Sunday, February 28, 2010

Grand Marnier

It's been a tradition at the Foodopolis kitchen to make homemade hootch around the holidays and give bottles of them out to family and friends who still have livers left. Or who's eye's have stopped twitching since the last time we gave them out.
After years of trial and error. This is my favorite way to make that orange liquor called Grand Marnier. you can also make Limoncello in this fashion too. At the end I will explain how to very this recipe to make it.
We have both Lemon and Orange trees here, So we try to pick the fruit at it's peak. Although we have Meyer Lemon's, which are not the classic fruit to use for Limoncello. It still works well. I would recommend for the lemon based version that you use the more classic "Sunkist" variety found at the store.Gives it a more traditional flavor.


12  Fresh Oranges.
12  Orange tree leaves
1  750ml bottle of Napolean Brandy
1 750ml of good 80 proof Vodka 
1 750ml EverClear
3 Cups sugar
2 Cups Water

Using a kitchen grater. Remove the zest of all the oranges. Being careful to get only the orange zest and not the  white pith. The zest is where all the essential oils are of the fruit.
Take the Orange leaves and crush them in your hand. make sure you bruise them well as it releases there essential oils. The oil from the leaves is very bitter and works with the recipe.
Put the zest and the leaves in  a large glass vessel that has a secure lid to it. Do not use an aluminum container as it reacts with the acid of the oranges and will destroy the batch.

And now the good stuff. I use EverClear to get the alcohol content to where it needs to be in the end. this stuff is deadly that's for sure. You can get it at BevMo. It's not out on the shelves, you have to ask for it. They keep it under lock and key. It's 151 proof grain alcohol. they have a 190 proof version as well, but that one one is illegal to sell in California. I have never seen so many waring labels on a bottle before.


This stuff is Hillbilly jet fuel, the legal cousin of moonshine and this one has all it's teeth.


OK, So now you pour all of the alcohol into the glass vessel with the orange zest and leaves. I like to place some plastic wrap over the top prior to placing the lid on it. Just to make sure we have a nice tight seal. It helps to eliminate alcohol evaporation. Remember in the end, this is sipping stuff. And it will definitely warm your cockles.
After pouring all of the liquids into the vessel. and sealing the lid on tight. It's time to let it rest in a cool dark place for up to 30 days. I have done some with jut 7 days. What you are trying to do is infuse the alcohol by extracting the essential oils from the Orange zest and leaves. So the longer you let it set, the more profound and complex your hootch will be.
Above is a shot of the "mix" after sitting for 30 days.
After the infusion  time is over. You will need to strain the mixture. I use a clean kitchen towel to do this. First I make sure that i run the clean towel under hot water, while continually squeezing the water from it to make sure any soap residue is gone. You can also use Cheese cloth instead of a towel.

 Now that you have succeeded in pouring all of the liquid through your strainer device. Grab that towel or cheese cloth and wring it out. You want to extract every ounce of essence from the zest and leaves.

Final step is to combine the 3 cups sugar with the 2 cups water in a pan and place it over a medium heat on the stove. Let it come right up to the point of boiling and then shut the heat off. stir until all sugar crystal have evaporated. This simple syrup concoction will be used to sweeten the Orange liqueur. This part is trail by error. as everybodies tastes are different. I like mine not so sweet. You might like it sweeter. So, You will have to taste after every scoop of simple syrup. you will be nice and warm after this.
Take the simple syrup and over to where your container of orange liqueur is and ladle a scoop of it and pour it into the liquor. Stir taste. repeat until you get the desired sweetness that feels right to you. let your palette be your guide here. But I warn you to take small tastes, because this batch with top out at around 100 proof when it's said and done.

After you get the mixture to the right level you want it to be. you will need at least 6-750ml bottles to pour the stuff into.

I like to use Crown Royal bottles, which I collect through the year. hehehe. Or better bet is to order some bottles with rubber stoppers online. You need a tight seal. Ya don't want anymore evaporation of alcohol to happen. 

Here is the recipe for Limoncello:

12 Lemons
4 Lemon  leaves
1 1.75ML good 80 proof vodka
1 750ML Everclear
3 cups sugar
2 cups water.

it's basically the same without the addition of the Napolean brandy.

Now sit back grab a cordial glass. place one ice cube in it. Pour 1 ounce of your Grand Marnier into it. swirl it around, light a fire (place glass down first) pop on some Barry White and you are good to go for the night.



Friday, February 5, 2010

New York - The View

I was crying, Man was I crying. The tears rolled down my face like water over Niagara. It was 20 degrees on the streets of New York city with the wind at 40mph. We had no choice but to run into the wind and rain. And for two blocks we felt the sting of 10,000 shards of glass pierce our faces at 40mph. The rain came at us sideways and straight at our faces. I gasped, I couldn't catch my breath and then it hit me, My God, I was being water boarded  from heaven! I actually thought this as I stumbled and ran with my friends gasping for breath through the street as people were running the other direction and staring at us as only New Yorkers can. I was being water boarded from God. I saw the face of God and it was Dick Cheney staring down at me. I cried out "what do you want from me?" no one heard, thank God. Or maybe someone did? We finally made it the two blocks and hid behind a building to catch our breathes. I was so sure that I would have thousands of pinpoint black and blue marks on my face that I would look like Kenny Rogers after his last botched face lift or at best Susan Boyle in the morning. Some of my friends lit cigarettes as they tried to calm themselves. Even though it was way below 20 degrees with the wind chill factor. the wind was no longer able to smack us around. I needed the break, as cigarettes were choked down and addicts had there fill of nicotine.
One more block to run to make it to our destination. It was like running through the streets of Mogadishu. we laid our plan down on how to attack the building and where the front door might be.The last cigarette was crushed on the sidewalk and we were off and running again, this time dodging taxis and bewildered tourists from Ohio who just wanted to take pictures of the 40 foot tall Judge Judy billboards in Time Square. We ran through them, taxis and all. And it was worth it. Although I felt like I was just airlifted out of a jungle war, fighting for my life the whole way, it was surreal to come upon this place of valets wearing top hats and overcoats. Doors were opened for us and I felt vastly out of place, wet and still reeling from the pain with tears still streaming down my face. I kept thinking in the voice of Dennis Hopper, "Dude, do you have any F-ing idea of what we have just gone through man?".
We were directed to the coat check on the 3rd floor. Our destination was slightly higher.

The View Restaurant resides on the 48th floor and has one of the most spectacular views of New York city. The entire place revolves 360 degrees while you dine. The New York skyline and especially Times Square at night and definitely from 48 floors up, looks like you are in the film Blade Runner. Cool blues of the buildings mixed with shocking reds of the video screens, some hung at 20 to 30 floors high.
Ok, so you are in the Marriott Hotel on the 48th floor. But from this view it really didn't matter what the food was like. it was breath taking, even more than being water boarded from Mother nature. this took my breath away.
A cocktail of course was in order as we were all seated. a round of really poofy champagne cocktails was delivered, I would have preferred a Double Crown royal on the rocks after that storm, but the champagne cocktail was smooth and fruity, like Nathan Lane on Broadway.


Foie Gras Duo
Foie Gras Terrine / Foie Gras Espuma / Toasted Brioche

I love this stuff and this was an interesting take on the culinary treat that is on the top 10 hit list from PETA. It came with two versions of Foie Gras, One was a traditional terrine formed cold slice. It was very creamy but extremely mild. Not really alot of flavor here. I was surprised.

 The other was Foie Gras Espuma. Espuma is basically whipped goose liver. Oh man, was this amazing. it was as light as fresh whipped cream but with a taste that was out of this world. Very goosey and gamey and when smeared on a lightly toasted piece of brioche became one with the universe.
I really have to say that it is very true that the bread in New York is the best in the country. Some say it's the water. I don't believe that. I have seen bakers make bread with Dasani bottled water in a couple of New York bakeries. All I know is that it's rich and chewy.

 Appetizer Part II

Jumbo Lump Crab cake
Marinated Cucumber/ Remoulade

Made with jumbo lump Maryland crab meat. Made with at least 80% crab. it was so sweet and not at all on the heavy side.

Main course.

Merguez and White Bean Cassoulet / Harissa Lamb Jus

OK, First let's dissect the Cassoulet. Cassoulet is the soul food of France, the chicken soup for the soul. It's on virtually every menu in the country.And this was very good, mixed with the Merguez, which is a red spicy Moroccan sausage.It came in this little copper pan by itself.
A roasted slice of eggplant sat on a nice sauteed bunch of Broccolini. You could tell that someone took the time to think this dish out. Nice Morocan infuence from the copper pan to the Merguez sausage to the Harissa lamb jus. Harissa is Morocan chili sauce a lighter sriracha sauce. The lamb is domestic and was perfectly cooked. with a great fresh lamb flavor.

Entree Part II

Sauteed Scallops 
Butternut Squash / Forbidden Rice Risotto / Bacon Maple Glaze

This one just didn't work at all. I mean it didn't make sense to me. too many contrasting flavors going on. First off you have sweet briny scallops that should be the star of the show. But you place them on a bed of "Forbidden rice Risotto". Which is risotto made with squid ink and it takes over, then you glaze the scallops with maple syrup and top it all with sweet sticky sauteed butternut squash.
beautiful in presentation, but disgusting on the palette.Crazy combination of conflicting flavors here.


New York Cheese cake.

Comon, it's New York right?  when you go to New York, you have to have two things, first a hot dog from a push cart and the other New York Cheese cake right? absolutely.
This was heaven. light and creamy. with a dense soury lemony tang on the palette. covered with crunchy meringue straws and fresh strawberries with baby sprigs of mint. Perfect to balance out the richness of the lamb and cassoulet.

 So Just like the TV show the view. Somethings work and some don't. But the view from this place is better than any food they could possibly serve. Was it worth the literally blinding weather to get here. Yea, with images of political figures throwing rain daggers at me. It was still worth it.



 The View
45th Street and Broadway
Times Square.

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