Remember the days when you could feel the gentle kiss of a warm breeze caressing your bare shoulders as you floated down the dry pavement in a pair of gorgeous, open-toed sandals, your smile mimicking the relentless beaming sun of a long summer’s day? Me neither. Those memories are dead. They are as dead as dinosaurs, which are really fucking dead, and now they are fossil fuel, and we burn their dead, dead bodies in the engines of our automobiles, callously speeding through puddles of slush and dirt and Northeastern anguish. It’s hard to stay positive when you live in Boston, for many reasons. One reason is people keep telling us we’re cruel and negative, which I don’t think is true. We’re just really racist. Another reason is when they cast Julianne Moore on 30 Rock and they let her open her mouth. That was ridiculous. The most current reason is that it is cold, and the wind is brutal, and we have potholes like Zeus’s chalice, which sustain very deep pools of ice cold city water that I step into all of the time. It’s a lot to endure, even for one so stout of heart as I. Maybe the one positive thing about this never-ending winter is all of the pasta I continue to eat and not feel guilty about.
I never consciously change my dietary habits according to season. My animal nature really takes the reigns in this regard. In the winter, I just want to eat all of the meat. If I see meat, it’s going to get eaten. It’s going to get thrown on top of something starchy and butter-laden, and then it’s down the old gullet. During the summer, it’s watermelon all day every day. I can’t stop with the watermelon. I want to eat it in any and all capacities, from fancy mint salads with feta, with a spoon straight out of a rind, but mostly pureed in a margarita.
Now what food, you might ask me, transcends seasonal propriety? Ice cream does. I think I touched on this last week when we met my friend at 7-11, but I eat ice cream several times a week, minimum. The great thing about ice cream in the summer is obviously its soothing, cooling properties. The best thing about ice cream in the winter is that it doesn’t melt as quickly, which is a lot more important to me than you may realize. You see, I have but one irrational fear in this world and it is melted ice cream. It is completely visceral, utterly baseless, and yet debilitating. I’m am very into frappes. I have no problem smothering a molten lava cake in a bit of creme anglaise. But when ice cream melts, when it changes form, I absolutely lose my shit and I am not able to explain to you why. Mostly because I am gagging right now just thinking about it. All of this aside, it’d be hard to say that there are many things more satisfying than a frozen indulgence on a hot summer day. One thing that might come close is homemade ice cream at the brink of spring, just as a small reminder that it’s going to get better. The frost will thaw, public works will plow its last snow bank, and the strapping young gentleman on loan from Walpole House of Corrections will plant those odd-smelling shrubs along the periphery of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. That’s the global warming promise.
Maybe you recall a real throwaway of a blog entry on New Years Eve when I listed some of the greatest things that went straight to my thighs last year. One of those things was cinnamon ice cream from Pico in the South End. I decided I would commit a most delicious act of hubris and one-up them a bit with the addition of a blueberry and balsamic vinegar swirl.
Cinnamon Ice Cream with Balsamic Blueberries
Balsamic Blueberry Compote
8 oz Frozen blueberries
3 oz Balsamic Vinegar
1 oz Sugar
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
Zest of ½ a lemon
Put all ingredients in a small pot, and cook on low heat until reduced by a little more than half. The consistency should be like a loose jam. Set aside to cool.
Cinnamon Ice Cream
18 oz Half and Half
4 oz Sugar, divided
2 ½ tsp Ground cinnamon
4 Egg yolks
Food for thought: This is best done in two days. The ice cream base will benefit greatly from “maturation” in the refrigerator, not to mention it needs to be thoroughly chilled before churning.
In a medium pot, bring half and half, half of your sugar, and cinnamon to a boil, then reduce to low heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and remaining sugar. After your milk has boiled, remove from heat and very slowly add half to your yolks, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Return the yolk mixture to the pot and cook on low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon. Allow the mixture to cook to “nappe” stage, which occurs when you run your finger horizontally across the spoon/spatula and the mixture does not run into the empty space you’ve created. I know that sounds weird, but that’s really how you tell. Once you have reached nappe stage, pour through a mesh strainer into a clean bowl (to remove any possibly congealed bits of egg), and stir mixture until it cools to room temperature. Cover mixture and refrigerate for 10-24 hours. Once it has chilled, pour slowly into your ice cream churner after you have turned it on. The mixture will just about double in volume after about 15-20 minutes. Do not over churn! This will make the ice cream a little chalky in texture. When the ice cream is ready to finish, pour in compote and immediately shut off your machine! You only want to give it one or two turns or you will lose the swirl effect. Scoop your ice cream into a sealable container and freeze for a few hours before indulging.
Don’t have an ice cream maker? That sucks. You should make Strawberry Cake.