A chance to win Mittie Hellmich's "Martini Deck"
When I recently posted on French National Cocktail Hour (June 7th, this year), a friend of mine posted on Facebook, reminding me that—quel coincidence—June 7th happens to be her birthday.
That’s all the more interesting, because this friend is none other than Mittie Hellmich, the author of the fabulous Ultimate Bar Book, which was published by Chronicle Books in 2006 and remains a best-seller in the cocktail book genre. (With over 1,000 recipes, plus all kinds of info on spirits and mixers, it truly is the comprehensive tome on cocktails. It’s also really handsome-looking, and makes a great Father’s Day gift, by the way.)
How perfect is it that this cocktail pro’s birthday falls on French National Cocktail Hour day! Sadly, since Mittie lives in Oregon, and I live in Amerique profonde, we won’t be raising a glass together in person.
So, I’ll have to do it virtually. To celebrate Mittie Hellmich’s birthday—as well as French National Cocktail Hour—I am giving away one set of her lovely “Martini Deck,” a box of cute little cards (50 in all) that offer all kinds of fun recipes for martinis, both classic and one-of-a-kind.
How to enter? Well, I’m always looking for more “likes” on Facebook, but I’d also like to hear more from those who already like the Chez Bonne Femme page. So, to enter, you can do one of the following:
1. Like Chez Bonne Femme on Facebook (if you don’t already).
2. Post a link or description of a great cocktail recipe or apéritif you’d love to drink or serve in honor of the French National Cocktail Hour (post on the Chez Bonne Femme Facebook page.
3. Share a Chez Bonne Femme Facebook posting with one of your friends.
As always, I’ll use a randomizer to choose a winner.
Here are a couple of then-and-now photos to wish Mittie a happy birthday:
Cocktail book writer Mittie Hellmich (et moi), sometime in the 70s in Amerique profonde.
Me, Mittie Hellmich, and Dr. Cocktail (Ted Haigh) at the Parte des Anges gala in Cognac, France
My Lemon-Rosemary-Saffron Wings. Photo take by bloggiste extraodinaire, Mardi, at http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/. Reposted here with her permission.
Reason number 5,232 that France is my second-favorite country in the world (after my own, of course): What other country has a Ministry of Agriculture and Food that encourages everyone in the world to simply gather people and enjoy themselves? Now that’s a foreign policy!
For the past 8 years, the Ministry has deemed the first Thursday in May as French National Cocktail Hour (or Apéritif à la Française). You can throw any kind of party you want, but the idea is to simply have the sort of simple, casual gathering that the French have when they say, “come for an apéritif.”
After an apéritif or two, a few nibbles, lots of laughter and conversation, everyone heads their separate ways. Or, if everyone is having a fine old time, perhaps you’ll keep the pleasures going by heading out for dinner together. Or perhaps the cook in the family can rustle up something to eat (if it’s a smaller gathering). Heck, order pizza or takeout, if everyone’s having so much fun they don’t want to leave (yes, pizza delivery is very common in France).
You could also throw an apéritif dînatoire, which is a party meant pretty much to stand in for dinner. But if that’s too much work, stick with the apéritifs and just a few nibbles.
I’m putting together my menu now….I’ll post a complete menu in a week, but here are a few ideas:
Asparagus Cheese Tartlets--Cut into quarters for bite-size grazing
There's definitely going to be a bottle of Lillet around. Photo by Jonny Ho via Flickr.
I'll probably serve a savory tart or two, such as a Pissaladière or an Alsatian Bacon and Onion Tart. Photo by wfbakker2 via flickr.
Though it's also fun to serve French 75s! Photo by Richard Swearinger
If I turn my "apéritif" party into an "apéritif dinatoire," I might put out a few salads, like this French Lentil Salad with Shrimp. Photo by Richard Swearinger.
Or maybe a tabblouli salad with accompaniments. Photo by Richard Swearinger.
Of course, La Quercia prosciutto will be on the menu. It's made down the street from me and always pleases guests.
For more elaborate spreads, I always bring out something sweet, such as these Chocolate, Spiced, and Vanilla Madeleines. The little French teacakes are great finger foods for cocktail parties.
All the recipes are in my book; some of them are on this website. This menu isn’t set in stone yet—when I do have a menu put together, I’ll post it. Meanwhile, please let me know:
• Are you doing anything for French National Cocktail Hour? Tell me what you’ll serve!
• Do you have any recipes (or links to other recipes?) that you’d like to share for French National Cocktail hour? Please feel fee to post (or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll be happy to post a link to your recipe (and if you can provide me with a photo, even better!).
Strawberry-Caramel Crêpes with Mascarpone Cream. It's winter, so use pineapple instead of strawberries. Yum.
What a fine time I had here in Omaha yesterday. The Alliance Francaise hosted me for a chat, and they are a great group of bon vivants, who totally tap into the easygoing, approachable, convivial side of all things French. It was just great hanging out in a library basement full of people with so much in common.
Next, I went on to do a demo/book-signing at Williams-Sonoma. I was all set to show everyone how easy it is to make crêpes, but—zut alors—my crêpe batter had frozen (maudit hotel refrigerator!). I thought I was doooooooomed, but I did what everyone does in a pinch: Rolled with it. I simply thawed the batter in the microwave, whirred it in the blender to resmooth it out, and went on with the show. I was shocked to find that it all cooked up just fine, and the crêpes tasted as good as if they’d been made with a fresh-made batter.
Of course, the batter had only frozen one night, but I’d imagine that it would keep in the freezer a week or two. In fact, once I’m home from “the ‘ha,” (my newly coined hipster term for Omaha), I’m going to test out this plan.
Ode to Omaha. You will always be remembered by me as the city where I learned you could freeze crêpe batter. Photo by David Silver via Flickr.
As you know, I’ve been a huge fan of freezing crêpes once they’ve been cooked, but have never tried freezing the batter. Somewhere in my food-science research I did all those years for the past three editions of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, I learned that raw egg mixtures generally don’t freeze well….well, crêpe batter seems to be an exception (and why writers like myself often use weasel words like “generally”).
So, here are my preliminary directions in case you want to try it out:
1. Make my crêpe batter.
2. Make as many crêpes as you want to eat that day.
3. Pour remaining crêpe batter into an appropriately sized freezer container—you need a little headspace, but you don’t want a lot of excess room in the container (excess air is an enemy of all things frozen).
4. Freeze. As I mentioned, I only froze 24 hours, but I bet up to 2 weeks would b fine. (Remember, freezing inhibits bacteria growth, so issues with freezing aren’t about food safety but about quality.)
5. Thaw the batter in the microwave*. Whir the mixture in the blender to smooth out any lumps. Allow the mixture to stand until some of those bubbles have subsided.
6. Cook as directed.
P.S.: The recipe for the Strawberry-Caramel Crêpes with Mascarpone Cream Filling, pictured above, is right here. And if you want to know how to freeze crêpes once they’re made, click here.
* You can also thaw overnight in the refrigerator, but never thaw at room temperature, okay?