Monday, September 21, 2009

A Dessert Fit For Kings

While I have no proof that any kings have eaten this dessert, it is called Eton Mess, and it's British, so I am left to conclude that it originated at Eton College, the famous English prep school that's been around longer than America and has educated scores of famous Brits from the Princes of Wales to James Bond to Mark Darcy to Captain Hook. (Okay, I realize that 60% of these are fictional characters, I am just amused by the fact that Eton is so full of itself that they bother listing fictional characters who fictionally attended Eton, along with all of the actual famous people that went there.)

I actually don't even know if this dessert is served there; a quick search of their website shows no matches. I first had it at a Marco Pierre White restaurant in England a little over a year ago when I was there touring gardens with the fam. It was so delicious that I jotted down a diagram in my notebook, for future reference. Now the diagram is the only thing I have to go by, since I've pretty much forgotten all of the details other than that it is delicious.

I threw these together for Erik and me just before watching Mad Men last night. If you prep the berries in advance and let them macerate (sit in lemon juice & sugar) for a few hours up to a few days, the dessert comes together in about 10 minutes. Although I haven't tried it yet, I think it would be great for a (smallish) group, because the only thing you need to increase for a crowd is the amount of whipped cream you whip, which, if you're using an electric mixer, isn't too much of an effort. Like last week's caramelized fruit dessert, this recipe allows you to vary the type of fruit you use. I like strawberries, but I also think raspberries or blueberries or some kind of a mix would be great, too. These look particularly festive in fancy glassware, such as a martini or wine glasses, or parfait glasses, if you have them.

Eton Mess (adapted from the Marco Pierre White's Yew Tree Inn)

Note: Apologies for the imprecise quantities--I just eyeball everything. These are my best per-person guesses for quantities, but you can adjust the amounts of each component according to your own taste.

* Vanilla ice cream, 1 small scoop per person
* Whipping cream or heavy cream, 2-3 tablespoons per person
* A few pinches of white sugar
* A few strawberries per person, or any assortment of berries that you like
* About 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (you can get by with bottled if you'd like)
* Vanilla meringue cookies, a few per person, roughly crumbled (I find these at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or the Christmas Tree Shops. They're probably available elsewhere, too, but these stores definitely carry them)
* 1 or 2 semisweet chocolate chips per person, or the equivalent in bar form

1. In advance, rinse and chop the berries. Toss the berries in a bowl with equal parts lemon juice and sugar, but taste and adjust sweet/sour mix if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge until you are ready to assemble the dessert--at least a few hours, or overnight.

2. Combine the cream and a few pinches of sugar in a deep bowl and whip with an electric mixer until the cream can hold stiff peaks. Gently fold in the meringue cookie pieces.

3. In the bottom of a glass place a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Next layer on your berries, adding lots of the juices too. Top with a generous dollop of the whipped cream/meringue mixture.

4. If desired, finely chop a few chocolate chips and sprinkle the chocolate on top, or if you have a solid chocolate bar, run a vegetable peeler along a side to make some elegant chocolate curls. Serve immediately.


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