A Kir is a cocktail made with 1/5 Creme de Cassis, a blackcurrant liquer, and 4/5 white wine. If you make it with Champagne, it is called a Kir Royale. We went to a wine tasting in Dijon while on vacation, and it ended with a sip of Cassis. I thought it was quite yummy, and would be delicious drizzled over vanilla ice cream, so we brought a bottle home with us.
When we reached Marseilles, and had some time to kill before a dinner reservation one evening, we stopped at a little sidewalk bar with tables looking out over the harbor. I didn't want to appear the gauche American by ordering yet another Coke, so I decided to try a Kir, and I liked it. Know what else I liked? The little tray of snacks they brought out, free of charge! I especially loved their version of salted nuts, which had large crystals of sea salt on them. I've been searching for some to buy ever since, but to no avail. This week, however, when I was working on my recipe notebook, I stumbled across something I had torn out of a magazine ages ago, but never tried. According to the article, "You'll reach for this recipe again and again for its stunning simplicity and for how well it works with any aperitif." I plan to give it a whirl, just as soon as I find me some hazelnuts, and if it's a good 'un, next time you're at my house for aperitifs? You can expect to be served something like this:
Cuz know what I really, really liked most of all? In France, they actually believe that an aperitif course should just whet your appetite, not totally kill it! So they don't go in for the hard liquor and heavy dips that are so popular around these parts, and which leave people not even wanting the beautiful meal you worked your butt off to prepare!
Roasted Hazelnuts with Thyme
(makes about 2 cups)
2 cups hazelnuts (10 oz.)
2 T. fresh thyme leaves
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt such as Maldon or fleur de sel to taste
Preheat oven to 450 F., with rack in middle. Roast nuts in one layer in a shallow baking pan until nuts have a toasted aroma and skins are very dark, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 30 minutes, then, if desired, rub in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins. Heat nuts with thyme in oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, shaking skillet, just until hot. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt. Nuts can be roasted and skinned 1 day ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.