Most times, when we think of trifles, sweet visions of layered lady fingers or pound cake, fruit, custard, perhaps some nuts and always fresh whipped cream come to mind for this classic British dessert. Soak your cake in a little Madeira or port wine, and you have a form of divinity that defies restraint!
According to culinary history, trifle was originally a thick cream flavored with sugar, ginger, and rosewater. It was recorded in “The good huswife’s (sic) Jewell” published in 1596. When milk was added 60 years later, the resulting custard was poured over alcohol-soaked bread. Some accounts say the earliest incarnations of this dessert were similar to “Fools”: pureed fruit mixed with cream. In 1747 jelly was added to the trifle. When Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of the inspired dessert in 1861, he called it “…that most wonderful object of domestic art.” Usually served in a deep cut glass bowl and delicious any day of the year, a towering trifle on one’s holiday table is a gastronomic gift that rivals anything under the tree.
Dessert withstanding, why not change up a typical breakfast or dinnertime routine for your family by creating savory trifles–layering eggs or meat, beans, tofu, vegetables, cheese, maybe some polenta or crumbled cornbread or bacon, etc. In addition to creating something healthy and convenient in terms of a one-dish meal, a savory trifle is a visual feast that calls the fussiest family members to the table with its appetizing aesthetic. In fact, aprÃ¨s Thanksgiving or Christmas, the savory trifle is a colorful and creative way to serve tasty leftovers. Or if you’re in the mood for an ethnic endeavor, using Mexican food (refried beans; rice; chicken; crumbled tortilla chips; salsa, red and green chili peppers) or Indian food (chutney; naan; cucumber; yogurt; curried chicken) visually ups the ante on the ordinary.
While the following recipes are here to guide you, with trifles almost anything goes. Get the family together and create one using your favorite foods!
Steak, Garlic Bread and Polenta Trifle
Flank steak, 16 ounces
Salt and pepper
Polenta, one package (24 ounces)
Grated parmesan cheese for polenta, if desired
Garlic bread (use your favorite recipe), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound green beans
1 pound Cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 container grape or cherry tomatoes
Season and cook steak to desired doneness and cut into bite-sized pieces. Prepare garlic bread. Cook polenta per package directions, adding grated cheese. Steam green beans to crisp-tender; sauté mushrooms. Alternate each ingredient, including tomatoes, in glass bowl, beginning with garlic bread at bottom. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Eight eggs, scrambled
Bacon, crisp and crumbled
Pork or turkey sausage, cooked and chopped
Four waffles cut into bite-sized pieces*
Berries of your choice
Sour cream or plain yogurt
Layer ingredients alternately in glass bowl, reserving sour cream or yogurt and berries for top. Drizzle with honey.
*If making your own, conventional waffle maker-size waffles are adequate. If using pre-packaged waffles, double this number.