My energy level and mood at the table is probably the most important thing about a dish I make. If I'm ragged from effort by the time I sit down to eat, I just won't have a good time. It took me a couple decades of entertaining to understand this.
Still, I am tempted by the prospect that an extra infusion of effort will uncover a new vista of flavor. When it works and a new technique uncovers something transcendent, it's a peak experience for me. It can stay with me for years. So every now and then, I see a recipe which, however assily complex, slips through my filters.
This mai tai recipe from the New York Times is the most recent. What, like I'm going to let big-time corporate agribusiness tell me what my orgeat syrup should taste like? Me? No way. I went ahead and made the homemade orgeat syrup before seeing the first comment:
So, the critical ingredient is perfect Orgeat syrup--specifically 1/2 ounce thereof. And to make that you start with a little over a pound of almonds... Oh, well, at least I don't need to start with planting an almond tree.Doh. The commenter was right. I'd been sucked in again. Well, the one half of the orgeat syrup made a nice gift for a Giant Toad. I ended up throwing out almost all of my half a few months later.
Fast forward to August 25th of this year. Hurricane Irene had just driven us northward from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we'd been vacationing. A much-anticipated vacation had just been busted out in the middle of a perfect week. We drove back on Thursday all day, arrived home ragged and worn out, ready to brace for the hurricane, which was conveniently following us home from vacation.
Maybe only certain people know this, but hurricanes usually have awesome weather at their periphery. All the sucky weather is in close to the eye. We had one more day of sunshine before Irene descended on New York City and we decided to make the most of it.
We took our rental car out to Jacob Riis beach. I brought along refreshments in the form of Emergency Mai Tais. Provided you have the requisite cooler to transport it, the entire thing can be ready to go in 5 minutes. And if you're not picky about your OJ (i.e., you don't mind concentrated, considering all the other flavors in there), you could conceivably make this entirely from pantry and freezer ingredients, so you can technically have the makings on hand at all times.
1 can (46 fl. oz) pineapple juice, any brand.
2 quarts orange juice, frozen concentrated is fine.
1 bottle overproof rum (Lemon Hart Demerara 151 is preferred)
1/4 cup grenadine syrup (next to the bloody mary mix)
1 tbsp almond extract (yes, from the baking aisle)
Mix all ingredients with some ice in a dangerous-looking 2 gallon cooler. Ours is orange, but this red one from Amazon sends a sufficient signal to beware.
The Lemon Hart rum is really essential here.... but not for the taste. It's more the label design, which fits with the sort of 1970's supermarket groove we've got going here. This is the kind of rum that says "There's such a thing as fresh asparagus?". Seriously, though, it's very tasty, but you could substitute a bottle of almost any 151+ or two bottles of 80 proof if it comes to that. In an emergency, you have to be flexible.