Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Sipping a daiquiri is a bit like wearing silk loungewear in your home office. It’s an extravagant experience, out of the ordinary and very satisfying.

If your life consists of a list of things you shouldn’t eat, shouldn’t drink or shouldn’t buy, I’d recommend giving in to the occasional pleasure of a well-made drink. A daiquiri ranks high on my list because of the drink’s romantic history and sprightly taste.

Imagine Cuba in the late 1800s, with its abundance of sugar cane, rum and fresh citrus fruit. Couple local bounty with the intense summer heat on the island, and the daiquiri is the ingenious result.

It wasn’t until the drink was imported to the United States in 1909, however, that it became wildly popular, Susan Waggoner and Robert Markel write in their delightful book “Vintage Cocktails” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).

Thanks to such spirited drinkers as Ernest Hemingway, the daiquiri became the drink of the ‘30s.

Now it has been replaced by decades of cocktail concoctions, most recently the cosmopolitan and the mojito. But a daiquiri’s parts live on, even if the cocktail itself might have been surpassed.

The rum, sugar and lime juice are just as enjoyable as the sum. The trio of daiquiri ingredients comes together deliciously in any number of dishes. For example, top sliced fresh peaches or cantaloupe chunks with a splash of light rum and lime juice and a sprinkling of sugar for a quick and elegant dessert. Or make a lime chiffon pie with a hint of rum.

In the following entree, chicken thighs are simmered in a sweet, hot and tangy rum-lime sauce. Sliced mango enhances the tropical flavor of this dish.

If the alluring aroma whets your appetite for the inspiring cocktail, here’s an adaptation of the recipe from “Vintage Cocktails.”


3 ounces white rum

2 teaspoons superfine sugar (see Note)

Juice of 3 small limes

Place the rum, sugar and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice, and shake swiftly. Do not overmix. A good daiquiri should be ice cold but not diluted. Strain into 2 cocktail glasses and serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Daiquiri-scented chicken

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 very small red onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 serrano chili, cored, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons dark rum

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/3 cup chicken broth

1 small mango, peeled, seeded and cut into thin strips

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

1 cup cooked orzo or rice, optional

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, garlic and chili; saute 2 minutes. Place flour in a plastic bag with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken pieces, and shake well to coat. Add chicken to skillet, and brown 2 minutes per side. Add rum and scrape up any browned bits in skillet.

Add lime juice, brown sugar, chicken broth, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Simmer 1 minute for flavors to blend.

Add mango strips. Cover skillet and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked and sauce is thick. Sprinkle on cilantro. Serve chicken over orzo or rice, if desired. Makes 2 servings.


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