Parfait can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be.
The French dessert has been translated into a layered affair by Americans, as seen by the granola version offered at McDonald's. Alternate ribbons of yogurt, granola and fruit, and voila, you have dessert or breakfast.
Emeril Lagasse's savory caviar parfait requires more work and money, and maybe even a special event for which to make it.
Rachael Ray's quick version of chocolate mint parfaits will send any child of the '50s and '60s back to the days when creme de menthe was exotic. A little dribbled over vanilla ice cream was truly oh-la-la.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup champagne
2 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups finely chopped hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup sevruga or osetra caviar
1/2 cup salmon roe
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the salt, white pepper, champagne and 2 cups of the milk and bring just to a boil. Mix 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the beaten egg yolks and whisk to blend. Mix this into the hot milk mixture remaining in the pan.
Dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining 1/2 cup milk, add to the pan and cook, whisking until the mixture thickens slightly, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour into a glass bowl, place a sheet of plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and let cool. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
To assemble, remove the champagne cream from the refrigerator and whisk until smooth. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the chopped eggs into the bottom of a parfait or wine glass. Then layer 1 teaspoon of the chopped red onion, 1/2 teaspoon of the chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons of the caviar, 2 tablespoons of the champagne cream and 1 tablespoon of the salmon roe on top.
Continue layering, using another 1 tablespoon chopped eggs, another 4 teaspoons red onion, 1/2 teaspoon parsley and 2 tablespoons champagne cream mixture, then another 1 tablespoon chopped eggs, 1 teaspoon chopped red onion, 1/2 teaspoon parsley. Top with 1 teaspoon of the caviar.
Repeat the process to make seven more parfaits. Cover and chill completely before serving.
Makes eight servings.
Source: "Every Day's A Party: Louisiana Recipes for Celebrating with Family and Friends," by Emeril Lagasse (William Morrow, 1999; $26).
Berry Lemon Mousse Parfait
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
In a large, chilled mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream, 1/3 cup sugar, lemon juice and extracts until mixture mounds softly.
In a small bowl, add remaining sugar to berries. Mix gently.
Spoon layers of mousse and fruit into dessert dishes. Serve immediately or chill for several hours before serving.
4 chocolate mint candies, such as Andes or peppermint patties
4 sprigs fresh mint
Using four parfait glasses or cocktail glasses, pour 1/2 a shot of creme de menthe into each glass. Top with scoops of mint chocolate ice cream, then drizzle another 1/2 a shot per parfait of creme de menthe over ice cream. Garnish parfaits with mint candy and fresh mint sprigs.
Makes four servings.
Source: "30-Minute Meals," by Rachael Ray (Lake Isle Press, 1999).