My wife's relatives in Florida love their Bloody Marys and this is her modernist take on them, focusing on the celery garnish and turning it into the serving vessel a la the traditional "ants on a log" children's snack.
I made a custom Bloody Mary mix using fresh tomatoes from the garden blended with some string beans, cayenne chile powder, ancho chile powder, and lemon juice. This mix also works great as a quick chilled tomato soup. You can also use your favorite store-bought Bloody Mary mix if you don't want to make your own version.
I added the vodka at about a 1 to 4 ratio with the Bloody Mary mix but you can change the amount to suit your taste. Just be sure to weigh the liquid at the end and adjust the agar agar to be 1% of that weight.
The agar agar solidifies the Bloody Mary mix and we use that gel to fill the celery sticks.
These agar Bloody Mary bites can be served as a course during a meal or as appetizers before or during a party.
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3.25 grams agar agar, 1% (0.12oz)
6-8 bacon strips
5 to 10 celery stalks
Cook the bacon strips until all the fat is rendered and they are extra crispy. I tend to bake them in a 350°F (176°C) oven on a rack set over a sheet pan until crisp, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Pat off as much oil as possible with a paper towel and let cool. For extra-crumbly bacon you can put the cooked strips in a dehydrator for a few hours.
Place the strips into a food processor and process until it becomes a chunky, crumbly paste.
Set aside until ready to use. It will last at room temperature for an hour or two or in the refrigerator for a day or two.
Note: You can also reserve the rendered bacon fat to make bacon powder for other dishes.
Place the celery stalks on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan or other flat tray. Make sure the celery stalks are sitting so they can hold the liquid, you may need to cut the bottom 1/8" off the stalk so they sit flat.
Combine the Bloody Mary mix, vodka, and agar agar in a pot and whisk or blend together. Bring to a boil while whisking occasionally. Let simmer for 3 minutes to ensure the agar agar is fully hydrated.
At this stage the agar gel will set very quickly once it cools below 113°F (45°C). I recommend keeping the pan on the burner, turned down, to keep the gel from setting as you work on filling the celery.
Spoon or pipe the hot Bloody Mary mix into the prepared celery stalks. Some will probably spill out on the sides or ends, which is fine and you can easily clean up the stalks once the agar sets.
Wait about 2 minutes, until the first mix has set, and then add another layer on top of it. Repeat until the celery is full of Bloody Mary mix.
Pour the remaining Bloody Mary mix into a flat bottomed container to a depth of about 1/2" to 1" / 12 to 24mm.
Let the celery and the block of gel sit until they have set and then cover with cling wrap and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to plate, up to 24 hours.
Remove the block of agar Bloody Mary gel from the container and slice into 1/8" / 3mm strips. Cut the strips into the same length as the celery pieces.
Place a strip of the Bloody Mary gel onto a plate or serving container. Top with a piece of the celery, turned 90° from the gel. Place a slice of olive on top of the celery and fill with bacon crumbles. Add a fennel frond or two and serve.