Friday, January 25, 2013

reconstructed watergate salad

Like I said, I just got an ice cream maker for Christmas, so when Marx Foods announced its latest recipe contest -- It's Easy Being Green, making anything you like using any two of the green ingredients provided -- I naturally started thinking of ice creams.

I'd had congealed salads and other southern salads on my mind - they're in that middle ground, old school enough that your grandmother made them, but her grandmother probably didn't, since they depend on convenience food ingredients developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of them date back that far, and some are much more recent - like Watergate Salad from the early 1970s, which for some reason picked up the name of the political scandal.

Watergate Salad combines pistachio pudding and Cool Whip or whipped cream, studded with orange and pineapple.


I could find another way to do that.

And I could make it ice cream!
Watergate salad ice cream
Two of the ingredients lent themselves very well to this profile: bamboo rice, which is a light green color from the bamboo juice with which it's infused, and green cardamom, an extremely fragrant spice that goes well with both fruit and nuts.

But here's this. I wasn't going to use Jello pistachio instant pudding for a cooking contest, nor was I going to spend $20 and shipping for nut butter, especially since a less than perfectly smooth nut butter would make for a very different texture here.

So I brought the nut element in another way.

Creme de noyaux is an old school liqueur made with the kernels of members of the prunus family - the stone fruits: apricots, almonds, peaches, plums, cherries. It's a little like amaretto - real amaretto - with a complex flavor that's sort of floral, sort of nutty, sort of like maraschino liqueur, sort of like New Orleans nectar soda. You're not likely going to find it on the shelf, and if you do, it's probably Hiram Walker or Bols, both of which are probably artificially flavored and dyed red (because of the Pink Squirrel cocktail).

It's easy to make yourself, though. Any time you have a peach, a cherry, a plum, anything in that family, take a hammer and break the pit open. The kernel is inside. Drop it in a jar of vodka, or put it in the freezer until you have enough of them. Let them steep in the vodka for a few weeks, and then add sugar syrup. ("Creme" in French and "cream of" in English both refer to heavily sweetened liqueurs, too sweet to drink on their own.)

A little goes a long way, just like with vanilla extract. So it's a lot of work, sure, but you don't have to do it very often.

Now, if you want to go about this recipe and don't want to take the time to make creme de noyaux, you could also use the kernels themselves - just steep them in the cream with the cardamom, below.

If you don't want to do ANY of that, I would recommend maraschino liqueur rather than amaretto, unless you know of some really excellent amaretto that's escaped my attention.

Onward. For a pint or so of ice cream:

1/4 cup bamboo rice
2 cups half and half
2 teaspoons creme de noyaux, divided
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 cardamom pods
1/2 cup sugar or so
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup diced pineapple (or crushed pineapple)
1 orange's worth of orange segments, supremed (remove all pith, skin, etc)

First infuse the cream with cardamom: bring 8 cardamom pods, 2 cups half and half, and 1/4 cup cream to a simmer, turn off the heat, and let cool. It ought to be good and infused by the time it cools down to room temp. Remove cardamom pods.

Now make a rice pudding: simmer bamboo rice in the infused cream, with a dash of salt and 1 teaspoon creme de noyaux, until rice is very very plump and soft. Add the 1/2 cup sugar and taste for sweetnesss - it should be sweeter than ice cream.

Beat the two egg yolks, add a little hot rice-cream mixture to them to temper them, and add the egg mixture to the pan, stirring constantly over low heat until thickened (a couple minutes, usually).

Remove from heat, stir in the remaining teaspoon of creme de noyaux and the orange and pineapple, and chill in the fridge.

When churning ice cream, it's important to make sure your mixture is fully chilled, not just room temp.

Churn according to manufacturer's directions, and freeze to harden it up if necessary.

The final result is complexly spiced from the creme de noyaux and the cardamom, with nice plump grains of bamboo rice and bits of tart fruit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Catching up, now that I have my camera back!

The smoker, in the rain, at a barbecue joint in Georgia (we got barbecue beef - shoulder clod, maybe? - and Brunswick stew):

Barbecue stand

So much soda! Also in Georgia. Not all mine.

So much soda

My beloved Frisco melt, at Steak and Shake:

Frisco melt

The Pat La Frieda lamb burger I had mentioned earlier, with melted cheese and Dijon mustard:

Pat La Frieda lamb burger
One of my Christmas presents was an ice cream maker from my mother. While I'd used a previous version of the Cuisinart ice cream maker, either I had an old freezer that couldn't get the canister cold enough, or they've made some improvements, because the new one is so much better. You do have to be sure to cool down your mix in the fridge rather than using it at room temp, but that's just mathematical sense - room temperature is 30, 40 degrees warmer than the fridge, which is going to bring up the temperature of the freezing canister too quickly.

One of the nice things about an ice cream maker is how easy it is to make small amounts of ice cream to test out ideas. Since Christmas, I've made pineapple lime longpepper sorbet, carrot-lemon sorbet, carrot-pineapple sherbet, coffee cranberry Campari ice cream, maple pecan ice cream, and the star of the show, huckleberry spruce ice cream:

Huckleberry-spruce ice cream

The basics of making the custard for ice cream are simple - heat milk, cream, and sugar, add to beaten egg yolks to temper them, add back to the pan and stir until thickened. I infused the cream with spruce tips ahead of time, and while it was churning, added a simple huckleberry jam (huckleberries, sugar, citric acid).

So good. Spruce and huckleberry were meant to be together.