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It’s National Martini Day! You know what to do.

19 Jun

 

This is a repost of a blog post I wrote about this time last year.  It IS National Martini Day, folks.  You know what to do!

And in case you do not, please read below.

As you were,

Stew

————————

Outside of my office – 333 West Wacker Drive in Chicago – aka “where Ferris Bueller’s dad worked”, there’s a bus shelter, and of course they have advertising on the shelter.  They just updated the ad on it with this image:


Well, far be it for me to not be inspired by this – I snapped the picture above, texted it to my pal “GASHM” who promptly replied with “Funny, I was just thinking that a “proper Martini” is the way I’m going to relax this evening.  I could shake enough for two!”

So, about 9:30 PM, it was “Martini O’Clock” on GASHM’s screened-in porch.  We solved every world problem over a couple of ice cold Ketel One Martinis.  Perfect.

Which of course inspired this blog post.  So many people seem to find the art of a proper Martini to be very daunting, but yet, it is very easy, if you just follow some simple techniques.  I thought I’d use this opportunity to teach you, my friends, the art of a proper Martini.

You know, just in case I come to visit or something.

Let’s pause a minute though to talk about what a proper Martini really is.  In my humble opinion, a proper Martini can be made ONLY with vodka or gin, Vermouth if you’d like, and some ice.  An olive for garnish or a lemon peel.  That’s it.  All those OTHER pretenders to the Martini throne – Cosmopolitans, Appletini’s, Chocomartini’s, etc. etc. are simply Martini-like cocktails.

I was taught the art of a proper Martini by none other than a woman named Tana Foreman – who was bartender in my hometown of Newton, IA back when I was in college.  Tana was the Newton Country Club bar manager – we only had a few customers that drank “up” Martinis back then and she took special care in making sure that I not only knew how to make them, but new how to make good ones.  People from Newton will remember her also from Palma’s Restaurant, and the Hawkeye Lounge at the Terrace Inn.  Hope she’s still around and kicking.

Finally, before the recipe, I have to give props to a good work friend and Martini aficionado, Lisa PF.  Lisa, who is a grand master wizard of market and language research, is a also a wizard of turning a phrase.  I LOVE the way Lisa orders a martini.  Her brand is Belvidere vodka and she orders it as such:

“Belvidere Martini up.  VERY cold.  VERY dry.  With olives.”

Of course writing it doesn’t do it justice – you have to hear Lisa’s cadence and emphasis to appreciate it.  But whenever she orders one, I’m powerless to say anything but “I’ll have what she’s having.”

The Proper Martini:

Gear:  Martini Shaker – I find that either a dome-top shaker with a built in strainer and cap works well, and have a collection of them.   That said, I find that the BEST Martinis are made in a Boston shaker – which a two-part affair that most pro bartenders use – it has a metal cup that fits into a pint glass – this works great because you can get a bigger “shake” impact out of it – the shaker is larger and allows the ice to build up some speed before it whacks into the other end of the shaker.  The art though is straining it out – you can either use a separate strainer or do the ‘crack and pour’ technique where you create a tiny slot by separating the two halfs of the shaker just a bit and pouring from there.

Standard shaker

Boston Shaker

Cocktail strainer

Glassware:  the best Martini glasses aren’t those 8-oz monsters they use in restaurants these days – the best ones are 4 ounces – so you’re forced to make a smaller drink that stays cold while you drink it.

Ingredients:

  • Ice.  LOTS of ice.  My friends always kid me about how much ice I use.  But they NEVER complain about my cocktails.
  • Water (you’ll water see in a moment)
  • Premium Vodka or Gin.  Your choice on brands. My faves are Ketel One vodka and Bombay gin (but not Sapphire).
  • Premium white vermouth – my favorite is Noilly Pratt.
  • Olives – I prefer stuffed Manzanilla cocktail olives versus the big queen monsters that taste like all salt.

For ONE proper Martini:

  • 3 oz vodka or gin
  • 1 teaspoon vermouth
  • 1 olive

Pre-chill your glass by filling it with ice to the brim, then filling it with water.  Do this 10 minutes or so before you want to serve your martini.  You can also of course just keep your glasses in the freezer, ready to go.  Or, set it outside in the snow in the winter.

Fill your shaker 3/4 full of ice, and then add the vermouth.  Put the top on the shaker and shake vigorously for about a minute.  This breaks up the ice a bit and also coats the ice with the vermouth.  Pour out the vermouth and any water using the strainer of your shaker.  Remove the top of the shaker and add the vodka or gin.  Put the top and cap on the shaker and shake vigorously for a good minute, then set the shaker down to rest for a moment.  While your shaker is resting, drink the water from your pre-chilling martini glass and toss out the ice.   The water is good hydration – you need it when you drink Martinis!  Pick up your shaker again, and shake for another 20-30 seconds, then uncap the shaker and strain it into a glass.  If you’ve done it right, there will be little shards of ice floating on top of the martini.

Spear your olive with a toothpick, shake off any excess brine (don’t use those lame plastic swords!) and gently place in your glass.  Sip.  Savor.  Ahhh. Sandpaper – it takes the rough edges off.  (Right Lisa?)

Enjoy!

As you were,

Stew

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It’s the Simple Stuff

3 Oct

A Facebook post by a work colleague, Stephen T, over the weekend, in which he extolled the virtues of a weekend of simple pleasures including time camping with his daughter, wife, grandson and dogs, a ride on his motorcycle, and a glass of wine got me thinking about how much I also enjoy the simple things. I think this desire to enjoy simplicity is often driven by the world we live in – and the place. The world has become much faster – there is no denying it. What used to take days takes minutes. What used to take hours, now takes seconds. What used to take minutes happened instantly. Case in point – the Amanda Knox verdict – it happened in Italy this afternoon. We knew about it in the US seconds later. The “news alert” was zapped to my iPhone via text alert. Fast.

Anyway, not what this post is about. What it is about are simple things that I love. Last night we had a simple dinner. It was FANTASTIC. Chicken roasted on the grill, with baked potatoes, steamed broccolini, french bread and a glass of wine. The chicken was prepared as simple as it gets – a little olive oil rubbed on the skin, a generous sprinkle of salt inside and out, a good grind of pepper over the skin, and then cooked old-school style on my charcoal Weber grill. SIMPLE.

Other simple pleasures I love? A beer, enjoyed standing in the back yard on a Sunday afternoon after doing some yard work. Waxing the car by hand. A walk with the dog. Sitting and playing my guitar. A drink with a good pal: last evening, after 9:30, I floated over to my pal GASHM’s house and he and I enjoyed a bourbon on the rocks while sitting by the outdoor firepit, just chatting.

Time spent with Robin of course is high on the list, but our favorite times are always just simple. Reading in bed. Watching TV together. Going grocery shopping together. Going for a walk together. Farm stands and farmers markets (I could do a whole post on just that one!) – going, picking out fresh stuff for dinner and enjoying a cup of coffee while we enjoy the time together.

In food, while I love cooking exotic and complex things, it is the simple stuff, like the chicken from last night that jazzes me. I love perfecting the simple. A perfectly cooked medium rare steak. A proper burger. A perfectly cooked fried egg where the yolk is hot but still runny, but the whites are firm. A hot dog. A proper martini. Hot chocolate made with milk and Hershey’s syrup. Popcorn, not cooked in a microwave, but in a pan on the stove. Simple stuff.

I know this is starting to read like the song “Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and all that. But seriously, in this tech-driven, instantaneous, real time, 24x7x365, debit card, Amazon.com next day delivery, Instant Queue, Xfinity world of ours, isn’t it a treat to put down the smart phone, iPad, Android, PC, Mac, turbocharged, direct-injected stuff and enjoy the basics? There’s such a push at all times to just “go and do” … gotta go do things, gotta go places to do them, etc. Yeesh! How about “Don’t go. Don’t do.” instead?

So, after you read this, of course, sign off the tech. Put aside the smart phone and the iPad, clip the leash on the dog and go for a walk. Give a good friend a call and go have a beer. Cook something for dinner that didn’t come in a package, and use only salt and pepper to season it. Enjoy a glass of wine, or a cold beer, or a hot cup of tea. Hold hands with your loved one. Make chocolate chip cookies. Dunk one in a cold glass of milk.

And revel in the simplicity of it.

As you were,

Stew

A Proper Martini

9 Aug

Outside of my office – 333 West Wacker Drive in Chicago – aka “where Ferris Bueller’s dad worked”, there’s a bus shelter, and of course they have advertising on the shelter.  They just updated the ad on it with this image:


Well, far be it for me to not be inspired by this – I snapped the picture above, texted it to my pal “GASHM” who promptly replied with “Funny, I was just thinking that a “proper Martini” is the way I’m going to relax this evening.  I could shake enough for two!”

So, about 9:30 PM, it was “Martini O’Clock” on GASHM’s screened-in porch.  We solved every world problem over a couple of ice cold Ketel One Martinis.  Perfect.

Which of course inspired this blog post.  So many people seem to find the art of a proper Martini to be very daunting, but yet, it is very easy, if you just follow some simple techniques.  I thought I’d use this opportunity to teach you, my friends, the art of a proper Martini.

You know, just in case I come to visit or something.

Let’s pause a minute though to talk about what a proper Martini really is.  In my humble opinion, a proper Martini can be made ONLY with vodka or gin, Vermouth if you’d like, and some ice.  An olive for garnish or a lemon peel.  That’s it.  All those OTHER pretenders to the Martini throne – Cosmopolitans, Appletini’s, Chocomartini’s, etc. etc. are simply Martini-like cocktails.

I was taught the art of a proper Martini by none other than a woman named Tana Foreman – who was bartender in my hometown of Newton, IA back when I was in college.  Tana was the Newton Country Club bar manager – we only had a few customers that drank “up” Martinis back then and she took special care in making sure that I not only knew how to make them, but new how to make good ones.  People from Newton will remember her also from Palma’s Restaurant, and the Hawkeye Lounge at the Terrace Inn.  Hope she’s still around and kicking.

Finally, before the recipe, I have to give props to a good work friend and Martini aficionado, Lisa PF.  Lisa, who is a grand master wizard of market and language research, is a also a wizard of turning a phrase.  I LOVE the way Lisa orders a martini.  Her brand is Belvidere vodka and she orders it as such:

“Belvidere Martini up.  VERY cold.  VERY dry.  With olives.”

Of course writing it doesn’t do it justice – you have to hear Lisa’s cadence and emphasis to appreciate it.  But whenever she orders one, I’m powerless to say anything but “I’ll have what she’s having.”

The Proper Martini:

Gear:  Martini Shaker – I find that a dome-top shaker with a built in strainer and cap works well, and have a collection of them.   That said, I find that the BEST Martinis are made in a Boston shaker – which a two-part affair that most pro bartenders use – it has a metal cup that fits into a pint glass – this works great because you can get a bigger “shake” impact out of it – the shaker is larger and allows the ice to build up some speed before it whacks into the other end of the shaker.  The art though is straining it out – you can either use a separate strainer or do the “crack and pour” technique where you create a tiny slot by separating the two halves of the shaker just a bit and pouring from there.

 

Standard shaker

 

 

 

Boston Shaker

 

 

 

Cocktail strainer

 

 

 

Glassware:  the best Martini glasses aren’t those 8-oz monsters they use in restaurants these days – the best ones are 4 ounces – so you’re forced to make a smaller drink that stays cold while you drink it.

Ingredients:

  • Ice.  LOTS of ice.  My friends always kid me about how much ice I use.  But they NEVER complain about my cocktails.
  • Water (you’ll water see in a moment)
  • Premium Vodka or Gin.  Your choice on brands. My faves are Ketel One vodka and Bombay gin (but not Sapphire).
  • Premium white vermouth – my favorite is Noilly Pratt.
  • Olives – I prefer stuffed Manzanilla cocktail olives versus the big queen monsters that taste like all salt.

For ONE proper Martini:

  • 3 oz vodka or gin
  • 1 teaspoon vermouth
  • 1 olive

Pre-chill your glass by filling it with ice to the brim, then filling it with water.  Do this 10 minutes or so before you want to serve your martini.  You can also of course just keep your glasses in the freezer, ready to go.  Or, set it outside in the snow in the winter.

Fill your shaker 3/4 full of ice, and then add the vermouth.  Put the top on the shaker and shake vigorously for about a minute.  This breaks up the ice a bit and also coats the ice with the vermouth.  Pour out the vermouth and any water using the strainer of your shaker.  Remove the top of the shaker and add the vodka or gin.  Put the top and cap on the shaker and shake vigorously for a good minute, then set the shaker down to rest for a moment.  While your shaker is resting, drink the water from your pre-chilling martini glass and toss out the ice.   The water is good hydration – you need it when you drink Martinis!  Pick up your shaker again, and shake for another 20-30 seconds, then uncap the shaker and strain it into a glass.  If you’ve done it right, there will be little shards of ice floating on top of the martini.

Spear your olive with a toothpick, shake off any excess brine (don’t use those lame plastic swords!) and gently place in your glass.  Sip.  Savor.  Ahhh. Sandpaper – it takes the rough edges off.  (Right Lisa?)

Enjoy!

As you were,

Stew

Vegeterian “Rib Fries”

15 Jul

Hi All – first cooking post on Stew’s Brew.

The other night, I decided to grill – it was one of those PERFECT nights for grilling – 73 degrees, low humidity, etc.  Robin had to take the boys for their annual physicals, so they wouldn’t be home until 7:30, so I was responsible for making a late dinner.  She had pulled out some Iowa Chops to toss on the grill – those were thawing on the counter when I rolled in the door at 6:30, and below them on the floor was a 10 lb bag of potatoes.  Meat and potatoes – my fave and oh the possibilities!

The Iowa Chops I just did in simple Argentinian “Gaucho” barbecue style – LOTS of coarse salt, and lots of black pepper.  Rub with olive oil first, then hit them hard with kosher salt and FGP and let sit for 15 mins or so before grilling.  Grilled them to an internal temp of 135, let rest for 10 mins, carved like a roast.  Heaven.

But this post is about my potatoes.  I wanted to do something roasted on the grill.  I had happened across some recipes for mustard-glazed grilled potatoes a couple of months ago in Cooking Light, and those are fantastic – I’ll share another time.  But, decided that I wanted a barbecue potato – as in smoky, tangy, tasting like barbecue food.  My process is always, “Imagine the flavor, think about the ingredients, Go!”  Most of the time, it works.  This time it ROCKED.

The recipe is simple – a quick whisk up of barbecue sauce, some dijon mustard, veggie oil and salt and pepper.  Quarter up the potatoes, toss them in a large bowl and tumble with the sauce to coat.  Then just scatter them out on a medium-hot grill, let grill for about 15 mins and it’s heaven.  Because this IS a recipe, here’s the official version with measures and everything, below:

  • 2 1/2  lbs of potatoes (about 7 medium russets) – quartered into big wedges – any kind works – russet, Yukon, C-size Redskins, etc.  Make sure you cut them large enough where they won’t fall through your grill grate.
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce of your choice.  I used good ‘ol Iowa-made Cookies.  Sweet. Smokey. Yum.
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard – give your mustard a taste first and use more or less based on how strong it is – you want the acidity of the mustard, plus the emulsifying quality of it (makes things blend together nicely) more than the mustard flavor.  I had both generic and Grey Poupon.  I used a 1/4 cup of the generic.  Had I used the Grey Poup, I’d have used quite a bit less – perhaps 2T.
  • 1/4 cup veggie oil – doesn’t really matter what, although I don’t think Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the right play – too much flavor.  Goal is to provide some fat to keep the spuds from sticking to the grill and make the sauce coat nicely.  I used Canola on this batch.
  • 1/2 t salt (I only use kosher salt for cooking)
  • 1/2 t fresh ground pepper

Honestly, these quantities are guesses – I know I did 2x the amount of BBQ sauce to mustard.  Oil was equal to the mustard, or so I thought, and the salt and pepper were to taste, although this is probably a good guess.  A wonderful cook and blogger, The Pioneer Woman – and her food forum, The Pioneer Woman cooks, says “potatoes and salt are best friends.”  Have to agree.

Technique:

Pre-heat grill to medium if it is a gas grill – if charcoal, well, wing it – perhaps put the lid on your grill and damper it down a bit to lower the heat before cooking.  You don’t want it too hot or you’ll burn the sugars in the sauce before the spuds cook on the inside.

Mix up all the sauce ingredients first, and put them in a large bowl.  Wash and cut up your potatoes – you want the wedges the long way on the spud so they are nice and long.  As you cut them, just drop them into the sauce bowl.  Once all the spuds are in, toss them with the sauce to coat them well.

Out to the grill!  Set up your grill for INDIRECT cooking – that means on a gas grill that you shut off one or two burners – my big Weber Genesis, I shut off the middle burner, leaving the two outers running.  On charcoal, push all of the charcoal to one half of the grill.

Using tongs, place the spuds evenly over the “INDIRECT” portion of the grill – where there’s no burner running or charcoal under the  grill.  If you’re a savant for grill marks like I am, put them on a 30-degree angle to the grill bars – looks NICE!  But you want them cr0ss-way across the grates so they don’t fall in.  Grill for 5 mins, turn, grill 5 mins more, turn, then stick a fork in one and check for doneness – they should be close, but not quite – about 5 more mins and they will be PERFECT.  Test one before you bring them in.  Test as in EAT one.  “Car Fries!”

And that’s it!

So, about this name:  As we sat down to dinner the other night, Brian (son #3) grabs one, takes a bite and says “Oh my God!  They are like Rib Fries.”  My pal “GASHM” said “Oh, you should add ‘Vegeterian’ to the name.”  Therefore, Vegeterian Rib Fries.  Taste like Ribs.  But they are fries!

Yes, I know all good food blogs have pictures, and on this my friends, I have failed.  But I’ll make them again very soon, and I’ll repost this, with the pictures next time.

Enjoy!

Stew

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