The ice cream project: green chile mint ice cream
The serrano chile in this recipe doesn't make the ice cream taste very hot. It gives it an underscore flavor of green chile to set off the ice cream's predominant mintiness but it doesn't assault the mouth. Mint ice cream made with actual leaves of mint is a totally different species from ice cream made with mint extract or, worse, artificial flavoring. The mint leaves taste much brighter, livelier, and I daresay, mintier. Even straining the leaves out of the custard mix, as I did here, their fresh taste is instantly recognizable.
I would love to claim originality for this combination but I'm hardly the first to think of it. Southwestern cooks pair green chiles with more or less everything, including sweet stuff like chocolate. There is a recipe for serrano-mint ice cream that I found here that is pretty much what I decided to make. There used to be a place in Madison called Chocolate Coyote whose signature ice cream flavor was a combination of chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne. Of course, the mint-green chile combination is also familiar from southeast Asian cooking, as is the combination of hot and sweet flavors as in pad Thai and mango/papaya salad. These two dishes were my introduction to Thai food (Thai Shan Inn, Eglinton West, Toronto, early 1990s) and I'm sure that the hot-sweet combination, which I had never before tried in such an intense form (Big Red chewing gum might be the nearest thing), was what sold me on it right away.
The procedure I followed is the same as many of the other ice creams I have made: steep the flavoring ingredients in cream, then use the flavored cream to make the custard. Cook, chill, churn, freeze, eat.
I used one big handful of mint leaves, chopped, and one serrano chile, seeds included, minced. The rest of the ingredients were my standard French custard mixture: 9 oz. sugar, 3 cups half and half, 1 cup heavy cream, and eight egg yolks. I steeped the mint and chile for about twenty minutes, bringing the half and half to a simmer and then killing the heat. I strained the green stuff out and proceeded as usual from there. You could leave it in but I prefer not to have little bits of chewy, vegetal, green stuff in my ice cream spoiling the smooth texture.
I'm thinking about making ice cream one of these days that has a lot more heat, that really makes the snot run from your nose and the tears from your eyes. I don't love or crave that crazy hot food experience but I do kind of get off on it once in awhile.
My other ice creams: