Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best Thing I Ate for Christmas

Hawaiian-Vanilla ice cream with Lemon-Ginger Sauce and crystallized ginger

No, I did not make the ice cream. I don’t do that. If I had an ice cream maker I might be tempted to use it, and then there would be way too much ice cream in the house. I do buy ice cream for special occasions, although I try to keep that indulgence to a few times a year.

This is Roselani Hawaiian Vanilla. It’s a beautiful creamy, almost ecru shade of ivory, amply speckled with vanilla bean and a luscious foil to any other flavor you might think to pair with it.

I thought “lemon” because the lemon tree is our yard is producing lemons the size of softballs. Seriously, some of them are huge. Here’s a quick quiz: which of these is the lemon and which is the grapefruit?

Yup, that's the lemon on the left. Freaky.

Sometime in early December I had made ae quick lemon syrup by juicing and zesting a few lemons and adding a roughly equal amount of light brown sugar and heating it all to a simmer on the stove. Yum, but runny and rather aggressively sweet-tart.

I used some to make lemon-pecan cookies (no photo of those: they were not the kind of holiday lovelies you think of as “Christmas Cookies”), using the syrup both to sweeten the dough and to brush on top before they went in the oven. Uh, no, no recipe either. They were a basic butter cookie, with a generous amount of ground pecans and some lemon zest added. I was not in a measuring or documenting mood, as so often happens in this kitchen.

The Lemon-Ginger Sauce came about because I was pondering what to make that would involve lemons and/or lemon syrup, and while browsing through my dessert cookbooks was advised by Sherry Yard, in “The Secrets of Baking” that a lemon sauce can be made by thinning lemon curd with simple syrup. Aha.

I figured I could use my lemon syrup to make a thin curd, by whisking in some eggs and cooking over low heat to around 170 degrees. I started with about a cup of the syrup, and added one whole egg and one yolk, and -- here’s where the true inspiration came in -- about a tablespoon of fresh ginger juice (made by grating a large piece of very fresh and moist gingerroot and pressing the results through a fine sieve). When the sauce was slightly thickened and to temp, I whisked in about a tablespoon and a half of butter.

OMG, this stuff is delicious! And it packs a very gingery punch. The sweet, cool, smooth, creamy vanilla ice cream is awesomely perfect with it. Add some diced crystallized ginger on top and yum.

We had this for Christmas Eve dessert. I’d thought maybe I would use the remaining sauce to make some kind of lemony-gingery mousse (reheat with another egg yolk or two, add some gelatin, fold in whipped egg whites and whipped cream... yes, a day will come when I will need to make that particular vision a reality) but the ice cream combo was so delicious we simply repeated it the next day.

If you want to try making something like this, start with a basic lemon curd recipe, cut the egg quantity in half, and the butter to very little, use light-brown sugar instead of plain old white, and add a generous amount of fresh ginger juice. It might not turn out exactly the same as mine, but I can promise you it will be delicious.