Wednesday, August 20, 2014

bloody marys.

I am a long-time fan of the Bloody Mary. As a teenager, I'd order one sans-spirits. It made me feel adult. These days (eons later), it's our household hair-of-the-dog remedy. On any given Saturday or Sunday, you're likely to find one in Jon's or my hand. We started with Zing Zang as our go-to mix, but now prefer to pull Toigo Orchards' "Birth of Pain" from the local framers market, or McClure's Bloody Mary Mix. Until recently, that is. 

About a month ago I started experimenting with my own recipe. The idea came from all the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes currently populating the produce section of the grocery store. Ah, summer's bounty--why not maximize on it, no? We recently hopped on the Vitamix bandwagon, after all, and if the thing can make soup, I figured, it could absolutely blend up a smooth Mary. Plus, with a homemade Bloody Mary mix, I could control the amount of sodium and nix any need for preservatives. Score. 
First: the maters. To get that rich, sweet flavor, and to rid ourselves of the skins, I roasted them. This may sound tedious, but like I said, this was a month-long experiment, and I got into the habit of roasting tomatoes during Cecile's nap. You simply cut the tomatoes in half, coat them with olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper, and roast them on a lined baking sheet for 45 minutes at 425F. See: Simple! After they've cooled for 15 minutes or so, the skins peel right off. And, no, I'm not persnickety about getting every last skin. I just try my best with each half before popping them into the blender. 
^^Before roasting, and after roasting.^^

Without further ado, my recipe. The measurements are approximate as, obviously, I am not a professional chef and I came up with this recipe through trial and error. Besides, a Bloody Mary can easily be doctored up based on people's tastes (spicy/savory, briny/tart, etc). This is an excellent base.

8 ripe tomatoes, halved
olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic
4 tsp horseradish 
juice of half a lime
juice of half a lemon
1 heaping Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Old Bay, plus more for garnish
1 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of celery seed
1.5 oz vodka per glass

Preheat the oven to 425. Gently massage olive oil on the tomato halves and place the halves face-down on a banking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle the tomatoes with sea salt and crack some pepper over top. Roast for 45 minutes, or until tomato skins begin to peel off. Once the tomatoes have cooled, pinch the skin off and discard the skin. Place the roasted tomatoes and garlic in a blender or Vitamix. Puree. Strain the mixture, and place into a pitcher. (Sidenote: I have this strainer, and it works well for this job. I also reserve the strained part/pulp and use it in other recipes.) Add the lime and lemon juices, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay, cayenne pepper, and celery seed. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Mix and place into the refrigerator until cool. When you're ready to serve, use a little wedge of your remaining lemon or lime and rim your glasses and dip them into some Old Bay. Add ice to each glass, and the vodka. Pour the Mary mixture over top and stir. Garnish with olives, celery stalks, a pickle, bacon, shrimp ... whatever! Enjoy.
^^Prepping the glasses with a rim of Old Bay.^^

Making a thick liquid is important so that flavors hold up against the alcohol and melting ice. And a good Blood Mary should have a slight burn, in my humble opinion. This is why there are four heaping teaspoons of horseradish in our concoction. I used jarred horseraddish for this recipe, but next time I prep one of these mixes up (which, let's be honest, will likely be tomorrow) I'd like to find a fresh root to grate. How's that for some heat?? Also, as for garnishes, I'm usually a classic celery girl. This last weekend (when I took these photos) we didn't have celery on-hand, so I skipped the stalks and swapped in some leftover bacon from brunch. Really, you just need something with which to stir the ice cubes around to mix in the vodka. Oh, and while we're talking about vodka, we used Tito's Handmade. But I have been known to use gin instead of vodka in my Mary. Just saying ;) ;)
So there you have it. These Marys are good, good, good. For a very minimal amount of additional effort and just a little bit of forethought, it's nice to be able to nix all that extra sodium the prepackaged mixes come with and take advantage of all those yummy, yummy, ripe tomatoes we're seeing everywhere. Oh, and the mix keeps for about a week in an airtight container in your fridge. So do as I do and make it during the workweek so that when you're bleary-eyed and tired over the weekend, you have the mix ready to go. 

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