I made that infamous trifle from “Friends.” But get this: It was actually good.
You remember the scene: Monica (Courteney Cox) tasks Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) with making Thanksgiving dessert, much to the dismay of the rest of the group. After a mishap with the cookbook, she accidentally combines two recipes and adds layers of beef, peas and onions to the dish.
“Yeah, that was weird to me, too,” she says after Ross (David Schwimmer) inquires about her ingredient choices. “But then, you know, I thought ‘there’s minced meat pie,’ I mean, that’s an English dessert. These people just put very strange things in their food.”
I, like Rachel, am not much of a chef. But with the help of “Friends: The Official Cookbook” by Amanda Yee (Insight Editions, 175 pp.), I could channel my inner Monica to make a dessert tasty enough to make the whole friend group proud.
This recipe takes a few liberties with the “traditional English trifle” Rachel makes in the Season 6 Thanksgiving episode, which consists of layers of ladyfingers, jam, custard, raspberries, bananas, whipped cream, beef, peas and onions. But it looks pretty similar to the one from the show and more importantly, is edible even for folks who have a palate more mature than Joey Tribbiani’s (Matt LeBlanc).
The first step is making jam from scratch, which has its own separate recipe page honoring “The One with the Jam,” in which Monica can’t stop making jam in an effort to get over a breakup.
The recipe calls for blackberries, which my local grocery store happened to be out of (“so no one told you life was gonna be this way…”), so I swapped for frozen ones. It ended up turning out fine, but not before scooping out a ton of liquid while the berry-mint-lemon-sugar concoction was still simmering and panic-ordering a jar of pre-made jam that ended up not being necessary. Trust the jam-making process!
Instead of custard, this recipe calls for a whipped cream and lemon curd mixture (also its own separate recipe, though this one doesn’t have a direct episode callback). The lemon curd was delicious – honestly, I liked the taste more on its own than when it mixed into the whipped cream, but it did make for a fluffier, more presentable top to the whole thing.
The real talking-point ingredient is the meat. I’ve been telling my friends and coworkers about my plans to make this recipe for a while, and they all had the same question: “Won’t that be gross?”
The answer is no, because Yee smartly chose bacon instead of beef. And bacon goes with everything.
The recipe calls for 5 or 6 slices coated in brown sugar, but I so desperately wish I had made much more, because this little concoction is an incredible snack on its own. Remind yourself that you still need enough to sprinkle on top of the finished product before you go to town on the bacon bits.
That brings us to the assembly: Alternate layers of pound cake (pre-made, thankfully), strawberries, blueberries and jam before topping with the whipped cream-lemon curd mixture and bacon bits.
The whole thing, while more time-consuming than expected (all three recipes had a total estimated prep and cook time of just over 2 hours, but for this amateur chef, it took more like 3 and a half over the course of two days), made for a great dessert. It looked pretty, tasted even better and would make the perfect Friendsgiving centerpiece.
In the wise words of Joey, “What’s not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Good.”