As I have noted before, we aren’t big dessert people. Outside of Gary’s incredible creme brulee and my occasional foray with berries or a tart shell we either resort to something beautiful bought at our local pastry shop or simply lay out a platter of fruit and cheese and open a bottle of Port. For Valentine’s Day I wanted to try something special though and had been looking at a package of unflavored gelatin in the cabinet that I had bought many months before hoping to actually get up the nerve to use it. I had seen a version of this fun and beautiful dessert on one of the cooking shows on daily and thought “I can do that” as it didn’t call for too much actual measuring or precise recipe counts. It turned out beautifully, and the touch of fresh herbs with the Brut bubbly and sweet grapes added a layer of depth and deliciousness. Just make sure you start this early to make sure the gelatine has time to fully set.
Champagne Grapes with Whipped Cream
1 package unflavored gelatine, about 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons warm water
2 cups sparkling wine, you can use Brut, Dry, Semi-Dry, whatever you have, just use half as much sugar if you are using a sweet wine
3/4 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons
3 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
2 basil leaves, julienne
3 mint leaves, julienne
2 cups assorted red and green grapes, whole or cut in half
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 pint whipped cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
fresh strawberries for garnish
Balsamic vinegar for garnish
About 4 hours prior to when you want to serve this stir the two tablespoons of water into the gelatin in a small dish. Set aside. Heat the Champagne and sugar over low heat in a small sauce pan whisking often to melt the sugar. Add the herbs and a touch of salt and freshly cracked pepper. The salt helps bring out the flavors of the fruit, the pepper adds a nice contrast. Arrange the grapes, alternating red and green grapes, in four large or 8 small ramekins. When the sugar has melted add the gelatin to the Champagne mixture and stir through to melt the gelatin into the mixture. Carefully pour the Champagne gelatin mixture over the grapes in the ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator on a towel. Refrigerate for at least 3 1/2 hours until set. When ready to serve add the whipping cream to a cold bowl and whip using a whisk or a mixer for 2 minutes as soft peaks start to form. Stop the mixer and add the remaining sugar and the vanilla and finish whipping until the cream is nice and fluffy. To serve carefully go around the inside of the ramekins with a knife point to help loosen the gelatin. Place a plate on top of the ramekin and flip it over, inverting it on to the plate. If it doesn’t come out soak the ramekin base in a bowl of hot water for a few moments. Serve with a good spoonful of whipped cream and a few balsamic drizzled strawberries.