08 November 2011


We have been waiting a long time for Brad Thomas Parsons book Bitters. That slight touch of bitterness adds a remarkable depth to cocktails and why shouldn't it be used to achieve that same level of nuance in cooking. Inspired by Parsons' book, the canned clementines we wrote about at Lucindaville featured a dash of bitters in our recipe.

There are a plethora of cocktail books out there, but Bitters is so much more. First and foremost, it is cultural history that encompasses food, medicine, and government in a tangled web of who's who. Are bitters food? Alcoholic beverage? Medicine? Well yes and no.

In a landscape of potions and elixirs and prohibition, what bitters survived. In an era of a romantic cocktail renaissance, who are the new players and will they survive this heyday? And you????

Will you head into your kitchen laboratory and whip up your own batch of bitters?

Yes, boys and girls, Brad Thomas Parsons answers all these questions and more. As one might suspect, the vast majority of the recipes in this book are for drinks. However, tucked neatly in the back are a dozen or so recipes for cooking with bitters. We cannot advocate the inclusion of bitters into cooking more. The section on compound butters, alone, will elevate your cooking prowess, not to mention that a "hostess gift" of a lovely log of compound butter will make you a standout in a sea of Two Buck Chuck wine.

Our favorite ice cream gets a bitters boost as do the ubiquitous spiced nuts. Now if you grew up in house with a little home bar, there was probably an old bottle of Angostura bitters floating about. Angostura was always publishing little recipe books and a staple recipe was always the broiled grapefruit with a splash of bitters. In keeping with that tradition, here it is:

Broiled Bitter Grapefruit

1 pink or ruby red grapefruit, chilled
Angostura bitters, Peychaud's Bitters, or other aromatic bitters
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar or turbino sugar
Garnish: maraschino cherry (optional)

Preheat the broiler and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Slice the grapefruit in half at its equator. run the knife along the perimeter of each exposed half and along the membrane of each segment to loosen the segments. Dot each grapefruit half with 2 to 3 dashes of bitters.

In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar and 6 healthy dashes of bitters to form a sugary paste. Cover each grapefruit half equally with the brown sugar-bitters mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet. Broil until the sugar starts to crisp up and bubble, 2 to 4 minutes, Serve at once.

How fun was that? Now get in there and dig around in that old bar cabinet and find that bottle of bitters and start thinking of all the things to add a slash of bitterness.

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