After spending a little over a year of my life in Rome I like to think that I know a thing or two about La Dolce Vita. So recently at our friend’s rehearsal dinner (shout out to Devon and Mike!) I had an opportunity to share my wealth of knowledge (or lack thereof) with others concerning Italian Liqueurs.
The dinner was at an awesome Italian restaurant, in Richmond, VA, called La Grotta. As the meal wound to a close the waiter asked the table if we would like any after-dinner drinks to enjoy with our Tiramisu. This question reminded me of a liqueur that I enjoyed on several occasions in Italy and I confidently ordered a round of Grappa for all.
“Grappa??” The waiter gave me a surprised and incredulous look and I shot one back that I hoped said “of course, anyone with my level of cultured sophistication drinks Grappa.” So, the waiter brought out the glasses of Grappa and we all had a not so pleasant surprise…I was thinking of another type of alcohol entirely.
Grappa, or as we now call it “Fire Water”, is literally made from the discarded grape seeds, stalks, and stems that are a by-product of the winemaking process.. and it tastes like it. No offence to those of you who like Grappa, of course. Nathan tried the Grappa, and said “You LIKE this!?” No, no I do not…I simply have no idea what I’m talking about.
When the waiter came back I swallowed my pride and asked him which Italian Liqueur tastes like licorice. “Ooooh”, he said, “you mean Sambuca!” YES! Sambuca and Grappa are practically the same word, right? The waiter brought out a couple glasses of Sambuca and we finally had the delicious taste of Italy that I was hoping for…a perfect accompaniment to the classic Tiramisu.
Ok everyone, time for another little history lesson to add on to our post about the Bridal Brew. Chimay beers are Trappist Belgian ales brewed at the Cistercian Abbey of Scourmont-lez-Chimay. There are actually only six beers in the world which can be called Trappist and are so called because they are brewed within a Trappist abbey. They are: Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren, and Achel. The monks at the Abbey brew every tasty beer so you can be sure that you are getting an extra dose of holy goodness with each beer.
Chimay “Blue” has a hefty alcohol content of 9% and is on the lighter side of a dark belgian ale. Like most Belgian ales it is also very carbonated due to the fact that it is re-fermented in the bottle. The deep sweet flavors of the beer complimented the coffee flavor of the Tiramisu and the fizz from the beer made all the flavors dance around in my mouth like… a monk party?
This is the same brand that is widely available in Rome and it is the most popular for a reason. It is smooth and sweet with a licorice taste that is strong but not overpowering. Even people who tend to not like licorice (ahem, Nathan) might like Sambuca. In Italy it is common to serve Sambuca with 3 coffee beans floating in it which represent health, happiness, and prosperity and can be chewed to increase the taste of anise.
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar plus a pinch
1 tablespoon Kahlua
1 (8-oz) container mascarpone cheese (1 scant cup)
1/4 cup chilled heavy cream
2 cups very strong brewed coffee or brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature (We used strong French Press coffee)
2 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine
18 savoiardi (crisp Italian ladyfingers, 6 oz)
1/4 cup fine-quality bittersweet chocolate shavings (we used a bar of bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate.)
Beat together yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and Kahlua in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Beat in mascarpone until combined.
Then, in a separate bowl, beat whites with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar with cleaned beaters until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat cream in a third bowl (hope you have enough bowls) with cleaned beaters until it just holds soft peaks. Fold cream into mascarpone mixture gently but thoroughly, then fold in whites.
Stir together coffee and Marsala in a shallow bowl. Dip 1 ladyfinger in coffee mixture, soaking it about 3 seconds on each side, and transfer to an 8-inch glass baking dish (2-quart capacity). Repeat with ladyfingers and arrange in bottom of dish, trimming as needed. Spread half of mascarpone mixture evenly over ladyfingers then make another layer in the same manner with remaining ladyfingers and mascarpone mixture. Chill tiramisu, covered, at least 6 hours.
Just before serving, sprinkle with chocolate.
Much adapted from Gourmet Magazine