For a simple summer dessert, strawberries Romanoff has elbow-glove style. The name hints at Russian aristocracy to which it has no actual ties, though the sketchy Old Hollywood restaurateur after whom it's named supposedly traded on the association and lifted the recipe from the famed Escoffier. It's kind of the perfect scammer backstory for humble strawberries dressed up in highbrow orange Cognac liqueur.
Strawberries Romanoff is out of vogue these days, but I refuse to give it up. In fact, I crave riffs on the theme. Where is the Romanoff ice cream? Romanoff cocktails? Romanoff pie? That last one spurred me to action. A vanilla cream pie in a flaky, crispy crust seems a good base on which to pile boozy berries — a low-key stage for a vintage star's comeback.
I've adapted the filling from Nicole Reese's pastry cream, a baseline pudding recipe that lends itself to variation, gently spiking it with liqueur. (Sidebar: Pudding is not hard to make from scratch. Get yourself a simple go-to recipe and live the life you were meant for.) Grand Marnier and Cointreau are the optimal liqueurs for their warm, rounded Cognac and orange flavor. That said, basic triple sec is about $8 a bottle and still delightful.
Making the dough the day before is a solid plan but fill it the day you're serving it to keep the flaky crunch. And the strawberries, lifted from their bright sauce, should be heaped onto the chilled pie at the last possible moment so the juice doesn't run too much. But don't worry, the sweet sauce won't go to waste — letting your guests spoon it over their individual pieces feels that much more decadent.
Strawberry Romanoff Cream Pie
1 pie crust (half recipe from "Blackberries for the Wily," Sept. 16, 2021)
For the filling:
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
For the topping:
3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
⅓ cup Grand Marnier
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar (or more to taste)
Lay the rolled-out pie crust in a 9-inch pan. Trim and crimp the edges, then poke holes all over the bottom of the crust with a fork. Chill the crust for 1 hour.
Place a cookie sheet on the center rack of the oven and heat it to 425 F. Gently line the pie crust with aluminum foil, covering the edges and filling the bottom with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes and remove the foil and weights. Bake uncovered another 10-12 minutes, or until the crust turns just golden. Set it aside to cool on a wire rack.
Prepare the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk, cream and vanilla just to simmering, then remove from heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. While whisking, slowly pour half the milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Whisk until completely incorporated, then add the milk and egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the warm milk and cream. Return the pot to medium heat, whisking for a couple of minutes, until the filling thickens and starts to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Once it's blended in, stir in 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier.
Over a large bowl, pour the still hot filling through a fine mesh sieve, using a spatula to move it back and forth. Set the bowl aside and let it cool a bit before chilling it in the refrigerator.
When the filling is cool, pour it into the baked and cooled pie shell, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 1 hour.
At least 2 hours before serving, mix the sugar and Grand Marnier in a medium bowl. Toss the strawberries in the mixture and set them aside in the refrigerator to macerate for 2 hours or more, turning occasionally.
Just before serving, whip the cream and powdered sugar. Blend in the sour cream and set aside. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the berries from the liquid and pile them on top of the pie. Top the berries with the whipped cream. Serve immediately, spooning the remaining sauce from the berries over each slice.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.
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