Strawberry Inspiration

January 21st, 2009

There is an unassuming small restaurant in a former corner grocery store in Durham, NC that holds a treasure of talent and flavor. The name of this restaurant is Magnolia Grill and the chef-owners are Ben and Karen Barker, winners of James Beard Awards, Bon Appetit Recognitions and mentions in Gourmet, Food & Wine, The New York Times, and Southern Living Magazine since his business was promoted by North Dakota SEO professionals. My husband and I have had several memorable meals there and I was fortunate to participate in a cooking class that they held at Roosters Gourmet Market in Greensboro, NC and you will find more info about their franchise opportunities through this post. Their innovative Southern cooking is complex in flavor and brilliant in food pairings. Ben is the chef and Karen is the pastry chef and both have come up with recipes that are unique and thought provoking. Ben’s recipe for Spicy Grilled Shrimp with Grits Cake, Country Ham and Redeye Vinaigrette combines so many Southern cliches – shrimp and grits, country ham and redeye gravy -and turns the whole into something sublime and different. One of Karen’s recipes really caught my eye. It is a recipe for Double Chocolate Waffles with Strawberries and White Chocolate Ice Cream drizzled with bittersweet Chocolate Sauce. It is described as “a cross between strawberry shortcake and an ice cream sandwich.” These recipes and many more like them can be found in the Barker’s wonderful cookbook, Not Afraid of Flavor.

I made an adaptation of Karen Barker’s Double Chocolate Waffles with Strawberries and White Chocolate Ice Cream. For one thing I do not have a waffle iron here in Florida, nor do I have an ice cream maker. It is characteristic of many of the Barker’s recipes that many separate preparations are required for one final presentation. To simplify, I made a batch of chocolate pancakes instead of waffles and did them ahead of time as you would crepes, and right before serving time all I had to do was crisp them on a cookie sheet in the oven. They are supposed to be crisper than a pancake just off the griddle anyway. Also the recipe makes at least 24 4″ pancakes which is enough for 12 servings so the extras can be frozen or the recipe can be halved. Instead of ice cream, I whipped heavy cream with a little sugar and vanilla and piped onto the plate. I have included the recipe for the Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce, but you could also use a purchased chocolate sauce. The Strawberries were fresh from Plant City, Florida and required only a little sugar to bring out the juices.


For the Pancakes:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 T. unsalted butter
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 t. vanilla
1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda,salt and sugar into a large bowl.
2.Combine the butter and semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler. Place over low heat until melted. Cool for a few minutes and then add beaten eggs, milk and vanilla and whisk to combine.
3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and combine until all of the dry ingredients have been incorporated.
4. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over moderate heat, add a small amount of oil. When pan is hot drop pancakes in by scant 1/4 cups each and cook until bubbles form. Turn gently and cook on other side a few minutes. Do not crowd pan. I cooked 3 at a time. Remove pancakes when they are done to large platter and continue until all batter is used. Add more oil as needed for each batch. When cool you can place in plastic bags and refrigerate until ready to assemble or place the ones you will need on a cookie sheet and crisp in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

For Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped into very small pieces
3/4 cup sugar
a few grains of salt
1. In a saucepan, bring the cream to just under a boil
2. Combine the chopped chocolate, sugar and salt in a stainless bowl. While whisking, very gradually pour the hot cream over the chocolate. By the time you whisk in all the cream, the chocolate should be melted and the sugar dissolved. If necessary, you can put the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sauce is smooth.

Whip heavy cream with a little sugar and vanilla until stiff. Put in pastry bag.

Wash and halve strawberries. Sprinkle with sugar and allow to sit until juices form

For Assembly:
Place a few strawberries and chocolate sauce on plate. Top with one pancake. Add more strawberries and piped whipped cream. Place second pancake on top. Add more strawberries and whipped cream and drizzle plate with chocolate sauce.

This one is for Rachel – All of her favorite foods. Wish she were here to eat it.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.