Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cooking and Drinking, Polish Style

Pierogi are worth the effort. Fried, boiled, or steamed, they come to life with some caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms, and go perfectly with Z Martinis.

Because we love to cook and come up with new recipes, we have a blog on our Cocktail Buzz Web site called Well Fed. Recently we made a trip to the Brooklyn Heights home of Cousin Barbara and her happy-in-the-kitchen husband, Jon, for some lessons in making pierogi, those ubiquitous polish dumplings that are always stuffed with hearty old-world comfort (think sauerkraut, potatoes, farmers cheese). No strangers to melding eras and clashing cuisines, Steve and I decided to up the ante a little in our pierogi fillings. We brought in some New Orleans-style Andouille sausage and mixed it with some old-school Polish prunes, plopped a dollop into the pierogi dough, and made some pillowy dumplings that, when shallow-pan fried, cooked to a golden-brown exterior that when bitten, gives to a slightly spicy, slicy sweet interior. We even included some Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine in the mix for some flavor balancing, and a splash of Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon for good measure. We think you’ll love the results. And if you don’t have a whole afternoon or a group of four to make the pierogi dough, well you can cheat like we sometimes do and use premade dumpling wrappers. Your guests do not need to know. But if you have the time, and crave a little culinary adventure, then by all means start the pierogi-making process. You will be Polish-proud of the results.

And if you’re wondering what to imbibe with some pierogi, they pair perfectly with our Z Martini, which uses Żubrówka vodka, that slightly chartreuse Polish bison-grass vodka that always reminds us of caramel-drenched flan.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mixology Monday XXXVII: Feels Like the Very First Time

The Oriental Cocktail, a perfect beginning to a lifelong obsession.

We are always asked by beer and wine guzzlers, “What cocktail do you recommend for a neophyte?” to which we have always replied, “An Oriental.” The Oriental, an unsung hybrid of parents Manhattan and Margarita, graced our home many years ago when we were looking for an American whiskey alternative to a Manhattan. Combing through the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide (our first cocktail recipe book), we came across The Oriental, a spiky blend of whiskey, sweet vermouth, triple sec, and fresh lime juice. We were in luck that day since we just made Margaritas the night before and had a bunch of limes lying around the kitchen counter just screaming to be juiced.

Everything about The Oriental shines: its color glows a red-amber; as you raise the glass to your lips, you smell the perfect blend of whiskey mingling with the orange sweetness of the triple sec, and then you lose yourself to the citrusy lime and the piquant sharpness of the sweet vermouth; only 1 1/2 ounces of whiskey are used, so you save a little during these hard times; and the ingredients are easy to find; and there's no garnish, so you save more time and money!

The important thing to remember is that The Oriental changes depending on what whiskey you use. We recommend Rittenhouse rye, an inexpensive but boldly zippy whiskey that smells like deep dark caramel. Other whiskeys work just as well, but you should start first with whatever you have lying around the house or nearby at your liquor store. As far as sweet vermouths go, we recommend Carpano Antica, but if this is difficult to find, a Martini & Rossi or Cinzano will do just fine. And for triple sec, you should start out with one that is low proof, such as Hiram Walker 30 proof. At 15% alcohol, you won’t feel any burn when you sip your Oriental. If you want, you can work up to a 60 proof triple sec, or even an orange liqueur that is 80 proof, such as Cointreau or Combier Liqueur d’Orange, but if you do, perhaps you may want to choose a whiskey at 40 proof, such as Jim Beam.

The Oriental
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces rye or bourbon
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce triple sec
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Simple, tasty, and habit-forming. Enjoy. And if you have a few minutes, please watch our video on preparing an Oriental. It pairs perfectly with lightly seasoned sweet potato crisps. And if you don’t have any limes handy, but do have some lemons, why not try one of our creations, The Occidental. We use Canadian whisky in an Occidental, but we won’t tell if you use bourbon or rye.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz