Despite having lived in the world’s greatest culinary melting pot for 11 years now, despite a long line of Italian grandmothers preceding me, and despite operating one of the hottest catering companies around, I admit my tastes and food preferences are often less than refined. Kimberly scolds me for this.
Even as a small child and adolescent, my mother would ask me year after year what I wanted for my birthday dinner. While my younger brother got in the habit of requesting lobster with a petite fillet mignon on the side at the age of 9, I demanded, year after year, plain cheese pizza—with the crusts cut off!—and a Carvel ice cream cake. I’m a gal who craves grilled cheese on a daily basis, lives for thick, banana milkshakes, and generously iced Magnolia Cupcakes, and still gets as excited perusing the candy selections at the grocery store check out line as I did when I was 5.
So, you can imagine my delight at catering a ‘60s-themed event for one of The Dinner Belle’s top clients,The Supper Club, at the exclusive Classic Car Club in SoHo. Set on the corner of Hudson and Broome, it is truly a grown man’s playground—a warehouse display of fancy cars, and Tuesday night, long-legged, short-shorted models in roller skates, serving our delicious food!
Back in the conception phase of the party, my head was spinning with visions of pink, cotton candy sticks and pigs-in-a-blanket…Root Beer floats overflowing from iced, beer mugs…waffle-cut French fries in cones and beer-battered fish sticks…oh, the possibilities were endless! It would’ve been a great menu, had we been catering for a typical, all-American crowd in the Midwest. But, in New York, and with The Supper Club, a ‘60s bash is a whole other ball game! One without peanuts. Supper Club guests often don’t eat meat. They are vegetarians in Manolo Blahnik’s, or vegans in Chanel, who likely suffer from wheat, dairy and sugar allergies. In fact, they often don’t eat at all.
But, I believe that at the heart of every fancy-pants-New-York-society-adult, is a kid who wanted ice cream cake for her birthday, loves a good, relished “dog,” and secretly wants to blow bubbles in chocolate milk. The challenge for this event, then, was how to mix the fancy with the familiar. The greasy with the gaunt. The high-end with the hillbilly. It took two Dinner Belles on opposite sides of the food spectrum to pull this one off, and I am proud to say, we did so with both comfort and class. In our hands, standard grilled cheese turned into grilled Parma cotto and fontina, brushed withcrème fraiche dijonaise, atop fresh, country, sour dough bread. Common deviled eggs were transformed into “delish” truffled-mousse delicacies, topped with black sesame, parmesean tuiles and chive.Of course there had to be a hot dog cart, but this one had fixin’s for the most refined palettes: chipolte aioli, Buffalo cheddar cheese sauce, and maple bacon bits (to name just a few) all piled atop Amy’s Bread potato buns. Even Richie Rich, famed fashion designer of Heatherette, was into his wiener! Plain old Rice Krispy treats (one of my staples) became fancier as a version of S’mores, when they were infused with honey graham crackers and sandwiched between a layer of Nutella and Marshmallow Cream. And my personal favorite—good old-fashioned brownies—were reconstructed into beautiful, minty “grasshopper” petit fours. Trust me, these are better than an Andy’s Candy.
Chocolate Grasshopper Petit Fours (OK – Brownies)
These take a few steps, but I promise the result is well worth it. The look will impress the most elite, and the taste will satisfy the kid in you.
A few things you will need, in addition to all the ingredients listed for each individual component.
~ 1 bundle of fresh mint leaves, washed, separated and
1 box Junior Mints (chilled)
1 box Brownie Mix (and eggs/oil/water that goes into it – see box)
2 cups confectioner sugar
4 tbsp butter – softened
3 tbsp milk
3/4 tsp mint extract
A few drops of green food coloring
Mix all Ingredients together and then chill for at least an hour.In the meantime, start baking the brownies.
OK – this is where Kimberly and I actually agree. When it comes to brownies, you know, the real gooey, chewy kind that you just can’t stop eating – box is better. We’ve slaved over from-scratch recipes and never found one that lives up to the convenience of the box or beats out the box in terms of taste….never!
Pick your favorite—I’m a fan of Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix.Nothing with added chunks of chocolate though; keep it simple.
Once your brownies have come out of the oven and cooled, layer the chilled, mint frosting on top with a spatula and put back in the refrigerator to cool for at least another hour.
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
In a saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over medium heat until it turns into a ganache. Add vanilla, stir, and remove from heat. Let cool for 10-15 minutes. Take brownie pan out again and pour liquid chocolate over pan – spreading carefully with spatula (if you move too quick, the mint layer will start to mix with the chocolate). Put back in refrigerator and chill for at least an hour.
While this last layer is chilling, you can make the icing “glue” which will help keep all the fixings on top of the brownie.
Green Icing Glue
3 ounces pasteurized egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
In large bowl or standing mixer, combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring. For immediate use, transfer icing to pastry bag or heavy-duty storage bag and pipe as desired. If using storage bag, clip corner. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Finally, once the top chocolate layer has had a chance to chill and harden, remove from refrigerator and cut off all edges. Slice brownies into uniform 1” X 1” squares. Top with a dollop of your green icing “glue” from the self-made pastry bag, and top with a fresh mint leaf and chilled junior mint!
Serve immediately, or store in air tight container for up to a few days.