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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blood Mary Cocktail Bites

Finished in-tact celery ribs 
This is adapted from Time Ferriss' The Four Hour Chef.  His recipe uses a thickener called agar agar which I do not typically keep in my kitchen and would have to go a bit far afield to acquire, so I use the more easily found unflavored gelatin.

Agar agar is a vegetarian thickener, whereas gelatin is an animal byproduct, one reason to choose agar agar instead of gelatin if that's your thing.  Agar agar evidently sets up with a more solid, toothier, less jiggly texture than gelatin too (I think this is the reason Ferriss uses it...the section in the book on hunting game and cooking it in the field suggests to me that he's not a vegetarian LOL)  It may also set up somewhat more quickly than gelatin, but I've never actually used it so that's speculation based on what I read on the interwebs when I was trying to figure out whether I could successfully substitute gelatin for the agar agar.

I don't know what the exact conversion from agar agar to gelatin (or vice versa) should be, but I know 1 packet of Knox gelatin thickens 1 cup of liquid so that's what I used (the OR calls for 2 tsp of agar agar to thicken approximately 3/4 cup of liquid).

So my execution notes...

  • This will work better with the larger, more deeply grooved outer ribs of the celery (I had only the inner ribs left, and it was fine but there wasn't much bloody mary mixture in each bite).  
  • You really will use an entire bunch of celery even though the amount of liquid seems so small.  
  • I propped my celery ribs in the spaces of a cooling rack; the OR suggests using a pleated piece of foil or leaning the ribs against each other while you pour the bloody mary mixture into them...no matter what you do, some blood mary mix will probably spill out...it's OK. 
  • I left the "ugly" bits on the ends of the ribs and trimmed them off when I cut the ribs into bite-sized pieces.  It helped keep some of the liquid from running out the ends of the ribs.
  • I didn't do this, but will do it next time...after filling the celery as best you can, put it in the fridge for 5 minutes while keeping the remaining bloody mary mix at room temperature.  After 5 minutes, the mixture will have set up pretty well and you can "top up" as needed with the remaining mix.
  • In advance of making this, I steeped 1/4 cup plain vodka with 1 tsp black peppercorns for a spicier flavor.  You could also steep the vodka with a halved chile pepper or use plain vodka.
  • Wash your celery well, and dry it VERY well to make sure the gelatin mixture sticks.
Blood Mary Cocktail Bites
Makes many, many pieces

1 tsp peppercorns or 1 jalapeno, halved
1/4 cup vodka

1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
1 bunch celery
1/2 cup V8
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash lemon juice
dash hot sauce


A few days before making the celery bites, add the peppercorns or chile to the vodka, cover and let steep.

When you're ready to make the celery bites, strain out the peppercorns or chile/seeds and put the vodka in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the vodka and let stand 5 minutes.

Separate celery ribs and wash and dry very well.  Arrange celery ribs on a cooling rack, in a piece of pleated foil or other means for keeping them propped up.

Mix together the V8, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and hot sauce in a 2-cup microwaveable measuring cup with a pour spout.  Zap in the microwave 1 minute until the mixture is bubbling.

Whisk in the vodka-gelatin mixture, until the liquid is smooth.  Carefully pour mixture into celery ribs.  Don't worry if some spills over the edges or out the ends.  Put the celery in the fridge for 5 minutes, keeping remaining tomato juice mixture at room temp.  After 5 minutes, top up any celery that could use more and return to fridge.

After a couple of hours, slice off the ends of the celery and discard.  Slice ribs into bite-sized pieces.  Keep chilled until you serve. Pin It

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