Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I scream, you scream- Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Nutella Swirls

The summer weather hasn’t yet reached its peak, but the humidity has been nestling in my pores and showering my skin with an impenetrable layer of ick. There’s little to cool a body down without plunging head first into a crispy-cold pool or setting up a cot in the icy frozen isle of the supermarket.

Ice cream is one of the few foods that brings reprieve from the heat, whether it be from your block’s Mister Softee-in-residence or a fancy gelateria. Ice cream tickles the tongue and penetrates body heat like the ephemeral sting of a slap in the face.

Since my stove and oven get little air time during the summer months, I need to get my kitchen fix in other ways. My ice cream maker is one lucky appliance, doing double duty in bringing existential satisfaction and physical relief.

Though I often prefer sorbets and fruit-based ices on hot days, I went with crème fraîche and buttermilk as my primary ingredients, rendering an ice cream that was slightly tart, delicately tangy and subtly sweet. Building on the richness of the silken crème fraîche, I used four eggs to create a custard base, though the finished product was less full bodied and more clean and crisp.

Of course, being the fun loving youngsters that we are, we added Nutella swirls to give the otherwise sophisticated recipe a cheerful facelift, yielding a sleek dessert with a playful twist.

Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Nutella Swirls
1 cup crème fraîche
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
5 ounces can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean pod
Pinch of salt

1. Place the heavy cream with the sugar, salt and vanilla pod, sliced lengthwise, over medium-high heat until the milk just begins to foam. Remove from heat, extract the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds from the pod with a knife. Mix the seeds back into the cream. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly add the warm cream into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to medium heat and stir constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.

3. In a bowl, mix crème fraiche, evaporated milk and buttermilk. Pour into blender and whip until well combined and very smooth, scraping down the sides.

4. Pass custard through a strainer into a clean bowl. Chill both custard and crème fraiche mixture until cold, about an hour.

5. Combine custard and crème fraiche and mix well. Transfer the cold mixture to the container of ice cream machine and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.

6. Layer about one third of the ice cream into a storage container. Gently swirl spoonfuls of Nutella over the ice cream and repeat with another layer. Top the second layer of Nutella with remaining ice cream and store in the freezer prior to serving.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summery Deviled Eggs

An egg is a thing of beauty: simple in form yet representative of life, birth and sustenance. And when it comes to eggs, I like to eat around. More or less any and all egg preparations are fair game in my book of gastronomical love. While the egg can be a vehicle for some of the loftiest soufflés and custards, sometimes love comes in the form of easily accessible, simple pleasures.

Deviled eggs tend to be my go-to appetizer and snack when all else fails and I’m feeling spontaneous. That isn’t to say that I don’t hold deviled eggs in high esteem. Nothing can be further from the truth. But I always have spicy Dijon and creamy mayonnaise at my finger tips and it takes little more to whip up a batch of deviled eggs, fleshing them out with whatever sundry ingredients I happen to have available.

Like the stand-alone egg itself, deviled eggs are so malleable that one is likely to unleash the beast of versatility on the lemon-colored yolks. You can add anything from smoked paprika or Tabasco for a fiery red spiciness for which the deviled egg is named. A helping of chives, dill or tarragon herbs can also do the trick, if you are in the mood for a more of a fresh, summery flavor. Or else go both ways. Add heat in the form of cayenne and a touch of freshly minced garlic, a squirt of acidic lemon and your herb of choice. And don’t say I didn’t warn you. These puppies are highly addictive!

Summery Deviled Eggs

6 hard boiled-free range eggs
1/4 cup good mayo
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh Garlic, minced to a paste
Chopped tarragon to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit in the water bath for 20 minutes.

2. Remove eggs from pan and cool them under cold running water. Crack and peel and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out yolks with a spoon and into a bowl. Using the back of a fork, smash eggs yolks until no large pieces remain.

3. Add mayonnaise, olive oil and mustard to the yolks and mash until the mixture is smooth. Add cayenne, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper to the paste and continue to mix until well combined. Add chopped tarragon to taste and mix thoroughly.

4. Spoon mixture into the eggs whites or pipe in with a pastry bag and sprinkle with a little more chopped tarragon.

Yield: 12 deviled eggs.