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Chris Amirault

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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    Rhode Island

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  1. It's better than my homemade version, which truth be told I haven't made for a while.....
  2. My memory is not as good as yours, I fear, but it seems to be based on the IBRHS. It's very good, to be sure! I went through one bottle quickly but am saving the next. When I crack it open I'll report back.
  3. Well how about this! I gave up hope for sating my Inner Beauty jones long ago... until this morning!!
  4. R.I.P. indeed. Prudhomme was a really important figure for me in the early stages of cooking and eating food beyond bland Yankee fare. My first and only trip to K-Paul's in 1986 was revelatory and started my interest in restaurants. Here's a story I wrote in the weeks following Katrina but never tried to publish because I couldn't get the tone right. * * * * * My first trip to NOLA was in the mid-80s, when I was finishing college and attending a conference. During my junior year and the subsequent year off, I had smoked through Paul Prudhomme's first cookbook, Louisiana Kitchen, several times, and naturally decided that I should make my way down to the restaurant and have dinner: my very first food-focused restaurant excursion. I grabbed a few people with me who had endured my attempts at "blackened redfish" back home, and we arrived at the restaurant as it opened -- along with several dozen other tourists. But, hardly a grumbling lot of irritable Yankees, this queue was filled with truly joyous people. Yeah, we knew we were tourists and K-Pauls was reputed to be more a national than a local phenomenon. But long before our family members had started calling us "foodies" with rolling eyes and NOLA celebrity chefs were using "Bam!" to sell product, we had finally arrived at this little temple to Cajun goodness eager for a powerful fine meal. And, shee-it, we were in New Orleans, friend, not blue law Boston. One person in line realized that we could get beers in plastic cups from a bar down the street to drink while we waited, and everyone just started bringing back trays of brew and handing them out down the line. When it was my turn, I walked down a bit further to a raw bar and ordered a pile of oysters and shrimp -- for some insanely small amount of money, a buck a dozen or so -- to bring back as well. I had not before and have not since enjoyed such a festive occasion with a group of complete strangers. When we finally were seated, we were treated to a fantastic meal. I had my first good bread basket in life at K-Paul's (the jalapeno cheese bread was remarkable, in particular), and, avoiding all things blackened, I consumed my and my companions' dishes -- a gumbo for sure, some jambalaya, who knows what else -- with a beer- and cayenne-fueled fervor. After the dinner plates were cleared and before my pecan pie came out, I went out the back of the house, though a long corridor exposed to the outdoors, passing the kitchen to my left, to the bathroom. On my way back, the dark, overcast evening skies finally burst open. I had seen a Louisiana rain storm a couple of days before, as I drove the 24-hours straight through from Providence to NOLA, crossing I-10 over Lake Pontchartrain, and it was no New England spring shower. I had pulled over because, after a few quarter-cup droplets thudded on the car, I suddenly stopped being able to see anything out the windshields or windows. While this night's shower wasn't nearly as voluminous, thunder and lightning were booming and snapping all around the restaurant, animating the sky just beyond my extended fingertips. I paused, briefly, at the kitchen doorway, and, emboldened by pleasure, asked if I could watch for a while. "Sure, but there's nothing much to see," said one of the many line cooks standing behind the massive ranges that shot blistering flames around the skillets and into the air. I watched as these focused pros tossed food and caught it, plated fillets and chops and who knows what all, and never missed a beat. There was just so much to see; here were people juggling three, four, six dishes at a time, while I struggled at home with a single cast-iron beast and burning roux. I was rapt as, suddenly, with a transformer-busting crack, the kitchen and the surrounding restaurant went black. And this is the image of New Orleans that has stayed with me these two decades, that I have recalled so often over the last few, harrowing days: in a darkened kitchen lit only by the explosive gas flames licking pans and pots, amid a downpour drumming on the roof and incessant chatter, barking, and laughter, I watched the K-Paul's kitchen soldier on, with a greater sense of energy, confidence, and purpose than I could fathom, utterly devoted not merely to the patrons out front but to the foolhardy insistence that they sure as hell were not going to let Mother Nature show them who's boss.
  5. Nicely puffy there, Hennes!
  6. Thanks. since I will be able to make the oleo saccharum for the punch myself, I may forgo the garnish on the punch. But the horse neck is important visually in the toast, among other things.
  7. Well. A lot has happened in the last several weeks. I walked the bride and groom through much of the content here -- thanks to everyone for their contributions! -- and we settled on two drinks: a punch for the transition from ceremony to reception and a bubbly toast for the best man's speech. I then set about identifying available ingredients, testing recipes, having recipes confirmed with the couple, and finally researching the two of them for the names. There is also a side project wrapping up that involves the design and printing of cocktail cards for the guests to take home. Here are the two drinks scaled for those cards. (Names are still a secret from the couple to be shared on the wedding day.) the punch: 1 1/2 oz Plantation Three Stars or other quality white rum 1 oz Appleton V/X or other Jamaican dark rum 1/4 oz St. Elizabeth Pimento Dram 3/4 oz demerara rich simple syrup 1 oz lemon juice 1/2 oz Valencia orange juice Combine ingredients in cocktail shaker; shake with plenty of ice. Strain over fresh rocks in double Old Fashioned glass. Twist lemon and orange peels over the top and drop in. the toast: 1 oz Aperol 1/2 oz Cointreau 1/2 oz lemon juice 3 oz prosecco Stir Aperol, Cointreau, and lemon juice with ice and strain into champagne flute. Add prosecco. Twist long, thin (horse neck) lemon peel over and into drink. When all that was completely finished, I wrote up instructions for the catering company, which had assured the couple that they'd be able to handle anything as long as the ingredients were available. Turns out, not. They will pour liquids into glasses. The rest is on me. So... on the Saturday we arrive and then the Sunday morning of the ceremony, I'll be donning my new apron, unpacking my bar kit, and assembling the drink components for bottling and chilling. I may have some assistance and will have to sort out different assignments based on task complexity -- that is to say, I'll be making the 100 horse neck garnishes. (Joke's on me -- see below.) Here are the instructions I sent to the caterer that I'll now have to revise. Please feel free to share any feedback you have on how I should pull this off. Below please find the instructions for preparing the two drinks for the wedding. The information below is for 100 servings of each beverage. As I'm not sure who will be doing what, I've have erred on the side of including too much information. I will be very happy to help in any way that I can with prep. I've worked in the industry as a consultant, bartender, and assistant bar manager, can bring my own tool kit, and I would be happy to help with juicing, portioning, whatever is needed. In particular, making those 100 lemon horse neck garnishes will be a project -- and I'm happy to take it on! Basic Prep Information a. It's my understanding that the punch will be served to guests upon arrival by a bartender in a large drink vessel with a spout. The recipe makes ~400 ounces (3+ gallons) of undiluted punch designed to be served over rocks; if you want to serve it without ice, then ~80 ounces of water should be added for dilution. b. All ingredients should be chilled at least 3-4 hours in advance of service. c. The juices should be squeezed the night before or (preferably) the morning of service. Juice can be strained for the punch and must be strained for the toast. d. Valencia oranges are difficult to use for garnishes. So, either the orange twists have to come from Washington/Riverside, Cara Cara, or another orange variety, or we should only use lemons. e. The toast directions below require that the base (Aperol, Cointreau, lemon juice) be made and bottled well in advance of service. That makes it easiest on service staff: the base can quickly be added to the flutes, topped with prosecco, and garnished directly on service trays as waitstaff are available. If you want to go that route, you'll need sufficient clean bottles for 200 ounces of the base and space for chilling them. (The prosecco can't be added until just before service or the drink risks being flat.) f. I have not listed replacement spirit possibilities for the punch. Please let me know if you are having trouble finding any items and I'll make specific suggestions. The prosecco can be a dry inexpensive bottle; I used a $15 Carpene Malvolti 1868 extra dry, for example. g. I will be bringing one additional ingredient (the oleo saccharum, or sugar and citrus oil combination) for the punch which can be stirred in an hour or so before service. h. The rich demerara syrup is made as follows: Combine two parts demerara sugar with one part water and simmer until sugar dissolves. Turbinado, piloncillo, or other raw sugars can be substituted; brown sugar cannot. Punch 120 oz Plantation Three Stars or other quality white rum (5 bottles) 80 oz Appleton V/X or other Jamaican dark rum (3 bottles) 20 oz St. Elizabeth Pimento Dram (less than one bottle) 60 oz demerara rich simple syrup 80 oz fresh lemon juice (~50 lemons -- also for garnish) 40 oz fresh Valencia orange juice (~20 oranges -- see above on garnish) [iF DESIRED: 80 oz water -- see above] Combine all ingredients and stir well. Chill thoroughly before service. Serve over rocks with lemon and orange twists. Toast 100 oz Aperol (4 bottles) 50 oz Cointreau (2 bottles) 50 oz strained fresh lemon juice (~30 lemons -- also for garnish) 300 oz dry prosecco (12 bottles) Bottle Aperol, Cointreau, and lemon juice; chill thoroughly before service. Immediately before service, pour 2 oz of base into flutes; add prosecco and lemon horse neck garnish.
  8. Thanks, again, everyone, for these responses. I'm going to have the first conversation with the couple this weekend, and I wrote up some framing comments/questions for that discussion. Here they are: * * * * * First Each of you tell me the story you'd like to be able to tell on the day after the wedding about this drink: what was it, what happened, and why. Some Contextual Concerns Bartender and waitstaff quality/training. Batched vs fresh ingredients. Timing. Glupability, intentional production delays, & drunkness. Ingredient, ice, & prep quality control. The Logistics Where is the event going to be held? When? How many people are expected at the event? How many servings of the drink per person do you anticipate? Where will the drink ingredients be prepped? Where will the individual drinks be prepared? In what space, with what components & tools? Who will be catering the event? Who will be bartending the event? What ingredient options are there? What bartender training/execution options are there? What other beverage options will be available? What ice handling options are possible? The Drink Itself How many signature drinks do you want? When will the drink be available/served? What food will be served with the drink? Will there be a toast (requiring everyone being served and drinking at once) with the drink? Are there any must-avoid ingredients? Are there any must-have characteristics? What liquor sources will you have at your disposal? What should the drink say about you each/both? your relationship? the wedding? Are there any family traditions you want to recognize? Do you want a one-time contraption or something repeatable at home? Specific options to consider: champagne plus (easy to make; expensive; silent killer if not careful)sour (juicing a drag and perhaps labor-costly; lower alcohol) old fashioned (boozy but works with bad ice; easy to batch & serve; not for everyone)other low-alcohol options (less boozy; possible to batch & serve; not for everyone)punch bowl (adjustable proof; possible to batch some ingredients; easy to serve)How important is glassware? How important is a garnish? What memory do you want associated with this drink? Etcetera Next steps. Tasting plan to determine final recipe. Naming. Contact information for caterer or bartender(s). Drink story/recipe card at end?
  9. These are all very helpful responses -- thanks! Keep 'em coming!
  10. Just got one of these for dirt cheap as my home scale bit it tonight. Will report back.
  11. Hi. I have been asked to design a wedding cocktail for an event in late spring. I've created cocktails for events in the past, but all of those have been in my control as bartender. In this situation, I'll be part of the wedding and thus not coordinating cocktail prep and service, which changes my role. So I'm wondering what two different groups think about two different topics. 1. If you have been a guest or participant at a wedding with a signature cocktail, or 2. If you have catered or bartended a wedding with a signature cocktail, tell me about that drink and the experience: a. how was the recipe determined? b. what were the ingredients? were all readily available or did you have ingredients (infusions, bitters, etc.) that were prepared specifically for the drink? c. who made the drinks? if not you, what instructions did you provide for the person/people who made them? d. were they batched or made to order by someone? e. did people like it? was the quality of the drink (dilution, temperature, garnish, etc.) truly up to snuff? f. any general advice? Thanks in advance!
  12. At this point, for me freezing would have few benefits, and fresh has many. Indeed, I usually make too many tortillas given that they are remarkably inexpensive: if you can get access to large (50 pound) bags of corn, which typically cost less than a buck a pound in AZ, then the product costs are quite low. While the time/effort costs aren't minor, they involve a lot of unattended time, and if you get good at the process and do a bit of planning ahead it's pretty easy to make a 1-2 dozen batch as needed.
  13. Hi rbenash! I believe that assumption is incorrect if you plan to make tortillas. I have never had any success freezing fresh nixtamal or masa and then using it for tortillas, with a vacuum sealer and deep freeze. I know it's sold frozen at Mexican markets in the US southwest, but it's my sense that it's for tamales, not tortillas. YMMV. For tortillas, I follow Diana Kennedy's model roughly: two rounded tablespoons of pickling lime/cal added to the corn and cold water in a large stock pot, brought to ~160-170F (bubbles on surface, she says), then covered to sit for 18-24 hours. I rinse very well then grind to a Play Doh consistency: a tiny bit firmer than a sugar cookie dough but not as stiff as a fresh pasta dough. I've found that you want it as wet as you can without making it tacky or sticky, which will make your tortilla pressing a real PITA.
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