Saturday, April 29, 2006

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:

  • Egg ice cream

  • Black sesame ice cream

  • Rice ice cream

  • Cardamom ice cream

  • Sour cream anise ice cream

  • Caramel ice cream

  • Apples and honey ice cream

  • Watermelon sour cream sherbet

  • Mojito cream cheese ice cream

  • Peach frozen yogurt

  • Oatmeal raisin ice cream

  • Mango cream cheese ice cream

  • Mocha ice cream

  • Berry buttermilk sherbet

  • Gingersnap ice cream

    Blogger Sara said...

    that sounds wonderful. i love real mint ice cream. i hope you do make a crazy hot ice cream one day - i'd love to hear about it.

    10:01 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Thai Shan Inn here in Toronto? I wonder if they're still around ... I will have to check that out.

    In the meantime, I enjoyed reading about this ice cream. Chile and mint sounds like a wonderfully appealing combination of hot and cool!

    10:00 AM  
    Blogger mzn said...

    Yes, Toronto! I grew up there.

    Thai Shan Inn was fantastic in the 90s but the last time I was there, three or four years ago, I thought it had gone downhill. The pad Thai seemed sweeter and greasier than I had remembered it. Perhaps I caught them on an off day, I don't know, but it was a disappointment. It would be worth querying Toronto chowhounds before going. Also be warned that the place is totally charmless.

    10:46 AM  
    Blogger Jocelyn:McAuliflower said...

    I love the idea of making this ice cream. I didn't quite catch it in the reading though... do you like it?

    Using coconut milk and adding peanuts would just be too much now wouldn't it (I can never see that line... you know the one when they tell you you've crossed the line?).

    12:45 AM  
    Blogger mzn said...

    mcauliflower: I liked it a lot. And although they might have been trying to make me feel good, the people to whom I served the ice cream said they liked it a lot too. If I make it again I will double the green chile amount and I might also do something to make the color green instead of pale French vanilla yellow.

    Your ideas for additions sound great. I'm working in the direction of a southeast Asian ice cream that has hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavors and coconut milk would seem like the perferct base for it.

    9:04 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I think you have a true gift for icecream, and wish I could sample your creations. Anything with lemongrass to date?

    12:55 PM  
    Blogger G said...

    Oh my god. that sounds fabulous.

    not exactly ice cream to sit on top of a cone. What would you pair it with? I just found your blog. Looks fabulous. I should put you in my food blog links on my blog.

    11:43 PM  
    Blogger G said...

    oh and I made a delicious lavender ice cream last year. Have you tried making that? I suggest it. Just don't let it steep too long or it will be really mediciney.

    11:45 PM  
    Blogger mzn said...

    Thank you so much, Lindy. No lemongrass yet. I'll add it to the list.

    Hi Gabriella, thanks for visiting. When I make ice cream I usually eat it out of a bowl and I tend not to think of it as something that goes with something else. Maybe bread pudding?

    8:17 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    There is a place in Columbus, Ohio's North Market called Jeni's ice cream that does really hot ice creams.

    One is Thai chile that is made from peanuts, coconut milk, coconut and thai chiles--that is a good one.

    And then there is Queen City Cayenne--it has dark chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. It is smoking-hot-- and amazing.

    8:44 AM  
    Blogger mzn said...

    Hi Barbara. I know all about your Jeni's. I thought the Thai chile was really good but I didn't care for the little bits of coconut. I want to go to Columbus to try every flavor.

    8:57 AM  

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