Monday, March 14, 2011

Avoir le beurre et le boire, trop!

It's spring now - right? What do I know: I spend all my time chained to the computer. But that's what people are telling me; so it's time to celebrate the right way. Cocktail time! For day to day libations, I highly recommend a light and refreshing Gin and Tonic (which I'll probably discuss in another post) but sometimes you just have to go full tilt. There's nothing like a Grasshopper to bring out the kitsch in your cocktail.

I like this cocktail because it showcases the 1950's and 1960's so perfectly. It's an after dinner drink - so 60's (those people would find any reason to drink). The name is derived from it's green color, which is derived from the creme de menthe. The drink was popularized in the American south, specifically New Orleans.

The cocktail is served straight up, typically in a cocktail glass.

A basic recipe is as follows:

Grasshopper Cocktail

one part Creme de menthe
one part Creme de cacao
one part fresh cream

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

Pretty easy, right? You don't need to garnish it but if you wanted to, a sprig of mint or a dash of grated chocolate would be nice.
If you wanted to shake things up a bit, you could try a few of the variations. There's the "Brown Grasshopper", which substitutes coffee brandy for the creme de cacao (most recipes suggest using white creme de menthe in the drink to highlight the brown color); or the "Flying Grasshopper", which has vodka instead of fresh cream; and the "Frozen Grasshopper", which has mint or vanilla ice cream added to it (this makes it more of a dessert cocktail, instead of an after dinner drink) - this drink is blended in an electric blender and is similar to a milkshake.
If you do try the Frozen Grasshopper, it should be served in a larger tall glass - something like a Tom Collins. Garnishes include grated or shaved chocolate and broken Oreo cookies.

Now, what's this about cake? It wouldn't be kitsch if we didn't have a dessert for it! There are a surprising amount of desserts based on cocktails (in fact, one year I made some awesome White Russian cupcakes for an Oscar party I threw - well, there's yet another post) and the Grasshopper is tailor made for that. It's a very spring-y dessert, on account of the mint. Serve with some ice cream or a dollop of freshly whipped cream and you have yourself a fine cap to a meal.

Grasshopper Cake
(from Good Housekeeping)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (I rarely ever use margarine, but I kept it because it's old school)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs
20 chocolate mints (look for the brand Andes Mints)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 15 1/2" by 10 1/2" - inch jelly roll pan; line with waxed paper. On another sheet of waxed paper combine flour, cocoa, and salt.
In a large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until just blended. Increase speed to high; beat 3 minutes or until mixture is light and creamy, frequently scraping the bowl with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to low; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture; beat until just combined, occasionally scrapping bowl.
Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake completely on wire rack, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, with a vegetable peeler, shave along the side of each mint (lengthwise) to equal 1/2 cup of chocolate curls. (About half way through the mint will break) Set aside the curls for sprinkling on top of your assembled cake. Chop broken pieces and reserve for filling of the cake (you will have about 1/3 cup of chopped mints).
With small knife, loosen cake sides from waxed paper; invert cake onto a cutting board. Carefully remove waxed paper. With a sharp knife, trim 1/4 of an inch from each side of the cake. Cut cake crosswise into three equal rectangles (about 9 1/2" by 4 1/2" each).
In a medium bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat cream and remaining 1 Tablespoon sugar until stiff peaks form (keep the bowl, cream, and whipping utensils chilled to make this easier). With rubber spatula, gently fold in the reserved chopped mints.
Place one cake rectangle on a serving plate; top with one generous cup of whipped cream mixture and spread evenly. Repeat two times with remaining cake and cream mixture. Sprinkle top with mint chocolate curls. Cover (carefully!) and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Another nice garnish would be a sprig of fresh mint, on each slice served.

Bon apetite!

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