7.02.2016

L'apéro

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.

The French 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.

The beverages 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.

It's a 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.)

Susan, from the Modern Trobadors, wrote a nice piece about l'apéro called Things to Know in Provence.

Today, for 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.

«Cin-Cin!»

~ David

Zucchini and Shrimp Fritters, Saffron Mayonnaise

8 ounces small zucchini
salt
8 ounces raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large egg
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
olive oil, for frying
saffron mayonnaise, for garnish
3 or 4 chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Grate the 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.

Dice the 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 batter.

Makes 18 fritters, serving 4-6 friends for l'apéro.

Saffron Mayonnaise

1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon compacted saffron threads
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, preferably white pepper
1 cup canola oil

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.

Refrigerate the remainder for another use (it makes a great egg, potato, shrimp, or chicken salad).

Makes 1 1/2 cups.


34 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Jill! The linens made them taste all the better!

      Delete
  2. So the French call it l'apero! It's amagical moment and I try to celebrate it often. It’s like a cocktail party happily scheduled during those possibility-filled hours between work and dinner. What a romantic notion. GREG

    ReplyDelete
  3. L'apéro sounds like wonderful weekly ritual, although I can see how it could easily turn into a longer affair. And I'd want all of these fritters to myself!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When it does extend, John, it's usually because the conversation is so much fun. Such a good problem.

      Delete
  4. Great and fun post! Did you like the Miraval? I found it a little dry/bitter. Beautiful bottle, though. I just made zucchini pancakes yesterday, but for a side dish to sausages. Never thought to make them as an hors d'oeuvres. Brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did really like it, Mimi. Maybe this year's vintage is a little smoother! The fritters are great fun as an app!

      Delete
  5. Sounds delicious! I love cocktails and canapes but I always seem to make that into as much of a production as a dinner! Working on that...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In a way, they can be more work, Caroline! I often will make one, and then serve them with cheeses, olives, and meats. Easy!

      Delete
  6. Interesting! As you likely know in the north, north east of Italy we have a similar tradition: the Aperitivo, which however is more of something people do in coffee bars, which in the late afternoon turn into cocktail bars + snacks. The drinks are different, Aperol Spritz is the most famous one, and the nibbles are probably much less refined (but of course still delicious). Similarly, though, people stop for aperitivo between finishing work and having dinner. And, also similarly, sometimes aperitivos stretch to lasting a few hours, turning into the "Apericena" - which is actually a bad word to many Italians who really like to keep it short and go for dinner!

    As I was mentioning in my comment on Instagram, I'm very familiar with this flavor combination: shrimp-zucchini-saffron (as a pasta sauce or in risotto) - I must try making these fritters soon, they look fantastic!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. L'aperitivo is a lot of fun,Paolo! And I have not heard of l'apericena before. I hope you make these and enjoy them!

      Delete
  7. The combination sounds lovely, and the beautiful golden color of that saffron mayonnaise is making me drool...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Frank - I imagine you are as much a saffron fan as I!

      Delete
  8. Fabulous ! We made them! We used the same saffron! We squeezed a tiny bit of lemon on each one! Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love the cocktail hour idea! Surprising that in this age of uber-busy, it hasn't had a revival (perhaps people are too tired to innovate/host?)

    Your fritters are lovely--and I believe I have the ingredients, already in the overwhelmed by zucchini season...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zucchini season... I remember it well, Inger! I hope you enjoyed the fritters!

      Delete
  10. Absolutely delightful! I love the idea of gathering together at the end of a day just for a glass or maybe two, with a few bites. The French get it!
    Love your appetizer bites too.
    This is my first visit to your blog. I really like it. I will be back.
    Velva

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Velva! Glad you found C&L - welcome! Thanks for your kind comment!

      Delete
  11. David, that sounds delicious! But it is true, people here don't seem to know "the rules!" That's why I always recommend putting an end time on the event. For example: "David, we're having a few people over for drinks on Friday from 5:30 to 7:00 before we leave for an engagement at 7:30. Can you and Mark pop in on your way to dinner?" Your fritters and saffron mayo look amazing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jean - that is a great suggestion! I find that my friends who are of an earlier generation pay attention, and leave at exactly the appropriate hour - your way to train the younger generation is brilliant.

      Delete
  12. David, looks like you are spending wonderful times with friends all the while celebrating the "apéro"!
    This post is all about those lazy, hazy,"crazy" days of summer...always amazing...
    Liebe Grüße aus Bonn,
    Andrea

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had a lovely trip to upstate New York for a family wedding, Andrea - a beautiful time of year! And, yes, they were hazy (and humid) and crazy - no lazy, though!

      Delete
  13. Hi David, not sure how I missed this post last week it is wonderful. The French certainly have the right idea, love the idea of a shortened happy hour. Love the fritters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You probably missed it the same way I missed the cable bill last month! LOL!

      I loved hors d'œuvres evenings with friends. Someday we will have to get together for some!

      Great monsoons in Tucson so far - everything is so green and lush (for the desert!)...

      Delete
  14. I love this tradition! What a delicious looking bite! And such pretty ingredient pictures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Valentina! As I look at the ingredients photo, I am trying to remember how the heck I got that egg to stand up!

      Delete
  15. The Europeans certainly know how to do things right. A drink or two with friends before dinner is such a nice way to end the busy part of the day. Your fritters would be the perfect little snack to serve and I'm going to "steal" your saffron mayo recipe. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steal away, John! I love saffron mayo - make sure you try it with steamed artichokes!

      Delete
  16. Yummy! Love the story and your recipe. That saffron mayo looks gorgeous. We also love the Château Miraval Rosé!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you and Ed love the Château Miraval rosé, too! You will also love the saffron mayonnaise.

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

If you would like to receive follow-up comments, simply click the "Subscribe by E-mail" link to the right of the "Publish" and "Preview" buttons.