Sunday, July 9, 2017

"Cooking With Spirits" - Martinis In Suspension (Jell-O) for National Martini Day 2017

Date I made this recipe:  June 19, 2017  - National Martini Day

Cooking With Spirits by Ruth Vendley Neumann
Published by Reilly & Lee
© 1961
Purchased at Curious Book Shop, East Lansing, MI
Recipe:  Martinis In Suspension – p. 52

I am a gal who knows what she wants and what she wants in a beverage when out for dinner and drinks is simple:  a dry gin martini, up, with (preferably) pimento-stuffed olives.  The choice of gin depends on where I am and what's available, but favorites include, in order of "toxicity," Tanqueray, Hendricks, Blue Coat (made on the east coast) and local favorite Gunner Ghost which is really paint thinner in disguise.  Gunner Ghost is 114 proof or 57% alcohol – whoa! I save that one for special occasions.  Bombay Sapphire used to be my absolute "go to" for years and years until a few years ago when I started getting headaches every single time I drank it.  It didn't seem to matter if I ate or not, or whether I drank copious amounts of water which I did.  I suspect it has one "botanical" too many as I have sensitivity to those things; "Nature" is not my friend.

And call me picky, but a proper martini is not a proper martini unless and until I see a toothpick skewered with small pimento-stuffed olives resting in the gin bath.  I will accept large green olives sans pimento but rather reluctantly, and I will also accept green olives with pits (as served in a few favorite restaurants) but small pimento is what I grew up with and I want what I want.

Furthermore, and I've said this before:  gorgonzola-stuffed olives are an abomination and are completely and totally unacceptable and yes, I will make the server return to the bar to fetch me a proper martini.  This hasn't happened in a while which is good, but there was a time when these olives were all the rage in martinis  No.  I am also not fond of a lemon twist in my drink and it's gin, not vodka, period, end of story.

Now the good people associated with the National Martini Day (if they exist—they may not) did not give any guidance to what kind of a martini to make but I have no doubt they envisioned everyone the world over, even expats, making the standard, liquid version.  Could I have made a liquid martini?  In my sleep!  In fact, I enjoy a martini every day during the cocktail hour.  It's just how I roll.  I thought though, that it would be more fun to cook something with gin, and so selected Cooking with Spirits to do the job and it did it admirably.   Fifty-two pages in, I found this spectacular dish -  Martinis In Suspension – and we were ready to roll.

Do we not love this title? Translated, this 1961 recipe for Martinis In Suspension is really an early attempt at a Jell-O shot only fancier. And the Jell-O comes with olives – how sophisticated!  I hear the applause of the good people associated with National Martini Day – if they exist – golf clapping at the brilliance of it all!
Not only does this concoction have a great name but the recipe is ridiculously simple:  mix a little lemon gelatin with unflavored gelatin, add your desired mix of gin and vermouth and when that mixture is slightly chilled, insert your skewered olives.   You can, if you want, make a salad garnish to surround the upturned martini glass (ingredients and directions below) but nah—we concentrated our efforts on making sure the mixture itself was sound and it was, and we loved it.  In fact, I may have to repeat this dish every year because when something works, it works.

Now if you like gin but would rather not make the suspended martinis, consider also "Stuffed Celery" (p. 23) with blue cheese and gin, and "Cold Curried Shrimp" (p. 29), also containing gin.  There are likely more gin recipes that followed but once I found what I didn't know I was looking for, I stopped!

If gin is not to your liking, be not afraid because this book has a ton of recipes from soup to nuts made with everything from beer to bourbon and beyond.  Had I not been so singularly-focused, I saw many recipes that likely would have been fantastic. 

The only downside or challenge if you will to this book is that you won't be able to look up a spirit by name (e.g. vodka [recipes] or brandy [recipes]) as neither the table of contents nor the index breaks things out by spirit.  Instead, here are your Table of Content choices :
  • Spirited Coffee 'Round the World
  • Spirited Appetizers and Cocktail Dips
  • Spirited Soups
  • Spirited Salads and Salad Dressings
  • Spirited Fish and Shellfish
  • Spirited Meats
  • Spirited Relishes and "Window Dressings" for Meats and Fishes
  • Spirited Poultry
  • Spirited Egg and Cheese Dishes
  • Spirited Pasta and Rice
  • Spirited Vegetables and Vegetable Casseroles
  • Spirited Sauces and Gravies for Meats, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables
  • Spirited Breads, Waffles, Pancakes and Popovers
  • Spirited Cakes, Frostings, and Fillings
  • Spirited Pies, Cobblers, and Tarts
  • Spirited Desserts (Gelatin and Refrigerator Desserts; Custards and Puddings; Dessert Sauces)
  • Spirited Fruits for Cocktails and Desserts
  • Cookies and Confections

Now then readers, did you spot an error in the above list?  Note that every chapter titled begins with the word "Spirited" except for Cookies and Confections.  I thought that was hilarious and so of course I had to double-check and am quiet relieved to tell you that cookies and confections are indeed loaded with booze.  In fact, page 199 contains a recipe for "Cognac Butter Cookies," and I think we can all agree that cognac is a spirit, no?  (A very good spirit!).  Two words: editorial error!

If I used this cookbook again, in addition to the above-mentioned cookies, I might make  also "Mexican Arroz Con Pollo with Beer and Tequila" (p. 121), "Cheese and Mushroom Soufflé" made with Dry Sherry (p. 127), or a "Sweet Potato Casserole" with Curacao (p. 157) because they all sounded delicious.  Frankly, most of the book sounded delicious.  Potentially deadly perhaps, but delicious and who doesn't like "delicious?"  That said, do remember that this is adult Jell-O so perhaps it's best if you eat this after the kiddies have gone to bed?  Even then, be warned that these pack a punch!

This concludes my National Martini Day 2017 cookbook and recipe review report.   I almost missed the whole thing (a childhood friend tipped me off), but then again, every day in my house is martini day so there you go!

Martinis In Suspension (Gin and Vermouth) with a Garnish – serves 4
For the Martinis In Suspension
1 T. unflavored gelatin
1 T lemon gelatin
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
¾ cup of your favorite martini mix (or ½ cup gin and ¼ cup dry vermouth)*
1 cup boiling water
1 T. lemon juice
Stuffed green olives
For the Salad Garnish
3 cups very finely shredded cabbage
2 T. white vinegar
¼ cup dry vermouth
2 T. granulated sugar, or more, to taste
1 tsp. salt
White pepper to taste
Few dashes of Tabasco
Small stuffed olives

*Ann's Note:  Oh dear god, ¼ cup dry vermouth, what?  No.  No properly made martini on this planet contains that much vermouth ever.  Since I made a half recipe, I added "some" vermouth for good measure, emphasis on "some" as in about an eyedropper full.  But that is my martini preference not yours, so if you want to add that much vermouth, by all means do it.

Combined gelatins, salt, and sugar, then dissolve them in martini mixture.  Add boiling water and lemon juice and mix thoroughly.  Pour into very lightly buttered cocktail glasses (for easy removal at serving time).  When aspic has partly thickened, press a stuffed olive into each glass so that it will remain suspended part way down.  Ann's Note:  "One" olive?  Surely, they jest!  So. Not. Happening.  I put about four olives on a toothpick and stuck that into the mixture instead and it looked exactly as a martini should only it was made of Jell-O. 

Chill until very firm.  To service, run a thin sharp knife around molds, then unmold each in the center of a salad plate; leave the glasses in place, upside down in the center of the plate.  Encircle each inverted martini with a ring of the following:

To Make the Salad Garnish
Marinate the cabbage in a mixture of all other ingredients, except olives.  Drain thoroughly, then make a wreath of it around the martini glasses.  Garnish here and there with the stuffed cocktail olives. Have these martini salads in place as guests are seated.  Then, when the oh's and ah's begin to subside, remove glasses.  This makes for a really dramatic presentation of your edible martinis.

By the way, and for the first time ever - the finished product!  I've had those plastic martini glasses for decades now - aren't they fun?

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