IMG_7477Ah 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

Recipe from Ina Garten’s Foolproof


  • 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
  • Ice

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.

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7 Responses to "Sidecars with Drunken Cherries"
  1. “What a thrill, my thumb instead of an onion,” as Sylvia Plath once wrote after such an incident. As you may know, my friend, I too had a similar mishap a couple of years back, though in my case the offending object was not a mandolin but an immersion blender, and it was my finger not my thumb. I’m still here to tell the tale and you will be too. Hang in there (so to speak). Sending good vibes your way. Keep drinking those Sidecars!

    • Oh boy, an immersion blender sounds so much worse… I had forgotten about that! As my brother said: You only do that once. One time. Thanks so much for the kind words… you are the best! (And yes, I think it might be cocktail hour soon – time for another Sidecar!)

  2. Christine Campe-Price says:

    Me too. It was Christmas and I was slicing potatoes for a gratin with my trusty and very sharp mandolin. Dinner was delayed by a couple of hours while I visited urgent care and my pinky is forever lopsided; but it has become part of the family lore. Remember that Christmas when mom sliced off part of her finger?

  3. Stefan says:

    I, too, lost the tip of my thumb to an onion (well, to the knife, that is). Yes, the mandoline is a fearsome tool, but indispensable. I refuse to let it intimidate me (famous last words). Wishing you and your thumb a quick recovery, and look forward to your return!

  4. It’s quite amazing how many of my favorite cooks have had a mishap with some sort of exceptionally sharp kitchen tool… Thanks for the good wishes!

  5. Stephanie says:

    Ahhhh, Mary Beth. It sounds like your first week of Lent included a Tokyo Friday. We don’t abstain from meat on Fridays here. (???) New for us!

    I hope your thumb is on the mend. My first and only dalliance with a mandolin resulted in a similar outcome. Happy healing and hoping for a speedy recovery…your Bourbon fans await! Stephanie

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