Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's ice cream season

And baseball season. The two things to so well together. Summer is hands down my least favorite season, but that's mostly due to the obnoxious weather. I like other things about summer - baseball and ice cream being two of those things. Hot dogs and other meats cooked over the grill also can't be beat when served with cold beers or slushy margaritas. Sangria, Mexican Coca-Cola in a glass bottle*, peach sun tea, lemonade, limeade, anything-ade, are also great quenchers during the heat. I'll be able to make sun tea up on the roof this summer.

We've been grilling various things trying to get good at it. Everything so far has been good, but we are aiming for REALLY good. We've done onions, peppers, flank steak, hot dogs, rib eyes, burgers (Jucy Lucys, to be exact), and tonight Steve attempts a whole chicken. He picked out some sort of Italian-style chicken. He'll have to cut out the spine and then flatten out the chicken in order to grill it. Normally, grilled chicken is not something my taste buds clamor for, but I'm willing to give this a try. I also want to try a pizza on the grill.

To go with Steve's I-talian chicken, I'll serve up our leftover warm herbed olives with crusty bread and goat cheese, arugula salad, and we'll finish with homemade strawberry ice cream. Every night we have grilled we've eaten outside on the roof. We got furniture and enjoy sitting out there. But today has been rainy, so we'll probably only do the cooking outside.

I received the Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment kit for Christmas, and I've only used it three times. I didn't much feel like making ice cream during the dead of winter, but now that the weather is turning warmer, I'm enjoying the thought of trying out different flavors and combinations. So far, I've stuck to pretty simple flavors - vanilla bean, lemon, and strawberry. I made lemon a couple weeks ago to take to Reka's for her Memorial Day get-together. Lemon ice cream is her favorite, so I decided upon the flavor in honor of our hostess. (Thanks for the party and good food, Reka!)

The lemon was delicious. I loved it. It turned out nice and creamy but light. The lemon was just the right amount of sweet and tart. It's a keeper of a recipe. Might add some ginger next time . . .

The best part about making ice cream is that it's very simple. All the recipes are about the same and the flavorings make up the only difference. The three flavors I've made so far have all been French-style - meaning they have eggs in them. I'd like to do some ice cream without eggs.

Last night, I happened to catch a rerun of Alton Brown's Good Eats. He was making ice cream and other frozen desserts. What perfect timing! He explained that the majority of ice creams available today contain eggs. He called these ice creams "New York Style." He said the small amount of ice creams made without eggs are called "Philadelphia Style." He offered no explanation of why with eggs is NY and without is Philly. It seems like things that are the most decadent and indulgent of their kind are often called NY style. Except for the Philly cheese steak or Philly cream cheese, I guess. Ironic that NY style cheesecakes are made with Philly cream cheese. (Although, I prefer a ricotta cheesecake rather than a cream cheese one.)

Okay, I digress. Back to ice cream. Alton's ice cream recipe without eggs is pretty similar to what I've been doing with eggs. His liquid to sugar ratio is about the same, and he offered the suggestion of substituting any part of the sugar with the same amount of preserves. Interesting. That would certainly add more flavor. For example, I could have used half a cup of sugar and half a cup of strawberry preserves in my strawberry ice cream. He made a simple vanilla bean ice cream and substituted in three tablespoons of peach preserves.

I think the next flavor I'll make is mint chocolate chip. Ever since we had that mint chocolate chip ice cream at Chestnut this winter, I've been wanting to try to replicate it myself. I'll use fresh mint, which will steep in the dairy as I heat it. Oooh, I'm looking forward to it!

I'd also like to try mixing and matching dairy products to get a lower fat content ice cream. Alton said that to be called ice cream by FDA standards, the product has to be at least 10% fat. Half and half is 10% fat, which I knew thanks to my handy bare-bones ice cream booklet that came with the Kitchen Aid. Light cream has 18%, whipping cream 30%, and heavy cream 36%. I might try using 2 parts half and half and one part whole milk next time, or two parts whole milk to one part light cream. Basically, I can use any dairy just as long as the total is what the recipe calls for. This is a good thing to know when faced with a recipe calling for three cups of heavy cream and six eggs. As we all know though, the more fat, the creamier, richer, and tastier the ice cream.

Click here for the lemon ice cream recipe. I used this recipe again for the strawberry ice cream, but added a few extra steps.

Strawberry ice cream
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
One pint of strawberries
lemon juice

After rinsing the strawberries, remove tops, and cut into pieces. Put these pieces along with 3 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of sugar into a small food processor or blender. Add a couple splashes of lemon juice. Process until it is smooth. Strain puree through a fine mesh strainer, if desired, to remove seeds. Cover and chill puree.

Whisk together 1 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, and 1 cup of half-and-half in medium saucepan. Continue to whisk over medium-low heat until almost simmering. Do not boil. Remove from heat, cover, and chill at least one hour, preferably overnight. (I move the mix to an extra-large Pyrex bowl with a spout because the spout comes in handy later.)

After chilling, whisk in the remaining 1 cup of half-and-half and strawberry puree. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. I also move the ice cream, which has a soft-serve consistency at this point, into reusable Chinese/Thai take out soup containers, and then pop those into the freezer. They work perfectly! Makes about one quart.

*Mexican Coca-Cola is excellent. I am not a regular soda drinker, and I rarely ever want a Coke, but Mexican Coke in a tall, ice cold glass bottle is hard to resist. Mexican Coke is made with pure can sugar which makes it light years better than American Coke, which is made with cheaper corn syrup. For more about the cult of Mexican Coke, read this. Try one next time you see it and tell me I'm wrong. New Yorkers can try Mexican Coke at Hill Country, Might be available other places, but I've had it here. Hill Country also has Blue Bell Ice Cream, imported from Texas. Try the Homemade Vanilla. It's the best around.

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