This is one of those very rare occasions where I was almost tempted not to write about a food because I want it all for myself. Edwards Virginia Smokehouse has just released Dry Cured Lamb, and it is extraordinary. Heavy on the smoke, loaded with umami, and a finish for days.
But, it’s the texture that is so stunning. Close my eyes and I’d almost believe it’s smoked tuna, or even mojama. I bought a crusty roll to go with it from Albemarle Baking Co., but quickly decided that it was best to alternate between bites of bread and lamb. Eating them together prevented full appreciation of the lamb’s silky mouthfeel. Alternating bites, meanwhile, broke up the lamb’s richness and enhanced enjoyment of the next bite.
At more than $40 per pound, it may sound expensive, but a little goes a long way. The quarter pound I bought was just $10, and more than enough for lunch. No wonder the guy who sliced it for me at Feast! said: “this is my favorite thing in the world right now.” OK, but please save some for me.
Among the many great dishes, Yoder plans Fried Braised Fall Squash, with turnip and apple chow-chow, smoked cornbread, and buttermilk dressing. And, for dessert, an Apple Hoe Cake with cider bourbon syrup.
For the spectacular oyster roast that has long been a November tradition in my wife’s family, I am tasked with the Bloody Mary bar. Years ago, when I first began making my own Bloody Marys, I spent hours researching what makes a great one. After lots of reading and experimenting, I reached a firm conclusion: the key to a good Bloody Mary is good tomato juice.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, a Bloody Mary is mostly tomato juice. Just as good water makes good coffee, good tomato juice makes good Bloody Marys. But, for whatever reason, a myth has grown that other mysterious, secret ingredients are essential to a great Bloody Mary. Classic 80s sitcoms did nothing to quash the myth, like the Cheers episodes about Bloody Mary contests against Gary’s Old Towne Tavern.
In my view, all you need for a great Bloody Mary is great tomato juice and decent Vodka. After that, it’s just a matter of personal taste. Do you like it heavy on the umami? Add extra Worcestershire sauce, or something more exotic like anchovies, beef consomme, soy sauce, or fish sauce. Perhaps you like spice. Then add your favorite hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and/or lots of horseradish or even wasabi. And, finally, if you’re like me, you’ll want a healthy dose of lemon or lime juice for some acidity to thin it out and liven the flavors. Season to taste.
But, all those things are beside the point unless you start with great tomato juice. This is one reason that I’ve never found a bottled Bloody Mary mix that rivals the ones we make at home. They’re doomed from the start.
Sure, they’ve got some other ingredients in there, like horseradish, anchovies, and cayenne pepper. But, the local tomatoes are the stars of the show.
I served it at the oyster roast last weekend, and what a hit. Raves all around. Guest after guest asked about it. Keeping the pitcher full seemed a task for poor Ali Sard. The faster he fills it, the faster he empties it.