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March 2011

More gin tales

So, I really like gin. I like classic drinks made with gin. I like several different gins for them, but my favorite is Hendrick's, which isn't at all classic, but is completely awesome. I would let Hendrick's be my boyfriend and do really dirty things to him every night if I didn't know it was going to turn into this whole awful enabling thing, possibly ending with me needing to permanently avoid Vicodin and Tylenol to save my liver. (Plus, Hen getting mad and blah-blahing at me for occasionally cheating with bourbon or vodka instead.)

I'm kinda boring about what I do with it, though. I am an old man in terms of cocktail drinking. It's like this—

I grew up here: Sportswhirl_1958.60203605_large
I (kinda sorta) dress like this: McCalls_Fall-Winter_1963_001.29133357_large
But when it comes to drinks? I'm mostly an old guy at the 19th Hole: 681ee78e06bf865a_large
The most creative I usually get is to add cucumber to my Hendrick's gimlet in summertime. Which, by the way, is so delicious. Do that.

Also, I have a lot of teenaged-type kids and not a lot of extra money for fancy liqueurs and mixers. I have what I have, and when I run out, maybe I get that again, or maybe I substitute with a different thing all the kids are talking about. (Not my kids. I mean, you all out there. And yes, I know, not you. But those others.)

Right now on my bar I have some Maker's 46 bourbon, Amaretto di Saronno, Bacardi Gold Rum, St-Germain, Patron Citronge, Patron XO, Noilly Prat Sweet and Dry Vermouth, Fee Brothers bitters, Chambord, Frangelico, Poma, and four cheesy liqueurs to (probably not as I mainly use them in cooking) be named later.

In the freezer (people do disagree on this, but really, shhh,) Hendrick's gin, Effe Black Cherry Vodka, and Absolut vodka.

The only constants are the Hendrick's and the Noilly Prat Dry. All else is negotiable.

Anyway. Someone gave me a portion of maraschino liqueur, and it leaked out of the container and made a mess. I keep wishing to use it, remember I can't, and then I make a drink with something else instead. I'm trying to branch out, people, without putting much more money into the thing.

Tonight I started to make a not-Aviation, and then a not-Martinez, and so I ended up with this. If it already has a name, well, allrighty.

80 ml Hendrick's gin
40 ml Amaretto di Saronno (it does have a certain similar profile to the cherry liqueurs)
20 ml sweet vermouth
20 ml Meyer lemon juice
2 dashes of "regular" bitters, which may not be necessary for balance in this case, but I like the cinnamony nature of the Fee Bros. mixed with amaretto.

Shaken, strained, with a wee lemon almost-wedge, which is my current cool garnish. 2011-03-07 18.30.46
It's much sweeter than my usual martini or gibson for winter or gimlet for summer. But not cloying or girly. And I'm digging it.

nella cucina di mamma

I was in such a bad mood yesterday. Well, all week. And people just grew more and more tiresome, which made it seem worse. But then I got a few groceries, including two chicken breast halves for 1.49/lb.  You can make quick(er) stock with those than with a whole chicken if you need to. I mean, of course, the breasts that still have the bones in. Don't make stock with no bones. It's got no soul, for one thing. And etc., but that's for another post or Google, if you like.

Here are three photos I took of preparing to cook, because I realized it was just what I needed to find a better frame of mind. For the past few days, I've just been cooking to feed, but yesterday I cooked with pleasure to feed with pleasure.

I didn't add carrots and celery tops to my stock; instead I used some organic (since I didn't get it from my own garden) rosemary, thyme, and sage. And an onion, garlic, and peppercorns. It cooked  for only an hour, but then I had lots of beautiful tender breast meat I can use for something today.


There's at least 4 cups of meat there.

So then I went to work making split-pea soup. Now, I make that for a lot of people. And I never make it precisely the same way twice. But you can do this, generally, in half quantities, and it will be nice.

14 cups of broth and/or water My quick stock came to 10 cups, so I add 4 of water.

2 lbs split peas. You can add yellow ones, okay by me.

1.5 lbs boneless ham. (Usually I start with a smoked ham hock or two, but the store had only ginormous packages of them, for some reason. It was hardly economical since I wanted some ham as well.)


1-2 cups chopped carrots
. If you have celery, add some of that so that it's about 2 cups total. The tops are nice and peppery-tasting, but you want to chop them well.

An onion and plenty of garlic


A spoonful of mixed dried Italian seasoning with no salt (My mama would say, "a nice amount of it.") Because it's winter and nothing grows well inside here. If you have fresh, go for it. Oregano or marjoram, thyme, etc., but add them late in the game instead of how I do it below.

Lots of pepper, and some sea salt, depending on your ham. Check near the end of cooking.

I chop the onions and garlic in the food processor so my youngest daughter (19) won't complain the onions are in the way (but I'd prefer very thin slices,) soften them briefly with the dried seasoning in a tablespoon of butter inside a large pot, then add the liquid and other ingredients. Bring to a boil, simmer and stir every few minutes for about an hour and a half. Add more pepper as you like and check for salt.


If you use a smoked ham hock or two, take it out after about an hour and pull the meat off the bone, then put it back in. You can add a little ham to it then, if you like.

And serve it with cornbread! Here's a VERY casual presentation because I was in the middle of other things.

By the way, I've rarely had homemade cornbread that was better, at least in soup and things, than the Jiffy mix. It's like 35 cents a box and you can add stuff to it if you want to. I use two boxes and usually bake it in a 13x9 cake pan. You can crumble it up for lovely stuffing/dressing, as well.

While the soup was simmering, I made cookies. I wanted to make a pie or cobbler, but was a bit low on fruit. So, cookies. I'd been promising chocolate chip lately but there weren't many left! (The trend you sense is that *today* is restocking pantry/freezer day.)

That's a 3 lb bag, by the way. So anyway, to make up for the lack of chips, I added coconut. If it were all up to me, I'd have added finely chopped walnuts as well, but a couple people here prefer for that to be a rare addition. And the coconut was a good idea, as it turns out. They are a nice balance of crispy and chewy.

A couple more things; you may have notice the trend in food blogs to show a photo of every. step. of. the. process. I think they're just in love with their pretty photos. But you know what eggs in a bowl look like by now. However, this was all about making me feel more happy, so here are a couple more things I love. :-)

I don't know how much brown sugar this is; I think maybe 3 lbs. The container holds 5 lbs of flour. I LOVE having lots of fresh brown sugar. My mom cooked and baked a lot, too, but I seem to recall there always being insufficient, dried-out brown sugar in her canister when I wanted it for my oatmeal.

Whirring dough in my magical machine! And lots and lots of lovely vanilla.

Well, and here's my little table where only I sit, for happy cooking mama time.

old-fashioned new cocktail

(regular-type food post later tonight)

This website has some cool old genever recipes, but I can't keep a lot of special little bar items around, so I, as usual, modified the Gin Daisy recipe—as follows:

2 oz Bols Genever
2 tsp St-Germain
2 tsp almond (orgeat) syrup
juice from 1/2 Meyer lemon
2 shakes Fee Bros bitters

Shake, strain, pour over ice with a splash of soda and a thin lemon wedge.

I like it; it's very mild in flavor, but has a nice strong underbelly. It definitely tastes old-fashioned. It needs the tiniest bit of brightening, gonna think on that.

Here you go:

2011-03-03 17.57.51
You see I have a tiny bottle of St-Germain? Well. I ran out of the big beautiful expensive one, and put off replacing it. And then Joe Canal's had a 99 cent special on the samples, so I bought four of them. The lovely things will last through to summer, probably, for 4 dollars instead of 32.

2011-03-03 18.05.03

I've struggled to fully appreciate the Bols Genever, though I could tell I was tasting something kind of awesome when I first tasted it almost straight with just the tiniest squeeze of lemon. But it's rather fermented in character, and doesn't mix well with my usual combinations. It's cool, though, because it's forcing me to try some new things, and I'm liking them so far. It mixes just beautifully with the almond syrup. And I prefer it over ice; maybe I'm just not man enough to enjoy it up! For that, I need my usual Hendrick's gin. It's lovely to have both to choose from.