Get in the spirit
Henri mixes up some holiday cheer
No one could be more thrilled than Henri that fall is in the air and that the holidays are upon us. So suddenly, it seems. The nights come early, dark and cool, cold even. The streets are littered with crinkled leaves as the hold-outs cling to treetops, waiting for the next gust of wind to set them assail—the gingkos electric yellow, the Chinese pistach deep red, the dogwoods that gorgeous blood-brown. Smoke wisps from chimneys, and neighbors in long coats and knit caps scuff along sidewalks and stroll pathways through the park.
And cooks eagerly anticipate, readying kitchens and pantries, their favorite season’s masterpieces: golden- brown turkeys and juicy prime ribs pulled hot from ovens, mounds of herbed stuffing, bowls of sweet potatoes and pitchers of gravy—and music, toasts and laughter, and full bellies.
This year, Colette has indicated that she wants to be in charge of the cooking. It’s been four years since she moved in with me, she said, and she wants to thank me. “I’ll take care of the food,” she said. “You be in charge of drink.”
Avec plaisir, ma soeur!
While I’m still fine-tuning my wine choices, I will definitely be mixing up these favorites.
I realize that margaritas are typically warm-weather cocktails, and in general Henri tends to avoid fruit-flavored drinks anyway. On the other hand, cranberries are not only seasonal, but their festive color also makes for a delightful presentation, and they add a distinctive flavor to the liqueur and tequila as well. I might suggest to Colette that we pair it with an appetizer of Dungeness crab, also in season and apparently abundant this year. This recipe is from Bobby Flay, and though he doesn’t recommend a specific tequila, stay away from inexpensive “golds,” such as Jose Cuervo, and go with a decent 100 percent agave reposado, like Sauza Hornitos or Cazadores.
2 cups tequila
1 1/3 cups cranberry juice (try Knudsen’s Just Cranberry)
1 cup Cointreau
2/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
Combine ingredients in a large pitcher, shake over ice and strain into margarita glasses or low cocktail flutes. You can also strain into small ice-filled tumblers.
This is the classic trim-the-tree-while-singing-carols beverage, and while it’s available in all manner of pre-mixed and pre-packaged and flavor-added versions, this one, from Anna Thomas’ The Vegeterian Epicure, is the best I’ve ever tasted. It should serve a party of four but is easily doubled (or more!).
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup milk (no reduced fat, s’il vous plait)
1/4 cup Cognac/brandy
1/4 cup dark rum
1 small orange
1 cup heavy cream
In mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick, then stir in the milk, brandy and rum. In separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold a peak, and fold them into the other mixture, then refrigerate, chilling for at least two hours.
Peel the orange and cut out the white pith from inside the peel. Slice into one-inch slices, cut as thinly as possible. Grate the lemon rind.
Whip the cream until it just begins to thicken, stir into the milk-and-egg mixture, and whisk several times. Stir in the lemon rind and half the orange peel. Pour the nog into large serving bowl, and sprinkle the remaining orange peel and plenty of nutmeg over the top.
And what about after dinner, when the laughter and music have faded and given way to that often uneasy late-night wistfulness as blazing fires turn to embers and winter’s deathly stillness seems too-soon imminent? Simple, really, as it should be: a snifter of Germain-Robin brandy or a Pierre Ferrand Cognac, or maybe a single-barrel bourbon such as Blanton’s, or a single-malt Scotch, Oban, perhaps.