Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I want a Pimm's Cup.

Last night, I fell in love with a bottle of gin.

I've had love affairs with vodka and spiced rum in the past, the former ending not so pleasantly, and the latter currently in the stages of "I'm just not that into you anymore."

Beer remains a constant companion, but usually in small doses, preferably served with a slice of something citrusy and a bag of pork rinds, and enjoyed outside, in the heat, on a porch.

I've stayed far away from whiskey, seeing with my own two eyes how it does bad things to good people. And a bottle of gin, when consumed almost in its entirety by a certain houseguest, has been known to lead to broken apple corers and a urine-stained bath mat.

Despite that last unfortunate experience, I bought a bottle last night. Technically, the first actual bottle I got was over the weekend, after I suddenly declared "I want a Pimm's Cup" while driving home from the mall with Murdo on Saturday, and because he never opposes a good drink (or any drink, really), he took me to the liquor store shortly thereafter.

Pimm's No. 1 Cup is a British gin-based liqueur flavored with hints of herbs and citrus. I first read about it over at Orangette, and while I wasn't too interested in the drink recipe itself, I liked the way the bottle looked and the way Pimm's sounded, so I stored the name away for later. Then I heard someone order a Pimm's Cup in an episode of "Boardwalk Empire," and Murdo remembers the drink from an episode of "Californication" (yes, we watch a lot of TV), and if the drink managed to make its way from the Atlantic City Prohibition era to Venice Beach, California, circa 2009, well, I wanted to try it. This recent post over at Shutterbean sealed the deal.

The recipe on the back of the bottle mixes Pimm's with ginger ale and a lemon twist, and it's a very good drink -- crisp, refreshing, tasty. You can't even really tell you're drinking alcohol, and not in the way that can get you in trouble, but in the way that there actually isn't that much alcohol in the drink to begin with. Which is my main problem with it.

So last night I bought a bottle of Tanqueray, and I added the gin with the Pimm's, and had two glasses of the stuff, and then slept very, very well. The shot of gin adds an extra kick that says, "Oh yeah, this is a grownup drink," at least to me anyway, the girl who has been ordering Captain and Diets for so long it's kind of embarrassing.

I don't have a photo of the drink to share with you. Sorry. But I figure you already know what a cocktail looks like, so I don't feel that bad. Instead, I'll leave you with these photos that have nothing to do with cocktails, and everything to do with the Filipino food (adobo ribs, fresh lumpia, beef mechado, blue crabs) and blackberry almond tart (made by Jenny) that I ate over the weekend with my family. Yeah, it was a good weekend.

But first, the recipe:

Pimm's Cup
This is more like a combination of Pimm's Cup and Pimm's Turbo, which mixes Pimm's No. 1 with gin and lemonade. But Pimm's Cup is so much more fun to say. You can find more Pimm's recipes here.

1.5 ounces Pimm's No. 1 Cup
1.5 ounces Tanqueray gin
7-Up or ginger ale
lemon slice

Fill a tall glass halfway with ice. Add the Pimm's and the gin. Fill the rest of the glass with 7-up or ginger ale. Garnish with a lemon slice. Drink it up. Repeat as needed.

ribs adobo
fresh lumpia
beef mechado
blackberry almond tart

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Balsamic chicken pasta, and reflections.

balsamic chicken pasta with mushrooms

Right now, all I can think about is how much I love this open window next to me. It's about 8:00 in the evening, and the sun just went down, but there is light enough to see the trees outside, with their still just-budding leaves, finally brought back to life with a jolt of sunshine after what seems like weeks of rain. There is a breeze -- not too strong, or cold, or warm, but just the right temperature that begs for an open window. I have missed this.

I can hear the cars going by, each one slowing at the speed bump located right in front of my porch. I wonder where those cars are going. Something I've always wondered about, mostly on the road, in the passenger's seat, looking out the window and watching the cars pass. In every car, there is someone on their way home, or going somewhere new, or somewhere familiar, but somewhere. It's kind of the same as looking into open, lit windows at night, and wondering what stories are playing out inside. The people passing by tonight can look through my lit window and see our kitchen. There is half an onion in a Ziploc bag on the counter, along with a few pairs of sunglasses, a yellow dish towel, a graphic novel, a can opener, and small bottle of ear medication for the cat. I am too lazy to straighten up right now. I've been lazy all day.

I wasn't planning on writing, since I didn't have any ideas for what to write about, or what to cook. I took a nap in the middle of the day. I woke up and felt I needed to post something. To make something, and to write something. I had an hour and a half or so left of good natural light for taking photos, so I went in the kitchen and got to work.

balsamic chicken

I made Shanna's balsamic chicken, not really sure what I would do with it once ready, but it's a recipe I've had bookmarked ever since she posted it nearly a year and a half ago. Has it really been that long? Shanna's engaged now (!!!) and currently planning a wedding, and I thought about that while I cooked the chicken, and about engagements and wedding planning and being a bride. How it really is a roller coaster ride, with scary drops and thrilling anticipation and an exhilaration that continues to cling even after it's all over. I'm excited for her.

When the chicken was nearly done, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil. There were mushrooms and fresh parsley in the fridge. Perfect. I made balsamic chicken pasta with mushrooms, and took photos of the final plate on my porch. It was good.

balsamic chicken pasta with mushrooms

It's about 9:00, and the window is still open. The birds have stopped chirping, and there is still a car that passes every few minutes, on its way to somewhere. One of those will be Murdo soon, coming home from work. I can't see the trees anymore. Instead, just reflections of my kitchen in the window, the refrigerator door covered with photos of nieces and cats, Post-Its with addresses and notes, Burger King coupons, wedding prints. And me, writing.

I've been needing to write something. Getting thoughts on the page can be such a long sigh of relief. I feel better now.

Balsamic Chicken Pasta with Mushrooms
(adapted from AllRecipes, via Food Loves Writing)
This pasta is light, but flavorful. I'm not usually big on parsley, but I think it's really important here. Also, some people are weird about reusing marinade, but I think if you boil it just enough, the bacteria gets killed and it's safe to eat. I ate it, and I'm still alive. 

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
dried Italian seasonings
salt and pepper
1/2 large onion, sliced
olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
handful of baby bella mushrooms, about 4 oz, sliced thick
fresh parsley, chopped

Whisk together the first 5 ingredients in a bowl, along with salt and pepper, and add the chicken. Let marinate for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook a few minutes until just translucent and soft. Remove the chicken from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and add to the pan. Cook the chicken until they start to brown and are no longer pink inside, about 7 minutes per side, stirring the juices around ever few minutes.

Add the rest of the marinade to the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes, bringing the sauce to a boil and letting thicken slightly. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside in a serving dish, and let the sauce thicken to a consistency that makes you happy. Pour sauce over the chicken, cover dish loosely with foil and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.

In the same pan used for the chicken, heat olive oil in the pan. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add cooked pasta to the pan. Add a few scoops of the chicken to the pan, along with some sauce, and toss to combine. Reserve the rest of the chicken for another use. Serve pasta with fresh parsley.

Makes about 2 servings. Or, you could double the pasta and the mushrooms, use all of  the chicken/sauce, and make 4 servings.