Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day Strawberry Shortcakes

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day because it was the day that graves of soldiers were decorated with flowers, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in the service of the United States. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and was first observed on May 30, 1868. Now traditionally celebrated on the last Monday of May, it is often too chilly in Chicago for an outdoor celebration, although I regularly attempt this and am often defeated.

Whether or not the weather cooperates with my plans, I still make a 'patriotic meal'. Sometimes that means fried chicken or grilled burgers or other food I associate with the first picnic of the year.  Regardless of what else I'm serving, it's easy to make a good strawberry shortcake into something that carries the theme of the day.

Using a standard shortcake recipe, I roll out the dough and cut them into the shape of stars. While they bake, I clean and hull the berries, sprinkle them with sugar and a little strawberry vodka or a dash of almond extract (to add flavor to berries that are somewhat lacking.) I puree some of the berries to make a sauce and toss this over the berries and let them macerate.

On this holiday I sprinkle in a few blue berries just before serving time to give the dessert the look of 'Old Glory'. I typically split the star-shaped cakes in half, topping the bottom part with ice cream and berries and then applying the top. A small flourish of whipped cream and a few decoratively placed berries completes the effect. It is a seasonal dessert that heralds the arrival of summer and celebrates all of the men and women of have sacrificed much for our country.

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