When we decided to tackle the Ocean’s Trilogy, one thing we all agreed on right from the start was that Ocean’s Twelve, for lack of a better word, sucked. The story line was convoluted, while the pace, in comparison to the Ocean’s Eleven and Thirteen, laborious. The big heist this time, payback for stealing the 160 million from Terry Benedict, seemed more like plot device to get the Ocean’s gang across the Atlantic–their trek through Europe feeling like a misguided road trip in which they keep picking up more characters that simply drag on the narrative.
One bright spot, however, is the dashing Baron Francois Toulour, played by the charming Vincent Cassel, whom we all agreed stole the show with his memorable balletic “laser dance.”
His “Night Fox” is confident, sexy, and wickedly intelligent, a worthy opponent to Danny Ocean. Since he’s the only “new” character we actually liked in this second installment of the trilogy–and he does reappear in Ocean’s Thirteen–I decided to create a pastry that salutes this most appealing of jewel thieves. Frenchy’s Gianduja Twists is puff pastry, layered with a decadent homemade bittersweet chocolate and hazelnut spread, cut into strips, crusted with raw sugar and twisted. Once baked to a crispy golden brown, it resembles the arabesque lines of The Night Fox’s laser dance, sinfully dark and delicious layers of gianduja revealing itself as you untwist the pastry. Savor it with a rich foamy cappuccino!
Frenchy’s Gianduja Twists
Yield: about 12 Twists
1 package Frozen Puff Pastry, thawed (in refrigerator)
Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut each sheet of puff pastry into 3 strips along the fold lines (careful to use a straight up and down motion rather than a sawing motion). Mix together the hazelnut butter and ganache to form the gianduja filling. Spread a layer of the filling onto four of the six puff strips. Sandwich one plain puff strip in between two coated with gianduja. Cut each sandwiched strip into 3 narrow strips, then each narrow strip in half. Brush each side with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with raw sugar. Gently pull and stretch each strip at the ends, then twist each end in opposite directions, 4-5 times. Press the ends of each strip into the parchment-lined sheet pan to secure the twist. Bake the puff twists in a 425°F oven for 15-18 mins. or until they are golden brown.
Steel Magnolias is one of those movies we like to watch over and over again not only for its depiction of southern charm, wit, and eccentricity, but its celebration of family, friendship, big hair and over the top 80’s melodrama (cue M’Lynn’s epic breakdown monologue here). So it comes as no surprise that the news about a certain Louisiana mansion inspired some creative ideas!
While all three of us here are a cheeky bunch, we have a serious love of good food that never wavers. Mimi, a renowned pastry chef, was determined to create a delicious menu based on the movie’s memorable scenes, unique characters, and Laura and Rina’s childish banter. Here’s Mimi’s take on her Steel Magnolia-inspired culinary concoctions:
First: The Aperitif
There’s no such thing as a “wrong” time for Mimosa (or “natural beauty” for that matter). Sure it was dinner, but hey we couldn’t get it together early enough for brunch. Besides, the whole Steel Magnolias thing started with us talking about cocktails, specifically what Shelby would drink.
Of course it had to be pink…or pinkish. I went with an inspired combo of fresh tangerine and ruby grapefruit juices, then added a splash of blood orange juice and raspberry puree to give the cocktail Shelby’s signature pink hue. Yeah, we did the classy fresh sliced orange garnish (not the big pineapple garnish carved to look like big hair…though a sugar-free candy stick would’ve been hilarious too.)
Shelby “Drink Yer Juice” Mimosa
8 oz. Fresh Tangerine Juice
8 oz. Fresh Ruby Pink Grapefruit Juice
3 oz. Blood Orange Juice
3 oz. Raspberry Puree
2 tsp. Sugar (or Agave Syrup if you prefer)
1 bot. Champagne or Sparkling Wine (e.g Prosecco or Cava), chilled
Place everything except the booze in a pitcher and stir to dissolve the sugar. Mix in the chilled bubbly, then pour into champagne flutes or wine glasses.
While “Drum’s Revenge” would’ve been funny, I’m just not a bean person myself. It’s totally a textural thing for me, that papery skin on whole beans…BLECH! I say lose the beans and add the puff pastry…which brings me to a dish that made me giggle out loud as I was making it–“Two Pigs Fightin’ Under A Blanket,” inspired by the infamous Janice Van Meter and her ungirdled waistline.
The idea is relatively simple and delicious. Bound a split piece of Cajun Andouille Sausage in puff pastry, brush it with a little cream or egg wash (an egg beaten with a little water), finish with some grated Parmesan cheese, and bake until a lovely golden brown.
You’ll need about 1 package of store-bought puffed pastry (I used Pepperidge Farms), 6 links of Cajun style Andouille Sausage (I used Aidell’s) cut in half horizontally, then again in half lengthwise so you end up with four split sausage pieces per link. Store-bought puff pastry is already perfectly folded into thirds out of the box, so just cut the pastry into 3 strips. You’ll need to roll each strip out a little to make them wide enough to wrap around each pair of sausage pieces and tuck into the middle. You should be able to get about 5 rectangles of dough per strip.
To give each pair that added “bound together” look, I also cut a 1/4″ strip of dough and wrapped it around the middle of the bundle, then flipped the whole thing upside down so that the end pieces were neatly tucked under.
Brush each bundle with either heavy cream or egg wash, then sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15-18 mins. or until golden brown.
The Main Course
Whether it’s prepared by a “good Christian woman” (as Truvy says of the basket of fried chicken she brings home to tempt her husband Spud) or a Buddhist (okay, I’m a lapsed Buddhist…just kidding), it just ain’t a Southern meal without Fried Chicken and Biscuits. My secret to a delectably crispy, crunchy crust is (drum roll)….crushed cornflakes…also allowing the battered chicken to rest on a wire rack for about 15-20 min. to help dry out the surface and set the batter. The chicken tends to not splatter as much as it’s frying. I soak the chicken pieces in a combination of buttermilk, hot sauce and seasonings for about 12 hrs. to tenderize and flavor the meat. When you are ready to start the battering/frying process, simply drain off the excess liquid and coat the chicken pieces in the seasoned corn flakes/flour mixture.
When possible, use a large cast iron skillet to fry. Unless you have a fancy-pants electric skillet or deep fryer, a cast iron skillet is the best piece of cooking equipment for frying (or just about anything). Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature. The oil should be between 350-360F, and for goodness sake, don’t overcrowd the skillet! That’s a surefire way to drop the oil temperature and you’ll end up with greasy chicken. Suck it up and don’t be impatient–fry in batches!
Drain each batch of fried chicken on a wire rack over a sheet pan. If you’re worried about the chicken not being done enough, pop it in a 350 degree oven for 10 mins. or so to finish cooking it. Okay, and if you’re really neurotic about it, use a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken (should be 160F).
Crispy Fried Chicken
Yield: 10-12 pieces
10-12 Chicken Drumsticks and/or Thighs
4 cups Buttermilk
3 Tbsp. Hot Sauce (Louisiana or Siracha)
2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
2 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 tsp. Onion Powder
2 tsp. Kosher or Sea Salt
Combine all of the above in a large gallon-size Ziploc bag and shake it around a bit to evenly distribute the seasonings and coat chicken. Place the bag in a large bowl and refrigerate for at least 12 hrs. or overnight.
For the coating, combine the following ingredients in a large shallow dish:
4 cups Corn Flakes, crushed into coarse crumbs
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning
Shake off the excess buttermilk from the chicken and coat each piece thoroughly in the crumb mixture, then place the coated chicken on a wire rack to dry out for about 15-20 mins. Heat about 1″ of frying oil (e.g. canola, grapeseed, peanut, etc.) to 360 degrees in a 2″ deep heavy skillet. Carefully lower each piece of chicken into the oil (preferably with tongs). The oil temp will drop a little bit, so adjust the flame to keep the temp consistently between 350-360. Fry each side to a golden brown, then let the pieces drain on a wire rack set over a sheet pan.
Oh…and the biscuits (can’t forgot about the biscuits)
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Cake Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher or Sea Salt
1 tsp. Sugar
2 tsp. Chopped Fresh Thyme or 1 tsp. Dried Thyme
4 oz. or 1 Stick Very Cold Butter (cut into 1″ cubes)
2/3 cup Cold Heavy Cream
2/3 cup Cold Buttermilk
1 Large Egg
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut the cold butter into the dry mix until the butter pieces are no bigger than tiny peas. Whisk together the wet ingredients and mix into the butter/flour until it forms into a dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently roll out into rectangle about 3/4″ thick. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the dough into 12 squares (3×4). Transfer the squares onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and leaving at least 1 1/2″ space in between each piece. Brush the surface with heavy cream or cool melted butter. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15-18 mins. or until biscuits are a light golden brown and spring back when touched.
**Place the sheet of biscuit dough in the freezer for 10-15 mins. before baking if it’s too warm and they feel a little too soft. It’ll keep the biscuits from spreading and flattening out in the oven.
And For Dessert…
Much has been said about Shelby’s obsession with pink, more specifically her wedding colors “Blush” and “Bashful” (still not sure exactly which is which). Not content to stop my “Shelby Pink Tribute” at simply a cocktail, I decided to double down and make the ultimate “Blush and Bashful Cake” (no “bleedin’ armadillo” for me).
The components are as follows: (Dyed) Pink Chiffon Cake (flavored with vanilla and raspberry extracts), Raspberry Syrup, Raspberry Mousse, Fresh Raspberries, and Raspberry Italian Buttercream (color naturally pink from the raspberry puree). While I could go ahead and list out all the ingredients and steps for all three recipes contained in this one cake (and that would be pain in the ass), I think you get the picture. Suffice it to say, you can come up with your own “study in pink.”