In the Friends episode ‘The One Where Ross Got High’, as Monica hosts Thanksgiving Rachel is tasked with making dessert. With an English recipe book to hand, sticky pages confound her into combining a traditional English trifle with a shepherd’s pie. That means ascending layers of ladyfingers, jam, custard which she made from scratch, raspberry sauce, ladyfingers, beef sauteed with peas and onions, custard, bananas, and whipped cream.
It might not sound right, but the dessert divides opinion. Judy Gellar might speak for the majority when she informs the distraught chef, ‘Rachel, no you weren’t supposed to put beef in the trifle. It did not taste good’. But as far as Joey is concerned, as he scoffs down another plate, ‘I mean, what’s not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good!’.
In spite of first appearances, in Friends Joey is often the sound voice of reason, so it only seems fair to take his word for it. And then we can start to wonder what other traditional desserts might combine well with portions of meat. Let’s trot a little corner of the globe as we squash together foodstuffs into single-course meals.
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Battenberg with Best of British Beef
If Rachel still possesses a copy of that cookery book, perhaps she will stumble upon this strange concoction one holiday season. It takes a Battenberg cake – a name linked to the Royal Family, but originating with a small town in central Germany, a fact which would make most patriots choke if only they knew – with its marzipan and pink-and-yellow check pattern, and places at the very heart of the sponge a joint of British beef. Rib eye is good, just make sure it has some nice marbling, for you’ll want the fat of the beef to drip thoroughly throughout your cake.
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Princess Cake with Three Filthy Crowns
This Swedish delicacy combines the typical features of a prinsesstårta – layers of sponge and jam, a dome of whipped cream before the green marzipan covering, and a pink marzipan rose on top – with the immemorial meat dishes of meatballs, falukorv, and pickled herring. It’s tasty because the moist fish penetrates some of the lower layers, while adding a pungent note to the whipped cream. And still the layers retain enough of their initial flavour for this cake to offer something different with each and every bite.
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Granny’s Borscht Pavlova
Even carnivorous establishments must these days provide one vegetarian option, and this tart soup may do the trick. It depends what stock you use of course, but the main ingredient is the indelible beetroot, served here with sour cream and some chopped dill. Meanwhile the pavlova, its peaks blowtorched to crunchy chewy perfection, serves as the base. The meringue is named after the imperial ballerina Anna, and this dessert-cum-dinner will have you dancing a merry tune. Best to serve the soup cold.
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Protruding Frog Leg Macarons
If you’ve never tasted frog legs before, but sometimes sit and in your more pensive moments ponder what that might be like, allow this to serve as your entryway into a world of haute cuisine. Once you’ve done the hard labour, grounding the almonds, adding the sugar, and beating the egg whites – not to mention slicing and dicing that slippery frog – feel free to colour your macarons however you wish. In the illustration above I pretended to use a suitably swampy green.
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Fourth of July Meat Feast Sundae
Perhaps from the time of the Civil War, probably from before even that, Americans have loved a meat feast. And with Fourth of July the annual celebration of independence and ice cream, why not combine concepts to forge a delicious sundae treat? Take a hot dog and a piece of fried chicken, and stuff them head first into escalating layers of jam, guacamole, peach cobbler, beans, and your favourite flavour of ice cream. Huddle up with your loved ones and enjoy the fireworks, but you and I both know that the real explosions will be going off inside of your mouth.
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Cannoli alla Carbonara
If Friends gave us the confused trifle, it was another television show, The Sopranos, which turned our attention to the cannoli, shells of mouthwatering fried pastry filled with sweet and creamy ricotta cheese. The filling can contain citrus peel, nuts, or chocolate, and is often flavoured with orange water, vanilla, or some sort of liqueur. But here we’ll forego all that and instead add carbonara, the ancient Roman past dish. For Italian authenticity use pancetta for the bacon and Pecorino Romano for the cheese.