Saturday, June 10, 2006

RRC Submission: Marsala Gelee, a.k.a. Retro Jello Shots

I find the 50s fascinating. Not having lived through them, however, my knowledge of the era comes largely through the hazy glow of TV reruns. I love all of it: the dreams of space, the modernization of food, the clothing that was “just so” – it’s surreal.

The 50s emulate that wholesome everything-is-fine-and-dandy ideal, but of course it wasn’t. And the flip side of the happy facade – the neat-as-a-pin housewife who nipped at the sherry too often, the red-and-white-striped-shirt-wearing-tyke who tortured the family hamster, the man in the grey flannel suit – fascinates me even more.

This is why I picked Peggy Knickerbocker’s recipe for Wine Jello. To be honest, I don’t know if it was published in the 50s, but Knickerbocker vividly recalls her mother, Nancy, making it at that time:

My mother kept our icebox stocked with exotic foods by 1950's standards -- jars of capers, a crock of confit, and more often than not, a peculiar bowl of wobbly amber-colored Jello. The Jello was indented with little spoon marks from my mother's constant nibbling. Made with sweet wine, it delivered a gloved punch that soothed her nerves. When she paid bills in the afternoon or tended to other household chores that seemed stressful to her, she felt perfectly deserving of a fortifying bite of that wine-laced Jello […] recipes of hers [were] always cooked with some sort of liquor. While making Welsh Rarebit, bourbon balls, or coq au vin, she'd gleefully proclaim "a little for the pot and a little for me."

I don’t know about you but to me, boozy gelatin embodies the 1950s’ seeming innocence. Everyone sits down to enjoy a modern, respectable dessert … and winds up drunk.

Marsala Gelee (Wine Jello)

2 envelopes unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup sugar plus additional for sweetening cream
1-2/3 cups Marsala or sherry
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream beaten to soft peaks with a little sugar, optional

In a large heatproof bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the boiling water and sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Stir in the Marsala and lemon juice and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. Spoon into dessert bowls, top each serving with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, and serve. Serves 6.

Note: If you want to calm the kick in this dessert, heat the Marsala for a few minutes first; the flavor will remain but the alcohol will be tempered. Be sure to make this at least 5 hours ahead, as it needs to jell.

Grade: Please. What do you think?


Bibliochef said...

A colleague of mine makes whiskey jello for holidays to this day. Unbeknownst to some == which means some people get really accidentally loaded. If you run this again, maybe list it with I My Blog Burning ==which seems to try to list all food challenges?

Laura Rebecca said...

Does s/he flavor the jello with something other than the whisky as well? With nothing else but lemon juice to add flavor to the marsala gelee, I could definately taste the wine. (Actually, it reminds me of a Long Island Iced Tea.)

I sent the IMBB people an email about the RRC but nothing ever came of it. I'll ping them for the second round, but I'm not optimistic. It was, however, promptly listed on Blog Carnival and Sticky Date.

Natalia said...

Oooh, jello with alchohol. Sounds interesting. Jello shots always remind me of high school, but this seems more sofisticated

Heather said...

my grandmother always made her wine jello with blackberry jello and red wine. Fresh whipped cream is great on top. I still make it for the holidays and remember getting a bit of a buzz as a kid. It seems like a very retro dessert.