Monday, June 6, 2011

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Rumaki and Rum

Sometime around the middle of the 1920's 
I seem to remember my first 
bacon-wrapped snack, 
served to accompany bathtub gin martinis. 
Good bathtub gin was not without its merits,
but it needed food to keep one in shape 
for the second or third drink, 
so snacks became more hearty. 

James Beard
James Beard's American Cookery (1972)


There's a story my mother tells. It was the mid-'60's. The setting was a swank cocktail party with hip hors d'oeuvres. My father was destroying round after round of a particular tasty bacon-wrapped specimen. At one point, another round came by. The host asked "Would you like another chicken liver, Joe?" Well, that was the end of that. My father was not to be tempted by liver.

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My father had been eating rumaki, a snack popularized by "Trader" Vic Bergeron and others who opened tiki bars across the country in the middle of the last century.  Several versions of the snack exist, but each is essentially a short piece of bacon wrapped around a bite-sized filling, then the whole thing broiled. Whole water chestnuts are the most common filling, but one also finds the aforementioned chicken livers or chunks of pineapple. I make them with water chestnuts because I enjoy the contrast of their crispness and hot smoky bacon. But on occasion I've been known to cut livers into small pieces and tuck a piece in with the water chestnuts.

It's also made from things I tend to have around the house, so it can be put together in pretty short order, especially if someone else breaks out the rum and tackles the tiki drink making. Adapted from James Beard's James Beard's American Cookery, here's my take on

Rumaki

One 20 oz can of water chestnuts
1 lb/500g thick-cut bacon, sliced in thirds
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbl brown sugar
1 tsp Aleppo pepper

Drain the water chestnuts, rinse, drain, and pat dry. Wrap each in a short bacon slice. Secure with a toothpick. Set in a large shallow dish and repeat until either all the water chestnuts or all the bacon is gone (but it should even out).

Position an oven rack under the broiler and preheat the oven o 350°F/180°C. Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a bowl, pour it over the pork bundles, and let marinate while the oven warms. Remove the rumaki to a broiler pan with a drain pan (or some other shallow pan to catch drippings) and cook until the bacon is crisped at the edges and well-browned. The final cooking time depends on the thickness of the bacon's cut, but start checking around 10 minutes.

Discard the marinade. Serve the rumaki while it's still barely sizzling.
If you were doing a chicken liver version (closer to Beard's original), just trim and cut into halves about a pound of livers and marinate them in the above mix about half an hour (they get overly salty if left in too long), then slice a half dozen whole water chestnuts into small coin shapes. Tuck a slice onto each liver, wrap in bacon, and proceed as above.

1 comment:

Denise Fike said...

matt, Denise Fike here, Hunter's mom. Hope you both are well. I am making your Fish House Punch for a block party on June 25th , which celebrates our 40th anniversary.
Why don't you two fly in and celebrate with us!