Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Grilled Peach Vodka Basil Sweet Tea with Friends!

Crabby friends make for really good company!  No, not disgruntled and unpleasant acquaintances…who wants to be friends with grumps?!  I mean good friends with whom you can share a day of hauling up beautiful blue crabs from the Severn River in Annapolis, hiking them up what must have been 100 stairs to the top of the cliff, steaming them in a giant pot outside on the grill and then sitting down together to enjoy the rewards of the effort.  


Crabby friends got to share not just succulent, sweet white meat pried from bright red shells, we also shared good stories, memories of Maryland and Baltimore and created more than a few great new memories, too.  

What goes with crabs around the Baltimore and Annapolis area?  Beer.  Specifically, the locally brewed National Bohemian beer affectionately nicknamed Natty Boh.  It ain’t crabs & beer if you’re not drinkin' a Natty Boh!  

What brought these fortunate friends and (unfortunate) crabs together this bright, sunny and HOT July day?  Another fabulous Food With Friends get together at Donna & Tommy’s!  Crabs were just a small part of the excitement!

The theme was "Bounty of the Chesapeake"…which was (very) loosely interpreted.  Besides the aforementioned hard crabs that Tommy and Donna caught at their dock AND the pretty, almost lacy, soft shell crabs that Donna sauteed up, Greg grilled rockfish with his own Georgia-style peach pecan chutney (Greg came all the way from GA!), Ben and his wife, Emily (who made the trek from New Jersey!), brought crabs, too.  Only these crabs were red jam-filled linzer crab cookies!  Beautiful. I wish I had gotten pictures of them!

Brian whipped up a perfectly made shrimp risotto with brie (I told you the theme was loosely interpreted - I'm not aware of any shrimp in the Chesapeake), homemade Kosher dill pickles and a Chesapeake coleslaw he created using his very own salt-free version of Old Bay.  He outdoes himself EVERY time!

Brian's pickles.

Brian proudly showing off his pickle.

Remember Greg back there with the rockfish?  He's a very creative caterer who apparently has friends in high places down south...or maybe it's more like that Garth Brooks song, "I've Got Friends In Low Places."?  He brought Donna a very "special" present!  Any guesses?  Anyone who knows NASCAR and how it started may have guessed what it is already - but I'm not telling!  (Hint: Jimmy Johnson makes it.)  

Donna & Greg & the "Special" Present

There were other surprises and special guests!  Chef Duane Keller and his lovely wife, Jen came by with food in hand!  Chef Duane - aw heck, it's just Duane now that we've met - made a gorgeous smoked salmon cheesecake and Jen made one of the best potato salads I've ever had....accompanied by a dish of black truffle salt.  And Jen isn't a chef!  Duane was invited to cook (and, in fact, did!) at the James Beard House and also cooked for Julia Childs' 90th birthday party.  Needless to say, we were very honored to have them both join us.

The Kellers

A professional food photographer joined us, too!  Sherron not only took pictures that look like they came straight from Bon Appetit or Food & Wine, she cooks!  She brought crab dip and homemade bread.  A woman of many talents!

One other surprise.  Our little foodie group made an appearance on Grilliant Ideas, an online radio show!  Various members of the group were interviewed live by phone as our event went on.  Here are Donna and Ben while they were LIVE on radio! 

Were we making too much noise for Ben?!

What does Donna have in her hand?  And I don't mean the phone.

Back to the food...and drink!  It looks like Donna is holding the cocktail I made....a Grilled Peach Basil Sweet Tea.  And, yes, there's a little(?) liquor involved.  The peach part is my own grilled peach infused vodka!  Instead of mixing up individual cocktails, I made it easy and did it up in a big batch for a crowd.  I'll share the recipe at the end of this post, but here's what it looked like.

Grilled Peach (Vodka) Basil Sweet Tea

Besides crab cookies, Ben brought some outrageously good Bloody Marys!  Wine was provided by Brian and Marti.  The weather was hot, folks, we had to stay hydrated!

Let me see if I can remember all the other dishes....Marti's Caesar Salad was more than classically delicious; Iris - who claims she doesn't cook - brought beautiful deviled eggs; Bonnie brought a smoked trout dip made with trout her sons caught!; Sherron made smooth, delicious, creamy crab dip and that aforesaid homemade bread; there was pasta salad, but I don't remember who brought it!  Sorry.  And of course there was some of that sweet, sweet Maryland white wouldn't be "bounty" of the Chesapeake without sugary summer MD corn. 

And then there was dessert.  Cat, who couldn't join us this time because of her busy schedule, still dropped off whoopie pies and brownies and almond cookies and all sorts of sweet delights ahead of time.  Thank you!!!!!!

Maria, our authentic Austrian pastry chef, brought an array of sweet treats, too!  Her peach cobbler and sour cherry cake were to die for, but the star of the show?  The Black Forest cake she brought to celebrate Greg's birthday!  Wow!

Happy Birthday, Greg!

What a fabulous day with a group of fabulous cooks whom I feel blessed to call friends.  We are Food With Friends...or is that friends with food?  Here we all are...well, except for me because I'm taking the picture!

Food With Friends - on the deck.

One more thing...the promised recipe!

 Grilled Peach Vodka Basil Sweet Tea
Serves 48-60

  • 3 liters vodka, grilled peach infused vodka - see below (I used Clique vodka - if you can find it by you, buy it!  VERY good vodka at a very good price!)
  • 1 gallon tea, brewed - see below
  • 3 cups basil simple syrup - see below
  • 24 lemons, juiced

Vodka:  A week before you want to serve this, make the grilled peach vodka.  Grill 4 1/2 pounds of peaches that have been split in half, stones removed.  In a LARGE glass container, place the peaches and vodka, cover the container and let sit for several days in a cool, dark place.  Stir once or twice a day, gently.  Strain into glass bottles and store until needed.  You can made this in smaller batches instead of one big one.

Basil simple syrup: In a large saucepan, mix together 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water, stir over high heat to dissolve and bring to a boil.  Add 3-4 cups of loosely packed basil leaves and turn off heat immediately.  Cool.  Then pour into a clean glass bottle.

Tea:  Bring a gallon of water to a boil.  Turn off heat and add 16 Salada British Blend (find it in your grocery store) tea bags.  After 5 minutes, remove the tea bags, but DO NOT squeeze them.  Cool tea.

Now you're read to make the cocktail!  Finally. 

In a punch bowl, combine the tea, vodka (yes, all of it!), basil simple syrup, lemon juice and stir.  That's it.  Serve over ice.

To make this pretty, what I did was:  I froze 6 clean, fresh peaches and floated them (to keep the punch cool instead of an ice ring - the ice ring would have melted and diluted the cocktail!) and a few clean, whole, fresh basil leaves to make it pretty.  Just by looking you know what's in it!  Peach and basil. 

The infusion begins...

Look at the color on the finished infusion! 

Don't want to make enough for an army?  Here's the recipe for a single serving.

 Grilled Peach Vodka Basil Sweet Tea
Serves 1

  • 2 1/2 ounces grilled peach vodka (again, find Clique vodka!)
  • 2 ounces basil simple syrup
  • 1/2 lemon
  • tea, double strength (as above)
  • basil, fresh, a nice sprig
  • ice

In the glass of a shaker, mix vodka, basil simple syrup, juice of half a lemon.  Add ice 3/4 of the way up & add tea to within 1" of the top of the glass.  Cap and shake until tin is frosty.

Pour contents into a Mason jar and garnish with a basil sprig.  Enjoy!

NOTE: Don't have time to do an infusion?  Muddle peaches in the bottom of the cocktail shaker along with some fresh basil - add plain simple syrup and proceed as above, being sure to strain well. 

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