Pear Ice Cream & Stilton

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pear Ice Cream & Stilton

I received for Christmas the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, and so I've been thinking of what I'd make with it. By chance, Shuna discussed pear ice cream recently as she's using it at Sens, I assume. Her recipe sounded pretty great: poach the pears, puree the pears, reduce the syrup, combine with creme anglaise, and freeze.

The creme anglaise was straightforward from the Joy of Cooking. I didn't have any cream around so I used whole milk. I just made 2 cups of it, since I didn't really know how the proportions would work out. I realized it probably wouldn't thicken as much as I wanted with the ratio of eggs to milk I used, so I accidentally overcooked it and it curdled. I poured it off and ran my hand blender through it and all was well. Phew.

I poached 4 pears ala Chez Panisse: Fruit. Simmer a 2:1:1 mix of white wine, water, and sugar, add some vanilla bean and lemon juice, submerge the pears, put a plate on them to hold them under, and simmer until a paring knife slices through the pear flesh with no resistance.

Creme Anglaise and Poached Pears

I pureed the pears with, again, my hand blender (seriously, how did I ever cook without one?) as the poaching syrup reduced.

The poaching syrup reduced slowly but steadily and darkened to a deep amber color even though it never exceeded 235F. I'm not quite sure why this is; maybe a lot of fructose got pulled out of the pears? Or maybe fructose was left in the white wine if it wasn't terribly dry? I'm kind of grasping at straws, here. Sucrose, the sugar I added to the poaching liquid, shouldn't brown until 320F and it obviously was nowhere near that. But it was deep amber color and had the distinct taste of sugar browning, not Maillard browning or something wacky like that. Fructose browns at something like 220F or 230F, so that would explain it, but I'm just not clear on where the fructose would have come from.

Anyway, the poaching syrup, reduced, was delicious.

Pear Poaching Liquid

I ended up with more than I needed, and saved the leftovers. I often eat yogurt with a drizzle of honey; I find that yogurt with a drizzle of this thick pear-poaching syrup (not quite as thick as honey, but close) is especially delicious.

I mixed about 2c creme anglaise and enough pureed pear to bring it to almost 2 quarts (this was all 4 pears, pureed.) I added about 2/3c of the reduced poaching liquid. Then I froze it.

Churning Pear Ice Cream

It really didn't freeze up so well. I guess there was a lot of sugar in it. And probably still a fair amount of white wine, although that flavor doesn't really come through in the finished dessert. But after half an hour in the ice cream maker, it still took several hours in the freezer to solidify. On the upside, it softens nicely if left out for just 5 minutes or so.

The flavor is fantastic. Quoth Shuna, "very pear-y, I must say." That's for sure. I'm glad I went easy on the vanilla and lemon in the poaching. The resulting ice cream really tastes very clearly of pear, not of some artificial sugared-up poached pear. It's light and refreshing, but also indulgent. Really, it tastes seriously delicious.

Next time I'd double the volume of creme anglaise and use fewer pears, and probably less of the poaching syrup. The pear flavor is really unmistakably strong and in no danger of being diluted with a lighter fruit mix. And the resulting ice cream is halfway to a sorbet since about 75% of the volume of it is just pear puree. It's a bit icy when fully frozen, but nicely smooth and creamy when thawed a bit. But it's certainly not creamy in the way that normal ice cream is. Maybe next time I'll use heavy cream in the creme anglaise, too.

I ate the ice cream with little bits of Stilton cheese on the side, in the classic pairing. The rich creaminess of the Stilton actually goes pretty well with the less-thick, less-creamy nature of this pear ice cream.

Pear Ice Cream & Stilton


At January 14, 2008 4:28 PM , Blogger Roberto N. said...

You could also try making a salted-caramel Ice cream and toss some poached pear pieces into it. It could make an interesting pairing with the cheese.


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Mac 'n' Cheese

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Mac 'n' Cheese

OK, Mac 'n' Cheese is a misnomer, but I wanted the title to fit in the table of contents. The full name of this dish would be, I guess, "Chicken & sun-dried tomato meatballs, whole wheat orecchiette, wilted chard, gruyere mornay."

I was in my yoga class yesterday and suddenly had a strong craving for macaroni & cheese.
My parents also just gave me the Kitchenaid Food Grinder attachment for Christmas, and I wanted to use it.

I decided, for some reason, to make this hugely elaborate meal. The mac 'n' cheese part would be orecchiette -- because that shape, it obviously holds the sauce well -- and a straight-up mornay sauce (which, as that Wiki link will tell you, is just a bechamel with grated cheese.)

Then, meatballs. At first I thought chicken, but then, maybe it would be too lean. Then I thought, duck. But Lulu convinced me that duck and cheese was probably not the best mix, both being so heavy. She suggested chicken with sun-dried tomato.

By the time I did my shopping it was 10pm. Yes, I started to make this entire thing from scratch at 10pm. Yeah. Good scheduling, huh?

I started by taking the chicken thighs I'd bought and skinning and boning them. This is harder than I thought. Connective tissue -- what a pain! I finally thought to use my kitchen shears and it sped things up a lot, but it still took the better part of an hour.

Chicken Thigh Meat

Into the grinder it went, about 3lbs chicken meat with 3oz sun-dried tomatoes. This food grinder is no joke. It works very well. It made short work of the chicken and even the whole dried tomatoes. I ran the mixture through three times to get it very smooth, and it came out well.

I added two eggs, salt, pepper, some oregano, and a shake of panko to absorb a little moisture, mixed it up, and shaped it into about 1.5" meatballs. Voila. Just like cookies from a bowl of cookie batter, I got far more meatballs than I had guessed from the volume of meat in the bowl.


Oh yeah, one more thing. Cooking with chicken in my kitchen has become a kind of dangerous undertaking, because early on I fed my cats the hearts of whole chickens and scraps and whatnot as I worked, and so they can smell this stuff, even raw, even from the next room. And they want it, bad.

Weirdo the Cat

That was basically what I saw when I looked down at the floor the entire time I was cooking.

At this point it's probably about midnight. On to the pasta. I've never made orecchiette before, and it took a while to find a way to shape it that was reasonably fast. I ended up rolling the dough into 1/2" diameter logs, slicing those logs into about 1/8" thick slices. Then I'd take a slice, hold it between the thumb and index finger of both hands and turn it, pinching, to make it into a kind of hollow dome. Then I'd press the convex side of the dome against the tip of one pinky finger and, with the other hand, pinch it down to form the depression.

That might be hard to follow in words. Sadly, I didn't record a video of it. Then again, it took forever and they only look OK, so it's not a technique I necessarily want anyone else to use.


In particular, I don't know how commercial orecchiette are made to have the kind of shaggy texture on the outside. I wish mine had that.

Orecchiette take a long time to make by hand, longer than any other pasta I make. (Ravioli probably take longer, but armed with the French Laundry technique for agnolotti, I will never make ravioli again, so that's moot.)

By now it's maybe 2am. Time for the sauce. Not much to this; it's the Joy of Cooking Bechamel (melt butter, whisk in flour, add milk, toss in onion, cloves, bay leaf, cook until thickened, strain) with a bunch of grated cheese thrown in. I got a good sharp Gruyere.

Gruyere Mornay

Finally, ready to assemble it all. I fried the meatballs lightly in my lovely cast-iron skillet, and at the very end, threw in some strips of chard to let them wilt with the leftover heat in the pan. It was approaching 3am, so I cut the meatballs in half to speed their cooking. Gimme a break, I was starving and tired.

Meatballs and Chard

Ready for assembly. In went the pasta, tossed with the chard, topped with the meatballs, and a good spoonful of sauce.

Oh my God, this was good. I know, I'd been cooking for 5 hours and was probably delirious and so hungry a running shoe would have tasted good, but still, this was fantastic. I took a bite and couldn't help myself, I started laughing with glee just a little at how good it was.

The sun-dried tomato in the meatball is genius. Credit to Lulu for that. The chicken thigh meat has enough fat that they're not dry, but is certainly not as fatty as beef or pork or duck. The oregano is a nice complement. The whole wheat in the orecchiette helps them stand up to the other strong flavors well. The chard is just the right amount of punctuation. The mornay, I mean, it's a gruyere mornay, thick and creamy and delicious, at once coating the mouth and stinging the tongue. Everything in this dish is excellent on its own, and it all combines especially well.

Mac 'n' Cheese

Giggling quietly like a crazy person, I ate it all, and then sat in my bar stool, eyes closed, rocking gently forwards and backwards like some kind of trauma victim. Then I hunted down my only friend still online that late just to tell her about the food I made and how good it was. I know, what a tease. In my defense, I wasn't thinking so clearly by then.

Clean Plate


At January 4, 2008 8:55 AM , Blogger Darius Kazemi said...

Hah! Hardcore, man.

At January 4, 2008 12:03 PM , Blogger Kristine said...

I would need a snack to sustain me through the cooking process for that.

Good work crazy man. That looks GOOD. Can I come over for leftovers :)

At January 4, 2008 12:46 PM , OpenID hustlerofculture said...

you are so cooking in my kitchen the next time you're in town!

At January 6, 2008 1:00 AM , Blogger Joanne said...

Mac & Cheese & Meatballs! Sounds like a winner! Great Winter food post.

At January 6, 2008 2:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

first time looking thru your site. you are certainly no slacker on the cooking side or the blogging side. this is beautiful. i feel like you could quit your job and get paid for this somehow!! i love that you add your kitties in here too! very exciting. cant wait to read more.

At January 7, 2008 5:31 PM , Blogger Roberto N. said...

I once saw Batali make orecchiette with a blunt table knife. He'd scrape the little balls of dough and obtain the "scraped" look on them. Kinda like making cavatelli.

At January 7, 2008 8:42 PM , Blogger Katia said...

This post has been removed by the author.

At January 7, 2008 8:44 PM , Blogger Katia said...

Wow...every time I visit I am more impressed than the time before. What a beautiful and satisfying meal!

p.s. Sorry about the delete, but I had a typo and I'm OCD! ;)

At January 14, 2008 1:29 PM , Blogger Shannon said...

Forming the orecchiette isn't really that hard (but it's still time consuming, since you have to form every piece): take your small piece of dough, rub it thin against the board with your thumb, then pick your thumb up and flip the ear inside out. It's the rubbing that gives you the rough texture on the outside.

Looks like a really yummy dish.

At May 27, 2008 6:28 PM , Blogger Amanda said...

Just found your blog. Wonderful! I feel better about spending an entire day (in daylight, well except for the first pre-dawn bit) cooking for 6. It's awesome that you did this for yourself!!!


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