Read an Excerpt
Canal House Cooking
Volumes No 1-3
By Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2009 Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton
All rights reserved.
it's always five o'clock somewhere ...
The Boat House is the little bar down the alley from us. We call it "the best bar in the world"—because it's there that Christine or Rich whip up sidecars extraordinaire. Our fantasy is that someday one of these expert bartenders will climb our stairs and knock on our door at precisely five o'clock with two of these delicious cocktails.
3 ounces cognac
1 ounce Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
2 lemon slices
Juice the lemon, reserving the rinds. Rub the rims of two stemmed cocktail glasses with the pulp side of the lemon rind to moisten the rims, then dip the moistened rims into a saucer holding the sugar.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the lemon juice, cognac, and Cointreau and shake well. Strain into the sugar-rimmed glasses and garnish each with a slice of lemon.
VARIATION: Change the cognac to Armagnac and you'll be sipping an "Armored Car".
The Caipirinha is Brazil's national cocktail. It looks like a margarita, but it tastes like an intense mojito.
Muddle 1 cut-up lime and 1–2 tablespoons sugar together in a sturdy glass. Add 1 ounce cachaça (sugarcane brandy), fill the glass with ice, and stir well. Drink responsibly; this can knock you on your can as you knock it back.
VARIATION: Substitute vodka for the fiery Brazilian cachaça and you'll be drinking a Caipiroska.
The British drink this refreshing gin-based cocktail when the going gets hot—it's a favorite at sporting events like Wimbledon. At 50 proof, it's civilized enough for you to sip a few before dinner and still find your way to the table. If, on the other hand, you like your cocktail with a bit more punch, substitute 1 ounce of Pimm's No. 1 with gin.
Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in 2 ounces Pimm's No. 1 and top off with ginger ale. Garnish with 1 cucumber spear or wedge of lime.
PARRISH HOUSE SPECIAL
makes 1 refreshing drink
This is a great aperitif for our nondrinking friends or for us when we are feeling very virtuous. Bitters were developed to stimulate the appetite, aid in digestion, and promote one's general well-being. Of course, the secondary gain is that this is one of the most delicious drinks around. The bitters add an exotic taste.
Squeeze the juice of a fat lime wedge into a tall glass; rub the wedge around the lip of the glass. Shake in about 6 drops Angostura Bitters. Add lots of ice cubes and toss in the lime. Fill two-thirds of the glass with sparkling water and top off with ginger ale.
makes 1 quart
Actually, you don't need the sun to shine to make this old-fashioned, refreshing drink. Brew this a bit strong (the cold-water brewing will keep it from getting bitter) as ice will water it down.
Fill a pitcher or quart jar with cold water and add 6–8 tea bags of your favorite tea. We like good old English Breakfast tea, though Constant Comment is delicious too. Cover and allow the tea to steep in your refrigerator for 4 hours. Remove the tea bags and store covered in the fridge for up to a week (though it will never last that long). Sweeten with Simple Syrup (see next recipe) and drink over lots of ice.
makes 2 cups
We use this syrup to sweeten iced tea, drizzle it over pound cake to moisten and flavor the crumb, spoon it over fresh berries or sliced stone fruit, and add to fruit purées when making sorbets. As long as you remember the formula—2 parts sugar to 1 part water—you can make as much or as little as you like.
Put 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, gently swirling the pan over the heat to help dissolve the sugar as it melts.
When the syrup comes to a boil, cover the pan to let the steam run down the sides, washing away and dissolving any sugar granules on the side of the pan, and cook for 2–3 minutes. Let the syrup cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
FLAVOR VARIATIONS: Add one of the following to the hot syrup just after it has finished cooking. Once the syrup has cooled, strain it before storing:
2 branches fresh mint, tarragon; basil, rosemary, thyme, or lemon verbena
4 whole star anise
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 split vanilla bean
Strips of zest of 1 lemon, orange, lime, or grapefruit
CRÈME DE CASSIS & CLUB SODA
Christopher always manages to stash some special delicious thing she's found on a trip into her suitcase to share with or give to her friends back home. On one occasion, just back from Burgundy in the heart of France, she pulled out a beautiful bottle with a long slim neck, the cork sealed with red wax. She set out two pretty, tiny glasses, broke open the wax seal, and poured us dainty shots of crème de cassis. We sipped the sweet black currant liqueur, chasing it with cold, bubbly club soda. A perfect way to sip the afternoon away.
On nonsipping days when we have a taste for crème de cassis, we like to fill a short glass with ice, add a good splash of crème de cassis, and top it off with cold club soda.
Consider the melon: a big juicy orb of sweet, perfumed rainwater. Cookbook author Niloufer Ichaporia King turned us on to yellow watermelon (but any variety or combination of melons will do). Make sure that you work over a bowl to catch every drop. If you are using a watermelon, you might want to save the rind for Watermelon Pickle (page 116).
Crack open a ripe melon. Scrape or pick out the seeds and cut off the rind. Put the chunks of melon and any accumulated juices into a blender and purée until smooth. Strain the purée through a sieve into a pitcher, pushing the juice through with a rubber spatula. Discard the pulp. Add some Simple Syrup (page 9) to sweeten it, if you like.
Serve the melon water in a glass over ice with a big squeeze of lime, a big sprig of mint, and a shot of white rum (though the drink is perfectly delicious without the rum as well).
working up an appetite
HOW TO BOIL AN EGG
Very fresh eggs don't peel well no matter how gently you've boiled them or for how long. The shell clings to the white like a second skin and won't let go without pockmarking it. The remedy is to hang on to your very fresh eggs for about a week in the refrigerator before hard-boiling them. The shell will peel off like a glove. Here's how we hard-boil our eggs so the yolks are pleasantly moist—not crumbly dry—and remain vibrantly yellow with no green-gray ring.
Submerge large eggs straight from the fridge into a pot of gently boiling water (the water should cover the eggs by about 1 inch) and cook for:
6 minutes—the perfect soft-boiled egg
9 minutes—a soft yolk hard-boiled egg
10 minutes—the perfect hard-boiled egg
11 minutes—the firm yolk hard-boiled egg
Drain the eggs in the sink and immediately run cold water into the pot to cool off the eggs. Drain the eggs when they are cool to the touch. They are ready for peeling. Tap the eggs all over on the kitchen counter, then peel off the shell starting from the fatter end of the egg (where the air sac is). Keep the uncracked unpeeled hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator if you are not going to use them within 4 hours.
Sometimes when we are too busy to make deviled eggs, we do something just as good. We simply "butter" the cut sides of hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise, arrange the eggs on a plate, and drizzle them with some good olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. We often garnish them with something: chopped Preserved Lemon rind (page 120), or chives, or sometimes parsley, tarragon, or dill, or bacon, thinly sliced ham, or chutney. These eggs are delicious and one of our favorite things to eat.
These deviled eggs stand on their own but we often embellish the tops with a dab of harissa (Tunisian chile-spice paste), a fat cooked asparagus tip, shards of crisp bacon, chopped ham, prosciutto, a small spoonful of salmon roe, or a thin slice of cornichon.
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Cut the hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise. Pop the yolks out from the whites into a fine sieve set over a bowl. Set the whites aside. Use a wooden spoon to press the yolks through the sieve. Fold in the mayonnaise, sour cream, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper.
Use two teaspoons to fill each egg white with the egg yolks. Garnish the eggs, as you like, (see the headnote) even if it's with just a dash of pimentón, a parsley leaf, or a scattering of finely chopped fresh chives.
Small, crispy toasts are the perfect vehicle to transport all the recipes below into your waiting mouth! They very nicely soak up the flavorful juices of their toppings. We use baguettes or any good bread sliced into small rounds or shapes. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet, brush with a good olive oil and toast in a hot oven (400°), turning once until they have browned on both sides. We make lots and store them in tins or plastic bags. They keep well if it's not too humid.
makes enough for 8–12 toasts
An inexpensive kitchen staple, the onion, cooked this way turns savory sweet, and jamlike. Accent the sweetness with a salty anchovy on top.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 large sliced sweet or Spanish onion and cook until golden on the edges, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and cook until the onions are very soft and almost jammy, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pile a spoonful of the warm or cooled onions on toast and top with a piece of anchovy.
CANNED SARDINES ON TOAST
We like delicate Norwegian Brislings packed in olive oil. Spread some soft salted butter on toasts or crackers. Lay a sardine on top of each piece of buttered toast or cracker and sprinkle with minced Preserved Lemon rind, (page 120).
CHICKEN LIVERS WITH SCALLIONS
makes enough for 8–12 toasts
We buy whole chickens to cut up ourselves, and save the livers one by one, storing them in a plastic tub in the freezer until we have enough to make this recipe. Sometimes we can't wait so we sauté a fresh one, eating it on a little piece of toast—a cook's treat—while cooking the rest of the chicken.
Sauté chicken livers quickly over lively heat, and avoid crowding the skillet. They should be crispy on the outside and slightly pink on the inside.
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4–6 chicken livers, separated into lobes
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper
4 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon sherry
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Dust the livers with the flour, shaking off any excess, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté the livers in the skillet, browning them on one side, for about 2 minutes. Turn them over, and cook for 1 more minute, then remove from the skillet to a plate. Add the scallions, sherry, and the remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet and cook, swirling the skillet over the heat, until the butter has melted and the scallions are soft, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve the livers, topped with the scallions and sauce, on toasts.
EGGS & BACON ON LITTLE TOASTS
makes 8 toasts
These are most delicious when you use eggs that have just been hard-boiled and are still a little bit warm.
8 small pieces of toast
2 hard-boiled eggs (page 14), peeled and quartered
Salt and pepper
2–3 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
3–4 fresh chives, minced
Spread each piece of toast with mayonnaise. Put an egg quarter on each piece of toast. Season with salt and pepper. Put a little dollop of mayonnaise on top of each egg to hold the bacon and chives on top.
JULIA, THE FRY QUEEN
Our friend and colleague Julia Lee (left) has perfected the art of deep-frying. She was the director of the test kitchen at Saveur magazine, so she knows how to nail a recipe. And it doesn't hurt that she is also one of the best natural cooks we know. She's really figured out how to fry. We anointed her the Fry Queen. In her own words, here's how she keeps her crown.
I always use canola, peanut, or corn oil (they have high smoke points of 400°– 450°). I heat the oil gradually until it reaches a temperature of 350°. I fry everything at 350°.
You can use a candy thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. Or do what I do—the Chopstick Test. Dip a wooden chopstick into the hot oil until the tip touches the bottom of the pan and if bubbles form right away around the tip—lots of bubbles, like champagne—start frying!
When you are frying large pieces that can take longer to cook, adjust the heat first up and then down. You want the burner at its highest heat and the oil at 350° when you first put the food into the oil. The oil's temperature will drop, then regain its temperature. As the food cooks, reduce the heat a little if the oil gets too hot. Avoid heating the oil to its smoke point as it will cause it to break down.
If you think the temperature has dipped down, gently agitate the oil with a spatula to keep the temperature up—friction causes heat.
You can re-use the oil. After frying, I drain the oil, cool it, and pour it into a clean pickle jar. You can re-use the oil two or three times.
enough batter to serve 6
A fritto misto is a mixed fry—anything, from tiny fish to zucchini blossoms, that has been deep-fried. Our thin all-purpose batter is good for dredging everything from delicate parsley or sage leaves to sturdier slices of lemon, mushrooms, or zucchini batons. The batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick (flours differ), add a little more wine.
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup white wine
Whatever you want to fry, see below
Canola, peanut, or corn oil
For the batter, whisk the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Gradually add the wine, whisking until the batter is smooth. Give it a quick whisk again just before you're ready to use it.
Prepare whatever you want to fry by cutting it into pieces of uniform or similar shapes and sizes so that things cook at the same rate. Make sure everything is dry, as water/moisture will cause the oil to splatter.
Add enough oil to a heavy skillet or wok to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil to a temperature of 350°. (See the Fry Queen's tips on page 21.)
Dip whatever you want to fry into the batter, shake off any excess, and carefully lower into the 350° oil. (Be careful not to burn your fingers or splatter the oil!) Fry in small batches turning frequently for even browning. Remove the fritto misto when it is golden or a pale brown. (You'll get the hang of it as you go.) Use a slotted spatula to lift the fritto misto out of the oil and drain on paper towels. Skim any frying debris out of the oil between batches.
Season the fritto misto with salt while it is still hot. Serve as you fry and be sure to keep some for yourself. It's the cooks job to maintain quality control!
FOODS WE LIKE TO DIP & FRY
Fresh sage leaves, fresh parsley sprigs, asparagus, shiitake mushroom caps, zucchini batons or blossoms, Japanese eggplant slices, lemon slices (one of our favorites), scallions, small whole okra, peeled shrimp, small pieces fresh fish ... you get the idea, it's whatever you want to fry!
TOMATO & CRAB ASPIC
We are partial to Dungeness crab but any lump crabmeat will do. We hold back on the gelatin for a more delicate aspic (the usual ratio is 1 envelope unflavored gelatin to 2 cups of liquid). For a bigger crowd, double the recipe, make it in a large mold or bowl and serve it at the table.
3 cups tomato juice
4 scallions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small branch fresh tarragon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon sherry
1 cup jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for any stray shells
Parsley leaves for garnish
4 lemon wedges
Put the tomato juice, scallions, celery, tarragon, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
Put ½ cup of cold water into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the gelatin. When the gelatin has softened and swollen, about 5 minutes, strain the hot tomato juice into the bowl with the gelatin, discarding the solids. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Add the sherry, the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt to taste. Stir well.
Excerpted from Canal House Cooking by Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton. Copyright © 2009 Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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