October 29, 2005

I'll Take Manhattan

New York is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to. I hardly care to go even to Chicago these days except for the fact that "Chicago-style" just never quite makes it. Fortunately, those things with Manhattan in their name which I enjoy consuming do not require travel.

The Manhattan cocktail is made with bourbon or similar American whiskey andsweet vermouth at proportions ranging from a "sweet" 1:1 to a "dry" 4:1, and perhaps a dash of bitters or maraschino cherry juice. Here in Wisconsin, brandy, the most popular tipple, is commonly substituted, so I order very clearly. In the current era of anything is a martini, the preparation of this drink can get overdone. It is okay to stir the ingredients with ice and strain into the serving glass, and acceptable in some circles to use a stemmed cocktail glass rather than a hefty rocks glass. Shaking, subject to debate for martinis, is out of the question. It harshes the whiskey's mellow. I simply pour the ingredients over ice cubes and circulate the ice to mix the ingredients. My preference is for a whiskey with more, hmmmm, call it character. From the current collection it is the George Dickel Tennessee sour mash over the Woodford Reserve, whose best features gets lost in the vermouth. I also enjoy the same drink made with Scotch, in which case it is called a Rob Roy. This is the one form in which I still use low-end blended Scotch even as my sipping standards have become more sophisticated. The difference between Clan MacGregor and Highland Park in a Rob Roy is nowhere near that between them in a wee dram.

There is also controversy attached to Manhattan Clam Chowder. My father, who spent his early adult years on the island, argued vehemently for it. Others question whether it is a chowder at all, asserting that the label attaches expressly to the use of milk, rather than to the potatoes or to the cooking process which is the actual source of the name. Chowder and cauldron both derived from the same root word, thru the same process whereby ask is turning into axe. Nowadays a cauldron is used for little else than a prop for making indecisive predictions over. The functional equivalent today is a Crockpot or other slow cooker. Here is a Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe which uses one.

5 to 6 sliced bacon, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 onions, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
3 stalks celery with leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 medium boiling potatoes, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cans (10 oz each) baby clams with juice
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Render diced bacon by frying in its own fat until crispy. When nearly done, add garlic and sauté. Drain off the bacon fat, saving it for the final touch if you are hardcore. Put the bacon, garlic, and all other ingredients except the bell pepper into the slow cooker / Crock Pot and stir to blend. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. One half hour before completion, add the chopped pepper and a roux made by heating the bacon fat, or butter if you are sweating that last milligram, and stirring the flour into the hot lipid until it turns brown. Traditionally served with oyster crackers, which are hexagonal puffy bland saltines, or with crumbled saltines, but I think a crusty Greek or Italian bread is a much better accompaniment.


I neglected to mention how I prefer my Manhattan cocktails. I make them in the manner of one of Louis L'Amour's novels.

Posted by triticale at October 29, 2005 12:01 AM | TrackBack
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