Thursday, May 01, 2014

Eggs and ice cream

Short and sweet ‘cause it’s super hot and I have to pack to go to New Mexico tomorrow for a story. 

Two topics to cover:

1. Eggs on pasta. This was the week for it.. First, the deep-fried poached egg carbonara experiment. A few days later, Michael Ruhlman’s pasta puttanesca with poached eggs. This entails making a zesty puttanesca sauce (tomatoes, olives, anchovies, capers) in which you then poach a few eggs. Serve eggs and sauce on a nest of angel hair pasta.

Interesting idea. How was it? The runny yolk added richness to the puttanesca -- like a sauce for the sauce. Very nice. But the egg whites were bland, flabby, and not so pretty. What were these flimsy white scraps doing in my pasta? It reminded me of when you pull out a load of laundry and realize that someone left a packet of Kleenex in their pocket. 

Conclusion: No eggs on pasta unless it’s carbonara.

2. Stuff in ice cream. I think we all know the joy of ice cream filled with cookie dough, crushed shortbread, peanut butter cups, etc.  When I was younger I thought ice cream was basically just a delivery system for broken Oreos and chocolate-covered pretzels.

Lord knows I'd never turn down a bowl of Chunky Monkey, but now that I am old and wise I think it sort of misses the point. What’s miraculous about ice cream isn't how many brownie chunks or bits of cinnamon dough it can hold. What's miraculous about ice cream is the way it can capture the essence of an ingredient in firm, cold, voluptuous cream. 

One of the best examples of this is a simple, intensely flavored lemon ice cream from Baking with Jim Dodge. I’ve been making this ice cream since 1998 and to put anything in it (I once added pistachios) is a mistake. The ice cream is an end in itself -- smooth, pale yellow, profoundly lemony, and restful to eat.

I understand why kids don’t go for it. They want a lot of noise and sugar and crunch and chocolate. Naturally, Owen declined to try the lemon ice cream and instead scooped himself a large, lumpy bowl of Safeway Select Moose Tracks. Not even good bad ice cream!

He will see the light in 10 or 15 years. I did.

Here’s the recipe for Jim Dodge's lemon ice cream. It's easy.

1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 cups cold heavy cream

1. Bring the milk to a simmer. Remove from heat. 

2. In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, whisk the eggs with the sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in milk and cream. 

3. Chill. Freeze in an ice cream maker. Makes 1 quart.


  1. I really want to try your lemon ice cream. I need a good machine. It sounds like you just make lemon curd and add it to ice cream base! Here's my offering to you: Maple ice cream. Three ingredients: maple syrup, dairy, and egg yolks. You take one of those quart-sized jugs of grade B maple syrup from Trader Joe's, reduce it in a very large pan (trust me) until it is starting to caramelize (it will start to smoke a little and look a bit chaotic in the pan), and add a quart of heavy cream, whisk smooth, then add a quart of milk, return to simmer, temper into 24 egg yolks, return to heat, stir assiduously until slightly thickened (like creme anglaise), strain, chill, make ice cream. You can certainly divide in half. This ice cream is very rich, tastes intensely of maple, and is wonderfully creamy and smooth. I don't know why. Maybe maple syrup is an invert sugar and doesn't crystallize? I feel like it does crystallize, though. I don't know. But it's a great ice cream. Why am I trying to talk you into such an autumnal dessert in spring? I don't know. It's just the best. Hey, does your machine allow you to add ingredients at the end of churning?

    1. twenty-four egg yolks?!

    2. Ok, I'll make it. The 24 egg yolks is a big selling point right now. It sounds wonderful.

  2. Have you tried the Lemon Speculoos ice cream from David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop? The ice cream is very lemony, almost too sharp because you are to infuse the cream with the zest before you mix it. And the cookie is spicy and not too sweet which complements the creaminess well. Children probably won't like it because it's not sweet enough, and you might not like it because the cookie pieces ARE a distraction...

    1. I haven't tried it, but it sounds great. Should I try it? He's coming here on Thursday and I'm going to try to go hear him.

    2. Only if you want to! I've really loved all your side-by-side recipe comparisons on this blog, but even though there is little active time, it still a chore to do and for me this ice cream is not delicious enough unless you love lemon ice cream. Citrus and cream as a concept are just not my favorite

  3. I think part of food attraction when you are young is to experience as much in as small a space as is possible, so one wants food that is absolutely crammed with ingredients. I have found as I have gotten older that my palate has changed, and I want simple but extremely well executed recipes full of lush and top notch ingredients. That probably doesn't make sense, but suffice it to say that I agree with your ice cream assessment, and Kristin's maple ice cream sounds divine. I, too, need a good ice cream maker, but I have shied away from buying yet one more kitchen appliance. I should just buy one already! I can cram it in somewhere next to all the ones I think I can't live without, like my Vitamix.

    1. Buy an ice cream maker. It's worth it. Just do it. I have a fancy one I bought just to make champagne sorbet for my mother's 65th birthday party and I've used it into the ground, but the canister ones work beautifully. I wouldn't buy another fussy ice cream maker.

  4. Jennifer, do you have, in your collection, the book by Clementine Paddleford that was reissued a few years ago, or John Thorne? He wrote about an ice cream he found in one of her books that was basically lemon juice, sugar, and cream, you mix it up and throw it in the freezer in a shallow metal pan and stir it every half hour or so. I made it once {with Meyer lemon zest} and it was smooth, creamy, delicious, and stupid easy. If you don't have the recipe I will post it here.

    1. I think I've made that ice cream. Why did I replace it with Jim Dodge? For the life of me I can't find my John Thorne books right now, but they're here somewhere. Such a good writer, made me crave things like the brown sugar raspberry cake. And that long essay he had about beans and rice. I need to go back to him. Definitely I remember that lemon ice cream, though.

  5. I am have been lurking for about a year, and also enjoying your archives immensely. You've lured me out by saying you are coming to New Mexico. Where are you going to be? Need any suggestions?

    1. Damn it, I should have read the comments because YES, I needed suggestions. But sometimes it's easier to write when I don't read the comments for a few days. I get self-conscious.

  6. Same here. I used to go for the Oreo, Heath Bar, etc. (but never nuts, they just seem like little rocks in ice cream). Nowadays I prefer my ice cream to be smooth, with no interruptions, except perhaps a swirl of fudge or caramel softer than the ice cream.

    1. I remember when cookies and cream came on the market. Why eat anything else?

  7. You need to my Badsass Eggspoon!

  8. Do you have Jim Dodge's book American Baker? That's my go-to dessert book...there's a recipe in it for sponge cake split and filled with lemon curd, and topped with whipped cream & blueberries, that is out of this world.

    1. Yes I have that book. It's falling apart. I'm looking at the recipe now -- "a study in blue and white." Do you use the pastry bag to make it beautiful? Are there other recipes in here that you recommend? I've made a few, but a long time ago. I do remember the lemon and bitter chocolate tart. I took it to a party on Roosevelt Island. I was 26. Unbelievable that I have changed so little.

  9. Jennifer hasn't answered any of the queries here yet, but I'm going to go ahead and speculate that the answer to questions asking Do you have XXXXX cookbook is "Yes."
    The lemon ice cream was particularly good.
    A egg just sitting there on something other than toast is generally a bad idea.

    1. Thanks for covering for me. You are right on all counts except the egg part.

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