Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Champagne Ice Cream

Please ignore the Prom 2008. It was the only champagne glass we could find...shameful, we know. Despite being served in such a hideous receptacle, this ice cream wowed us with its deliciousness. (You know how to tell if something is really yummy? You'll eat it no matter what it looks like or what it's sitting in - it's just that good. Unless it's sitting in...ah, you get the picture)

Champagne ice cream, we discovered to our delight, tastes like fermented sweet rice! Light and bright, not quite as heavy or bossy as bourbon (not to bash on bourbon, it's delicious too, just not in the same way). Here are some ideas for how to eat champagne ice cream:

1. Straight out of the container. Get a long skinny spoon and scoop out little shards of ice cream directly from the container.
2. Out of a tiny wine glass. Scoop a nice round ball of ice cream and plop it into your glass. Quickly stuff the rest of the ice cream back into the freezer so you aren't tempted to get seconds. Sit down in a quiet place with a tiny spoon and savor as slowly as possible.
3. In a champagne glass with champagne poured over. Like a root beer float, except pink.

Caramelized White Chocolate Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

Do you like white chocolate? Doesn't it taste like milk, malted milk, vanilla, sugar, butter, peace, joy, and happiness all blended together? Now think about caramel. Roasty, buttery, slightly bitter, brown sugar and honey notes, just plain delicious. Yes. You know where this is going. What's the third thing I'm going to ask you to think of? Did I hear someone say ice cream? Ah, genius. But not just any old ice cream - we're talking creme fraiche ice cream. Ice cream with a slight tang, a rich buttery milky flavor. This ice cream is just that and more. The white chocolate keeps the texture velvety, and each bite is exquisite. The ice cream has a little resistance, not melting instantly but slowly pulling at your tastebuds in the way that chewy caramel lingers, before dissolving into buttery bliss.

The caramelization of the white chocolate takes some time - you need to stir it every 10 minutes or so as it bakes at a low temperature in the oven. However, if you have an hour to spare, do it. And make sure you use Valrhona chocolate because it has a high cocoa butter content, allowing it to melt smoothly without turning too chalky. This is one of the best ice creams we've ever made - right up there with champagne, green tea, jasmine, vanilla bean, bourbon, fresh strawberry, and garden mint, all in the ice cream hall of fame.

Caramelized White Chocolate Creme Fraiche Ice Cream (adapted from David Lebovitz's blog)
235 g (8.25 oz) Valrhona white chocolate pieces
¾ cup crème fraiche
1 ¼ cup whole milk
¼ cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 pinch of kosher salt

Caramelize white chocolate. Preheat oven to 250°F. Spread chocolate pieces on a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer and place in the oven. Take the tray out after 20 minutes to stir the chocolate and prevent burning. Keep stirring every 10 minutes for 1 hour or so, until the chocolate is caramelized, delicious smelling, and about the color of almond skins. Scrape the chocolate into a small bowl and keep warm and melted until ready to use. You should have about 180 g (6.25 oz) caramelized white chocolate.

Make custard. Place crème fraiche and ½ cup of the milk in a 4-cup glass measuring cup and put a fine mesh sieve on top. Bring remaining ¾ cup milk and half of the sugar (2 Tbsp) to a simmer in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming, stirring a bit to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and remaining 2 Tbsp sugar in medium bowl; whisk until thick and blended. Gradually whisk steaming milk mixture into yolk mixture. Pour everything back into the pot and stir constantly over medium-low heat, scraping into the corners of the pot, until custard thickens enough to leave path on back of a spatula or spoon when a finger is drawn across and temperature registers 178°F, about 3 minutes. Immediately pour through sieve into crème fraiche mixture. Mix a splash of custard into the melted caramelized white chocolate until smooth. Pour white chocolate mixture into the rest of the custard. Add a teeny pinch of salt, mix to dissolve, and taste and adjust salt as needed. Refrigerate at least 5 hours until completely cold (overnight is best). Churn in ice cream maker.

Butter Poached Lobster

Our knock-off.

The real thing.

We thought butter poached lobster would be easy. After peeling 3 lobsters and whisking 4 sticks of butter into 1 tablespoon of water over the stove, we understood why the French Laundry was the French Laundry. Can you imagine being the lobster peeling guy? Or the butter emulsifier? I think I'd rather be the lobster peeler. It's a little sharper but much more intellectually stimulating.

We didn't have the ingredients or patience to make the potatoes and leeks and sauce this round, so we made instead a lemon beurre blanc (Alton Brown's recipe). It was delicious, too sour on its own but perfect with the buttery lobster. The lobster turned out to be snappy and buttery but not tough. We're not sure if it's the same as the real thing...guess we need to find out another time!

“Beets and Leeks” – Maine Lobster Tail “Pochee au Beurre Doux” with King Richard Leeks, “Pommes Maxim’s” and Red Beet Essence
Adapted from ''The French Laundry Cookbook'' by Thomas Keller (Artisan, 1999)

  • 1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature, in pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced leek rounds
  • 1/4 medium-size ripe tomato, peeled, flesh cut in small diamond shapes
  • 2 teaspoons minced chives
  • 1 teaspoon each finely diced carrot, turnip and dark green of leeks
  • Red-beet essence (see recipe)
  • Par-cooked meat from 3 lobsters at room temperature (see recipe)
  • Pommes Maxim (see recipe)


Place 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, and whisk in butter piece by piece. Continue adding until all butter is emulsified. Set aside, and keep warm (the best way is in a thermos); do not allow to boil.
Bring a 3-quart pot of water seasoned with 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water ready. Add leeks to boiling water, cook 5 minutes until just tender, drain in a sieve and place sieve with leeks in ice water until leeks are cool. Drain, and transfer to a small sauté pan. Place over low heat to reheat. Add tomato, chives, diced carrot, turnip and leek greens. Stir in 1/3 cup emulsified butter. Season with salt and pepper, and cover to keep warm.
Place beet essence in a small saucepan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons emulsified butter, and cover to keep warm.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place lobster pieces in single layer in a large saucepan or sauté pan. Add remaining emulsified butter. Lobster meat should be just about covered. Place pan over low heat, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, until meat is just heated through. Remove knuckle pieces, drain and fold into leek mixture.
While lobster cooks, place potatoes in oven 2 to 3 minutes to reheat.
To serve, place a spoonful of warm beet essence in center of each of 6 plates. Briefly reheat leek mixture, and spoon onto beet essence. Remove lobster tails and claws from butter mixture, draining well; place a tail piece and a claw on each plate, on top of leeks. Break potatoes in six pieces and place on top of the lobster. Serve.
6 servings

Cranberry Almond Tart

Christmas Cake

Almost Al Forno Apple Tart

Al Forno Restaurant in Providence has an amazing apple tart. It's served in a thick creme anglaise and costs about $20, and you have to order it with your dinner because they make it from scratch. Alex Guarnaschelli raved about it on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We found a recipe for it, and it is surprisingly easy to make. Following some careful analysis, we have pinpointed the reasons for the tart's amazingness.

Reasons why the Al Forno Apple Tart is amazing
1. It is served fresh. When we made this tart, we ate some of it fresh out of the oven - it was flaky, warm, meltingly scrumptious and had a bright tang from the ginger sugar. Just half an hour later, it was cold and not as good. Fascinating.
2. It is served on a pool of creme anglaise. This sauce is the stuff of heaven. It is thick, rich, custardy, simply divine. We tried to recreate this sauce, but our recipe used a lower ratio of yolks to cream so it was runnier. Next time we will put more yolks. You should do the same.
3. The fresh ginger infused sugar that lies between the apples and the crust. Apple stuff always uses cinnamon or ground ginger, but the addition of fresh ginger and omission of muddling spices lets the bright apple flavor shine.
4. Thinly sliced apples. Al Forno uses a mandolin to shave off slices of apple. We didn't have one, so we just cut them paper thin. That is what lets them charge you $20 for one tart.
5. Super awesome flaky sweet crust. This crust is like a flaky pie crust, except that it has sugar in it. The sugar adds some crunch and perfectly complements the buttery flavor of the crust. They should make a perfume of Apple Crust Aroma. We would use it all day.

Al Forno Apple Tart
Adapted from Johanne Killeen | George Germon | Al Forno Restaurant, Providence, RI
Because these tarts are less bothersome to make than a pie — they take all of 30 minutes to make once you have the dough prepared — you can file them under easy-to-make. I bake them for weeknight dinners, brunches, picnics, even late-night snacks.—David Leite

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut in quarters and sliced paper-thin
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, quartered
Vanilla ice cream, optional

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt until blended. Add the butter cubes and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with pieces no bigger than small peas, about 13 to 15 one-second pulses. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Process for about 10 seconds, stopping before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the contents of the bowl onto a work surface, form into four equal-size discs, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an one hour.

Preheat the oven to 450°F (220°C). On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disc into a 7-inch circle and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread one-quarter of the ginger mixture on each tart, then arrange one-quarter of the slices (about half an apple) in an overlapping circular pattern on top, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle the sugar evenly on top of the apples and fold over the borders. Most of the apples will remain uncovered. Press down the dough on the baking sheet, snugly securing the sides and seams to prevent drips. Dot the center of each tart with butter. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crusts are golden and the apples have begun to brown slightly. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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