Read an Excerpt
Canal House Cooking Volume No 3
Winter & Spring
By Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton, Margo True
Canal HouseCopyright © 2010 Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton
All rights reserved.
it's always five o'clock somewhere
Our dry vermouth stays fresh in the fridge. The gin lives in the cupboard. The soft cucumber and rose flavors of Hendrick's Gin suit our taste. As to how dry a dry martini should be, it seems to us that it should be just wet enough to keep it from tasting like an icy cold glass of rubbing alcohol, no? It's a very fine line.
4 ounces gin
½ ounce or less dry vermouth
Put gin and dry vermouth into an ice cube–filled cocktail shaker. Stir gently. Strain into two ice-cold martini glasses. Garnish each with a few toothpick-speared olives. Drink responsibly.
HALF & HALF
There was a time when a martini was equal parts gin to dry vermouth, stirred, not shaken. When we have the taste for a gin martini but aren't feeling macho enough for a dry one, we fix ourselves one of these wet lovelies.
2 ounces gin
2 ounces dry vermouth
2 dashes bitters
2 strips lemon zest
Put gin, dry vermouth, and bitters into an ice cube–filled cocktail shaker. Stir gently. Strain into two ice-cold stemmed glasses. Garnish each with a twist.
Colman Andrews, our drinks guru, always uses tequila made of 100 percent agave, Cointreau rather than Triple Sec, and little Key or thin-skinned limes for his grown-up, tart version of this cocktail.
Squeeze the juice of 2 thin-skinned limes into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Rub the rims of two martini glasses with one of the cut lime halves. Pour some fine sea salt into a saucer and roll the wet rims in the salt. Pour 3 ounces premium tequila and 1–2 ounces Cointreau into the shaker, cover with the lid, and shake until the margarita is very cold and well mixed. Strain into the salted glasses and serve.—makes 2
While we like to start with a cocktail, when we get into the real business of eating dinner, we drink wine. We asked a few serious wine drinkers what they are drinking right now. If you can't locate their exact suggestions, ask your local shop for something similar to take a chance on.
MARIO BATALI needs no introduction. He owns many of our favorite restaurants, owns very famous orange clogs, and drinks a lot of Italian wine.
Morellino di Scansano "I Perazzi," La Mozza, Italy, 2006
I love the wine "I Perazzi" by my farm in Maremma, Toscana. It has a juicy mouth-feel, cherry flavors, and an incredible sense of place that brings me back to Toscana with every glass I drink. This simple wine tastes more like a wine born in the fields of vines and not in the lab or the winery. I am drinking my reds a little cooler these days, right at cellar temp, 55°–60°. And in the same sense I am drinking my whites a little warmer, say just below cellar temp 48°–52°.
Bastianich Friulano, Italy, 2007
I drink more white than red and often drink it as an aperitivo and then continue along the same vinous path with dinner, so I am always looking for a wine that tells me where it is from and that is not so manipulated or blended. Joe Bastianich's Friulano has become the benchmark for all winemakers in Friuli, and his wine is fresh and light, with hints of citrus and crisp green apple acidity.
RANDAL BRESKI spends half the year in Paris and half in San Francisco. He and his partner David Tanis are the coolest cats we know and we always want to know what they are drinking.
Château de la Presle, Touraine, France, 2007
This white is delicious, simple, and refreshing. It has none of the strident sauvignon blanc qualities often found in new-world wines. It has a gentle acidity and fresh fruit, making it good for an apéritif or a first course.
Domaine de Pierredon, Côtes du Rhône, France, 2007
A terrific, pretty, sturdy red. With warm, pleasing, dark aromas and cherry-berry fruit in the glass—once it has been open a bit—it lacks overwhelming tannins. Great with all the stewy things, like braised duck legs and beef cheeks cooked in red wine and oxtails. Yummy.
DARRELL CORTI owns the renowned Corti Brothers Fine Wine & Gourmet Foods Italian Grocery Store in Sacramento. He has flawless taste in all things.
Dingac, Plavac, Croatia, 2007
This plavac from Croatia's Peljesac peninsula is good, not black in color, and it has a light, spicy aroma with a delicious, almost cranberrylike flavor that points up its refreshing acidity and moderate alcohol.
Corti Brothers H.P.O., Oregon, 2008
Corti Brothers has an exclusive on this early muscat wine, which is a cultivar invented at UC Davis by Professor Harold Olmo, whose initials form the wine's name. It is fragrant, low alcohol (6%), and has residual sugar that is bolstered by nice acidity. It is a delicious wine for sipping.
MANI DAWES owns Tía Pol, a tapas and wine bar in New York City, and Tinto Fino, a great Spanish wine shop on the city's Lower East Side.
Can Feixes Negre, Spain, 2006
A unique, limited production from Penedès in Cataluña, this blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and tempranillo, with a kick of petit verdot is the antidote to big winter reds. Soft tannins with a touch of earth, herbs, and restrained berry fruit—it's warm but still bright and versatile.
Valdesil "Val de Sil", Spain, 2008
Godello was on the verge of extinction, but this native Galician varietal has had a bit of a renaissance. Valdesil's sees no oak, but has a depth that comes straight from the grape and the hillside slate soils. With ripe, luscious pear and musky grassiness, coupled with a racy acidity, it makes an unexpectedly rich winter white.
GABRIELLE HAMILTON is a writer and the chef-owner of Prune restaurant in New York City. She always knows what's delicious.
Weingut Stein Blauschiefer Riesling Trocken, Germany, 2008
I like that this wine is delicious, but also that I can drink a lot of it without getting drunk, have a bottle open in the refrigerator for days and it doesn't go bad, and even drink a little glass of it in the afternoon and it just feels like a beverage and not a narcotic.
Domaine de Durban, Beaumes de Venise, France, 2005
I think I've bottomed out on giant reds for good. I eternally want medium-bodied reds, especially in the winter, and this one is friendly without food but still plenty tannic and structured. I've been drinking mightily delicious Italians for a long time now, but this wine reminded me of what the elegant French do effortlessly, how they get that very elegance into the bottle—even in their rustic stuff, and, still pack smoke, tar, barnyard, and stone walls into even a minor vineyard's bottling. It makes it seem like the Italians are shouting and wearing bright orange sweaters while the French are just speaking in quiet tones in navy blue sweaters, letting their genius speak for itself.
DAN MELIA is our German wine authority. He represents Mosel Wine Merchant, a collection of Mosel growers specializing in delicious, dry Rieslings.
Domaine Léon Barral Faugères, France, 2006
In some capacity it screams winter wine, but I actually first drank this Faugères in the summer, so I feel comfortable recommending it for the bridge season that is winter/spring. It has all the power, fruit, and warmth to soothe when that is what the temperature requires, but it remains a lovely wine with just enough bite to make you hopeful, come April, that you can fire up the grill and cook something with a bit of char that will bite back.
Peter Lauer, Ayler Kupp "Senior" Fass 6 Riesling, Germany, 2008
I am currently obsessed with this wine. It is fresh, chiseled, and depending on how much time you give it in the glass or in the fridge, either bright and lean or round and relatively powerful, or some delicious amalgam thereof. The whites I've been drinking lately are all Riesling, all from Germany's Mosel Valley, mostly in the dry or off-dry style, rather than the higher-residual-sugar style with which most Americans are familiar. If it has been a while since you tried one out, or if you live deathly in fear of sweetness (you shouldn't), try a Riesling labeled trocken (dry) or maybe feinherb (off-dry), and I bet you'll be surprised at how different it is from what you have had in your mind's eye.
MICHAEL STEINBERGER writes the wine column for Slate. He also recently wrote Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France, published by Bloomsbury, 2009.
Pierre Moncuit Brut NV Champagne, France
The great economist John Maynard Keynes said his one regret in life was that he didn't drink enough Champagne. That's a mistake I'm determined to avoid, and Moncuit is helping me avoid it. Moncuit is a small, excellent producer, and its non-vintage Champagne, made entirely of chardonnay and bursting with lemon and chalk flavors, is an elegant, thoroughly refreshing bubbly that I could happily drink every day.
Caves Cooperatives de Donnas Rosso, Italy, 2005
This red is essentially a baby Barolo and I became smitten with it last year. From the Vallée d'Aoste region of Italy, it is composed mainly of picotendro, which is the local name for the nebbiolo grape. It is a warm, complex, thoroughly lip-smacking wine that is affordable enough to be habit-forming.
PARDIS STITT owns and operates Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, Café Bottega, and Chez Fonfon restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband Frank Stitt.
Bailly Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé NV, France
This is a beautiful bubbly that I love turning people on to—made of pinot noir, it reminds me of strawberries and it is such a value you can drink it every day!
Terredora di Paolo Fiano di Avellino, Italy, 2008
I really enjoy the white wines of Campania and the Terredora di Paolo is one of my favorites. Dry, but with an almondlike quality, this wine has a richness that works well as an aperitivo or with food. Think seafood, tomato, fennel, olives, and olive oil.
Charles Joguet Chinon, France
Chinon makes me happy, especially from Joguet. These reds of the Loire Valley have a lightness and are not weighed down with oak—juicy-fruit without the sweetness. A classic by the glass or carafe at Parisian bistros and cafés, it makes me imagine being at Le Select (or Chez Fonfon in Birmingham)!
working up an appetite
NILOUFER'S SUCKY PEAS
Niloufer Ichaporia King includes this recipe in her wonderful book My Bombay Kitchen (University of California Press, 2007). The idea is to pull the peas out of the pods with your teeth, just as you would eat an artichoke leaf. The charred bits of the pod and the salt sticks to your lips, flavoring the tender peas.
Pour a little extra-virgin olive oil into a large cast iron pan. Wipe the pan out with a paper towel, leaving the thinnest film of oil. Heat the pan over high heat. When it's very hot, add 1 pound organic English peas in their pods in a single layer, turning them with a spatula until they turn from bright green to a blistery blackened olive color. Work in batches. Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with Maldon or any other coarse, flaky salt and serve right away.—serves 2–6
MARTINI-SOAKED STUFFED OLIVES
Sometimes the best part about drinking a martini is eating the olive. Why not serve them up front and center instead of wading through all that alcohol just to get to the olive? We serve these as an hors d'oeuvre at cocktail hour.
Put 1 cup gin and ¼ cup dry vermouth into a quart container or bowl. Add 2 drained 5- to 8-ounce jars large green stuffed cocktail olives and gently stir. Cover and refrigerate the olives until they've had a chance to macerate and become well chilled, 1–2 hours. Serve the olives cold with the martini juices in a wide dish, and with toothpicks for spearing.
CRAB SALAD WITH CLUB CRACKERS
When we have the freshest lump crabmeat available to us, we do little more than dress it with a bit of mayonnaise and lemon juice. When we have a hankering for crab and can only find the pasteurized tubs of it, we dress it like this and serve it with a fresh box of Club crackers.
Put 1 small finely chopped onion, 1 finely diced inner rib of celery, 1 finely chopped scallion, 2 tablespoons capers, ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 small handful chopped fresh dill, and juice of 1 lemon into a medium bowl and mix well. Gently fold in 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat. Add a little more lemon juice if you want and season with salt and pepper. Serve with Club crackers.—makes 2 ½ cups
CHICKEN LIVER PÂTÉ
Don't hold back on the butter—it is the very thing that makes this delicate pâté so velvety smooth. This is a version of the pâté served at The Ranch House in Ojai, California.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter (preferably Kerrygold Irish butter) in a large sauté pan. Add 1 bunch chopped, trimmed scallions and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add 12 ounces chicken livers and cook until just cooked but still pink inside, 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat, add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1 generous tablespoon Dijon mustard. Purée in a food processor, adding 3 more tablespoons butter as you blend, until very smooth. Add a splash of Cognac, if you like. Transfer to a well-oiled mold or small bowls, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 8 hours. Unmold and serve with toasts or crackers sprinkled with minced chives.—makes 2 cups
LIMAS & PRESERVED LEMON
Frozen limas work as well as fresh for this recipe. Or if you like, substitute cooked lentils or white beans.
Purée 2 cups cooked lima beans along with 1 clove minced garlic, 2–4 tablespoons really good olive oil, salt to taste, and lots of ground black pepper. Serve with toast drizzled with olive oil and garnished with chopped preserved lemon rind.—makes about 2 cups
BLUE CHEESE & WATERCRESS MASH
Make a double batch of this savory spread to keep in your fridge—it will be like money in the bank. Spread it on crackers or little toasts and serve them as hors d'oeuvres or with a big bowl of soup.
Mash together 1 bunch watercress, stems trimmed, leaves finely chopped, 1 bunch finely chopped chives, ¼ pound blue cheese, and 2 tablespoons softened butter together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. (The cheese may be salty enough, so taste before adding salt.) Spread on little toasts or crackers and garnish with fresh watercress, if you like.—serves 4
LEMON & SEA SALT FOCACCIA
makes four 8-inch rounds
Every bite of this rustic, salty, and intensely lemony focaccia is a mouthful of delicious tart flavors. Use a really good buttery olive oil to tame it.
For the dough
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
6 tablespoons really good extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
2 teaspoons salt
Really good extra-virgin olive oil
Leaves of 2–4 branches fresh rosemary, chopped
2 lemons, washed and very thinly sliced into rounds
Coarse sea salt
For the dough, dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water in a medium bowl. Stir in 1 ¼ cups water and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Pulse the flour and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Add the yeast mixture and process until a rough ball of dough forms, 1 minute. Briefly knead dough on a floured surface until smooth. Shape dough into a ball. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into a large bowl. Roll dough around in bowl until coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Pour a thin film of oil into each of four 8-inch round cake pans. Quarter the dough and put one piece into each pan. Using your fingertips, spread dough out in each pan. The dough is elastic and will resist stretching. Let it relax for 5 minutes or so after you've stretched it as far as it will go. Eventually, it will cooperate and fill the pan.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Cover the pans with damp dishcloths and let the dough rest until it has swollen in the pans a bit, 30–60 minutes.
Uncover the pans. Sprinkle dough with the rosemary. Using your fingertips, poke dimples into the dough in each pan, then liberally drizzle with oil so it pools in the hollows. Arrange just the thinnest rounds of lemon on top, drizzle with more oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. We like ours salty. Bake the focaccia until golden brown, 20–30 minutes. Drizzle with more oil when you pull the focaccia from the oven. Serve cut into wedges.
Excerpted from Canal House Cooking Volume No 3 by Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton, Margo True. Copyright © 2010 Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton. Excerpted by permission of Canal House.
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