Spring is right around the corner, which means it’s time for me to clean out what’s left of last year’s harvest. In the Hudson Valley 2022 was a great year for strawberries and I still have a couple bags in the freezer. One of my favorite things to do is slow roast them so the sweet and tangy flavors become concentrated and form a thick rich syrup. While tasting through a few expressions from Cuish, the play between sweet and tart came to mind and I knew I had to create a pairing recipe. Like all my pairing recipes, there is plenty of room to add a unique spin and create your own signature dish.
The Cuish Espadin-Mexicano is transportive and manages to capture a classically Miahuatlan flavor in the glass. A full flavored experience on its own, what makes this mezcal so ripe for pairing is its layers of flavor that push and pull between savory and sweet, soft and spicy. Made in a refrescadera, there are some high toned spice notes as well as unctuous creamy vanilla notes that are reminiscent of creme brulee. This is what inspired me to combine it with equally rich and interesting roasted strawberries, to highlight the complexities of the spirit.
The juicy, syrupy and tangy sweet strawberries pair with the creamy richness of the mezcal, making this a not too sweet dessert pairing that could just as easily be a brunch indulgence. The herbal notes of the mezcal offer a nice counterpoint to the strawberries, and could be enhanced with the addition of a chiffonade of tarragon or basil as a topping if you love the green vegetal notes of the spirit. This spiciness and cleansing texture of the mezcal helps to balance out the softness of the dish while refreshing the palate between bites. The addition of cacao brings out the nutty roasted notes while also providing some texture contrast.
As always, using local produce is best, but if you don’t obsessively pick and freeze local produce like me, you can use sustainably sourced frozen strawberries for this recipe. Try not to use fresh strawberries from Mexico, as those berries come with nasty side effects for the communities where they are grown. One way to add your own spin is to add in extras in the roasting phase, like a splash of sherry or balsamic vinegar, citrus zest, or spices like star anise or cardamom. You can also play with the base of your sundae- replace the traditional ice cream, for yogurt or farmers cheese, or skip the base all together and just use a scoop of whipped cream or creme fraiche as a topping. Finally, add your own toppings like nuts and seeds.
- 4 cups strawberries
- ¼ cup sugar or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar, optional
- 1 cup greek yogurt + 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, combined
- 1 tablespoon cacao nibs
- Toppings such as whipped cream, toasted walnuts, hemp seeds, soft green herbs
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and add your strawberries, vinegar, and sugar to a baking dish. Roast for 3 hours, stirring every half hour and adjusting sugar as necessary. Allow to cool and the syrup to thicken. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled over yogurt or ice cream and with your favorite toppings.