Are You Sure These Are Cookies, Martha?!- Almond Macaroons! -214 eggs, 164 cups of sugar, 162 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 199 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 52 recipes to go!

May 21, 2011

No image of Martha's Almond Macaroons available

André's Almond Macaroons

Macaroons are falling into fashion once again after a long hiatus. A favorite treat for Passover, macaroons have always been a staple in Jewish bakeries. Recently foodies have been praising the French Macaroon with it’s flying saucer appearance and wild, wacky colors and flavored fillings. These particular macaroons have become so trendy that Martha doesn’t offer the recipe for this simple Almond Macaroon on her website, replacing it with her recipe for French Macaroons, which incidentally are not in her cookie book. That’s why there is no photograph of Martha’s version of the unfashionable Almond Macaroon available.

The word, Macaroon, shares the same Latin root word as macerate. It simply means shredded and refers to the use of processed nuts in lieu of flour. You can most certainly use just about any nut to make a macaroon. Almonds are most common but certainly pistachios, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts and even peanuts would work. Shredded coconut is commonly used for Passover treats.

To make a macaroon you simply need to run your nut of choice, preferably toasted to enhance the flavor, through a food processor until it reaches a flour-like consistency. Add sugar, egg whites, salt and flavoring until you have a thick and gooey batter. Bake and serve. It’s that simple.

Without flour and butter, it’s difficult for me to think of macaroons as cookies. They don’t have a cookie texture. They are a bit more like candy in my opinion. They are sweet and light with a bit of a gummy texture when chewed. They are delicious and often quite pretty but not really a cookie.

That said, I baked a batch of these for my partner’s co-workers and they were thoroughly enjoyed. These particular macaroons packed a strong almond flavor and  tasted a bit like wedding cake candy with almonds on top. I think when I finally finish baking my way trough Martha’s book I’ll start playing around with different macaroon recipes. I think my friends would like that.

In the Winter of 1998 I made a bad decision. Not my first bad decision and certainly not my last, but bad nonetheless. My former roommate and best friend, Alan had relocated to New York City to pursue a life in the theatre. I really missed him and was happy when I answered the phone and heard his voice on the other end. He called with a simple request. He asked if I would play host to his brother, Bruce who was just finishing up his undergraduate degree and wanted to visit me in Baton Rouge.

Well, technically he didn’t want to visit me, rather he wanted to go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and was hoping I could bring him.  As it so happened, my friend, Erin had been working as a personal assistant to the famed vampire-series author, Anne Rice. Anne had an enormous home on St. Charles Ave. in uptown New Orleans. She didn’t live there. Her actual home was smaller and a few blocks behind the St. Charles home. No, this was her party home, i.e.- a home for throwing parties. (Rich folks just kill me.) With Mardi Gras on its way and Anne at the peak of her popularity, she planned on throwing a five-day shindig from Friday till Fat Tuesday. Erin was able to get me on the guest list along with Bruce.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon hours before the Krewe of Endymion marched down St. Charles Ave. towards Canal St.. Folks from all over the world were lining up on the sidewalks to ensure they had a good spot to watch the parade from. Every tree sported strands of cheap, plastic Mardi Gras beads entangled in their branches from the weeks of parades ushering in Fat Tuesday.  At the large wrought-iron gate we gave our names and were given a tag to wear around our necks so everyone would know it was kosher for us to be there. The house was spectacular. A large antebellum three-story home with large Ionic columns out front and a vast, impeccably kept garden out back. Every room was filled with food and drink from some of the best caterers, restaurants and bakeries in New Orleans. Every room had at least one celebrity and Erin made sure we were introduced to each one.

People liked Bruce. He was smart, articulate and quite handsome. He stood at almost six feet with chestnut hair and eyes. His skin was smooth and pale and he had full lips and a killer smile. Having been reared in England, he was very well-traveled and had plenty of hobbies and interests which others found charming. Particularly Anne’s son, Chris and his gaggle of gay friends.

Many people may not know that Anne Rice wrote under another assumed name, Anne Rampling. As Ms. Rampling, Anne wrote erotica. Most of these novellas were of the homoerotic genre and certainly not her best work. Anne has never had a real problem with homosexuality as evidenced by her works as Anne Rampling as well as by her famed character, Lestat.

Lucky for her son, Chris to be born to a mother who was more than prepared to love and celebrate her gay son.  Unlucky for Chris and his friends that Bruce wasn’t gay. Perhaps they assumed he was since he spoke so eloquently or because he was a guest of mine. Perhaps they assumed if he drank enough he’d turn gay later that evening. That’s been known to happen.

As the evening approached, Bruce pulled me aside to let me know that he was going to go down to the French Quarter with his new friends. He told me not to worry. They invited him to sleep over at their apartment. Bruce didn’t seem particularly drunk when he told me this. In fact, he spoke quite soberly and when I questioned his decision and his new friends’ motives he quickly dismissed my concerns. With a sturdy and confident pat-on-my shoulder he told me he’d meet up with me the next day. I watched Bruce take off on foot down St. Charles Ave. with his new gang of gay friends and thought to myself, nothing good is going to come of this.

I enjoyed watching the parade that evening. I stood between Delta Burke and Tommy Tune catching cheap plastic beads and sharing a pint of Southern Comfort. Later that evening after several cups of strong chicory coffee and a slice or two of king cake, I headed back for the hour-drive to Baton Rouge.

It was 5:00 A.M. when the phone rang.

It was Bruce. His voice was slurry and filled with drunken remorse.

“I don’t know where I am,” was all he said.

I hopped in my car and headed back out to New Orleans.

Almost two hours later I found Bruce wandering through a muddy empty lot in the Warehouse district just outside of the French Quarter. He was covered in mud from his head to his feet. He was still a bit tipsy, although the morning light brought a good bit of nausea to that party. He looked like a discarded puppy. He sounded like one, too only able to communicate in brief whimpers.

I was able to get a bit of coffee in him and he started making sense.

The gaggle of gay boys he had left with flew the coop when they realized Bruce was straight and not willing to “experiment.” So, Bruce spent the evening doing what far too many college boys do in New Orleans: drink, go to strip joints, drink, smoke weed, drink, sing karaoke, drink, flash their genitalia, drink, throw up on the street, drink, pee in public, drink, etc… Most intelligent people would not do all of this without a buddy or two to keep each other safe, though. Bruce was not an intelligent person that night. In fact, he was quite lucky he was alive. On two of the edges of the French Quarter are some very tough neighborhoods. Neighborhoods where a pasty drunk boy with a wallet doesn’t want to roam.

I was furious that Bruce had behaved so irresponsibly. If anything had happened to him, I would have had to be the one to break the news to his family. I’m sure his family would’ve never forgiven me.

Bruce just wanted to go home and take a shower. As punishment, I went back to Anne’s home to enjoy drinks, food and company while Bruce slept in the backseat of my Toyota Celica.

Bruce is married now. He has a lovely wife who he met in graduate school. He currently works for the government as a scientist and advisor.

He has many things to be proud of in his life- a beautiful family, a lovely home, a comfortable existence but, dammit every time I see him all I can see is the drunk idiot covered in mud!

Of course, the next year I made an equally stupid mistake when Alan called asking if I’d bring his sister to Mardi Gras. But that’s another story… and another cookie.

Happy Macaroons, Everybody!

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