Eeks, did this Mixology Monday fall into a busy time for me. Fortunately, host Natalie over at The Liquid Muse picked pairings as the theme, and since eating and drinking are two of the things I actually make time for in my day, it shouldn’t be too hard to put something together.
Despite my earlier assertions to the contrary, I didn’t do a lot of advance planning for this pairing. I did do a lot of advance thinking and worrying, but when it came down to it, I was just too damn busy this weekend to make a special trip to the store for one of the more ambitious dishes I had in mind. So, I took one of the standard easy meals we occasionally have around here, and made up a cocktail on the fly that I hoped would work well.
And y’know, I think I got lucky. Usually my free-form cocktails kinda suck — they’re either as dull and uninspiring as your cousin who works at the tire store, or they’re such a rude mishmash of flavors that they could be used as grounds for divorce, if I hadn’t learned long ago to stop using my spouse as a guinea pig unless the drink actually had some merit. I’m not saying the drink is all the way there, mind you — I’d like to mix one again sometime, and see if the drink keeps its form, or if I was just caught up in the novelty of it — but when the glass was plonked down next to the plate, it all worked out okay.
Here’s what I did: one of the dishes we keep on hand for easy and tasty mealtimes is salmon kedgeree. While it looks Indian at first blush, I think kedgeree owes more to the English tradition of take-away curry than it does to anything native to the subcontinent. Fortunately, we use some nice Alaska salmon — I think coho was what we had on hand this week — to liven up the dish.
Kedgeree has a pretty mild flavor, but the mishmash of mango and tomato chutneys and a potent lime pickle that I festoon about the top of my bowl really bring it to life. For me, this dish mainly acts as a chutney-and-pickle-delivery vehicle, so I needed a drink that would accomplish a couple of things. First, it couldn’t be too high in alcohol — otherwise, the whole experience would be just too intense. Second, it needed to be fairly mellow, to contrast with the sparkle of flavors I have going on in the bowl, but it also needs some complementary aspect to tie it to the food. Finally, it needed some special little sump’n, to give it some life of its own, and create a unique identity.
Raiding the liquor cabinet and grabbing a few recent favorites, I came up with two closely related drinks. Being crap at the whole naming thing, I’ll just list the recipes here; should I feel they’re worthwhile to come back to, I’ll expend the effort to come up with suitable monickers.
Trial drink #1
- 2 ounces Hidalgo Napoleon amontillado sherry
- 1 ounce Canton ginger liqueur
- 2 dashes Fee’s orange bitters
- 1 barspoon Herradura reposado tequila
Stir with ice & strain into chilled glass; no garnish
Trial drink #2
- as above, except instead of the tequila, substitute 1 barspoon Purkhart Pear Williams eau de vie
While the first drink paired better with the kedgeree, I think the second drink had greater merit for standing on its own as a cocktail. The sherry has a lovely mellow, dry and nutty flavor, and the Canton contributes a subtle ginger burn, without much added sweetness. The spirit in these cases is mainly a flavoring agent; the reposado blended more seamlessly with the sherry, but the pear brandy version had a nice, fruity character, while the eau de vie contributed zero sweetness.
Probably not the most adventurous pairing this week, but hey — it worked, and sometimes that’s all you need. I would have taken pictures, but that would have meant putting down my fork and glass, and some days that’s just asking too much.
Head on over to Natalie’s place to see what other folks are up to this week.
* and, for the kedgeree, if you want to play along. Serves 4, unless the kids decide not to eat it — you never know around here — in which case you have some nice leftovers:
preheat oven to 425 F
put in roasting pan and cover with foil:
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 2 lime leaves or grated zest of one lime
- 1 to 1.5 pounds salmon fillets
Bake about 15 minutes, until salmon is tender. Remove salmon, and save the liquid.
In a big pan with a cover, heat over medium
- 1 T butter
- 1-2 T olive oil
Add one finely chopped onion; cook until soft. Add:
- 3/4 teaspoon coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon tumeric
Continue cooking until the onion is translucent and looks really nice. Add
- 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
Stir around for a couple of minutes; it should start smelling pretty interesting. Then add the reserved salmon cooking liquid, and enough water to make 3 1/2 cups. Stir, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, or until rice is soft.
Once rice is done, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a clean dish towel, then replace the lid and let it sit for a few minutes. Flake the salmon, and add to the rice, along with
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- juice and zest of one lime
- a few drops of fish sauce
Stir gently and serve with lime wedges, maybe a scoop of plain yogurt and chutneys and pickles out the wazoo. Don’t forget a salad or some other veg on the side.