Monday, February 28, 2011

A Bitter Spritzer

a bitter parade
A while back a friend and I were lamenting a crappy Manhattan. I believe my rant was something along the lines of how there was too much Vermouth and not enough bitters, and she came up with the brilliant idea of carrying a small bottle of Angostura in her purse for emergencies. While I haven't gone quite that far (and I'm half sure she was joking), I do think the bitters family needs more attention in the home cocktail arena.

Celery bitters

For example: celery bitters by Scrappy's. Excellent with gin or in a Bloody Mary or just about anything in the warmer months. Kind of expensive, but worth it. If you buy it at The Boston Shaker in Davis Square, they'll probably let you try the chocolate flavor, too.

orange bitters

Then there's Regan's Orange, concocted by Gary Regan in the 90s since he couldn't find an orange bitters he liked. Not as expensive as Scrappy's, and more widely available, too. It's great in the aforementioned Manhattan or anything with whiskey, really. But most bitters are good in a way you might not expect.


Chez moi (sorry, we started Classical French cuisine in school today) we like a drop or two of bitters over ice, topped with seltzer. It's tasty and a little special, you know? Plus the seltzer bottle makes such a satisfying FWoooooSHHHH! when you screw in the CO2 cartridge.

Floating slice

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Celery and Potato Soup with Tarragon Yogurt Swirl

Celery and potato soup

Did you see Grey's Anatomy last week? One character is cooking for another and she says she's adding tarragon, even though she has no idea what tarragon tastes like, but that adding tarragon makes you sound like you know what you're doing.

[Aside: Yes, I still watch Grey's, and don't you judge me. Did you know that there are people out there writing Grey's fan fiction? I didn't know until I googled the tarragon quote.]

And that's the thing about tarragon; it's sort of a tricky herb to use. If you can figure it out, you will definitely look like you know what you're doing. It tastes a little licorice-y, like fennel, but not nearly as strong as a black jellybean. Floral, fragrant, interesting. Goes very well in chicken salad, and in this soup, specifically in that it makes potatoes and celery (cheap-o pantry staple type vegetables) taste like a million bucks.

Celery and Potato Soup with Tarragon Yogurt Swirl
Adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 4-6

6 green onions or scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 lb celery, chopped, including leaves
1 lb white skinned potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1 - 2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon white or black pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice (you may only need a few drops, really)
1 cup cubed bread (sourdough or baguette or whatever you have)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped as fine as you can

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pot and saute the green onions over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Add the celery and celery leaves, potatoes and celery seeds, saute another minute, then add the chicken or vegetable broth. Bring soup to a boil then reduce heat to medium and simmer until all the veg is soft, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tarragon swirl: mix the yogurt and fresh tarragon in a small bowl, set aside. Toss the bread cubes with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a little fresh black pepper, then toast the cubes in a low (300 degree) oven or toaster oven until crispy, set aside.

When the potatoes and celery are tender, shut off the heat and puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender, or puree it in batches in a traditional blender. Put it back on the heat to warm up if it's cooled down, and season with salt and pepper and a few drops of lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped with tarragon cream and croutons.