At first, I
thought it was the airport. But that's l'aéro.L'apéro – with a “p” – loosely
translates from French as 'the cocktail hour."
There was a
time in the United States - the 1950s and 1960s - when people gathered at one
another's homes for cocktails. It was the thing to do. Perhaps, pre-dinner, or
pre-theater (with dinner after the show), or simply just for cocktails.
Mark and I, with
a few friends in Maine, tried to revive the tradition in the aughts but
something went terribly wrong. It turned into dinner and a four-hour
commitment. Never the plan, but always fun.
have made an art form of l'apéro, and everyone invited knows the rules. A drink
(or two), a few nibbles, and then you are on your way. An hour or so...
Not too much
of a commitment... like speed dating, in a sense.
for l'apéro vary. It could be Pastis, Lillet, Campari-soda, any number of
cocktails, or a special bottle of wine.
The food also
varies, from a simple bowl of nuts or olives, to a plate of hors d'œuvres made
by the host.
pleasant way to entertain without the stress of a full meal.
After all, it's
about being with friends, sharing stories, and a few laughs. (I try to avoid
politics, as they can often sour the sweetest of drinks and, these days, they
are more frightening than funny.)
l'apéro, I made some zucchini and shrimp fritters with a saffron mayonnaise.
And, as we are in the thick of our hottest part of summer, I chose a perfectly
chilled bottle of Château Miraval's 2015 rosé. To read more about the wine and
food pairing, please visit the Provence WineZine.
Shrimp Fritters, Saffron Mayonnaise
8 ounces raw
shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large egg
chopped fresh tarragon
mayonnaise, for garnish
3 or 4 chopped
fresh chives, for garnish
zucchini using the large holes of a box grater into a colander lined with a
linen towel. Sprinkle with a little salt, toss, sprinkle with more salt, and
toss again. Set aside for 10 minutes to sweat.
shrimp, and set aside.
In a medium
bowl, blend together the egg, flour, and milk. Using the linen towel, squeeze
the zucchini to release the accumulated water. Add the zucchini to the egg
batter along with the diced shrimp and the chopped tarragon.
Using a large
nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Use a
tablespoon to make the fritters, dolloping them directly into the heated oil as
you go. Flatten them with the back of the spoon. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook
for 2 minutes per side, or until deep golden brown. Remove fritters to paper
towels to remove any excess oil, then serve on a decorative platter. Top each
with a small dab of saffron mayonnaise, and sprinkle with a few chopped chives.
Wipe the skillet clean and repeat the process with new oil and any remaining
fritters, serving 4-6 friends for l'apéro.
1 large egg
teaspoons Dijon mustard
compacted saffron threads
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper, preferably white pepper
1 cup canola
In the bowl
of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the egg, lemon juice,
mustard and saffron. Pulse to combine and let sit a minute. Add the olive oil,
salt, and pepper and pulse again to mix. Then, with the machine running, slowly
and in a very steady stream no wider than 1/8-inch, pour in the canola oil. By
the time the oil is used up, you should have a perfect mayonnaise. You will
need a couple of tablespoons for this recipe.
It can be
used right away, but if refrigerated for a few hours or overnight, the flavors
will meld and seem richer.
the remainder for another use (it makes a great egg, potato, shrimp, or chicken