Ah Friday evenings… a wonderful time to have friends over for a lovely, casual dinner. I plotted a simple menu featuring many of my recent Bourbon and Brown Sugar favorites. We would start with warm Manchego and Rosemary Crackers, and one of my favorite cocktails – Sidecars. Then, we’d have the Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad, a dreamy new beef stew I spotted online, and simple caramel and pecan sundaes for dessert. What could possibly go wrong? (You should not be surprised that the answer is “lots can go wrong” if you’ve been following me during the past few months.)
I had been drooling over the Smitten Kitchen’s Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew since Deb published the recipe a few weeks ago. I couldn’t wait to make it. So, went to the butcher, purchased a few pounds of beef, assembled the rest of the ingredients, and started happily cooking. The smells of bacon, onions, shallots, and beef wafted through the house as I cranked a Spotify mix titled “French Dinner Party Tunes.” Ah what a wonderful life.
And then out of nowhere I had the realization. It was Friday. During Lent. I had ashes on my forehead not 48 hours previously, and I had completely spaced. Our guests were Catholic too. Oops. (Catholics aren’t supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent, you see. We’re supposed to be fasting and eating fish, not slurping down bowls of cognac-infused beef. I know better, I teach at a Catholic school, for heaven’s sake.) I looked at the gorgeous stew, thought about our new Argentine Pope (Who must love beef, right? He’s from Buenos Aires…) and thought a guy who says: “Who am I to judge?” wouldn’t be overly fussed by my meaty Lenten lapse. I finished the stew and resolved to simply not mention Lent to our guests… perhaps they would forget too.
So I moved on with the dinner… the table was set, the cracker dough prepared, stew bubbling away. Still a wonderful life. With about an hour until the guests arrived, I started the shaving the brussels sprouts with the mandoline. May I admit, my brother had been very clear about how careful you must be when using this tool with such tiny little veggies… but I was rushing, and disaster struck. I sliced my thumb. Badly. I will spare you the gruesome details, but suffice to say it wasn’t pretty.
After tending to the wound, I quickly discovered for all practical purposes I was rendered one-handed, and it is near impossible to finish a dinner in this state. Michael’s role in prepping for guests is usually simply to build a fire in the fireplace, but he was pressed into service in the kitchen. I tasked the poor guy mercilessly for half-an-hour or so to get the meal finished off. (Nice role reversal there.) No one would starve.
It is possible, however, to make cocktails one-handed, and I can’t remember a time in recent memory when I needed a cocktail more than I did last night. Oh, how I love this Sidecar recipe. Thank you Ina Garten… again. My recommendation is to shake your Sidecars in cocktail shaker and serve them in sugar-rimmed martini glasses with a few drunken dried cherries in the bottom of the glass. (She suggests serving them in highball glasses as an option, but martini glasses are so much more fun.)
The stew was divine (go make it now – as it’s not Friday anymore), our guests happily dove in and helped get dinner on the table, and the visit was an otherwise a smashing success. My culinary misadventures do make for good stories.
I will likely be offline for a bit, while my mangled thumb heals. It is much better today thank you, but it will need to be kept dry while it heals, so lots of dish washing is out. (a side-effect of compulsive cooking and blogging, don’t you know.) Or I could simply keep playing mixologist while I heal…
Now that’s an idea worth contemplating…
Sidecars with Drunken Cherries
- Juice of 1 lemon for sugaring the glasses
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup dried cherries
- 6 ounces good Cognac (VS not VSOP), divided
- 3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
- 3 ounces Grand Marnier liqueur
To sugar the glass rims, pour the juice of 1 lemon into a shallow bowl and put the sugar on a small plate. Dip the rim of 2 martini glasses first in the lemon juice and then in the sugar. Set them aside to dry.
In a small bowl, combine the dried cherries with 2 ounces of the Cognac and microwave on high for 60 seconds. Set aside.
Combine the 3 ounces of lemon juice with the remaining 4 ounces of Cognac, the Grand Marnier, and 1 teaspoon of the marinated cherry liquid. Fill a cocktail shaker three-quarters full with ice and pour in the cocktail mixture. Shake the mixer for a full 30 seconds (it’s longer than you think!)
Place a few of the drunken cherries at the bottom of each glass, and pour the mixture into the prepared glasses.