Friday, August 12, 2011


I have never been much of a drinker.  I'd take a diet coke with a twist of lime over alcohol any ol' day of the week, and if I really wanted to splurge, I'd have a real Dr. Pepper!  There was a time when my siblings and I drank several sodas per day (though I would never let my kids do that), but when I realized how bad they were for me, I weaned myself down to one a day in the summer, practically none in winter, when I drink hot tea instead.  I especially try to avoid them in the evenings, because of the caffeine and acid reflux.  I've been trying to develop a taste for red wine, since one glass a day is actually supposed to be good for you, but I'm still at the "barely tolerates" stage.  So what's a girl to drink, when the occasion just really calls for an aperitif?  Well, how about a Kir?

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.


Marguerite said...

Oh yea, that looks great! I remember the Kir from years ago, sounds so good. Will have to include a bottle of cassis when we stock our new beverage center and bar in the new house. I still love a good old rum and coke with a twist. Now that brings back some fun memories!

d.a. said...

Gawd bless the French - I so love their ways with liquor and food!

Hill Country Hippie (aka Miss Becky) said...

d.a., what was that French cafe over in E. Austin that you posted about a while back. I've been wanting to try it, but forgot the name. Are they open for lunch, or just dinner?

Hill Country Hippie (aka Miss Becky) said...

Received Via Facebook:
Priscilla Lane Mmm. Mike learned about Kir on one of his European business trips, but we haven't had any for quite a while. And I love hazelnuts. So please do put this on the menu next time we come down!!
21 hours ago · LikeUnlike
Dani Thomas I could go for a mjito made with malibu. In fact, I could go for several!
19 hours ago · LikeUnlike
Becky Thomas Lane What is Malibu?
19 hours ago · LikeUnlike
Nicki Thomsen My mother was a big Kir Royale fan - made hers with a raspberry liquer - Chambord - and champagne...pretty tasty and refreshing.
15 hours ago · LikeUnlike
Dani Thomas Malibu is a flavored rum with great medicinal qualities.

d.a. said...

I've been to a couple of French places in Austin, let me think... Justine's, and Blue Dahlia Bistro. Both were lovely.