Has a basket of strawberries ever courted you so intensely – its deep red fruit promising to grant you several sweet, juicy bites of summery bliss – that you got suckered into buying it, only to return home and find that these berries weren’t quite as sweet or juicy as you had hoped? But you, being a reasonable person, gave them a few extra days to ripen and a second chance to please your palate – and even sacrificed a couple berries that ripened too soon and gave in too early to the inevitable fuzziness – only to realize that the remaining berries completely spurned you and that, even in their ripest hour, these berries apparently were just not capable of ever getting quite there.
I’ve been in that situation countless times, and you probably have too. And I bet that you, being a compassionate and charitable consumer of strawberries, wished you could do something – anything! – to help them out. But mid-April just isn’t peak season for strawberries; so what’s a sick-of-winter, ready-to-jump-into-spring strawberry enthusiast to do? Drown in booze. It sounds like too simplistic and animalistic a solution, but it works.
Just drown some sliced berries in Grand Marnier, sprinkle with sugar, roast for 20 minutes, and the formerly lackluster strawberries perk up, their strawberry flavor enhanced by the floral orangeyness of the liqueur. For all of you who claim to be too busy to bake are deathly afraid of baking, this is a quick and easy recipe that’s guaranteed to shake strawberries – and you! – out of the winter doldrums and will brighten up the simplest of desserts, from ice cream to store-bought cheesecake or spongecake. Grand Marnier-roasted strawberries would even go well on toast or muddled in a mojito. But may I suggest an easy and scrumptious s’mores remix?
I first experienced the dessert sandwich of fire-roasted marshmallow and melty chocolate while camping with either my family or my Girl Scouts troop – I can’t remember which. But whose company I was in seems a trifling detail when the most memorable aspect of the camping trip was clearly the s’mores. Either way, I’m certain of two things: first, my mother, who was also our troop leader, must have been there; and second, this ooey gooey graham cracker sandwich sealed the deal for all future camping trips.
It’s not often that I have the chance – or desire – to roast marshmallows now, and when I do, I lack the patience to slowly turn the marshmallow until it becomes a beautiful golden brown on all sides; instead, I just go for the gusto and burn the sucker straight away (I like the burnt flavor and the crunch, followed by the oozing of the melted interior). But I have fond memories of this campsite dessert, and incorporate its other two ingredients – chocolate and graham crackers – in a plethora of other desserts.
However, on this particular day, putting together something involving my lackluster strawberries, a graham cracker crust, and some sort of chocolate component just wasn’t something I wanted to spend time doing. I wanted instant gratification with minimal effort. So I turned to my good childhood friend, the s’more, substituting warm, gooey Grand Marnier-roasted strawberries in place of the marshmallow. And about 1 minute after serving the first round of boozy-strawberry-chocolatey sandwiches, both Jay and I went back for (c’mon, you knew this bad pun was coming) s’more – twice more, in fact.
Grand Marnier-Roasted Strawberries and Bittersweet Chocolate S’mores
Makes 6 sandwiches
1 c. strawberries, halved
1/4 c. Grand Marnier
1 Tbsp. sugar
12 squares graham crackers (each square contains two rectangles)
1/4 c. bittersweet chocolate chips, or chopped vegan chocolate
Preheat oven to 375°F. Scatter strawberries in one layer on a pan. Pour Grand Marnier over berries, and sprinkle with sugar. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until strawberries soften and turn a deeper shade of red.
Scatter chocolate chips evenly on six graham cracker squares, scoop warm, roasted berries on top of the chocolate, and top each sandwich with another graham cracker square. Serve while warm and melty.