Monday, January 10, 2011

Vinegar Strawberries with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Even after the heaviest of heavy meals, there is always room for dessert. It is a scientific fact that there is a separate, secret stomach in all humans that is meant for sweets and sweets alone. If you're feeling the pressure from a particularly hearty meal, pour a stiff aperitif and enjoy this incredibly satisfying fluffy treat. Your dessert stomach will thank you.

I was lucky enough to stay with a short, cranky, old patriot named Enriqueta while living in Spain. For five months I lived with a fleeting temper and no tolerance for anything American. She had a hell of a sense of humor mocking the U.S. and our inferior ways. Of the biggest inferiorities? Cooking. So I wouldn't taint her cooking with American mistakes, I was only allowed to cut fruits and veggies and watch her do the rest. She was my Spanish grandmother; my abuela from anotha' motha'. Vinegar Strawberries was one of my first lessons.

Cutting strawberries for dessert was a daily duty. I would put the cleaned, trimmed, and cut strawberries in a bowl. Enriqueta would add a splash or two of good vinegar, a spoonful or two or granulated sugar, a pinch of sea salt, and a couple cranks of a pepper mill. I much prefer eyeing the ingredients, but for the meticulous folks out there: when using one pint of cut strawberries add 3 tablespoons vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, pinch of salt, 2 cranks of pepper. Then let it chill out for a bit at room temperature. This is super important. All the juices and flavors need to get to know each other for at least an hour. Once an awesome syrup comes together at the bottom of the bowl, give the berries a big stir and stick it in the fridge. 

When I pester my real grandma in her kitchen, to this day, she has me make the whipped cream. She uses a hand-crank egg beater so it only makes sense that I put my young joints to good use. I bought and use the same tool for economical and nostalgic purposes. By crank or by electricity, whipped cream is super easy to make. Stick a bowl in the freezer ahead of time. Put heavy whipping cream and a splash of vanilla extract in chilled bowl and start cranking. Add one or two spoonfuls of sugar to the cream throughout the whipping process. When the cream starts to thicken, give it a taste. If you think it needs more sugar, by all means add more sugar, but be careful not to over do it! Heavy whipping cream has a natural deliciousness that only need a bit of sugar to enhance. Crank away at a fast and steady pace until firm peaks form when the egg beater is held upside-down. Voila. 

I enjoyed the marinated strawberries and cream with some whiskey. Specifically, The Knot. This Irish whiskey has the qualities of a cordial or liqueur. It has a deep caramel color, and smells of vanilla. The Knot's chocolatey taste paired perfectly with the traditional berries and cream combo while its smokey whiskey flavors complimented the stellar vinegar syrup. 

Thanks grandmas, abuelas and irish whiskey. And don't ever ignore your dessert stomach! This dish is light and airy enough to be fully enjoy even on a full stomach. A 100 proof aperitif (such as The Knot) will also make digestion that much more pleasant, at least temporarily. 

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