Lost Weekend…Or How I Got Trapped in Stars Hollow

*Warning, if you haven’t watched Gilmore Girls-A Year in the Life, this post contains spoilers!

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No really…that is how I lost most of last weekend…binge-watching the entire four 90-minute episodes of the new Netflix reboot of Gilmore Girls. My fellow “Movie Chicks” (aka Rina and Laura) and I were, like all Gilmore Girl fans, giddy with anticipation for the premiere of A Year in the Life, gobbling up every morsel of information on social media about possible new storylines, sharing trailers on Facebook, taking Gilmore Girl quizzes.  We were primed for the epic reunion/love fest with our favorite characters.

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Did the Netflix revival live up to our expectations?  Meh…not so much. While I am nowhere near as incensed as Rina over some of Rory’s incomprehensibly idiotic life choices…such as her affair with Logan…I am disappointed that my favorite character, Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) made only a brief (though memorable) appearance.  I was beyond thrilled when I heard Melissa McCarthy was indeed reprising her role in the eleventh hour.  Although I have to admit, if I wasn’t a diehard Sookie fan I would’ve balked at her over-the-top multi wedding cake extravaganza because, let’s face it, I of all people know it’s pure fantasy. No one, not even the amazingly talented uber chef Sookie, could’ve pulled off that many elaborate creations in such a short of time by herself!  Do people know how long it takes to wrap a cake in fondant, let alone sculpt one?!

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We are equally dumfounded and dismayed that Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) didn’t figure more prominently in the storyline, whereas Logan had way too much screen time, when Jess was clearly the more compelling love interest.

And we can all agree that Paris (Liza Weil) needs her own spin-off…

…and “Stars Hollow, The Musical” should be an actual musical.

I don’t think any of us necessarily thought revisiting Stars Hollow would tie up all the loose ends left dangling (like an annoying participle) when the series ended back in 2007. But come on, those “last four words” made me (and probably everyone else watching) scream “Whaaaaat?!?!” (followed by a few choice expletives) at the television screen.  Six hours of viewing and that was it??  Just enduring Rory and Logan’s ridiculous “steampunk” adventure alone was enough to send me reaching for a strong cocktail.  I was so confounded by the ending I decided to binge-watch another series on Netflix just to take my mind off of it…which led to my “lost weekend.”

I did, however, manage to make it to the Sunday Farmer’s Market, where I found some lovely tangerines…which I subsequently turned into a fragrant homemade Mandarincello Liqueur.  Now had I been sipping this deliciously potent nectar while viewing Gilmore Girls, maybe I would have been less critical of its shortcomings…but then again, I could’ve just woken up with the hangover.

The old school way of making citrus liqueur is to take the peel from the clean, washed fruit (minus the bitter pith), put it in a tight-sealing glass jar, cover the peel in a clear neutral alcohol like vodka (or Everclear), and let the mixture sit undisturbed for about 6 weeks to draw out all the flavor and essential oils from the skin of the fruit.  The deeply scented liquor (strained of the peel) is then combined with an equal amount of syrup made from a 50/50 blend of sugar and juice of the fruit that has been brought to a boil.

Since I am in possession of a stainless steel whipped cream dispenser (courtesy of Whip It!) I opted for the modern method of rapid infusion through the use of nitrous oxide.

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To draw out more of the flavor and essential oils from the tangerines I used a microplaner to finely zest the peel…

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which I then placed inside the stainless steel canister along with 2 cups of vodka.  I injected two N2O cartridges into the sealed canister and gave it several good shakes.

While the N20 worked its magic on the tangerine zest and vodka, I juiced enough tangerines for 1-1/2 cups of juice, which I then combined with an equal amount of sugar and brought to a boil.

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To make the liqueur, I simply strained the syrup into a large glass pitcher (or measuring cup), then whisked in the strained infused alcohol.  *For instructions on how to make rapid infused alcohol please refer to my previous post “Better Cocktails Through Science.”

Mandarincello with Sparkllng Water
Mandarincello with Sparkllng Water

Mandarincello Liqueur

Yields:  approximately 1 quart

  • 1/4 cup fresh tangerine zest
  • 2 cups vodka
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed tangerine juice
  • stainless steel whipped cream dispenser
  • 2 N2O cartridges

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Bake–Savory Pop Tarts

Ever since I abruptly decided to jump off the crazy train that was my day job (or more like leaping off a runaway train a few stops before it plowed spectacularly through the main station), I’ve spent my time working on consulting projects (aka playing with food).  Consequently, I find myself with a whole lot of odds and ends in my refrigerator–leftover ingredients from various recipe experiments, like thick béchamel sauce, caramelized onions, and black forest ham.  I’d already managed to use some of it on a pizza, mixing together the béchamel and caramelized onion and using the savory concoction as the base for my pizza bianco. But what to do with the rest?  There was only a scant cup left over, not really enough for a pot pie and I was pretty much done making croque monsieurs (one of my experiments).  As I was standing near the empanadas food truck waiting for my friend at the Farmer’s Market this morning the idea hit me.  Why not make Savory Pop Tarts!  I could bulk up the leftover caramelized onion béchamel with sautéed mushrooms and cheese to make enough filling for at least ten pop tarts.  Layer in some chopped black forest ham and we’ve got a winner.

Now you can make pop tarts with any variety of doughs, from puff pastry to pie.  My pastry of choice is a buttery, flaky pate brisee.  It’s richer than pie dough, more tender than puff pastry, and provides just the right structure for pop tarts.  A word about Pop Tarts (the boxed kind)–I’m not a fan.  I tried to like them as kid, but simply couldn’t get past the dry texture and teeth achingly sweet frosting and filling.  I think my mom bought me a box once, which I refused to finish…much like that box of Lucky Charms…and that was the end of that.  During my sophomore year in college, my roommate used to get care packages laden with boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Rice-a-Roni, and Pop Tarts.  I gave Pop Tarts another go…no dice.  It really wasn’t until I began re-making pop tarts with handmade pastry dough and filling them with really tasty stuff–homemade preserves, Nutella, caramelized fruit, peanut butter, etc.–then I became a convert.  Like Lorelei Gilmore, I had a pop tart epiphany (only not about the crappy artificial kind).

The tricky thing about pop tarts is getting the consistency of the filling, whether it’s sweet or savory, just right.  If it’s too wet or loose the filling will leak and explode out the sides, leaving you with a sad deflated pop tart.  A rich thick béchamel sauce, for example, is an excellent binder for all kinds of savory fillings.  Also, it’s important to brush the edges of only one side of pastry with egg wash or cream so the seams will stick together securely.  Brushing both the top and bottom halves will merely cause the pastry to slip and slide.

For my savory pop tart filling, I sautéed about 1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms with a little olive oil, fresh thyme, salt and pepper, hard apple cider, and chicken stock, then added 1/4 cup frozen organic corn, and a tablespoon each chopped fresh parsley and chives.  I combined this mixture with the leftover caramelized onion béchamel and 1/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese.  I placed a heaping tablespoon of the filling at the center of 10 pate brisee squares (cut approximately 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″),

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layered on a little julienned black forest ham, brush the edges with heavy cream, then topped each one with another pastry square, sealed the edges and crimped them with a fork.

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Each pop tart was brushed with more cream, pierced with a fork to allow steam to vent, and sprinkled with grated parmesan and black pepper.

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I baked the pop tarts at 400°F for about 25 mins., until they were golden brown.

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Savory Pop Tarts are the kind of “out of the box” pastry worth making!

Bechamel Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Whole Milk, slightly warmed
  • ½ tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
  • ⅛ tsp. Ground Black Pepper
  • Pinch of Ground Nutmeg

On medium low heat, melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour to form a paste.  Stirring constantly, cook the mixture for about two mins., then gradually whisk in the warm milk a little at a time to avoid lumps.  Turn the heat back up to medium and continue whisking until the mixture begins to boil.  Lower the heat and cook for another three minutes, seasoning with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Transfer the thickened sauce into a bowl and press a film of plastic onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming as the sauce cools.  Chill the sauce until set to use for filling.