Todd Gray’s Equinox (818 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-331-8118) is just a block from the White House, so naturally the restaurant gets its share of VIPs. Diners may spy power tables receiving an off-the-menu gift from pastry chef Melanie Parker: a mini-“milkshake”—a flavored crème anglaise rather than the traditional liquefied ice cream—served in a shooter glass, complete with a tiny straw for sipping. In this upscale dining room, her take on this childhood classic is as fun as it is delicious.
Parker, a 2008 Rammy Award nominee for Pastry Chef of the Year, changes the drinks’ flavors with the seasons. Sometimes she incorporates the sippers into her on-the-menu desserts: A recent “chocolate threesome” featured a wonderfully rich chocolate-coffee-caramel version served alongside a chocolate ganache cake and coffee sorbet with cocoa nibs.
Parker shared her recipe for an upcoming strawberry-basil shake that you can whip up at home. It’s a great spring treat even if it’s a little more complicated to make than throwing some ice cream in a blender.
Melanie’s Strawberry-Basil Milkshake
Makes ten two-ounce shakes
Make a crème anglaise:
4 cups heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped (seeds reserved)
4 ounces sugar
10 egg yolks
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the cream, vanilla bean, and scraped vanilla seeds and heat until simmering. Whisk in the sugar. Meanwhile, set the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Very gradually pour the hot cream mixture over the yolks, whisking constantly as you slowly pour. Keep whisking until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour the mixture through a strainer, then chill by setting the mixing bowl in another large bowl filled with ice.
Make a strawberry-basil syrup:
Best if made the night before serving
1 pint strawberries, stems removed
1 bunch (about 4 ounces) fresh basil, washed
1 pound sugar
Mint leaves and whipped cream for garnish
Shooter glasses and small straws for serving
In a double boiler set over medium-high heat, combine the strawberries, basil, and sugar. Let cook until the strawberries release their juices. Remove the pot from the heat and cover it with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature. After the strawberry-basil syrup has cooled, remove the basil leaves and place the strawberries and juice in a blender. Blend at medium speed until smooth. Fold the syrup into the chilled crème anglaise a little at a time until it has enough flavor. Pour the mixture into shot glasses, top with whipped cream and a mint leaf, and serve with straws.
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