Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Boston Tea Parties - Recipes from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston" - Celebrating the 242nd anniversary of the Boston Tea Party

Date I made this recipe:  December 16, 2015 – Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party

Boston Tea Parties – Recipes from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Published by:  MFA Publications, a division of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
ISBN:  0-87846-5596-6
Purchased from Barnes and Noble Used Books, Roseville, MN
Recipe:  Tangy Bourbon Mixed Nuts – p. 158

I must say, the artwork on the cover of this book – artist Mary Cassat's "The Tea," cracks me up.  I mean, look at how refined these ladies look, how proper (please note the pinky pose).  I'm pretty sure the Boston Tea Party– as in the tossing of tea over the sides of ships –  242 years ago, was not this refined.

I studied a lot of history back in the day, first in high school and then in college (it was my second minor), but you know, this is one of those events that didn't stick with me even though it should because without it, we wouldn't have separated from Britain and gained our independence a few years later.  At least I know that much even if specific details are sketchy.

What I do know for sure is that tea was involved.  The Brits do so love their tea, celebrating it daily.  There's your regular tea time (not to be confused with golf tee times), and then there's also high tea which I gather is a big event, featuring fancy sandwiches and fancy desserts and fancy whatnots and tea that is brewed the right way which is to say the British way of using scalding hot water and letting the tea steep.  The use of something so gauche and common Lipton's tea bags is highly frowned upon.

In the U.S., we have never been a nation of using scalding hot water, perhaps in defiance of the British rule, and after the famous McDonald's scalding hot coffee lawsuit, you would be hard pressed to find many restaurants that will do justice to a "cuppa."  And even coffee and tea establishments have dared to serve lukewarm tea and coffee which is a mortal sin (I'm pretty sure) given that's what they do all day.  In fact, the cups from one of the local places I frequent says "Our coffee is always hot" and I just want to impress upon them the danger in making false claims because my coffee is not always hot.  If it was, I wouldn't have a tongue left, but details, details.

I don't generally drink tea because it is hard to find decaffeinated tea that floats my boat out there in the world at large.  Sure, there are your herbal teas, but frankly drinking some of them is the equivalent of sucking on a rose bush and that won't do.  Recently though, I found some decaffeinated green tea and so have been drinking that from time to time although I can't say I do somersaults over it.  But then again, I'm the gal who grew up drinking Lipton so what do I know?

So anyway, here is your historical recap of the auspicious Boston Tea Party: three ships moored in the Boston Harbor lost their tea supplies in a taxation protest, the Boston Tea Party became famous as did "rogues" like Samuel Adams (he of beer fame!) and Paul Revere, our country embarked on a course of independence, Boston became famous for tea and lovely museums and beautiful scenery and eventually, the Boston Red Sox and the Green Monster, and all was well with the world.  I love it when things work out this way (although I am a lifelong Yankees fan – sorry, Boston).

Now then, in addition to tea recipes and instructions, this book contains recipes for tea sandwiches, tea breads, all kinds of sweets as well as a section for potpourri which is where I found this nut recipe.  I decided on something simple and nutty because having just put on our annual holiday bash, I was not in the mood to make (sandwich) spreads or sweet treats so these nuts seemed like a nice compromise.  All the recipes sounded good and looked pretty easy so if you are in a sandwich or sweet kind of mood, there are plenty of recipes from which to choose. 

And then there's the artwork – drawings, photos, clay figurines, etc. – that are fun to look at.  My favorite though, has to be the very unique tea table found on page 6.  The wooden table is carved into 16 resting spaces for a tea cup and saucer.  It looks like a pool table only smaller and without holes – very clever!  Plus, it's sort of the precursor to the cup holder in our cars so there's that. 

As to the making of the nut mixture, let's just say it was as rife with peril and injury.  First, let me share that while making some holiday cookies, I had to shell quite a few pistachios and a good portion of pistachios flew all over my kitchen while doing so.  I was quite peeved and vowed to buy them shelled ("Give me shelled or give me nothing") from now on.  Plus, I shredded a few fingernails and well that irks, doesn't it?

Weeks later, I made this recipe for mixed nuts and the recipe had two main steps.  First, I was to boil some water, add the nuts, then cook the nuts for 1 minute.  And then while I was boiling the water, I decided to start step 2 which was to reduce ¼ cup bourbon to 3 tablespoons and I did that, no problem. 

So I turned off my gas burner where the bourbon once boiled and then tried to add the nuts to the boiling water on the next burner, but my bag broke and nuts scattered all over the floor and all over the burner I had just turned off.  But I forgot this important detail and so started grabbing nuts off the burner and of course burned my hand in the process.  And then hopped up and down on top of the nuts that fell on the floor, thereby crunching them.  Meanwhile, the pot kept boiling away, just waiting for me to get my act together from my near-emergency.  It was a total comedy of errors moment if there ever was one.

So I stuck my hand under cold water for a couple of minutes (thankfully, it didn't blister) and then got a broom and swept the floor, then stuck the remaining nuts into the water, boiled them for a minute, took them off the stove, strained and drained them and then went to my computer to tell my good friends, The G's, the latest saga of Woman versus Nuts.  It's a TV show in the making.

Now then, if you survive the boiled nuts portion of our program, the rest of this recipe is easy.  You mix part of the coating (sugar, bourbon, Worcestershire sauce, Angostura bitters* and corn oil) with the nuts, bake that mixture for 35 minutes, then roll all that in cumin and cayenne pepper and salt and pepper.  And...done!

And now a few words about Angostura bitters.  A few drops of this concoction is added to drinks like Manhattans and since only a few drops are needed in drinks like that or recipes like this, I did not want to buy an entire bottle because I know it would sit and sit and sit.  Instead, I went online and found a recipe that most closely approximates what you need and will post it below.  Basically, you combine either rum or vodka with a few spices added to it and then some lemon or orange to add more flavor.  And I must say, it worked out pretty well and I saved myself a couple of bucks to boot!

And since the tea party was all about saving money in the form of no taxation, I think that is a fabulous way to show my support all these 242 years later.  I am just that kind of patriot.  And this is a really good mixed nut dish.

Enjoy your tea party!

Tangy Bourbon Mixed Nuts – Yield:  4 cups
1 pound unsalted assorted nuts
¼ cup bourbon
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon Angostura bitters* (Ann's Note:  see recipe below)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon corn oil
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

*To make your own bitters, take 1-2 tablespoons of vodka or rum and add a sprinkling of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and mace.  Then add finely diced lemon or orange peel, or, in the alternative, a splash of orange extract (I had this on hand).  The recipe I found also said to add finely diced prunes but I didn't have any.  If you are really in a pinch, you can just add more Worcestershire but I wanted to at least attempt to make this on my own and did.  (Recipe adapted from one I found on

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