Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mint Patch, Part 2

There is another very important reason why we have a mint patch - mojitos. I can't think of a better drink for a warm evening.

We make ours with gin, as my husband will not do rum. Now that I've made them with gin for several years, the rum ones taste a little funny to me. I won't turn one down though.

I've tried several recipes, and the two below are my favorites. The first one - a regular mojito recipe where I simply replaced the rum with gin - is great because you don't have to prep anything ahead of time, as long as you have superfine sugar (also called castor sugar). I can find castor sugar locally at Whole Foods or Fresh Market, though any gourmet kitchenware/food store should carry it.

The second recipe is a recent discovery in Frank Stitt's new cookbook, Bottega Favorita. I was thrilled to see a mojito made with gin - he calls it a Southside - in the Cin Cin! and Cheers! chapter. When we lived in Alabama, we drove the hour to Birmingham as often as we could to eat at one of Frank Stitt's restaurants, Chez Fonfon. He owns three others, and I've eaten at Highlands Grill (we received a gift certificate here as a wedding present and it was the best present ever!) and the cafe side of Bottega. Not only does Frank Stitt make wonderful food at all four restaurants, he uses local Alabama and Georgia food purveyors and has done so for a long time. The Southside is delicious, but you do need to have simple syrup which is, of course, simple to make but needs to be cool before you use it.

Gin Mojito
serves 2

- 3 oz. fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
- 2 Tbsp. superfine/castor sugar
- 6 sprigs of fresh mint
- 3 oz. gin
- seltzer or water to taste

1. In a small pitcher, combine lime juice, sugar, and mint. Stir and muddle the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Add the gin and stir until combined.
3. Fill glasses with crushed ice. If you want, you can run a wedge of lime around the rim and dip each glass into granulated sugar.
4. Pour cocktail (you may strain if you'd like) into the glasses and top with seltzer or water to taste. Garnish with a mint sprig.

adapted from Bottega Favorita by Frank Stitt; serves 2

- 4 lime wedges
- 2 oz. simple syrup (recipe follows)
- 2 oz. fresh lime juice
- 4 mint sprigs
- 3 oz. gin
- splash of club soda or water

1. Squeeze the lime wedges into a small pitcher or cocktail shaker, then drop the wedges in.
2. Add the simple syrup, additional lime juice, mint, and muddle with a spoon or muddler to bruise the mint and extract the oils from the mint and lime peel.
3. Add the gin and stir to combine.
4. Fill two glasses halfway with crushed ice; pour the cocktail evenly between the two.
5. Add a splash of club soda or water to taste.

Simple Syrup
The recipe for simple syrup is very basic - add equal parts sugar and water and heat on the stove until sugar is dissolved and mixture has thickened slightly. You can store extra in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge for several weeks, or if you have a tiny saucepan, you can reduce this recipe. If I find I'm not using my syrup up fast enough with mojitos, I make lemonade or limeade as a special treat.

- 2 c. sugar (I use natural cane which makes the syrup an amber color, but works and tastes just the same)
- 2 c. water

1. Combine sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool.

I think I'm going to make some gin mojitos this afternoon for our impromptu Memorial Day grill fest.


mames said...

the mint punch sounded good, but the mojitis sound fabulous. so, if i tell you what chimichangas and chicharones are will you tell me what the two southern dishes you spoke of are? i am so curious. chicken and 6?

Jennie said...

Hot chicken is like very spicy fried chicken. Usually the chicken is injected with some spice concoction, but the fried part usually has spices in it too. It's unique to Nashville, and the Southern food writer John T. Edge wrote about it in his book Fried Chicken. A meat and 3 is usually a lunch place where you pick a meat from several options (like roast beef, fried catfish, fried chicken, etc), then 3 vegetable sides from 8-10 options (such as turnip greens, sweet potatoes, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, etc). And in the South, macaroni and cheese is considered a vegetable. Nashville is the queen of meat and 3s, and while you can find them in other cities you won't find the quantity and quality we have here.