I made this dish for a garden party gathered in St. Petersburg, Florida, at a cool house owned by a restaurant owner and the director of the local Performance Art Center. Nice bunch of drunks. It was springtime, and the garden was beautiful, full of food and flowers and interesting plants. People flew or sailed in, drove there. Walked. Quite a diverse crowd to turn my back on.
I cooked for this for the interesting peoples. I shucked oysters and avoided a spun sugar nightmare.
Ingredients for Day Drink Cold Cuts
- Booze. Claret, as much as you can put in your car
- A bottle of Sherry
- Pound of ham
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Heavy Cream
- Olive oil
- Pound of cheddar or fontina or manchego
Equipment for Day Drink Cold Cuts
I need tea cups, scissors, a couple of big pans, some water, a thin paring knife. Heat the oven up, try the claret. It is ice-cold and the color of a slice of airborne watermelon flesh on a summer’s day. The claret is so unbelievably cool and refreshing. In full cotton jacket at garden party, I am beginning to sweat profusely. The guests are arriving. I greet them when they wander into the kitchen. I pour them drinks if desired. I am making brunch items and have a nice wine and brandy bar. The glass doors of the kitchen and living room are long sliders. The whole house is open to the garden. Earlier, the restaurant owner showed me his magnificent compost heaps and fruits and flowers. We examined some developing lettuces and peppers and green beans and melons. I pulled the lemons and placed them on the breakfast bar to get some sun. The claret seemed almost non-alcoholic, just refreshing and crisp, like juice. While the oven warms up to about 425, I place a pot of water on the stove and keep it hot but not boiling. I shuck 100 oysters wearing an armored glove, armed with a blunt prying knife. I leave them in their shells and wash the platters with lemon juice from a squirt bottle. I have drunk an entire bottle of claret.
I prep the ham and cheese. Holding the paring knife along my index finger so that it protrudes a half-inch above my fingertip, I scratch a half inch-deep groove along the block of cheddar an inch from the edge of the block. First I do it horizontally, then I do this vertically. I now have a 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch rope of cheese a foot long. I put this back in the cooler after making about a pound of rope. I do this with the ham, put it back in the cooler.
I get a dozen tea cups oiled, then add a tsp of oil in each one, crack a raw egg in each, salt and pepper the egg, add a piece of cheese, a piece of ham, give it a splash of sherry, then fill cup to 2/3 mark with the heavy cream. Jam a sprig of thyme in it until it hits the bottom. Fill dozen cups.
Place all in pan, fill pans with about 3/4 inch of hot water. Bake about 10 minutes at 425.
While they bake, finish the oysters and send the first batch of iced, lemony oysters arrived fresh from the marina that morning. They taste like the ocean. Because we are so close to the coast, the air suffused with sub-tropical, coastal perfumes, the oysters taste and smell like sea breezes. Tongues of the sea tasting our mouths. And goat meat fat running down my chin and shit.
I remove the cold cut cups when a knife goes in and comes out clean, like about 10 minutes. I place them on the wet bar, then plate them with tea saucers and small spoons. I tie a napkin on each handle and present a tray of small spoons. People leave the saucers the first three times, so I just pack them back up. I continue drinking claret and making five more dozen cold cuts. Three hours after I first turned on the oven, I turn it off and gather my dishes in tubs, wrap them in plastic, bag them, and load them in the truck. I am so drunk I am having trouble walking. I ate four cold cuts.
I’d taken my jacket off and lay on a lounge outside the kitchen. The owner decided not to make the spun sugar because he didn’t want to climb a ladder holding a pot of boiling sugar. I didn’t want to make the nightmare, either. I would be the one to catch the falling sugar lava threads upon the platter. to catch the spun sugar on a giant platter while he waved it from a giant wand sopping with the scorching sweet goo, a slow, painful ordeal while he poured 10 lbs of sugar on my platter in wisps and blobs while the server threw edible orchids, crème puffs and sugar-frosted Johnny Jump-ups in the pile.
No one wanted the dessert or the danger.
Claret gone, the party went for the brandy. Things started to get chaotic, so I left.
It was about 3 pm when I dropped off everything at the restaurant the guy owned. I had a glass of pinot grigio, then walked down the beach beyond town, drank a bottle of water and took a nap under some palm trees. I awoke and walked back to town still tasting the sherry and cream from the Day Drink Cold Cuts, the thyme spread through all those different fats and the sherry.
The day continued absolutely perfectly. I drank for the next few hours. When the sun set I went to bed, early.