Discover more from Dinner: A Love Story
Great grilled chicken (for real!), your new favorite daiquiri, and mud cake for Rosa
Greetings eaters and readers! I send this dispatch from spectacular Sicily where a dozen Dinner: A Love Story readers and I have been exploring since Sunday. I will report back in detail next week, but I didn’t want you to think I forgot about you back home, so here are Three (Quick) Things I’d like you to know about this week.
1. How to take grilled chicken from good to great
Grilled chicken breasts get a bad rap for drying out on the grates, but with a little help from marinating, it can be the best thing at the barbecue. For my Cup of Jo column, I wrote about three of my favorites: yogurt-spiced, Vietnamese-style, and a basic lemon-and-herb. And yes, they work on thighs, too. (P.S. Subscribers, don’t forget you have access to a complete Memorial Day Menu with Shopping List.)
2. The Hemingway Daiquiri
If you’ve ever been intimidated by the idea of mixing up a drink for friends (or for yourself), you’ll like Michael Ruhlman’s new book, The Book of Cocktail Ratios: The Surprising Simplicity of Classic Cocktails. Here, Ruhlman, the man behind a reading-and-eating newsletter I love (and author of so many incredibly instructive cookbooks that you’ve probably owned through the years) shows how most of the drinks we love are based on formulas that can be traced back to five classic cocktails…
Meaning, if you learn a few basic ratios and understand the way ingredients relate to each other, then a whole world of drink-making will open up to you. (The cover gives you a little sense of this.) Take the Hemingway, for instance, which is essentially a daiquiri — it just uses grapefruit juice for the citrus element (instead of lime juice) and the maraschino liqueur for the sweetness (in place of simple syrup)…and then rum of course. That is the drink I batched and brought to a party back in March, and also the recipe Michael was nice enough to let me share.
This recipe below makes one drink, but can be batched. The stopper bottle shown above is holding six drinks. Jim Meehan, of Meehan’s Bartender Manual, added absinthe to the Hemingway Daiquiri to make it a cocktail called The Sun Also Rises and that is the version you see here.
2 ounces rum (I used white rum)
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 teaspoon absinthe
3/4 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
1 lime wheel or grapefruit twist (optional)
Combine the rum, maraschino liqueur, absinthe, lime juice, and grapefruit juice into a mixing glass or shaker, add ice, and stir or shake until chilled. Strain into an old- fashioned glass over ice or a coupe filled with crushed ice. Garnish with the lime wheel or grapefruit twist, if you’d like.
3. Rosa’s Mud Cake
Rosa Ewing Goldman, the mother of my dearest friend from childhood, passed away last week. I’ve written about her a lot over the years because Rosa was the first great cook I ever knew. She was the first person I ever knew who took pride in ambitious home-cooked food, making special trips to the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue from our sleepy suburb to get just the right bread or homemade pastas and mozzarella. She had a large well-worn wooden recipe box on her kitchen counter that was overstuffed with yellowed handwritten recipe cards and clippings from The New York Times. And I was the lucky beneficiary of so many of those recipes: Her creamy spaghetti with prosciutto and peas, her Shepherd’s pie which was always a leftovers score, a lentil salad made with tarragon vinegar, a garlic and gruyere dip that she always served in a little glass jar. Loyal readers, though, most likely know her as Rosa behind Rosa’s Mud Cake, a recipe she used to make for Jeni’s birthday (her daughter, my friend) and a dessert that I make for almost every celebratory occasion, toasting Rosa always with my first forkful. It was the first recipe I knew I wanted to include in How to Celebrate Everything and it always makes me so happy to hear when people out there who don’t even know her are thinking of her — however peripherally — when they bake that cake. If you have an occasion that calls for a rich, chocolatey super easy treat this week (or whenever!), please do yourself a favor and bake this cake. And please think of Rosa when you do so. Thank you.❤️
Rosa’s Mud Cake
Don’t be concerned about the cup of coffee. It gives it a deep rich color and flavor, but it does not make the cake taste like mocha. Makes one 9×13 sheet cake or two 9-inch layers.
1 1/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1 cup strong black coffee (brewed, not grinds)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and pour the batter into two 9-inch round baking pans (or a sheet pan) that have been buttered and lightly floured. (The lightly floured is important!) Bake at 350°F for 30-33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let pans cool on a rack for 20 minutes, then gently run a serrated knife along the edges to loosen it. Invert each cake very carefully (it’s a delicate cake) onto a plate or another rack. Frost, if desired, though it’s just as delicious plain with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Also Very Easy Classic Chocolate Frosting (makes 1 1/4 cups)
(This is not Rosa’s recipe.)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and powdered sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the chocolate, milk, and vanilla until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency, about 1 to 2 minutes.
P.S. The photo above shows a ring of dum-dum lollipops around the perimeter, which is as much as I am capable of when it comes to cake decorating.
Have a good week,
P.P.S. Have I mentioned I’m in Sicily? Tune in next week….