Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tales of the Magic Pan – Mushroom Paella

I wasn’t really looking to get entangled with another frying pan.

At the risk of appearing to blame yet another impulse purchase of mine on my mother, I probably wouldn’t have considered it, if Mom had not mentioned the big sale. But, it barely takes a nudge for me to buy another kitchen item. No willpower.

The minute I laid eyes on it, there was no mistaking the magic. The brilliant fire-engine-red chassis was thrilling and the sleek, aerodynamic styling exhilarating. Hey – some guys survive middle age on car fantasies – for me, it’s all about the kitchen equipment.

Who would have suspected such a spark with a pan that has such a conventional, almost old-fashioned reputation? Put aside all pre-conceived notions. To put it bluntly, this cast iron frying pan is really hot. Sizzling, in fact. We’ve now been seeing each other for several weeks, and I may actually be considering a long term commitment. No more brief flirtations with non-stick and the like. This could actually be the real thing.

Our first date...well, it was like it was meant to be. We were spellbound kids, discovering each other over bewitching paella, flavored with earthy mushrooms and sensual saffron:

Mushroom Paella (Adapted from “The Best Recipes in the World” by Mark Bittman)

(Three Servings)

¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Three boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
½ pound portabella mushrooms, chopped
¼ pound chorizo sausage, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup Arborio rice
1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron threads
Salt and pepper, seasoned to taste

Cover the dried mushrooms in hot water and soak. Heat oil in an alluring 10-inch cast iron skillet. Add chicken thighs and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Split chicken into small pieces.

Add onion and sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic and bay leaf and cook 1 more minute. Drain porcini mushrooms and add along with portabella mushrooms. Cook until liquid begins to appear. Add chorizo and paprika and cook for 30 seconds. Add wine and reduce for about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the rice in an even layer. Cover with stock and saffron and season with salt. When the stock begins to boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

Can a confirmed bachelor chef find true happiness with the most traditional of frying pans? Stay tuned for the continuing story at “Tales of the Magic Pan,” with a nightly encore performance on SOAPnet.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Birthday Cupcakes

The one consistent symbol I associate with birthdays is frosted cupcakes. Mom would bake a batch that would be transported to elementary school in a foil-lined box to be shared with the entire class on my special day.

Now, several decades later, I don’t have to go to school on my birthday. In fact, I can take the day off if I want to. Adulthood has its perks.

So I devote a full 24-hours to me. It is a starkly-cold and bright winter day, a busy day full of grown-up play. I’ve made out a complete list of my favorite things.

I start with hot coffee and a bite-sized brownie on Wall Street …

I visit historic Federal Hall, where George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States …

A friendly National Park employee named Ed Hooper gives me a thorough history of the site, and even shows me the Bible that Washington used to take the oath of office …

Next is lunch with my friend “Lee Sloan,” the Grande Dame of food and wine – champagne and tagliatelle with braised oxtail ragout at A Voce on Madison and 26th …

We are served Italian cuisine by a French waiter and nearly swoon over walnut honey cake …

Next, is a razor sharp performance of “Speed the Plow”…

And, a little quality time with Andy Warhol’s soup cans and Monet’s water lilies at the Museum of Modern Art…

In the evening, I indulge my “adult palate,” at a talk at the Institute for Culinary Education aptly titled “The Glories of Bordeaux.” The instructor wears a Bordeaux-colored blazer, and opens the class by announcing, “I’m on red wine therapy, and my doctor approves.”

As for the obligatory cupcakes, there is quite a crowd at the posh 6th Avenue location of Magnolia Bakery. I select a “Vanilla-on-Vanilla” and a “Devil’s Food with Chocolate Butter Cream.” The vanilla is tasty, put the Devil’s Food is deeper, richer and more satisfying, perhaps an indication of my maturing tastes.

The cupcake has a Proustian effect, recalling memories of birthdays past – The Revolutionary War lamp, Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, my one-and-only trip to the top of the Empire State Building, dinner with Nelson and Audrey at Windows on the World, birthday tea in Paris, the mansions of Newport, a walk through a Charlestown plantation, Fraunces Tavern, lunch with John and Ramiza in Prague, snowbound in Little Washington, Virginia, and a chat with a vintage cookbook seller.

I brush away a few deep ebony crumbs. I’ll never outgrow cupcakes. They are perhaps the best way to celebrate another year in the life.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 19, 2009

Community is Key Ingredient in Lydia’s Perfect Pantry

Her Rhode Island pantry is legendary, stocking more than 240 items. When you meet her, she is warm, generous, direct, at times uncompromising, and always keenly insightful.

With all that going on, one’s inevitable first question feels a bit like a cliché – Why is food blogger Lydia Walshin so preoccupied with her Perfect Pantry?

It began when she and her husband Ted moved to a cozy log cabin in Rhode Island. Managing the kitchen space was essential.

“I wanted not to have shelves full of things I didn’t use,” she tells me. Indeed, an item is only eligible for Perfect Pantry status if it meets three criteria – 1) The ingredient must be used in other recipes; 2) It must be something used in more than one way; 3) It is used in only one way, but over and over again.

“I won’t buy it because it’s in a beautiful bottle or because it’s in one recipe,” she states categorically.

On the surface, that can sound a little like a “how-to” tip from a home keeping handbook. But, spend a few hours with Lydia and you soon learn that the Perfect Pantry is actually a metaphor for a well-seasoned life – filled with discovery, diverse experiences and relationships – where community thrives at the center.

We alight from our taxi in front of Dean & Deluca on Broadway in Soho. Lydia has travelled to New York and done me an enormous favor. In return, I’ve promised an afternoon of culinary play, along with a gourmet foraging expedition. If Lydia can find one or two pantry items at Dean & Deluca that she currently does not stock, I’ll pick up the tab.

We walk the gleaming, spacious aisles of the gourmet market and Lydia scrutinizes the ingredients that line the shelves. “Nope…Already tried that…Not that one…” she murmurs quietly. She notices a package of plump, russet-colored grains labeled Kamut, which look like a cross between rice and orzo pasta. It makes the cut, and she drops the package into her canvas Ninecooks tote bag.

We continue our exploration. “Do you use fenugreek?” she asks me. “You put it in things I don’t make.”

We pass a massive display stocked with spice tins. A gleaming pewter-colored canister catches her eye. The words Grains de Paradise are printed in fancy script on the label. Lydia shakes the canister with curiosity, pulls out an I-Phone in a hot pink case and types some search terms into Google.

She locates a lead on Gourmet Sleuth. Grains de Paradise was once used as a cheaper substitute for black pepper. The exotic name was invented by medieval spice traders in an effort to inflate the price.

“I’m not making this up,” she insists. Perhaps it is the compelling name, or the age-old connection to hucksterism but Grains de Paradise, too, is selected for consideration in the Perfect Pantry.

We admire brilliant orange papaya spears. We inspect a large blue vacuum-packed can of peanuts with a friendly cartoon elephant printed on the packaging. The generic product name reads “Quality Nuts.”

“I want the can,” says Lydia admiringly.

We encounter the world’s longest biscotti and partake in a little layer-cake envy in the bakery department.

“Your cakes are just as good,” she tells me.

Lydia began writing professionally at the age of 16, but it was some time before she took on the topic of food full-time. She is far from the detached reporter and her capable hands often find their way into the story.

“I only do two things in life really well – I write and I organize,” she explains.

In 1995 Lydia published “South End Cooks: Recipes from a Boston Neighborhood.” The book is a microcosm of her Boston community conveyed through the personal stories and recipes of 80 cooks in home kitchens, restaurants and local agencies across the South End. The menu of voices and recipes is as varied as the neighborhood – two generations of Chinese cooks, a restaurateur from Ethiopia, or a Jesuit priest serving special dinners to people with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers. Proceeds from the sale went to three local community agencies.

The creation of Ninecooks was a defining moment. Now a full-fledged resource offering cooking classes for friends and families, it began as a gathering of friends around the dinner table prevailing upon Lydia to organize and teach a group cooking lesson. The group of nine cooks gathered regularly in Lydia’s Rhode Island kitchen. “It’s this encasing kind of place that forces people into intimacy when they cook,” she says. Eventually, Ninecooks became “the thing that identified me and the home for all my commercial food activities.”

Lydia joined the food blogging world in June 2006 and immediately embraced the community. She reveled in the opportunity to write her own material without the filter of an editor. It was intended as a one-year project. From the outset, the Perfect Pantry offered more than her voice on the subject of food and ingredients. There were Bookworms, Guest Bloggers and Other People’s Pantries supplementing Lydia’s thorough research and engaging copy. Lydia frequently offers anecdotes of her husband, her friend Peter and her extended family. She talks of creating links to food bloggers whose writing she enjoys, in an effort to support their work. There is a hint of excitement in her voice as she describes two bloggers connecting through the comments section on her own blog. She hopes that visitors find a welcoming place at the Perfect Pantry, and that the voice they hear is one of kindness.

“Community is very important to me,” she reflects. “The older I get, I see more ways to tie my community to the greater community.”

These days much of her energy is devoted to Drop In & Decorate – Cookies for Donation, a project she created that has now become a not-for-profit organization. Friends gather to bake and decorate cookies. The activity is social, and the homemade results are donated to a local shelter or food pantry. Hundreds of batches of whimsical cookies have been baked and decorated for the community since Drop In & Decorate was first conceived and the enthusiasm continues to spread. There have been at least 30 Drop In & Decorate parties held in 15 states, with two in Germany and one in India.

It all wraps up into quite a delicious package.

Ninecooks is my defining brand, Drop In & Decorate is my passion, and the Perfect Pantry is home to the most fun and creative writing I’ve done in years,” says Lydia.

I have the distinct impression that the world is Lydia Walshin’s Perfect Pantry, well-stocked with robust ingredients, creative cooks, kindness, hope and promise.

And what about the complete story behind new pantry items Kamut and Grains de Paradise? Stay tuned to Lydia’s Perfect Pantry for the answer!

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Guy, a Pie and a Fistful of Corn Chips

Some folks spend years perfecting a signature dish. You might even say that the signature dish is a window into a home cook’s psyche. For example, there’s my pal Mary’s hot and sassy Penne a la Vodka, or the international panache of my buddy Rocky’s Paella. And, don’t get me started on Mad Me-Shell’s slow-simmered, “I can handle anything with the greatest of ease,” Pulled Pork with Bourbon Barbecue Sauce.

Then, there’s a certain dish and its creator whom I encountered on New Year’s Eve. Manhattanite David Shamoon – a regular reader of Culinary Types – is a chili kind of guy. But, not just any chili. David is a Frito Pie connoisseur.

For David, his signature dish reflects a quirky sense of tradition seasoned with a flair for adventure. I’ve tasted David’s fabulous, from-scratch Frito Pie before, but this time around, the crafty guy threw in a secret ingredient.

What?? You’ve never heard of Frito Pie? Well, David can wax eloquently on the dish that many believe to be the champion of casseroles. We meet up at the buffet table at an impossibly chic Soho New Year’s Eve pot luck party comparing the attributes of his covered dish and my famous Double Good Macaroni & Cheese, an equally stupendous suburban staple.

“I'm sure you, T.W., will do the research,” David tells me, “but my guess is that Frito Pie was invented in a dingy trailer park in Oklahoma by a blue haired woman, with surprisingly nimble hands, who smoked Old Gold 100s.”

Well, as David anticipated, I did my homework. While Frito Pie was not listed in Larousse Gastronomique, it is indeed featured in the Back of the Box Gourmet, and The Dallas Morning News had recently done an extensive profile on this Southwestern classic.

The year is 1932. The place is San Antonio in the midst of the great Depression and C.E. “Elmer” Doolin invents Fritos corn chips, one of the legendary snack products of our time. Elmer’s momma, Daisy Dean Doolin, takes the bright idea one step further, and decides to top off some of the chips with chili. Eureka!! Frito Pie is born. Some people say it’s the Southwest equivalent of the tuna noodle casserole. Now, here’s where a little Hatfield-McCoy action surfaces. The city of Santa Fe also claims that Frito Pie was invented there by a woman named Teresa Hernandez at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in the 1960s. It’s a romantic tale in its own right, but trust me, this is one culinary squabble you don’t want to get in the middle of.

(I must confess, here and now, that I once made Frito Pie. This was well before all my fancy-smancy French culinary training. I had to come up with something for a church pot luck in a pinch, but I didn’t quite follow David’s “from scratch” approach. I have a propensity for short cuts. Instead, this “future chef” warmed up two cans of Hormel Chili and topped them with a bag of Fritos. It was a big hit at the Parish Hall. After all, Long Island is the Casserole Corridor.)

So what is it about Frito Pie that caught David Shamoon’s eye?

“It’s kind of a bachelor thing,” he tells me, explaining that all single guys need one reliable, no-fail recipe. Sarah Jessica Parker had her cosmopolitans. David Shamoon has his Frito Pie and he’s been perfecting it for years.

“Chili is hard to bring over to a party, but when you serve it in a casserole, it’s magic,” he tells me. “The Frito curls on the top make people go wild. “The reptilian part of your brain says, “I gotta try me some of that.”

Recently married, Dave made a departure from his bachelor ways for a new – dare I say, haute cuisine? – version of Frito Pie, as we all stood on the verge of 2009. Apparently, innovation is in the eye of the beholder.

According to David, “My Frito Pie is even red-neckier than usual. The secret ingredient is venison. A week earlier I visited Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a town deep in Steeler country that is most famous for its floods. The area's economy was depressed by the decline of the steel industry, but somehow Johnstown had somehow managed to turn it's propensity to flood into something charming. The town has two flood museums. At a Christmas party there I met a really nice guy who gave me over ten pounds of venison. He was a truly generous guy. His wife showed me the two goats she received for Christmas on her digital camera.”

How did this new twist impact the proven formula? “Venison is very lean meat,” explains David. “I fixed that problem by making the chili with bacon. Once you make the chili, turning it into a pie is easy. All you do is get your casserole dish, lay down a layer of Fritos, glop on some chili, add cheese and top with Fritos. After about 20 minutes in the oven you have your Frito Pie. It's always a big hit. There's something about seeing those crispy Fritos on top and the melted cheese that makes people lay into it.”

Now, I don’t know if David wooed his bride Dawn Marie with his Frito Pie, but he was convinced that everyone who attended the New Year's pot luck in New York City was swooning over the dish. Says David, “Everyone at the SoHo loft apartment agreed, the Frito Pie was delicious. High praise from a tough crowd. There were some serious foodies there. Bill, a computer book publisher from San Francisco likes to pick up kosher pickles in the Lower East Side whenever he's in town. Doug and Nelson, the hosts of the party, consider Dean and Deluca their neighborhood market. But, the Frito Pie was undeniably delicious.”

I have to agree. The addition of venison was an audacious move, worthy of some of New York’s top chefs. The chili was rich and flavorful, not at all gamey, with the perfect balance of that bold, familiar seasoning. And, those Fritos just seem to melt into the perfect “pie crust” all on their own.

With such a radical experiment deemed a success, are there new culinary challenges for David Shamoon to tackle? “It's 2009 and I have a New Year's resolution to loose 10 pounds,” he says.

Here’s the recipe for Frito Pie that I once used so long ago. It’s definitely the “quick-cook” version, but if you’ve got a favorite “from-scratch” chili dish, and like David, you have an iconoclastic streak and want to satisfy a certain creative desire, feel free to go crazy. But, don’t forget those obligatory corn chips, and be sure to sprinkle a handful of feisty sunshine on top.

Frito Pie (from “The Back of the Box Gourmet” by Michael McLaughlin, 1991)

Three cups Fritos Corn Chips, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup grated American cheese, divided (preferably pre-grated)
1 19-ounce can chili

Spread 2 cups Fritos in a baking dish. Arranged chopped onion and half of the cheese on top of the corn chips. Pour chili over onions and cheese. Top with remaining corn chips and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 09, 2009

Peruvian Fare in Fog City

We all have our hazy moments, and our moments of intense clarity.

I have often wondered why – beyond the weather -- San Francisco has been dubbed “Fog City.” Perhaps the heyday of Haight-Ashby had something to do with it. Yet every time I visit, there is that moment of intense clarity. The city sits in sharp relief against the skyline. The brilliant clang of the cable car is heard. The locally-grown produce is beautifully vibrant. It’s like stepping into one of those Mary Poppins Technicolor chalk pavement pictures.

Then, there’s the food. It is one of those bracing winter evenings and we are finally off-duty for the day. My companions are the delightful and ever-resilient Miss Tera and the always regal Dairy Queen. I am certain that our affable host in Fog City, Papa Bear, has a Zagat data chip imbedded in his brain. He has referred us to the restaurant La Mar at Pier 1.5 on the Embarcadero. It promises “Peruvian ingredients, Peruvian flavors, Peruvian traditions from our times.” Not to mention, that kind of transcendental moment of clarity, only to be found in Fog City.

Let’s start with what might quaintly be referred to as “the appetizer” – cebiches (pictured above). It is the national dish of Peru, made with fresh fish and shellfish and marinated briefly in “leche de tigre” or lime juice and peppers. (My friend Buenos Aires Gus has – in the past - reminded me in no uncertain terms that I have screwed up the spelling of this delicacy. However, I am completely accurate with this spelling, because Diary Queen charmed our waiter and scored a copy of the menu.)

We sample four. As DQ puts it, “People! We’re researching. We need a little of everything.” Cebiche Mixto is Mahi Mahi, calamari, octopus and habanero pepper marinated with cilantro, red onion, Peruvian corn and yam. Cebiche Chifa is Baja California Yellowtail with peanuts, scallions, pickled carrots and daikon, flavored with habanero pepper, cilantro and sesame. Cebiche Nikei is Ahi Tuna, avocado, Japanese cucumber and tamarind. Cebiche Classico is California Halibut and red onions with Peruvian corn and yam. The fish is exquisitely tender and the seasonings sharp, biting and crisp. A mere hint of habanero can bring stinging tears to the eyes.

For their main courses, Miss Tera and DQ choose Cordero – roasted scallops in a clam and mint broth with tiny potatoes and sweet peas and corn risotto. The risotto is luscious – tiny pearls infused with subtle flavors of the garden and the sea.

I select Lomo Saltado, traditional Peruvian style stir-fry of sautéed beef tenderloin, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, soy sauce, and garlic, with fried potatoes and rice. More clarity. Your basic meat and potatoes never tasted like this.

We sample several desserts, but the standout favorite is crisp pumpkin fritters accompanied with a smoky fig sauce of dark, tempting viscosity. Our waiter describes it as street food in Peru, while Miss Tera declares it “eyes rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head good.”

“This ain’t no Krispy Kreme,” says Miss Tera, barely able to contain herself.

You can’t get more clarity than that.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup as Winter Cloaks the North Fork

The pace has slowed considerably. There are still signs of yuletide greenery and lights, and there is even evidence of snow, but there is a welcomed sense of solitude on the North Fork of Long Island.

At Bayview Market and Farms on Route 25 a handwritten sign says “Closing Jan 4 for the Season.” The ornamental winter kale is nestled in a frosty blanket of white.

Yet, inside there are still bins overflowing with bunches of local carrots, bulging turnips and acorn squash. I purchase a full week of food for less than four dollars.

At Junda’s Pastry, Crust and Crumbs in Jamesport, they will be taking a two-week holiday, but there are still a few rustic loaves of tangy rye bread with caraway available, and even a few ginger snap men for a late afternoon snack.

Most of the antique stores have closed early, but there are still some hints of treasures to be found on the Main Road.

The brilliant winter sun fades behind the horizon, so I take my bread and vegetables home and concoct a warming and luminous soup that evokes the luster of the day.

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup (Adapted from “Great Food Fast”)

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon curry powder
Course salt and fresh ground pepper
3 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 large bunch of carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 “hand” fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, curry powder, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the carrots and ginger and sauté a few minutes longer. Add the broth and 3 cups of water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and summer until the carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender in batches. Reheat, check seasonings and stir in lemon juice. Serves 4.

(Note: I finished one bowl of the soup with a touch of cream, but it was entirely unnecessary. The pureed soup is beautifully thick and creamy on its own and needs no enhancements. It also freezes well.)

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 03, 2009

More New Year’s Mixology – The Gin and Fresca Cocktail

At the risk of convincing you that I’ve reverted to a diet of smart, sophisticated cocktails, I simply couldn’t let the old year pass away without a sip of the Gin and Fresca Cocktail. You didn’t think I would forget this one, did you, Lydia?

It all began with a bit of a challenge, or perhaps a campaign, to secure the rightful place of Fresca in Lydia’s Perfect Pantry. Fresca clearly has shelf space in the legendary Rhode Island pantry, as Lydia is a longtime fan of the singular grapefruit soda. But, “official designation” in the Perfect Pantry requires that the item be used as an ingredient in at least three recipes (this rule, if enforced in my home, would do a lot to clear out my refrigerator and pantry …), and Lydia felt that Fresca was perhaps just not versatile enough.

Well, I love a challenge and served up three recipes, including Fresca Cake (a classic soda pop confection), Fresca Jell-O Salad (suburban cookery magic) and The Gin and Fresca Cocktail. The result was a full post devoted to Fresca, written in Lydia’s incomparable style, and numerous Fresca fans clamoring for the beverage’s full membership in the Perfect Pantry. While I’m not positive if the official proclamation has been delivered, there was clearly effervescent support throughout the blogosphere.

Lydia gamely whipped up a new take on the archetypal Fresca Cake, which is particularly significant because she claims not to have “the baking gene.” Then, Kalyn got into the act, and declared the Gin and Fresca Cocktail as somewhat of a mixology miracle. Says Kalyn, “The two flavors go together in a combo that’s more than the sum of its parts.”

Who could resist? (I did have to make a trip to the grocery store, since I rarely keep carbonated beverages in house. But, I had to pick up some staples, like milk, eggs and Marshmallow Fluff.) The recipe is simple. Equal parts of gin and Fresca mixed over ice and strained into a glass. The cocktail has a cool and stylish, wintry appearance. The taste is tart, clean, crisp and woodsy, with just a hint of juniper.

Of course, now I have an entire two-liter bottle of Fresca to consume, and unless I want to imbibe Gin and Fresca Cocktails from now until August, I’ll need an alternative plan. Could the Fresca Jello Salad be far behind?

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year and Cheers – I’ll Take Manhattan!

My friend “Lee Sloan” is a Grand Dame of food and wine. She recently shared this story of a conversation in a fashionable New York City restaurant:

“I asked a waiter at A Voce the other night if the restaurant was experiencing a downturn in customers as a result of the downturn in the economy. He said the customers were still coming but they were eating less and drinking more. God Bless America!”

With that thought in mind, it’s time to raise a toast to all the potential on tap for 2009. Today’s celebratory drink is “The Manhattan” my father’s cocktail of choice. Perhaps it’s hereditary, because Nana, too, was a Manhattan aficionado.

After decades of watching the senior members of the Barritt family (and a few of my brothers) enjoys the classic Manhattan Cocktail, I decide to try it myself, but of course, I’ve got to get the back story, as well. Who knew the Manhattan had such a celebrated history? First thought to have been concocted in the 1870s at the famous Manhattan Club in New York’s Theater District, this smooth and seductive blend of rye whiskey and vermouth was said to be a favorite of power broker J.P. Morgan.

Well, times are tough and we can’t all be captains of industry, but we can certainly welcome 2009 like a tycoon. There are numerous variations on the Manhattan and in recent years, my Dad has experimented with Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which results in a slightly sweeter cocktail. Here’s his formula. After all the precise baking measurements of the past month, the relative ease assembly something to be appreciated:

The Manhattan Cocktail

2 ounces Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey
1 ounce French Sweet Vermouth

Pour whiskey and vermouth over ice in a glass and stir. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

All serious students of the Manhattan believe the maraschino cherry is a key ingredient. Let’s hope 2009 is topped with a maraschino cherry, too!

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved