A few years ago, a dear friend of mine (closeted, gay, upscale, and, God love him, snobby) invited me to a Fourth of July "barbeque." When I asked what I could bring, he told me in horrified tones that four well-known chefs would be in attendance, and that I should bring nothing.
"What? Are you afraid I'll bring Mom's baked beans?" I asked.
"First of all, my mother is from Boston, and you should be so lucky that I would share her recipe with you," I began. "But I promise not to embarass you. I am, however, not showing up empty-handed."
"But it's all gormeeeeeeeeeeeetttt," he wailed.
"Do you think for one second I'd embarass you?"
"No, I would not."
And I didn't. Yoshi, from Yoshi's Cafe, the chef from the European American train line, and two other well-known Chicago chefs were there (if I identified them to you, I'd have to kill you). All of them wanted my recipe by the end of the evening.
I wouldn't give it to them, but I'm giving it to you.
4 pints fresh raspberries, seedless is better (I picked mine fresh off the vine in the Princess Mom's back yard.)
Cointreau or Grand Marniere
1 pint creme fraiche
1 6 oz. pat cream cheese, softened
1 pint whipping cream
1 vanilla bean pod seeds (or 1 tsp. best quality vanilla extract)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
Fresh mint leaves
Layer the raspberries in a flat glass dish and drizzle with enough booze to bathe them without drowning them. (For God's sake, don't rinse them before you drizzle them. It waters the flavor down and breaks down the berries before you get all their juicy goodness marinating.) Refrigerate for at least one hour.
In a chilled bowl, whip (at high speed) together the creme fraiche , cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla. Add pinches of Cinnamon, nutmeg and just the tinest whisper of allspice. Taste. Adjust the spices accordingly. Add the whipping cream, and beat until really fluffy.
Get yourself a high-sided serving bowl. Spread 1/3 of the whip in the bottom. Gently spoon half the berries on top. Add another third of the whip, then add another layer of berries. Gently spoon the third layer of whip on top, adding peaks, whirls and swirls with the spoon to make it pretty.
Garnish with mint.
Chill until ready to serve.
Be prepared to swoon. It's so good, your guests will be fighting over who gets to lick the bowl clean.