Even more now than in the throes of that exploratory infatuation, as kaleidoscopic as it was, I’m so deeply satisfied I can hardly form the words to express my gratitude. We have put down roots right into each other’s ventricles. I’m a touch of the crazy and no easy creature to navigate. To find someone capable of traversing the lay of my land…well, that’s a rare, intrepid man. One I had almost come to believe didn’t exist. He’s a regular unicorn. This is a spectral time of year, romantic and eerie and crisp. I love it. It’s ours. This ice cream tastes like it.
The smoky confection was inspired by a dessert course at The Catbird Seat in Nashville, TN. Our meal there was one of those where each course is a revelation, an education. Truth be told I have little interest in eating out unless the meal will tell me something I don’t already know. As such, I’d rather save for months and spend it all on an experience such as The Catbird Seat rather than frittering it on underwhelming meals. Give me street food, soul food, or one of the best restaurants in the country. Otherwise, I’ll cook for myself, thank you. I’m not much for the food that falls in between. They’re deserving of their reputation, and if you find yourself with the opportunity to eat there, do. It didn’t hurt to know that a personal hero, Grant Achatz, had eaten a seat over from me not but a few nights prior. I like to think his aura was still reverberating around, getting genius ectoplasm on my foie.
Toasted Oak Ice Cream with Smoked Sea Salt & Lapsang Souchong Caramel Swirl
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup medium toast oak chips I ordered mine here.
- seeds from one vanilla bean pod
- 1/4 tsp about two pinches smoked sea salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/4 of this lapsang souchong caramel recipe I make a half recipe & just use what I want of it
- Heat milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat until almost boiling. Remove from heat and immediately add oak chips. Cover and steep 10-30 minutes, depending on how strong you want the flavor to be. I let it go 30 minutes.
- Double line a sieve with cheese cloth and set over a heat proof bowl. Strain ice cream carefully, making sure no bits of wood chips get into your base. Whisk in vanilla beans and salt after strained. Return mixture to medium heat.
- Whisk egg yolks in a bowl. When the milk is hot again (around 150° F) slowly pour a quarter cup of it at a time into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Continue doing this up to about a cup until the egg yolks are warm and tempered. Whisk this egg mixture back into the milk on the heat, adding it slowly and stirring constantly.
- Stirring constantly cook the custard over medium heat until it reaches at 170° F and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove custard from heat and strain into a heat proof bowl. Chill thoroughly, a minimum of three hours, preferably over night. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions. I usually churn mine in my Cuisinart 15-20 minutes until it looks like the consistency of mashed potatoes.
- To create the caramel swirl spoon a thin layer of ice cream and drizzle caramel on it, layer more ice cream, drizzle more caramel, and so forth until filled. Make sure your caramel is room temperature for ease of drizzling. I zap mine for about 10 seconds in the microwave if it’s a little stiff for me.
- Cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface and chill to let it set. Serve. Preferably with pie. Good with toasted walnuts too. Or poached pears. Or both.