Sunday, May 20, 2012

Egg Yolks: Binding Dates and Pecans Together

I am not sure why, but I have started drinking cocktails again after a thirty-year or more hiatus during which I only drank wine and an occasional gin and tonic or Campari and soda in the summer. It’s not because cocktails are back, because they’ve effectively been back for a good ten years, and that didn’t persuade me. Actually, as I write this, I wonder if it’s the weather here in Tucson: an icy cold cocktail on a hot day seems to be just right.

And I do mean cocktail, not mixed drink. Something shaken, hard, with crushed ice until it is wonderfully cold, then strained into just the right glass. I love the froth this creates from using an egg white, suited to many sours. This, of course, leaves an egg yolk, and if you make one every day for a week, lots of egg yolks. What to do? This is the opposite of the usual problem, extra egg whites, which is not really a problem because, well, angel food cake really cannot be considered a bad thing, and they are so easily thrown into the freezer to wait for a baking day.

So I briefly pondered brioche. Or lemon or rhubarb curd.  But I had six yolks.  That’s a lot. And it was Mother’s Day, and hot—100 is hot, this time of year—and I wanted some ice cream. So I put the bowl of my ice cream maker into the freezer, made the custard base (working primarily from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop), chilled it, and then…I had to put everything away on hold until the next day. I suddenly remembered that the bowl needed to chill for 24 hrs, no exceptions.  How had I forgotten that? Clearly, I am not making ice cream nearly as often as I should.

Late Date and Buttered Pecan Ice Cream

We are lucky here to have a gorgeous variety of dates and abundant pecans. The dates remain soft and luscious, contrasting nicely with the pecans. Makes about 1 qt.

1 ¼ c milk
¾ c heavy cream
2/3 cup pure cane sugar
6 large egg yolks
Big pinch salt
½ tea pure vanilla extract
2 T bourbon
12 large dates, pitted
12 buttered pecan halves (see note)
1/3 cup buttered pecans (see note)

Chill the bowl of an ice cream maker in the freezer for 24 hours. If you have the room, just leave your ice cream bowl there all the time. Not only will you be able to make ice cream at the drop of a hat, but you won’t need to remember the 24-hour rule.

Put a buttered pecan in the cavity of each date and close the date over it. Set aside.

Heat the milk with the sugar and salt, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a 1-qt bowl and slowly whisk in the milk. Pour it back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until it thickens and coats a wooden spoon.

Put the cream into a 1-qt bowl and strain the custard mixture into the cream. Add the vanilla and bourbon. Refrigerate until completely cool, overnight if you want. 

Pour into the ice cream maker and churn for 20 minutes; add the stuffed dates and the additional buttered pecans and churn an additional few minutes, distributing the dates with a rubber spatula if necessary. Pack into a bowl or pint containers and freeze til hard. Soften for about 5 minutes before serving; this ice cream will already be softer than many because of the alcohol and high fat content, so test it right out of the freezer and watch it.

Note: To make buttered pecans, preheat oven to 350F. Melt 1T butter in a large skillet. Remove and add a cup or so of pecans and a big pinch of salt, tossing well to coat. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, stirring once. Cool.


racheld said...

How I'd like to try (and try to make) every single thing.

It's really ice-cream-freezer temp here, and today would have been a perfect day. I'm getting quite fond of dates, as we have a lovely cheese plate every Monday night, as it's Caro's day off.

But I'd never have thought to put WHOLE ones into something I was gonna stir around some, especially stuffed ones---what a flavor burst that must have been, with all those tastes at once.

And you hit it exactly---the thought of a "mixed drink" to me connotes standing around after work, sticking your nose into a short glass with fumes rising from heavy brown liquor, and "cocktail" bespeaks a delicate stemmed glass, chilly pale elixir, and perhaps a little black dress and nice evening in prospect.

Jane said...

More ice cream weather here as well. And cocktail weather. Can't claim to be in a little black dress, but I AM in something little...