Archive for June, 2007

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Why we are in New York, and why we aren’t blogging about Top Chef.

June 13, 2007

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Top Chef is back! But, sadly, our snarky commentary isn’t.

What?” you exclaim in disbelief and horror.

Yes, it’s true. Our amusing — if we don’t say so ourselves — recaps and Q&As are sidelined this season because of … my husband. There, I said it.

Last season, I was willing to sit through lame reality show drama (such as, say, drunken head shaving), uppity contestants who whine that they hate TGI Fridays food, and bizarre vending machine quickfire challenges. I put up with Padma and endless product placements. I was even willing to stay up to the ungodly hour of 10 p.m. to watch these goings on, and then remain awake even later to write the posts.

No longer.

Why? Well… My husband has done it: He’s taken the plunge and is going to become a bonafide, certified, rarefied and dignified (?) actual chef. Dramatic pause. That’s right: He’s going to culinary school.

The whole family has temporarily relocated to New York City while he attends the French Culinary Institute for six months. Now, dressed in a budding chef’s uniform — black-checked hammer pants, a white chef’s jacket, dinner-napkin-like scarf and paper hat — he’s learning the basics of classic French cuisine and then some. He’s on his feet all day. He’s tired. He’s drained. And, yes, I still make him cook for me, dear readers of My Husband Cooks!

So, while our exploits here may slow a bit (I can only ask a man to cook so many hours in the day), we’ll keep the blog going — and hopefully drop some of his cooking school wisdom on you.

“But wait,” you interrupt, “what does this have to do with Top Chef?”

Well, gang, aside from having a 3-month-old whose sleep/wake schedule interferes with Bravo programming scheduled at 10 p.m., there’s another barrier. My husband has a professional conflict of sorts.

Lee Anne Wong, of Top Chef season one fame, is a faculty member at the French Culinary Institute. Plus, there’s all those other professional-type chefs at the joint who may not share our wicked sense of humor. So, while like all good cooks my husband likes a little bit of char, he’s not for burning bridges. So, we’ll keep our snarky commentary about Top Chef to ourselves and our TiVo.

We hope, though, that you’ll stay tuned for the blog as we enter this new chapter in my husband’s cooking — and my eating. I’m thinking both can only get better!

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It hurts so good: Toothachingly sweet Uneven Pavement ice cream

June 11, 2007

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Ice cream just got a little more dangerous.

We already know that it’s hazardous for your waist line, and that it can result in some wicked brain freeze headaches. Now, it’s after your teeth.

No, I don’t mean that ice cream causes cavities. (I’m sure that it does that, too.) I mean that the ice cream that my husband has just concocted is so sweet that it will literally make your teeth ache.

“What is this treacherous ice cream,” you ask, “and, um, where can I get some?” Right here, friends. Its name is “Uneven Pavement,” and it is a sweeter and, dare I say, more sophisticated cousin to Rocky Road.

First, it calls upon that underutilized nut of nuts — the cashew — in its sweet and creamy base. Second, it harnesses chunks of carmelized toffee goodness to assault your taste buds. Finally, in its coup de grace, it seduces you with homemade marshamallow fluff laced throughout.

Resistance is futile. Your teeth may not thank you. Your waist line may not thank you. Your frozen sinuses may not thank you. But you’ll be grateful nonetheless.

And the ice cream replies, “Your welcome. Sucker.”

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Backgrounder…
Sometimes you just want to be a kid again. I think that is really the lesson of Vermont’s hippie-capitalists and ice cream moguls Ben & Jerry. And when it comes to ice cream flavors, pretty much the sky is the limit — fans of the original Iron Chef will remember Iron Chef Japanese Masaharu Morimoto’s squid ink ice cream as proof of this rule.

I’ve become even more daring in my ice cream-making, trying to find new ways to bring complexity. I’ve done chips. I’ve done nuts. I’ve done fruit. But after hearing my wife wax poetic about her craving for a childhood favorite, Rocky Road, I decided I would try marshmallows.

No, I wasn’t willing to settle for store-bought little marshmallows. I wanted veins of precious white marshmallow fluff running through the heart of my ice cream. I wanted the taster to discover strands of marshmallow sticking to the roof of her mouth. And I wouldn’t settle for the jarred fluff. No, sir. I looked up the recipe for making my own.

The result was a riff on my wife’s memories. By replacing the traditional walnuts with delicious cashews and chocolate with toffee, we developed a tooth-achingly sweet flavor called, “Uneven Pavement.” It’s rich, nutty, sweet and delicious. Place it on a cone and you’ll get the urge to be bike riding through the neighborhood again.

Before I go, there are a few tricks when it comes to the marshmallow fluff. I used a pasteurized egg white. Since it doesn’t get heated, I would recommend doing that. You can find them in the dairy section or just buy pasteurized eggs and separate.

Next, even if you don’t make your own fluff, the key is to add the marshmallow after you’ve churned the ice cream and have given it a chance to set up. I tried adding it early in my initial batches, and the marshmallow just integrated into the ice cream. It was tasty, but not the effect I was going for. So, wait as long as possible before you add the marshmallow.

Finally, I didn’t know how to make fluff before I started this recipe. I like to make sure I credit other recipes when I use them. I simply paired down a recipe I saw elsewhere. You can find the original version here.

Click here to download the recipe for Uneven Pavement.

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Uneven Pavement Ice Cream
Cashew Ice Cream
Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup salted, roasted cashews (crushed/chopped)
1/2 cup salted, roasted cashews (whole or halves)
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Toffee chips
Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. corn syrup
1 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Marshmallow fluff
Ingredients:
1 egg white (or equivalent egg substitute)
2/3 cup corn syrup
2/3 cup confectioner sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:
Making the base of the ice cream
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and the egg yolks. Set this aside. Preferably over a double boiler, combine cream, milk, chopped cashews and salt. Whisk regularly until the temperature reaches 140F.

2. Once the liquid reaches temperature, it is time to temper the egg/sugar mixture. Slowly add about half of your hot cream mixture to the eggs and sugar, while whisking vigorously. Next, add the tempered egg mixture back to the original milk and cream and continue to whisk. Heat until the liquid coats the back of a spoon evenly or reaches 165F. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and immediately transfer to a container to cool down. Either cover and refrigerate overnight (preferred) or place in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours until very cool.

Making the toffee:
3. Line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper or a silpat. Next, in a small pot or saucier, melt the butter over medium high heat. Once the butter has stopped frothing, add sugar, corn syrup and water. Gently stir using a wooden spoon or heat resistant silicon spatula until the mixture reaches 300F. This is the “hard crack” stage and is typified by very small bubbles and a lava-like consistency. At this point, it is very dangerous if it spills on you, so be careful. Once it has reached this temperature, which should not take long given the small amount of liquids, quickly add the vanilla, stir in, and then pour out onto your lined sheet pan. Gently smooth the surface and then set aside to cool for 15 min. Once cool, break into pieces you feel is suitable for ice cream.

Churning the ice cream:
4. Following your ice cream maker’s instructions, churn the ice cream while adding the whole cashews and toffee pieces as soon as possible. Once completed, place in a covered container to set up in the freezer.

Making marshmallow veins:
5. In a large bowl or in a stand mixer, whisk together all the ingredients. The mix should come together quickly and resemble something similar to marshmallow fluff. After the ice cream has set in the freezer for approximately an hour — it should be firmer but not stiff — gently fold in as much of the marshmallow mix is you desire. Return to freezer and let harden for at least another 3 hours. Once the ice cream is finally set, enjoy!