Monday, January 25, 2010


So, perhaps, in these trying times -- and they may get trying-er -- a palliative might suit the national mood. I hereby proffer my version of the frozen margarita. (You'll doubtlessly not be the least surprised to know I have a version for the "rocks" and the "straight-up" margarita as well. Those will follow anon.)
We start with a couple of limes (one per person, figure 1oz. juice per), Cointreau (for frozen duty, I suggest Citronge, but all I had was Cointreau) and Cuervo white tequila; in some markets it's called Cuervo Clásico and in others Cuervo Blanco or Cuervo Silver...same diff. (If this were a straight-up margarita, I'd use a 100% blue agave tequila -- I like Patrón Silver -- but we're not doing that with this; some people can pick out the nuances even when the beverage in question is 32.0000001F...I can't.)
Key to a proper frozen drink is getting the ice shaved properly. The average blender can't get all of the ice shaved down, so it's best to handle that function separately, ahead of time. I picked up that Oster ice shaver for PEANUTS on eBay. (A toy snow-cone machine also works marvels, if you can stand the shame of having a Snoopy as part of your batterie.)
Cut the limes.
Juice said limes.
Put juice in the blender. (You may want to add a few tablespoons of superfine sugar if you like your margaritas not as dry, or as much as a 1/8 of cup per person if you really like 'em on the sweet side. In the frozen version I like them just off-dry, thanks for asking. Agave syrup is okay if you don't mind enhancing the tequila-ness of the thing.)
One ounce of Cointreau (keeping in mind this is a higher proof than plain ol' triple sec), one jigger of plain ol' white/blanco/silver Cuervo tequila per person (Seriously, any tequila more posh than this would be wasted on the likes of me, as the subtle nuances would get lost amid all that ice and coldness.)
Shave the ice. (If you are planning to shave a LOT of ice, you may want to do so into a colander over a bowl, to prevent any undue dilution.)
Put all in the blender. Blend (2 second pulse-another 2 second pulse-run at max. speed for 10 seconds-2 second pulse-2 second pulse).
After blending take out a suitable glass from the freezer.
Serve. Repeat as needed.

Now. Some of you may be gasping in disbelief that I would publicly posit a notion so contrary to tradition -- what with me being hidebound and reactionary and all -- as a frozen margarita. So, in the interest of fairness, justice, equal time and balance, here is my "straight-up" margarita.

Incidentally, there are many fanciful tales about how/when the margarita originated. Most of them are utter, frightful bilge. The rest are merely wrong. "Margarita" is simply the Spanish word for "daisy" and there was (still, is, FWIW) a drink called the "Daisy" and it was gin, grenadine and lemon juice served in a sugar-rimmed glass. Replacing these ingredients with tequila and those with which is usually associated (lime and salt) and triple sec in lieu of grenadine to take the edge off and voilá: Margarita.


The main difference, ingredient-wise, between my frozen and straight-up versions is in the proportion of Cointreau to tequila. (Keep in mind that most recipes call merely for "triple sec" and that is a lower proof than Cointreau.) In a version that doesn't have the analgesic coldness of a slushy frozen concoction, the same amount of Cointreau would give too much alcohol-hotness in one that is merely shaken with ice. This is also why you want a more flavorsome tequila. Any "100% agave" white tequila will do. (Any that is labeled "gold tequila" is merely white tequila tinted with caramel trying to mimic "añejo" or "reposado" tequila. Which aren't really suitable* for margaritization. So never mind.)

Here is my straight-up margarita.
Gather your implements. This is a Boston shaker (steel tumbler, slightly smaller glass tumbler -- I like those with cool gradations and recipes printed along its surface -- and a "Hawthorn(e) strainer.)
The ingredients: 100% agave tequila (Patrón Silver) and triple-sec (Cointreau) and limes.
A close-up of the limes.
You'll also need coarse salt, for the rim of the glass.
One jigger of tequila, one half-jigger of triple-sec.
Juice the limes in question. (One lime per person.) Note the absence of any sugar in the straight-up margarita; these are supposed to be unarguably dry.
Pour the tequila and triple-sec into your glass tumbler.
Fill the steel tumbler with cracked ice.
Put the glass tumbler into the steel tumbler, squeezing the latter slightly to create a vacuum seal between the two. You'll note the condensation on the steel tumbler.
After some pretty ærobic shaking, you'll note the condensation has gone a bit frosty, and is higher up along the steel tumbler.
The contents. Bubbles mean there has been adequate æration of contents, i.e., everything is properly mixed and diluted the correct amount.
Everything goes into the glass tumbler.
Slip the Hawthorn(e) strainer (OXO makes the best one, but any that fits your glass vessel will do) over the glass tumbler.Strain out the revivifying fluid into the chilled glass that has had its rim frosted with salt.
(You know you have done it right when you can see a layer of ice one trillionth of a picometer thick.) Serve and drink.


P.S. For a "rocks" margarita, I'd suggest 5:2 ratio of tequila to Cointreau.

*You may also be tempted to really go for Grand Marnier over Cointreau. Don't. The brandy base of the GM really doesn't play nicely with the more assertive flavor profiles of lime, salt and tequila. It sounds very chi-chi to say you make your margaritas with gigabuck tequila -- like Cuervo's "Reserva de la Familia" which is sadistically expensive -- and Grand Marnier Quintessence and some heirloom limes, but it tastes pretty awful. AMHIK.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Wintry Iberic-ness

I am making a GREAT classic of Northern Spanish cuisine in my Crock-PotTM. I can freely use that because my slow-cooker turns out to be an official Crock-PotTM slow cooker.

Anyway, because I aim to benefit humanity in all I ever do I am posting probably the oldest recipe in our family, one dating back well over a coupla hunnerd years: Fabada.

Fabada derives its name from the type of bean used, called "Fabes." You will not find this bean (at least not reasonably priced) anywhere outside of Spain. So don't even bother to go look for it. What you want is the largest white bean you can get, but not lima beans or butterbeans. Canellini beans are what I use for everyday.

And so, the recipe (this is as still made by my great-aunt Maria Cristina, sans the slow-cooker):

2 1/4 lb./1 kg of fabes
1/4 lb./200gm Spanish NOT MEXICAN chorizo (I like the Palacios brand, but Goya is workable) 1/4 lb./200gm morcilla ("black pudding") or just go w. 1/2 lb. chorizo
1/4 lb./200gm unsmoked ham (something like domestic prosciutto is ideal) cubed 1/2" x 1/2" (1cm x 1cm)
1 medium yellow onion
1 pinch of saffron (OPT)
1 tsp. of smoked sweet Spanish paprika (also called "pimenton dulce ahumado" and it's OK if you don't find any that's actually Spanish, just as long as it's smoked and NOT the hot stuff you'll be fine)
1/4 lb./200gm unsmoked bacon (think pancetta) is optional.
1 quart/liter Ham stock (from a couple of ham hocks -- OPT, but so-o-o-o-o-o desirable...chicken stock or broth or even water will work, but stocks contribute a bit of gelatin that makes this all unctuous and yummy...add water to come up to the correct amount)
Salt to taste (if you use stock, be CAREFUL with the salt!)
[Basically you want a 3:1 or so ratio of beans to porky goodness, in whatever proportions suit you. Oh, and trivia factoid: the combination of porcine goodies is called "compango" in Spanish.]
Soak the beans overnight.

(This part can me made wa-a-a-a-ay ahead) Put in the chorizo (and any bacon-like whatever) in a pot over low heat with a bit of water, and render out its fat. Pour off most of it. Add ham, morcilla, diced onion and cook until the onions are translucent. Add saffron/paprika and let cool.
This "base" will keep a week in the fridge and damned near forever in the freezer.

Drain the beans, put them along with the porkified base in a stock pot and cover them with stock/water over medium low heat or in the CrockPotTM on "high" for a couple of hours.

Turn the heat to low. Let cook a couple of hours and then mash some of the white beans against the side of the pot. Stir and reduce heat to "warm" until dinner time. It's even better the next day.


P.S. You may want to skim the orange chorizo fat...but not ALL of it, as its presence is crucial for flavor...but a little goes a long way.