Tweaking a Classic

The Vieux Carre, named for New Orleans' French Quarter, is a terrific cocktail first served in the Carousel Bar in the 1930's. It is equal parts rye, brandy and sweet vermout, stirred in a rocks glass over ice with a hint of B&B and dashes of Peychauds and Angostura Bitters, garnished with a twisted lemon rind. It is a terrific drink.

It's a cool night and I wanted a rich, warm cocktail, but not necessarily icy. I opted for a V.C., but built it as I would a Sazerac, but one with no ice. It's delicious. You can taste the harmonious blend of all the different components, and the sweetness of the rye is not lost to the cold.

Here's how it's done:

Fill a rocks glass with crushed ice, set aside.

In a shaker over ice, stir together 3/4 oz (1 jigger) each rye, brandy, and sweet vermouth until chilled. Add a dash or two of both bitters.

Empty the rocks glass and swirl a touch of B&B in the chilled glass to coat the glass.

Strain the chilled mixture into the rocks glass, then twist over the glass a thick slice of lemon peel-- I use a vegetable peeler for a wide, thin twist bereft of bitter pith. Drop the twist, its precious, flavorful oils gaily now skimmng atop your cocktail, into the glass.



A la Provence

Those tomatoes and eggplants weren't getting any younger. I perused a Patricia Wells' book of Provencal cooking and found three simple recipes for roasted vegetables on a cool late summer night: roasted tomatoes,  new potatoes roasted on a bed of chunky sea salt, and roasted eggplant with tomatoes. Prep time, 20 minutes, roasting time, 30, 45 and 60 minutes (in that order)
Amazingly, given the provenance of Provence, no garlic or even onions in these dishes-- though their addition, perhaps along with some anchovies, would not hurt.

Cut up a big handful of any fresh herbs. I used mostly basil, oregano, parsley and a bit of rosemary.

Preheat oven to 400.

1. Roasted tomatoes
Core and halve (around the equator) six or eight large-ish tomatoes. Saute cut side down in a hot saute pan with some olive oil. (Do two batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan.) After they caramelize (about 5 minutes), transfer them to a baking pan. Deglaze the saute pan with 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar and pour this concentrated goodness over the tomatoes. Roast about 30 minutes. Lots of liquid will form. I drained this and kept it and will add it to my next batch of soup, chili, or stew.

2. Eggplant and tomatoes
Slice one large, two medium, or a bunch of small eggplants lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Score lightly, season with S & P, and add to a backing dish which you've rubbed with a tbls of EVO. Sprinkle some fresh grated Parmesan over the eggplant, then top with this slices of tomato. Sprinkle fresh chopped herbs all over and roast for one hour.

3. Sea-salt roasted potatoes

Scrub a pound of small new potatoes, and place in a baking dish with 1/2 cup of large salt crystals. Top with a sprinkling of salt and roast for 45 minutes. If you add a sprig or two of rosemary to the layer of salt it will perfume the potatoes like magic.