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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whipping Up For Fall

Give me a new kitchen toy and watch me geek out.  The culinary nerd in me comes out in full force when I’m being paid to be creative and let loose in my favorite playground–the kitchen.  Such was the case when I was tasked with testing out a new prototype whipped cream dispenser (called Max Whip), capable of retaining heat and cold for an extended period of time, by my friends at Whip It.  What better way to put the dispenser through its paces than to come up with a menu to bid farewell to summer and say hello to fall?

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My first instinct was to head straight to the Farmer’s Market to see what’s up.   I was happy to find the last sweet corn of the summer, alongside a bounty of fall squashes like butternut and pumpkin.  This gave me the idea to start off the meal with a light velvety smooth bacon-infused corn chowder.  I say smooth because in order to give my warm hearty chowder a sophisticated twist with the help of the Max Whip (and test its heat retention capabilities, which by the way was very good), I had to cook down, puree, and strain out all the chunky bits before I could put the soup into the canister, where it would get an injection of N2O. The N2O creates lots of lovely air bubbles, giving the finished product, when dispensed, an airy ethereal texture.  I served my Frothy Bacon Corn Chowder with a garnish of crispy bacon bits and kernels of sweet grilled corn on the side.

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Modernist Bacon Corn Chowder

Of course, if you want to skip the whole “foaming” process and go with the traditional hearty chowder, I suggest cooking some peeled diced potato in the soup to thicken it up, leaving all the chunky bits intact, and topping each bowl with crispy bacon bits and grilled corn kernels.

Frothy Bacon Corn Chowder

Yield:  about 2 quarts

  • 2 ears Fresh Corn
  • 3 strips Thick-Cut Smoked Bacon, diced
  • 1 Celery Stalk, diced
  • 1 Carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 Leek (white part only), washed and sliced
  • 1 Minced Garlic Clove
  • 2 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1 quart Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Smoked Gouda Cheese

Now, for the fall part of the menu I decided to make a simple, easy butternut squash “ravioli” using wonton wrappers for the pasta.  I cut up a small butternut squash and sautéed it along with diced yellow onion and minced garlic in a sage-infused brown butter until the squash began to get soft, seasoning it with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg, then deglazed with some dry white wine, added some chicken stock and let it simmer until most of the liquid had evaporated.  I then pureed it a little, leaving some tiny bits for texture, adding some grated parmesan cheese and a small amount of bread crumbs to bind the filling.  I piped about 1 tsp. of filling in the center of each wonton wrapper, brush two adjacent sides with egg white and folded the wrapper in half, tucking in the filling. The raviolis were quickly cooked (in batches) in salted boiling water for only about 2 mins. then drained and tossed into a hot skillet of brown butter and sage.  To serve, sprinkle with more grated parmesan.

Easy Butternut Squash Ravioli in Brown Butter and Sage

  • 1 Small Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 Small Yellow Onion, diced
  • 1 Minced Garlic Clove
  • 1 Tbsp. Chopped Parsley
  • 4 Sage Leaves, chopped
  • 1 Sprig Sage Leaves, whole
  • 4 oz. Butter, browned
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of Nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 1/3 package Medium Wonton Wrappers
  • 1 Egg White, to seal ravioli
Butternut Squash Ravioli in Brown Butter and Sage
Butternut Squash Ravioli in Brown Butter and Sage

 

To test out the cold retention of the Max Whip (equally impressive as the hot retention), I decided to turn a classic cocktail into a dessert.  My Modernist Manhattan combines the dark, smoky flavors of whiskey bourbon, sweet vermouth, and spiced barrel-aged cherry bitters, with an exquisitely airy orange and honey-scented foam spiked with orange liqueur, for a taste and textural sensation like no other.

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My favorite taster Karen declared it one of the best and coolest Manhattans she’s ever had!  As you sip the cool dark liquid, it carries a luscious mouthful of the orange-honey perfumed foam through your lips.

The secret to making a foam that is both fluffy and stable, is to add a binder or thickener to the orange-honey syrup, orange juice, lemon juice, and orange liqueur.  In this recipe, I used two readily available ingredients–unflavored gelatin powder and pasteurized egg whites.

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Once the base was properly chilled,  I poured it into the chilled canister and injected two N2O cartridges, gave the canister several good shakes (upside down) and let it chill some more (at least an hour).  When I was ready to dispense the foam I simply pointed the nozzle vertically upside down over the surface of the mixed drink…and magic happened.  The foam will keep in the chilled canister for a couple days…or through several drinks, depending on how many cocktails you’re making.

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Modernist Manhattan

Serves Two

  • 4 oz. Whiskey Bourbon (i.e Maker’s Mark)
  • 2 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 5 dashes Spiced Cherry Bitters
  • 4 oz. Chilled Seltzer or Club Soda
  • 2 Maraschino Cherries (preferably the natural variety)
  • Orange-Honey Foam*

Combine the whiskey bourbon, sweet vermouth, and spiced cherry bitters in a shaker with 4-5 ice cubes.  Shake to blend then strain liquor into two glass over ice, then top each with seltzer and cherry.  Holding the whipped cream dispenser vertically over the glass, dispense the Orange-Honey Foam until it reaches the rim of the glass.

Orange-Honey Foam

  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey
  • Peel from 1 Orange
  • 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin powder, softened in 2 Tbsp. cold water
  • 1/3 cup Fresh Orange Juice
  • 1/3 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 oz. Orange Liqueur (i.e. Grand Marnier, Cointreau)
  • 1/4 cup Pasteurized Egg Whites
  • 2 N2O cartridges

Combine water, sugar, honey, and orange peel in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and let the peel steep in the syrup for 10-15 mins.  Stir in the softened gelatin, then the juices and liqueur.  Strain the mixture into a bowl and cool to room temperature.  Using a hand blender, blend in the whites just until fully incorporated.  Pour the mixture into a chilled canister, twist on the top and inject the N2O cartridges.  Give the dispenser several good shakes upside down, then place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.

Now I’m ready for the fall.