Strawberry-Almond Shortbread by Chef Charlie Trotter

A special Valentine’s treat from Chef Charlie Trotter, this Strawberry-Almond Shortbread Napoleon With Basil and Balsamico is sure to please!

Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago is regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the world. For over 18 years, the restaurant has dedicated itself to excellence in the culinary arts. Not willing to ride on its laurels, Charlie Trotter’s is continuously forging new directions and has been instrumental in establishing new standards for fine dining worldwide.

Strawberry-Almond Shortbread Napolean With Basil and Balsamico

1 cup butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whole toasted almonds, skin on
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, skin on, lightly toasted
2 cups strawberries, cut in wedges
¼ cup Simple Syrup*
1 teaspoon lime zest
½ cup creme fraiche
1-1/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream
Pulp of ½ vanilla bean
2 tablespoons Lucini Gran Riserva
Balsamico Vinegar
Basil Syrup (see below)
2 tablespoons tiny fresh basil leaves

To make shortbread, cream butter and 6 tablespoons sugar until light, fluffy and almost white.  In food processor with metal blade, puree whole almonds 2 minutes until very fine; add to butter mixture along with flour and pinch of salt.  Mix until just blended.

Roll out dough, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, until about 1/8-inch thick.  Lay shortcake dough, still covered in plastic wrap, on sheet pan and refrigerate 30 minutes.  Remove plastic wrap, place dough on cutting board and cut into at least 18 3- by 2-inch rectangles.  Place on parchment-lined sheet pan and lightly press 4 or 5 almond slices into each rectangle.  Bake at 350o 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown.

*Simple Syrup:  Bring _ cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Cool.  Note:  use leftover syrup to make mixed drinks or sauce for plain cake, custard, fresh fruit mixture.
Basil Syrup (yield scant 1/4 cup): Submerge _ cup fresh basil leaves and _ cup fresh spinach leaves in boiling water 10 seconds. Remove from pan and plunge immediately into ice water.  Squeeze any excess water from leaves and chop coarsely.  In food processor, puree with _ cup Simple Syrup 3 minutes, until color is bright green.  Strain through a fine (mesh) sieve.  Store in refrigerator.

Toss strawberry wedges with Simple Syrup and lime zest. Set aside.  Whisk creme fraiche, heavy cream and remaining _ cup sugar with vanilla pulp until soft peaks form.

To assemble, place a small dollop of vanilla cream in center of each of six dessert plates.  Place a piece of almond shortbread over cream.  Spoon a large dollop of vanilla cream on top and cover with a second piece of shortbread.  Continue the process to make three shortbread layers.  Spoon some strawberries around napoleon.  Drizzle Balsamico and Basil Syrup around strawberries and sprinkle with basil.  Serves 6.