Welcome to the first (of what I hope will be many) Happy Hour Posts. While each week my baby doll and I try to eat healthy and I at least am trying to lose weight, Friday night we tend to indulge just a little. I know many of you dieters out there are surprised by the indulgence and maybe even repelled by it. But let me take a moment to explain.
My dieting is not about cutting out vast swaths of the world of food. I have no demon categories. Mostly because if I knew I had to give up one category it would end up creating a craving. Well before my dieting began, my babydoll and I would only go out to eat about once a month and the rest of the time, I cooked.
When he developed high blood pressure and his doctor told him to cut out as much sodium as possible, most of the prepackaged foods we kept in our home went out the door. And I made baking a loaf of sandwich bread a Saturday morning routine. I was personally shocked by how much sodium was actually in store bought bread.
But I digress.
My dieting was always about portion control and exercise. It wasn’t about cutting out all of the things I love. Once of the things I love is the Friday night happy hour. This is the Friday night ritual in our house. Sometimes we would go out with friends, but mostly it was just me and my baby unwinding after the week with a drink and something nice to nibble. Sometimes the drink is a glass of wine and the nibble is a good cheese or even charcuterie. Sometimes I will see a hors d’oeuvre recipe I have to try and we will scour the cocktail manuals to find something to accompany it. Other times I will pick up one of the small bottles of liquor in the store just because it looks interesting and we figure something out from there.
I get drawn in by liquor bottles just as much as perfume bottles. Although sometimes the alcohol is just a left over. I picked up a small bottle of Chambord because a desert recipe required a few tablespoons to macerate some berries and now we will find a cocktail to help use up the left overs.
When going out became a masking event, my baby and I delved deeper into our collection of cocktail books. We have a collection that ranges far and wide. And of course there is the internet as well. Our weekly Happy Hour became more of a mental relief than usual.
However wide we range, I decided to start off this series of posts with my standard favorite, The Martini. Not only is it my go to drink and the standard by which I judge bars and bartenders, but it is a good example of restrained indulgence.
And as silly as it sounds, just holding the glass makes me feel civilized.
The Martini was born in the United States. Some claim California and some claim New York. I will not argue for either and just thank them both. It is at first a relatively simple cocktail, but nearly everyone has a different way of preparing it. In fact there is an old joke about a man being thrown out of a bar for ordering ‘just a regular martini’ instead of putting his own spin on it.
While I don’t think that is grounds for ejection from an establishment today, there are still many different camps. There are two quite famous ones, one fictional and one real. James Bond liked his shaken and not stirred and Winston Churchill suggested just bringing out an unopened bottle of vermouth and waving it at the gin.
With all due respect, I disagree heartily with both.
Shaking gin ‘bruises’ it, to use my grandfather’s phasing. It tends to make it cloudy and while that isn’t a big issue, it does actually change the taste a bit. With so few ingredients, the taste of each matters. You may not mind the change in taste or you may not notice a change in taste.
I notice and I don’t care for it, so I don’t shake my martinis.
You may feel free to shake yours, I won’t report you for abuse.
As for Mr. Churchill, a martini with the vermouth waved at it is a glass of gin with a garnish. There is nothing wrong with it there have been many a summer evening where I forgot to pick up tonic water and just had a glass with gin over ice and a twist of lemon. It is a lovely way to sit on the back porch and watch the summer sun go down (just make sure to light the citronella candles or you risk becoming the happy hour bar for the local mosquito population). It is however a glass of gin and not a martini.
Again you can feel free to disagree.
I know there are all sorts of martini recipes out there so I will just quickly give you mine:
One part Vermouth
Two Parts gin
A splash of olive juice
Add all to a shaker, stir with a bar spoon add as large an ice cube as possible atrain into a martini glass and add an olive.
Sounds simple really, doesn’t it?
For those of you wondering why I put one part and two parts instead of actual measurements, that is because glass sizes vary greatly, especially in the world of martini glasses. I have seen delicate ones and ones that look like they could actually hold a liter of liquid in their confines. I always find drinking out of any glass with a rim bigger than my face a bit daunting.
My set of martini glasses is in keeping with my theme of restraint, although I picked them up in a thrift store mostly because I liked the look of them. The martini glasses I use are from a set from the 1950s. They have the traditional stem with a triangular shape and some rather sweet little etchings on the side. They can also hold (at a maximum) three ounces of liquid.
By contrast my martini shaker is enormous, I know. I keep meaning to pick up a smaller shaker mostly because the amount of liquid that goes into the shaker for my week’s end martini looks rather sad in the large one. The reusable cocktail stick was one of a set I picked up quite a few years ago. They are really nice not only for drinks but for small appetizers as well. they have seen a lot of use since purchasing. However with a lot of use and several moves this is the last of the set remaining in my drawer so when i seek out a smaller shaker I will look for a replacement for them as well. Thus far I haven’t found a set that I like.
On Friday, I will have one, or if it has been a long week whose passing needs celebrating, two. Which given the size of the glass, is still a relatively small amount and an acceptable indulgence for the calorie conscious.
I personally like my martinis dry and dirty. The dirty refers to the splash of olive juice. With olives, I recommend getting ones that are not stuffed with anything so that the stuffing won’t affect the flavor. For the dry, I go with dry vermouth instead of sweet. Mostly because I like the taste. My vermouth choice is Noilly Pratt. I have occasionally tried other vermouths, but thus far none of them have been able to replace the slim green bottle. It is my tried and true.
With gin, my favorite is Plymouth (just be aware there is Plymouth gin and Navy Strength Plymouth gin when you go shopping. The Navy is significantly stronger and can easily get you into trouble if you aren’t careful). I do change out gins periodically. I have in fact tried quite a few that I enjoy. Each has its own botanical arrangement and most of them go well with my favored vermouth. I love tasting the variety of herbals that go into gin. I do get in the habit of stocking Plymouth, but I am trying to remember to branch out and sample other gins.
But what is happy hour without something to nibble (besides the olive of course)?
My choice this week was mini cheddar and chive popovers.
Popovers are composed of a thin batter that you bake in muffin tins. They pop up and are a hollow shell that is crunchy and delicious. I use a mini muffin tin to keep them small. The batter is quite simple.
½ cup AP flour
Pinch of salt
¾ cup milk (room temp)
1 egg (room temp)
1/2 tablespoon melted butter
The rest is flavoring. For my flavoring this week I went with cheddar and chives, but I often make them with blue cheese crumbles. I just really liked the sharpness of the cheddar and the herbal bite of the chives with the gin. plus I am overwintering a pot of chives in my sunroom and need to snip them periodically to keep them healthy throughout the winter.
To make the batter you mix all of the (non-flavoring) ingredients together, whisking to make sure there are no flour lumps. Then you heavily grease the muffin tin (whether mini or regular sized). I use a spray oil for this as you need to get every nook and cranny of the tin. Put the batter into the greased tin, filling each cup only half way up.
Then take your flavorings and drop them in the center. For this I used less than one ounce of really sharp cheddar cut into really small squares and placed them in the center of the batter then sprinkled with chives. You really don’t need much. In the over the cheese melts and coats the inside of the popover so you get the flavor in every bite. The trick to these is in the baking.
Start off with a 450 degree F oven (220 C) place the pan on the center rack and bake for ten minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR. After ten minutes drop the temperature of the oven to 350 F (180C) and bake for another ten minutes or until browned on the edges. You can either eat them hot right away or pop them out and set them on a napkin to cool and then eat later. (the napkin absorbs the grease. It isn’t a problem with blue cheese but it is with cheddar. Also the chives help cut some of the fat of the cheese.
I personally like them hot.
I know some of you are tempted to open the oven door mid bake. Try to resist. My baby doll is one of those people who has to open the oven door to peer in to see how things are going. If you do this the popovers will not pop. They will fall flat and while still delicious, they will be more muffin like.
So this is the Happy Hour my baby doll and I will be enjoying this week. Given the state of the news, I expect this will be a two martini week.
As we don’t have any planned cocktail for next week (and are going grocery shopping tomorrow) while we sip martinis we will get out one of the cocktail books and flip the pages to find next week’s indulgence and figure out what snack to have with it. I can’t wait to see what we come up with.
Whether indulging in your own happy hour or just unwinding from the week, I hope you have a fabulous Friday night and an excellent weekend.