A Superlative Birthday Dinner

Tournedo Rossini

There's a new French-style restaurant within walking distance of my home. It's called Mallebar Brasserie, and Jim the chef-owner is turning out some pretty fancy fare. Richmond and I tried it out a couple of weeks ago, and were impressed. 

I noticed that some of the menu items included back truffle in season, and there was seared foie gras, and among the steaks was a filet mignon. Those are the key components to the legendary Tournedos Rossini, which I have longed to try ever since I first read about it many years ago. I asked Jim if he could make that for a special dinner and he agreed.

Cherrystones and Oysters

Tournedos Rossini was created by the finest chefs of Paris sometime after 1829, when Gioachino Rossini retired from writing operas and lived almost 40 more years as a Parisian bon vivant. Rossini was a prolific composer, and a brilliant one; everyone knows the famous "Lone Ranger" bit of the overture to William Tell, and his Barber of Seville has been endearingly covered by Bugs Bunny. Gioachino became quite the gourmand, and he got to know all the best chefs in Paris society.

Widow's Kiss

Widow's Kiss cocktailThis is a merry widow, with ulterior motives!

This is a fascinating sweet cocktail of the type that may end the evening unexpectedly...

It's really rather too sweet for my tastes. I think it works best as an after-dinner drink.  


Cardones gratin

This hard-to-find, visually-unappealing, finicky vegetable is worth the hunt and the longish preparation.

I had searched for cardoons for years every late fall/early winter, with no success. Albie's Produce in the North End and even Eataly in Boston' s Back Bay had failed me. 

Then a double-stroke of good luck brought me success! The produce manager at my local Stop & Shop acidentally got a shipment of cardoons from California, and I happened to be at the store on that morning.  

cardones, raw

I sort-of recognized this long-sought vegetable, but I wasn't sure. Fortunately they were labelled Cardones, the Italian name for the vegetable, so it was easy to connect the name. 

The raw vegetable is very bitter, but 30 minutes of boiling extracts most of the bitterness, leaving only a bracing aftertaste that complements a rich buttery or cheesy sauce.  


Alaska Cocktail


Nobody knows why this is called Alaska, but it sure is tasty! 

The Alaska Cocktail is essentially a Martini with Yellow Chartreuse instead of Dry Vermouth. 

This makes it a very different and wonderful symphony of herbal flavors with a delightful color - all in all an exceptional cocktail experience! 

Yellow Chartreuse is more sweet than the green, so 2 dashes of Orange Bitters are an optional improvement.




Artillery Cocktail

This is a potent little cocktail, being almost entirely gin!  

When I discovered Djinn Spirits' Henry Knox gin, I knew exactly which cocktail to try it in. In 1775, Henry managed the transportation of 60 tons of captured British artillery 300 miles from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, where it was instrumental in forcing the British Evacuation. Knox ultimately became our first Secretary of War (now called Secretary of Defense).

I made this with the Henry Knox gin and with the Coastal Roots (of Portland) Aromatic Bitters; it was perfect!

Mrs Hale's Cranberry Sauce


Sarah Josepha Hale's Cranberry Sauce - 1857Sarah Josepha Hale was an amazing woman who pretty well invented the Thanksgiving holiday. I encourage you to read about her on Wikipedia.

This simple, attractive, and delicious version is superior to the familiar tinned variety in every way except convenience, and it's not so inconvenient to make, either.

The flavor is tart, sweet, rich, and complex. This is good enough to enjoy with many roasted or grilled meats at any time of year, and because it molds so well, it can ornament a fancy holiday table.

Sausages, Peppers, and Onions

Italian Sausages, Peppers, and OnionsThis is a classic outside of Fenway Park on game day and at countless other public and family events across the Bay State and New England. It's easy, cheap, and a great crowd-pleaser.

The secret to success here is the perfection of each ingredient. The sausages are the star, so they have to be great - cooked through and with crispy skins, the melted fat saved for the important work ahead. The onions and peppers work best cooked separately or serially. Red and green peppers are a great combination but you can do fine with all green peppers or with whatever your garden/CSA share gives you. A proper New England bun is great, but this works well on pasta too.  

Viren's Kachumber Salad

Kachumber SaladI used to make this refreshing summer salad with my friend and co-worker Viren before he returned to Gujarat, India. It's a great burst of summertime flavor, with just summer-fresh tomato and cucumber, maybe a little onion, and salt and pepper. No oil or vinegar are needed. The contrasting colors look like little gems, and the flavors are great together. 

There are many ways to make a Kachumber Salad, and many of my Indian colleagues had other ideas. I'll call this one Viren's Kachumber Salad because I learned it from him.  

Bosom Caresser


Bosom Caresser Cocktail, classic

With a name like Bosom Caresser, I could only resist so long. It's not that I have anything against caressing bosoms, should the opportunity arise, but I thought it must be something trendy, relying on a silly name to get attention in a crowded market. Except nobody knows this one anymore. Research was called for.

The recipes for the Bosom Caresser fall into two very different groups, a complex interesting version with an egg yolk (I think this is the older version) and then a much simpler version recorded in Mr. Boston and published in many places online. In both cases it is a sweet cocktail, but in the first instance it is sweet like a great dessert, and in the second it's just sweet and boring. 

The top image here is what I believe to be the classic recipe, with the egg yolk, documented here. It's not a beautiful drink, but it's an experience!

Bosom Caresser, Mr Boston's simple version

The bottom image is the simpler version in the Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide, made of 2:2:1 brandy, madeira, and triple sec, and much too sweet and simple to be taken seriously alongside the other version. 

The old version is made with egg yolk. We don't see a lot of egg yolk recipes these days, but there are plenty of them in the books, often called the Royal something-or-other. For example, there's a Clover Club Cocktail and a Royal Clover Club, the latter being distinguished by the addition of an egg yolk.

Roasted Summer Squash

Roasted Summer Squash

Here's an easy and tasty way to use the ton of zucchini and summer squash that arrive this time of year. 

All you do is cut the squash into serving size pieces, dress with olive oil, salt, and whatever seasonings will go well with the final dinner. Then roast at high temperature until it's ready.

I served it here with roast pork, and it's a great accompaniment to roast meats, but it's also good on its own, or even cold as a picnic dish.  


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