaken martini has more antioxidants than a stirred one...so there you go, more antioxidants...and that's a good thing...I guess.

Fill your shaker with ice. Again, the debate goes on...crushed or cubed or slivers? Add the amount of gin (or vodka) and vermouth you prefer, shake the hell out of it for a good 7-10 seconds, strain it into your frozen glass and garnish.  

And remember the wisdom of ol' Dean-O...If you drink, don't drive...don't even putt!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Demi Glace...

In the early 1950's, Demi Glace was a struggling actress, attempting to break into movies much the same way Sonja Henie did in the 1930's and 1940's. 

However, unlike Sonja, who used her 10 world titles and 3 Olympic titles as an ice skater to launch her movie career, Demi's attempt proved to be more difficult. She did take the Rapid City Rabble-Rousers to the Roller Derby mid-west regionals twice and was featured in a little known B-Movie: "The Day the Combine Tractors Ate Scranton".

Needless to say, her acting career never materialized. This was due to either a lack of any real acting talent or...when movie producers said "no", Demi put them in a headlock and slammed them into a credenza.

Later, she settled on to be the spokesperson for "Lube-n-Roll", a roller skate ball bearing lubrication product. Today, she lives a quiet retirement life in Vero Beach, Florida with her two dachshunds "Snooty" and "Wiggles", enjoys singing in the senior center choir "The Silver Tones" and making owl macramé toaster cozies in the Sit-n-Knit class at Pearl's Yarns a-Plenty store. 

(if you believe that I have some ocean front property in Winnemucca I would like to sell you)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

~ Demi Glace ~


Glace...(pronounced "gloss"), "glaze".

A rich and concentrated French "mother" sauce made from roasted veal bones and vegetables...simmered and reduced perhaps by a factor of 10.

(and no, you do not need to reduce 40 cows for the sauce as Northern Exposure featured one season)

A finished demi glace can be added to stocks and sauces or is used as is for a rich, flavorful sauce. Demi glace can be thickened to it's concentrated state with a roux or reduced and thickened over time.

I apologize if I may skip a detail or two or over simplify the procedure...there are 100's of articles on the making of this sauce, historical references (the classic French chef Escoffier), philosophies, etc.

The cooking magazine Saveur has a good article on making demi glace as well as a review of store bought versions.

I have a few leftover beef bones from a rib roast, so I thought I would give this a whirl. To add to the bones I picked up some veal bones at the butcher. If I only use beef bones it technically would be be "demi-glace au boeuf" (of beef).

This is maybe 6 pounds of bones in a roasting pan, dry...no oil or water. Pop it in a high temp oven, 450º - 500º for an hour or so.

Meanwhile, roughly chop an onion, 2 carrots and the white-er portion of a leek...

Good Job!

Save 2 outer green leaves of the leek, 5-6 stems (not leaves) of parsley, 2-3 twigs of thyme and a bay leaf and...

...sandwich the herbs between the two leek leaves, roll it up and secure it with butchers string. This is a classic French "bouquet garni"

After the hour or so the bones are becoming nicely browned

Now add your chopped veggies and roast that off for another 45 minutes or so...but watch it as it could become charred quickly.

Now it is all browned...this will help in flavor and defines the rich dark color.

Everybody in the swimming pool...

...add a cup or so of water, scrape off all the yummies from the bottom of the pan called "fond", literally foundation which also helps develop the rich color and flavor...drain off these pan juices...

...let it settle and drain away the fat...

...add the pan juices to the pot along with your bouquet garni and 6oz of tomato paste...

...and a bunch more (6-8 cups) cold water...cold water help bring impurities in larger pieces to the surface to skim away...heat slowly on low heat. Having it on low...like a bubble every second...helps keep the impurities from being churned back in. You will want to simmer this for at least 6-8 hours...longer the better. Classic French chefs will let this go up to 24 hours!

There they are!...those sneaky impurities, hiding as foam...skim away as much of that as you can

When all said and done, I got 2/3 cup of the gunk out.

Remove the bones, bouquet garni and veggies...

...and strain into a large bowl. I strained using my "Chinese Cap" first then a fine mesh sieve.

I decided to save 3 cups of the stock without reducing. I add mine to large muffin tin and freeze on a level surface and toss them in a zip bag when frozen solid. I then have pre-portioned 1 cup homemade beef stock at the ready!

I poured the filtered stock...this is 8 cups...in my saucier and set it on low heat and let it reduce...

...and reduce...

  ...and reduce...

Fini!...I ended up with 1-2/3 cups of rich, beefy, thick goodness...

...so thick...

...it coats the back of a spoon

Similar to the stock, I froze mine in 1 tablespoon amounts in an ice tray. Think of it as super powerful beef stock.

This was an all day procedure, so plan accordingly if attempting.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen and All Ships at Sea...

In honor of Veteran's Day, I am re-posting the following which was originally posted last year.

And Thank You to all who has served in our military and those supporting from home.

This post is a two-fer...Food (what else?) and a salute to Veteran's Day.  The food portion is a Thanksgiving Dinner. And the Veteran's Day part is that the turkey dinner is aboard the US Navy ship USS Sanborn...A "Haskell Class Attack Transport"...the Navy ship my father served on during WWII.

My father writes in his memoirs: "December 7, 1941 came while the whole family were having a picnic in Griffith Park (Los Angeles area) when we heard the news. Everyone in the park started talking about it and were absolutely stunned." He, of course, is referring to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Just 16 at the time, my father went to work at the Lockheed Corporation "bucking rivets in the wings of the B-17".

He continues.."The War Years...These years were not the most pleasant to remember, but they are the hardest to forget".

Needing his parent's signature of approval to join, he joined the Navy in 1944. He chose the Navy so he would not be drafted into the Army. After joining, he was stationed in San Diego for training which included using the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) boats. These are flat bottomed boats with a flat front ramp. They were brought up onto the beach, the ramp lowered and the Marines would run off onto the beach. 

In addition to his duties in the navigation department onboard ship, my father would also run off with the Marines, grabbing a line from the LCVP to secure it from drifting sideways. They would get back on the boat and go back to the ship for another load of Marines.

In November he boarded a train in San Diego destined for Astoria, Oregon where he hopped onboard the USS Sanborn and eventually sailed back down to the San Diego area for additional training.

Here is the Sanborn

The photo below shows him posing onboard with his other crew members of the ship's navigation department:


Back row, left to right—Kormann, Erwin Lowell, RDM3c, USNR; Meier, Byron Frederick, S1c, USNR; Emerson, Robert, Y2c, USNR; Lee, Donald Lawrence, S1c, USN: Front row, left to right — Enge, Leiand Duane, QM2c, USN; Dawson, Thomas Joseph, QMIc, USN; Klein, Andrew Mattley, Lt. (j.g), USNR; Reed, Dale Paul, QM3c, USNR; Gustafson, Harold Sylvester, Q2c, USNR

A young 17 year old fighting for the freedom of America...part of the "Greatest Generation".




This is the actual dinner menu onboard ship...served somewhere in the Pacific between California and the yet-to-be state of Hawaii. Many of the photos I posted, including the menu above were a part of the ship's "cruise log". Interesting to see besides apple pie and ice cream at the end of the meal, you may also order cigars and cigarettes!

Here we find the ship's galley

A few months after that turkey dinner, they were attacking Iwo Jima on February 19th, 1945. This photo was taken from the deck of the Sanborn.

A LCVP being hoisted on or off the Sanborn

Marines and Navy onboard a LCVP headed for the shores of Iwo Jima. Mt Surabachi is in view.

The USS Sanborn's area to attack was "Blue Beach" which is to the upper right hand side of the photo.
Somewhere down there is my father.

I am glad we can all sleep, eat, vote, think, argue, question, travel and pursue happiness because of them.