Today we’re doing a Gangsters Stress Free Dinner Party to remember the passing of the US National Prohibition Act on October 28, 1919. The Act defined (and prohibited) intoxicating liquor greater than 0.5% alcohol by volume. it also banned the manufacture, sale and transport of said liquor except for research, fuel and lawful practices such as religious observances. But it was still legal to buy and drink liquor.
The dishes are what Mafia Dons liked to eat according to the Joseph Temple.
The National Prohibition Act permitted the home manufacture up to 200 gallons of non-intoxicating fruit drinks, and this led to “bathtub gin” becoming the most popular beverage in the 1920s (though given gin is manufactured by distillation the tub most likely refers to the mixing). Anyhow, my Stress Free Gangster Dinner Party is based on gin. You should probably serve water too.
Cocktails are usually prepared one at a time, shaken with ice, and then drained into a glass. The ice serves to cool the drink, and also to dilute the liquor (though of course not much). You can make up pitchers of cocktails (same day if they use fruit or juice) but you need to add water or ice when serving.
You’ll need some ragtime and jazz, perhaps some heavies for the door, and maybe schedule a police raid for later. Some “speakeasies” were back rooms of unrelated legitimate businesses, others were clubs or legitimate restaurants. You can pick depending on how daring you feel.
Gangsters were generally well dressed. The stereotype is a dark double-breasted suit with baggy trousers and spectator shoes. Some molls were gun-toting bodyguards (in suits) others were, well, for hire in the more traditional sense and wore fashionable flapper dresses. You choose.
As ever, six guests invited to arrive 6.30 for 7.00pm.
6:30 Apéritif: Crudité and Cottage Cheese Dip with Ted Haigh’s French 75
Crudité: peel and cut hard vegetables (e.g. carrots, beans, radishes, daikon) into sticks.
Dip: Stir a little salt and a spice mix like dukkah or zatar into cottage cheese and leave to infuse. You can use almost any combination of sweet or savoury flavours you like.
French 75: Combine 360 ml (12 oz) gin, 180 ml (6 oz) lemon juice, and 12 teaspoons of sugar in a jug. Add some ice and stir vigorously until chilled. Drain into champagne flutes and top with champagne.
7.00 Entrée: Spaghetti in Walnut Sauce with April Wachtel’s Minted Pea Cocktail
Al Capone’s favourite meal was Spaghetti with Walnut sauce though I doubt this is the recipe he used.
Walnut Sauce: Dry fry 250 g (9 oz) of chopped walnuts for five minutes until toasty. Leave aside a couple of spoons as a garnish if you like. Chuck in a food processor with two garlic cloves, 40 g (1 ½ oz) of butter, ¼ cup of grated Parmesan, and ¼ cup of chopped parsley until fine, then slowly add ¾ cup of olive oil until it forms a paste. Pour into a bowl mix in 1/3 cup cream and salt and pepper to taste.
Cook 500g (18 oz) spaghetti according to the packet directions, drain and return to the pan with the sauce. Over a low heat, toss until the pasta is well covered then serve topped with more chopped parsley and the reserved nuts.
Minted Pea Cocktail: Boil a cup of water and add a handful of fresh mint leaves. Leave to steep for five minutes then remove the mint an stir in a cup of sugar (or less if you prefer your cocktails less sweet) and leave to cool. Remove the mint and add the liquid a blender with two cups of chopped sugar snap peas and ½ cup packed rocket (arugula) leaves and blitz until smooth. Strain and refrigerate for up to two days.
To make a batch of cocktails: Mix 270 ml (9 oz) gin, 180 ml (6 oz) pea syrup, 120 ml (4½ oz) fresh lemon juice and salt to taste.
To serve: put two or three ice cubes or a splash of water in each glass, divide the mix between them and top with a grind of pepper.
8.00 Main: Corned Beef and Cabbage with Nick Caruana’s Dillionaire
Lucky Luciano’s favourite food was rumoured to be kosher dill pickles, which he may or may not have eaten with corned beef sandwiches.
Corned refers to the way the meat is preserved; traditionally in a barrel packed with rock salt (the salt dries the meat out by drawing out the fluids).
Corned Beef: Coarsely chop an onion, a tomato, three carrots, half a dozen small potatoes, and a stick of celery and add to a slow cooker/crockpot. Top with a few peppercorns, mustard seed, a couple of bay leaves and a few clothes. Place 2 kg (4½ lb) beef on top and cover with water. Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours. Add ½ head chopped cabbage an hour before serving.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can cook the meat on a stove at a slow simmer for about 2½ hours. Add the vegetables for the last ½ hour and the cabbage for the last 15 minutes. But soak the meat in water overnight to draw the salt out before you start cooking it.
Dillionaire: for a batch: Slice a cucumber and add to a pitcher with a dozen sprigs of dill. Add 90 ml (3 oz) maraschino liqueur, the same of tonic syrup, and muddle a little to bruise. Add 360 ml (12 oz) gin, 90 ml (3 oz) Cocchi Americano or Lillet (a bittersweet orange/quinine liqueur), the same of fresh lime juice and six droppers of Boston Bittahs.
To serve: put two or three ice cubes pr a splash of water in each glass, divide the mix between them and top with a few more drops of bittahs.
9.00 Dessert: Cheese Blintzes with Ryan Fitzgerald’s Pamplemousse
Myer Lansky liked a serve of cheese blintzes; a sweet cheese filled pancake, often served with a fruit topping.
Cheese Filling: Thoroughly whisk together 1½ cups of ricotta cheese, ½ cup cream cheese, the zest of one lemon, an egg, 2 tablespoons sugar, and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl.
Pancakes: To make a very smooth batter, blend 3 eggs, a cup of flour, a cup of milk, ¼ cup of cold water, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, a tablespoon of sugar ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Allow to sit at room temperature for half an hour. Add ¼ cup to a hot skillet, tilt the pan to spread the mixture into a thin crepe. Cook for about 60 seconds and transfer to a plate.
Place three tablespoons of the cheese mixture on a crepe and fold it into a package like an envelope. When they are all done, fry them for a minute or two in the pan on both sides (until golden). If the cheese mixture is still moist, you can bake them in a buttered dish in an oven preheated to 165 °C (325 °F) for 10 – 15 minutes.
Dust with fine sugar or top with cooked fruit to serve,
Pamplemousse: to make a batch of cocktails: Mix 180 ml (6 oz) gin, 180 ml (6 oz) fresh grapefruit juice, 90 ml (3 oz) fresh lemon juice and 90 ml (3 oz) elderflower liqueur.
To serve: put two or three ice cubes or a splash of water in each glass, divide the mix between them and top with a fresh basil leaf.
10.00 Digestif: chocolate, gin liqueur and goat cheese (tea and coffee)
This is an odd meal, with only the gin holding it together, so keep the last of it simple with a liqueur and plain goats cheese and crackers.
10.00 prepare beef and vegetables
3.00 prepare blintze pancake mix, then filling
3.30 cook and fill blintze pancakes
4.30 prepare Walnut Sauce
5.00 chop crudité and make dip
5.30 prepare pitchers of cocktail mix and refrigerate
6.30 guests arrive
6.45 cook pasta and reheat sauce.
7.00 add cabbage to the slow cooker and serve entrée
8.00 serve main
8.45 reheat blintzes
9.00 serve dessert
10.00 serve cheese