Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Connecticut Strawberries

It’s springtime in France, which means two things: white asparagus and strawberries. The white asparagus I can take or leave: I find it hard to get it just right with the peeling and all, so it’s either stringy or limp and lifeless. The strawberries, on the other hand, are something I can really understand. They’re ubiquitous and even the ones from the little supermarket are really delicious. We were at a party the other day, and one guest brought about 6 large baskets of what looked to be strawberries fresh from the farm. She set them out among the guests, and they disappeared rapidly.
All this to say that this was the perfect time to make the Connecticut Strawberries recipe from Maida’s book. This dessert had perfect timing in another way. I made this for a final gathering of participants in a conference Sami had organized. For the three days previously, we had eaten a ton of delicious, rich food and drunk what seemed like gallons of wine. We were all really ready for something a bit less. So when they came to our place, I made a simple pasta and served this for dessert. It hit just the right note: special and light at the same time.

This dessert is no big innovation: it’s basically strawberries sweetened with jam and liqueur and served with a custard sauce. And since it was so simple, I felt free to innovate. I used red currant jelly instead of strawberry or raspberry because it’s already smooth and has a refreshing tartness, and I used cassis instead of kirsch because I had it, quite simply. And the combination was perfect, in my opinion.
The custard sauce that Maida called for in this recipe was the White Custard Cream I had made before (I should say that Sami had made before), and so I was ready to innovate. I used whole eggs and didn’t use a double boiler, and while the process went faster this time, it did curdle a bit and was not as smooth as it could have been even after straining. I’m going to need to tweak my custard-making skills, it seems. But if you wanted to go easy on yourself, this would probably be very good with whipped cream or sweetened sour cream. Just make sure your strawberries are in season, and the rest will take care of itself.

Here’s the recipe:
Connecticut Strawberries

Your favorite custard sauce (see the White Custard Cream recipe or this one)
2 large or 3 small baskets strawberries
1 10-oz. jar strawberry, raspberry, or red currant jam or jelly
1/4 c. kirsch or cassis

Make the custard sauce and chill. Wash the strawberries and cut in half (Maida has you leave them whole, but I think they’re easier to eat in somewhat smaller pieces). Microwave the jelly in a microwave-safe bowl (not the jar!!) until it’s melted and smooth, about 1 minute 30 seconds. When you’re ready for dessert, pour the jelly over the strawberries. Mix them and serve the strawberries in bowls, passing the custard to pour over.

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