A lighter ice cream

I wanted to make gelato for our friends who came to dinner last weekend, and my wife had bought a half-pint of heavy cream that we had thought to whip and use on top of strawberry-covered pound cake.

But we had an extra quart of whole milk in the fridge that we wanted to use and so I modified the gelato recipe we normally use to incorporate the small amount of cream, and now we have a gelato cum ice cream cum ice milk that not only tastes delicious the day you make it, but keeps much better than your basic uncooked gelato recipe.

Here it is:

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 packet (or 5.3 ounces) of nonfat dry milk powder
1 tsp vanilla extract (maybe a little more if you like, but no more than 1 1/4 tsp.)

That’s the whole thing. Blend it in your blender, chill it and freeze it according to your manufacturer’s directions, and you’re done. Some folks might want to up the sugar to 3/4 cup but I think that’s pushing it. No harm done if you want to try it that way.

In any event, the milk powder absorbs the water in the milk and helps, with the small amount of cream, to emulsify the mix so that it doesn’t go grainy on you by the second day. I tried ours on the second day, when our regular gelato has begun to get icy, and it was perfect.

It didn’t last a third day.

I think you could add four shots of chilled espresso (or espresso powder) to make coffee ice cream, or cinnamon. You could macerate some berries in a lot of sugar or Cointreau, Grand Marnier or framboise and add them to the mix when it was partly frozen — the sugar or alcohol will keep the berries from turning into bullets in your mouth.

So, OK: It’s not exactly gelato, and it’s not ice cream and it’s not ice milk. But it’s incredibly easy, and really good — even on the second day.

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First Bacon!

This week's science project: Home-cured bacon!

This week’s science project: Home-cured bacon!

We’re getting ready for this year’s Salute to Meat. About 35 guests are coming and we’ve got home-dry aged steaks, KC- and Memphis-style St. Louis ribs, smoked briskets and burnt ends, pulled pork, kielbasa and lamb on the menu. But I’ve been wanting to cure and smoke my own bacon and so that’s what I did this week.

I got 11 lbs. of pork belly at my favorite butcher in Philadelphia, then cured it with Morton’s TenderQuick salt, brown sugar, maple syrup and some cracked black pepper. I cut the belly in half and stuck it in two, 2-gallon bags and put it in the fridge, turning it every day.

What you see above is half of the slab. I’m pretty pleased, although next time I think I’ll add more syrup and smoke it harder.

After 7 days I smoked them on the Big Green Egg at 200 degrees direct (one on a raised grid since they were too big to fit at the same level). I used hickory chunks. They were up to temp in less than three hours

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Meat Raoul

When we lived in Boston, Janet and I would throw big dinner parties for her fellow Kennedy School students, and most of them featured a large beef rib roast. On seeing one of these beasts, one of Janet’s friends said, “I feel like I’m eating Raoul,” making a reference to an ’80s movie.

Since then we name all our big rib roasts Raoul and like the kings, increment them with Roman numerals. I dry-age them in our downstairs refrigerator for between 21 and 28 days, although I’ve gone up to 45, with pretty good results.

This is Raoul XXXII when we first brought him home from Costco on Dec. 1 for our New Year’s dinner, so he spent a month in the fridge.

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He weighed about 19 lbs. and was the first bone-in rib roast I’ve aged. I put him on a rack and then, because I recently read about how putting salt underneath the beef can help it, I dumped a bunch of kosher salt on the sheet try, which I usually just line with aluminum foil.

I don’t think the salt helped, and I won’t do it again, but I don’t think it hurt, either.

For the science and detailed technique I refer you to J. Kenjy Lopez-Alt’s outstanding article on the subject at Serious Eats. Lopez-Alt reminds me a lot of Alton Brown before he turned into a jerk, and his recipes, science labs and other pieces there are all excellent.

I’ve tried aging meat several ways: in special bags that are sold for this purpose, wrapped in paper towels, wrapped in cheesecloth and just naked on the rack. Bare on the rack has worked well for me, although I would like to raise the humidity in the refrigerator.

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Anyway, this is what Raoul XXXII looked like when he came out of the fridge after 30 days: That grid is the mark from the rack he was on.  He looks all dried-out and gross, but all he needed was a little trim.

He finished up at about 16 1/2 pounds, having lost about a pound of water during the month, and the rest in trimming on the leathery, dried-out portions. I left more fat

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on than I usually do, because I was roasting Raoul XXXII whole, and I usually cut the roasts into very thick steaks, about 2 1/2 pounds each.

Here he is, trimmed, tied and ready to roast. I cut the ribs almost off, leaving an inch or so connected to make carving easier but still allowing me to roast him whole.

I roasted Raoul on the Big Green Egg, starting at 200 degrees at 1:45 p.m. on New Year’s eve, aiming to pull him off at 128 degrees internal. My plan was to then run up the Egg to 700 degrees or so to crust the outside.

I later raised the grill temperature to 225 and then 250 when it seemed I was going to run out of time. When the internal temperature was only 125 at 9:45 I pumped the Egg up to 400 degrees and pulled Raoul when he was at 130 degrees. This very blurry picture tells the story after I cut the first servings.

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The color might be a little off in this picture. He was a perfect medium-rare in the center, but a little more done on the edge than I like, and that’s because I took up the heat — if I’d pulled him at 128 as I had planned and then put him back on for just a couple of minutes when the Egg had hit 700 degrees, it would have been a perfectly uniform pink just about to the very edge.

Taste was good, with a little of the funky, metalic, cheesy flavor that you want from aged meat, and he was extremely tender. We still have a few pounds of him left, which we plan to freeze this weekend. The rib bones are on the menu for tonight, roasted again with some barbecue sauce.


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An easy-looking molten chocolate cake

Mark Bittman put up a video today about how to make an easy molten chocolate cake. I know I’ll want to see this again even after it’s been archived, so here it is.


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The Big Green Egg

Almost ready for action

In the late ’90s I got tired of replacing gas barbeque grills every couple of years. So I bought a charcoal grill and smoker called the Big Green Egg and have never looked back.

It’s ceramic, about 140 lbs., and made in Atlanta, and shaped like an egg. It flips open at its middle and will sear steaks at 750 degrees or so (I’ve gotten it a lot hotter) and it will hold 225 degrees for 24 hours to cook whole briskets.

The grill is guaranteed for life, and on those occasions when the charcoal grate would break (it used to be ceramic and could eventually crack; now it’s cast iron and indestructable), the dealer would just replace it, no questions asked.

So why am I on my third?

Well, I couldn’t bring it with me when I left Massachusetts for center-city Philadelphia, so gave it to my father, who later gave it to my brother. And after Philadelphia, the one I bought in upstate New York went to a friend of Janet’s when I moved to Boston, just before we got married.

So now that we have a house and a back yard again, I have the third and I hope, the last. Spatchcocked chickens are going on it in about an hour.

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Maiden voyage

I know it’s about the technique, not the equipment, but when we saw this Le Creuset on a really deep discount at an outlet (first quality, but discontinued color) we decided to splurge a little.

A new pot is like a science experiment

Today it’s on its maiden voyage, cooking a braised pork recipe we like.

Janet’s cooking it, and I’m hovering. Well, not looking over her shoulder, exactly, but from my seat in the living room I see her pick up a whisk.

“You can’t use that,” I say. “You’ll scratch the bottom.” She puts down the whisk for a wooden spoon.

Can you use metal tongs? I look it up. Yes, if you’re careful.

Is it browning correctly? Vegetables and wine pick up the brown bits on the bottom? Yes, and yes.

How will it clean up? When it’s dry, will I put the little rubber clips back on so that the top doesn’t scratch?

Just thinking about it is exhausting. Jeez, if I’d ever had kids I’d probably be a grease spot by now.

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Time to start cooking

Like everyone else I know, I’m tired of the snow and cold. I haven’t cooked anything on our Big Green Egg since December and the beef I like to dry-age in our refrigerator is tender but lifeless when I cook it indoors.

It’s supposed to get warmer this weekend and maybe enough of the snow will melt by midweek so that I’ll be able to throw a chicken on the Egg. In the meantime, it looks like braised pork tonight and lasagna with fresh egg pasta tomorrow.

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