Victorian-era novelist Charles Dickens' birthday on Feb. 7 reminded us that his Valentine's Day visit to New York City in 1842 was occasion for 3,000 of his fans to attend a super-soiree in his honor.
The catered menu for that affair - the Boz Ball - is documented as having included "40 hams, 50 rounds of beef, 50 jellied turkeys, 50 pairs of chickens and 25 of ducks, and 2,000 fried mutton chops."
It's appropriate, then, to raise a toast on V-Day (next Tuesday) to one of the greatest writers in the English language. With that in mind, we have a recipe for brandy punch from Dickens' book "A Christmas Dinner" (Red Rock, $24.95, 88 pages).
For the book's current incarnation, culinary historian Alice Ross created some new recipes and updated the originals, including the punch. The original recipe was: "Juice and thinly peeled rind of three lemons; two good handfuls of lump sugar; one quart boiling water; one pint old rum; one or two large wine glasses brandy."
Here's Ross' updated version, especially good to ward off the chill from Sacramento nights:
Charles Dickens' Brandy Punch
1 cup sugar
1 quart boiling water
1 pint aged rum
6-7 ounces brandy
A large chunk of ice
Thinly peel off zest of the lemons and squeeze out their juice. Place juice and zest in punch bowl. Add boiling water, sugar, rum and brandy, and stir for a minute. Add a large chunk of ice to the bowl. Serve well-chilled by the dipper-full.
For more information: www.adickenschristmas.com.