Apprentice: Martha
Swimming Against The Tide

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Buzz Kill
Back in culinary school, we had to study every region of France and Italy and memorize each region's wine, herbs, dishes, and food products. My favorite French region, which also happened to be the first we tackled, was Normandy-Brittany. Why? I'll give you the five Cs I had to memorize: cheese, cream, Camembert, cider, and Calvados. Put all three together -- and I often do -- and you've got quite the happy little party.

This week's Keckler Kocktail comes from Normandy because, while stocking up on packets of beets and Altoids gum at Trader Joes, I also happened upon a bottle of apple liqueur from Normandy called Pommelle. Now, we're not talking about that Vulcan blood-green DeKuyper's Sour Apple liqueur, because as much as I love apple-tinis, it's just not the season for them. No, with the chilly crisp winds and the fog puffing in from the Bay, it is the time for fat mugs full of amber-hued spiced cider, and that's exactly what Pommelle is for. So, if you happen to find yourself at an Outback Steakhouse with an insane Court Jester who pulls faces, fakes belches like a little girl wearing a pinafore, and calls you misogynistic names, this drink's for you. Only, I really don't expect it to kill your buzz.

The Buzzkill Spinster

1 1/2 ounces Cognac or brandy
1 1/2 ounces Pommelle apple liqueur
Hard cider, preferably from Normandy
1 apple, preferably Sierra Beauty or Honey Crisp, if you're lucky enough to get your hands on 'em.

The Shake:
In a cocktail shaker or a pint glass, combine the Cognac with the apple liqueur and some ice. Mix or shake vigorously. Strain the mixture into a chilled glass and top with cider. Garnish with a thin slice of apple.

I'm such an idiot. In the course of making a Zuni Cafe roasted chicken and bread salad birthday dinner for the Evil Dr. Mathra, I roasted the chicken in a 10-inch Calphalon skillet. At 500 degrees. For over an hour. I used oven mitts to pull the skilleted chicken out, and after setting the juicy bird on a cutting board to rest, I turned my attention to deglazing the skillet. Seeking to steady the pan while scraping up the now bubbling chicken drippings and white wine, I wrapped my naked hand around the METAL! METAL! METAL! handle of the skillet. Can you imagine the result? That's right, I seared the hell out of my hand. My eyes bugged out and I bloodied my lip in my attempt not to turn my kitchen windows blue with severe profanity. After all, Mathra was on the phone with my parents in the other room. As quickly as I grabbed a handful of ice in order to finish the meal literally single-handedly, I still could not prevent a shiny and tight raw burn from rising up all the way across my left hand and extending along each finger. As I write this, I grip at an ice pack with my left hand and pick out keys with my right. I am hoping that the liberal slatherings of Califlora balm, ibuprofen, and alcohol I am availing myself of will not land me on VH-1's Behind the Recapping, but will instead numb my singed, inflexible flesh enough to allow the eventual use of both hands for this recap. If not, it's going to be the longest and most torturous night since Kirk roadtripped around the hull of U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Last week, Hateful Jim proclaimed himself invincible, and David went home to study how to go electric and get booed at The Royal Albert Hall.

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Apprentice: Martha

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