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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - The Classic Negroni


I happened to be reading Patricia Highsmith's nail-biter The Talented Mr. Ripley when I saw Netflix had adapted it into an eight-part series entitled Ripley. Starring the extraordinary Andrew Scott, this new version is a glorious, moody vision of Italy shot in stark black and white. 

There's a lot of mystery surrounding our psychopathic, murderous protagonist Tom Ripley, but the real mystery to me is why, as the characters traipse across Italy drinking gin martinis, there is nary a mention of the classic Italian Negroni! Lord knows I drank little else when I was running around Italy myself.

Originally served to Count Camillo Negroni in 1919, the bitter cocktail composed of pure liquor is a ripping refresher that some prefer in the cooler months, but I remember escaping the heat of June with a number of Negronis while lingering in the various osterie of Florence, Venice, Rome... 

Classic Negroni
Adapted from Saveur magazine
Ingredients
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Orange slice, for garnish

Method
In a tumbler filled with ice, stir together the Campari, gin, and vermouth. Garnish with the orange slice.


The White Negroni has making an appearance in restaurant bars around town recently too, should you wish to try at home! 

White Negroni
Adapted from liquor.com

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce Lillet blanc
1/2 ounce Suze gentian liqueur
Garnish: lemon twist

Method
Add the gin, Lillet blanc and Suze into a mixing glass with ice and stir for 15 to 20 seconds until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.


Ritual Non-Alcoholic Spirits (a leader in the N/A market) has also come up with what I feel is a highly commendable version of the Negroni, as well as other fantastic booze-free concoctions found here

Ritual Non-Alcoholic Negroni
Ingredients
1 1/2 oz. Ritual Gin Alternative
1 1/2 oz. Ritual Aperitif Alternative
Garnish: orange

Method
Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add 1.5oz of Ritual Gin and Aperitif Alternative. Stir the ingredients in the mixing glass for 20-30 seconds until well combined. Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange peel.


"Tom showered and then Dickie showered, and came out and poured himself a drink, just like the first time, but the atmosphere now was totally changed."
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
 


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Ravigote Sauce



The original plan was that I would make a summery dinner for my cousin at her house in New Hampshire. She fired up the backyard grill for vegetable and mozzarella “Napoleon” stacks, we tossed a pasta salad together and I don’t remember what else...but then some friends called, a few more showed up at the door, and then they invited their friends. Soon we had a houseful of guests and I just kept cooking. More Napoleons were served, I improvised a few pasta dishes, found greens for salad, whisked together a dressing, and quick-thawed some chicken breasts, which also went on the grill, slathered in barbecue sauce.

In my writer’s imagination, as we made a game of muscial chairs around the dining table, I thought of the epic scene from Nana by Emile Zola, where the reckless, scheming courtesan threw a sprawling, gorgeous dinner party with makeshift tables filling all the rooms of her apartment in order to cram in everybody who rang the doorbell, both invited guests and crashers alike.

The menu at at this fictional bacchanal included an asparagus puree and consommé for starters, truffled rabbit and parmesan gnocchi mid-course, and mains such as chicken à la maréchale, foie gras, and filet of sole with—ravigote sauce!

Ultimately, the party that Zola so delicious detailed didn’t go entirely well (the guests were suffocating because of the heat rising from the all the candelabra and each other; the wine uninspiring, you know), but it still lasted until dawn. I’ve never forgotten it.

Someday I might like to have a huge party and recreate the entire menu from Nana, but in the meantime I’ve taken great satisfaction in just making the ravigote sauce and serving it over steak.

Recipes for ravigote vary, but usually revolve around Dijon mustard, shallots, tarragon, and red or white wine vinegar and I’ll wager Daniel Boulud’s version is the best. Try the sauce hot or cold, with sole or steak, as I mentioned—or how about on top of a burger!

Ravigote Sauce
Adapted from Daniel Boulud

Ingredients:

1⁄4 cup aged red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1⁄2 cup cooking stock from Tête de Veau or beef stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1 cup sunflower oil
1 cup minced chives
3⁄4 cup finely chopped parsley
1⁄2 cup minced chervil
1⁄2 cup minced tarragon
1⁄4 cup capers, rinsed and minced
2 small shallots, minced
1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped
1 garlic clove

Method:

In a small saucepan, reduce the cooking liquid or stock by half over high heat, about 5 minutes. Cool, then transfer to a blender along with the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified. Transfer to a bowl along with the chives, parsley, chervil, tarragon, capers, shallots, and egg. Using a microplane, grate the garlic into the bowl, then stir everything to combine.


“Nana could not have produced a dozen napkins out of all her cupboards...and scorning to go to a restaurant, she had decided to make a restaurant come to her. This struck her as being more chic.”
Nana, Emile Zola

Thanks to Saveur magazine for the photo! 











Tuesday, April 2, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - The Black Tie Martini


I don’t mind telling you I’ve made a meal out of martinis on more than one occasion, a la Nick Charles, the glamorous martini-swilling detective in The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett. Garnished with a skewer of blue cheese-stuffed Castelvetrano olives or black olives filled with smoked salmon, a martini can ably serve as both dinner and drinks.

Somewhere in the mid-90’s I discovered The Black Tie Martini at the old Astor hotel in Miami and it was probably the best version of the stiff standby I’d ever had. It’s simple and although a twist is what they used at the bar, it’s not a crime to try the olive garnishes I mentioned, in case you require something a little more substantial.

The Black Tie Martini

Ingredients:
A solid pour of your favorite vodka, such as Belvedere
Equal breaths of Crown Royal and Campari
Lemon twist

Method:
Pour the vodka into an ice-filled shaker. Dip a cocktail stirrer straw into your Crown Royal, seal with your fingertip and release the contents into the shaker. Ditto with the Campari.

Put the lid on the shaker and take this hint from Mr. Charles: “Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to foxtrot time, a Bronx to two-step time, but a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.”* Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with lemon twist.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out your Strauss records and do enjoy!





*Quote is actually from the movie version The Thin Man.