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Gourmet

Taking Stock at Foodstock

As an alumna of Wesleyan University, I knew I was back on campus when I passed a stop sign bearing stickers with the words “don’t” and “believing” framing the word “stop.” Some things never change. Some things, however, change a lot. One of these is the sheer number of self-professed “foodies” that walk those hallowed halls and tree-lined pathways. The school paper, which I edited back in the day, now boasts a food section. A student-organized farmers’ market sets up shop a couple on campus times a month. There’s a program house dedicated to cooking, known as “Full House.” Even the campus catering is done by Bon Appétit Management, known for its local, sustainable sourcing of ingredients. It’s not that I’m shocked by this transition—there was a student protest while I was at Wesleyan to get the on-campus grocery store to stop selling eggs laid by caged chickens—but it is a reminder of how quickly food awareness has sprung up in the American consciousness. Some of these Wesleyan foodies (members of the class of ’12, ’13 and ’14, if you can believe we’re that old) organized a conference on food writing called Foodstock, at which I—along with others more accomplished and more luminary—was asked to speak.

The morning was occupied by two conversations led by the Connecticut Public Radio cooking-show host, Faith Middleton. The first was with former New York Times restaurant critic and Gourmet magazine editor, Ruth Reichl, and the second was with New York Times wine critic (and Wesleyan grad) Eric Asimov. The afternoon schedule would be packed with more notable names, including Raymond Sokolov, Dorie Greenspan, Jane Stern and Molly O’Neill. But first, it was time for lunch. Talking about food is all well and good, but what kind of food conference would be complete without a feast to gorge on? Lucky, the smarty-pants Wesleyan students who planned Foodstock were on top of their game in this department as well. They recruited a small fleet of food trucks to come to Middletown and park in a lot near the science center. Naturally, I had to scout out the full range of options before deciding what to eat. I passed on Ethiopian, grilled cheese and a pizza truck with an internal oven and opted for three tacos from Hartford-based Lucky Taco.


I tried one filled with carnitas, one with chicken and one with beef. It didn’t take me long to realize that the carnitas is where it’s at. The meat was tender and porky, and the cabbage slaw in the taco added crunch and moisture. I dumped the entirety of my salsa verde cup on top and chowed down. The other two tacos were far less remarkable. The chicken was bland and uninteresting, and the ground beef cried out for seasoning and textural character. Both of these tacos also came with fresh tomatoes on top, which are simply a watery disappointment until tomato season starts in earnest. The remaining two cups of salsa were also tomato based, and they lacked the kick of smokiness or spice I was craving. I sat down on a curb in the parking lot—between Eric Asimov and some undergraduates—to eat them. Ah, the democracy of food carts!

As I sat there eating my less-than-stellar tacos, I overheard numerous passersby raving about the Lebanese fish wrap from the Munchies Food Truck. I felt a pang of orderer’s regret. Then I stopped myself. Why worry about having missed out on the sandwich when I could buy it and eat it for second lunch? I did just that, although I didn’t end up eating it until later. The battered, fried flounder was tender and moist and evocative of the Northeast region, while also bringing in a kick of the Middle East with tahini sauce and a crunchy salad. The pita was that thin pliant variety that really holds a sandwich together well. This may well have been the best item available at the food trucks assembled in that parking lot, but what struck me the most about these food offerings was the sheer variety at that level of quality. These carts were reflective of what college students wanted and found delicious. Even the little gourmet on-campus market and the vegan cafe of my undergraduate days did not rise to this level of sophistication. Would my classmates and I have thought to plan a conference based purely on the enjoyment of food? Probably not. But, in the age of the foodie, it seems, we are all more conscious of what we eat and how we document its every detail.

Gourmet, Unbound: September

Word came out through the newspapers and blogosphere last week that Gourmet magazine would be making a resurgence in the form of three separate “special editions,” incorporating recipes from previous issues of the magazine, adding new photos and costing $11 each. The first is scheduled to hit newsstands on Tuesday. They editions will reportedly be edited by Kemp Minifie, a longtime Gourmet staffer. Despite this attempt to keep things authentic, the whole thing smacks of a marketing gimmick to me. Repurpose a bunch of recipes we already own, doll them up a bit and appeal to the nostalgia of all the people who used to read our magazine (or at least wish they had).

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I didn’t read Gourmet for the recipes (although some of them were good). I read it for its unique, thoughtful point of view on food politics and culture and the wonderful writers it commissioned to discuss these topics.

Nonetheless, if people find it easier to remember their experience reading Gourmet by commemorating it with recipes, then I am happy to oblige. In that spirit, I continue my year-long tribute to Gourmet with a recipe for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Sautéed Apples from the September 1991 issue. At first, the idea of sautéed apples seemed a bit too autumnal for Labor Day weekend, but then I thought the dish would make a nice entrée to the Jewish High Holidays, which begin next week, and during which apples play an important symbolic role. The pancakes turned out rich and delicious: They’re round like the calendar, and they’re sweet like the kind of year we all hope the next one will be.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Sautéed Apples

yield: Makes about twelve 3- to 4-inch pancakes

Ingredients
For the sautéed apples
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
fresh lemon juice to taste

For the pancakes
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
melted butter for brushing the griddle

maple syrup as an accompaniment

Preparation
Prepare the sautéed apples:
In a large heavy skillet sauté the apples in the butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until they are softened, sprinkle them with the sugar and the cinnamon, and cook them over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are tender. Stir in the lemon juice and keep the mixture warm.

Make the pancakes:
In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest, add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over moderately high heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200°F. oven.

Serve the pancakes with the sautéed apples and the maple syrup.

See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
August 2010, Deviled Chicken Drumsticks
July 2010, Ratatouille
June 2010, Potato Salad with Olives and Peppers
May 2010, Moroccan-Style Mussels
April 2010, Shrimp Scampi Pasta
March 2010, Chicken with Black Pepper Maple Sauce
February 2010, Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
January 2010, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze

Gourmet, Unbound: August

For this month’s tribute to Gourmet magazine, I was inspired by what I happened to have in the refrigerator and pantry, in this case chicken, mustard, panko, cayenne pepper and Parmesan cheese. The recipe for Deviled Chicken from the August 2008 issue of the magazine technically called for drumsticks. I had thighs, which I figured were roughly equivalent. Luckily it has cooled off enough that turning on the oven for 30 minutes was not so much of a burden. In any event, the final product was worth the extra heat. The meat was moist beneath skin that was crackling with the crispy panko and cheese and emboldened by the Dijon and cayenne. The recipe says this would be a perfect picnic dish eaten cold. I would eat it again hot, cold or anywhere in between.

Deviled Chicken Drumsticks (or Thighs)
Gourmet, August 2008

Yield: Makes 6 (main course) servings
Time: Active time: 15 min
Start to finish: 45 min

Ingredients
12 chicken drumsticks (2 1/2 to 3 pounds total)
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/2 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preparation
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third.
Pat chicken dry, then toss with mustard until evenly coated.
Stir together panko, cheese, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Drizzle with butter and toss.

Dredge each drumstick in crumb mixture to coat, then arrange, without crowding, in a buttered large 4-sided sheet pan. Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
July 2010, Ratatouille
June 2010, Potato Salad with Olives and Peppers
May 2010, Moroccan-Style Mussels
April 2010, Shrimp Scampi Pasta
March 2010, Chicken with Black Pepper Maple Sauce
February 2010, Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
January 2010, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze

Gourmet, Unbound: July

My grandma Trader Joanna moved out of her house and into an apartment this year. Like anyone who has lived in the same house for 60 years, she had filled it with artwork, papers, tschochkes and memorabilia. Even amongst the junk, there were some great pieces of history, as I found out when I was helping my mom clear things out a couple months ago. On a bookshelf in the study, I found three issues of Gourmet magazine from 1967 and 1968. My grandma was never a great chef, but she was a classy hostess and had some special dishes she knew how to make very well, which she would whip out for parties. She doesn’t remember whether she made any recipes from these issues, but she obviously knew Gourmet was the magazine to turn to when looking for entertainment quality recipes.

For my July Gourmet, Unbound entry, I selected a recipe for ratatouille from the July 1967 issue. Unlike today’s recipes, the recipes in old Gourmets tend to be elegant dishes made in the classic style— no twists or fusions necessary. They are also written in paragraph form with less detailed instructions and fewer steps. This basic, yet delicious, recipe follows in that tradition. It consists of slowly stewed vegetables and minimalist spicing—salt, pepper, basil and marjoram. The resulting flavors evoke the French countryside in their warm, robust, simplicity. Ratatouille makes a nice side dish and a great main course, served with crusty bread and topped with a poached egg. I have been making pisto manchego, the Spanish version of ratatouille, since I got back from studying abroad in Spain in 2003. I may now have to add this French version from Gourmet history to the regular rotation. And even if she never made it, I can always imagine my grandma whipping this up to show off her European flair to the guests at one of her parties.

Ratatouille
In a large saucepan cook 2 large onions, thinly sliced, in 1/2 cup olive oil until they are transparent. Stir in 2 green peppers, seeded and diced, and 2 eggplants, peeled and cubed, and cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Add 4 small zucchini, cut in 1/2-inch slices, 2 cups sliced celery, and 5 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes. Stir the mixture thoroughly, cover the pan, and cook the ratatouille over low heat for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season it with 1 garlic clove, mashed, a pinch each of basil and marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the ratatouille about 5 minutes longer and serve it hot or chilled.

See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
June 2010, Potato Salad with Olives and Peppers
May 2010, Moroccan-Style Mussels
April 2010, Shrimp Scampi Pasta
March 2010, Chicken with Black Pepper Maple Sauce
February 2010, Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
January 2010, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze

Gourmet, Unbound: June

Unlike in Cannon Beach, Oregon—where I spent the long weekend, and which is still under a rain cloud— signs of summer are starting to appear in New York City. The weather has been in the 80s, and we’ve even had a few sticky humid days. People are out in the park, and most of all, people are starting to barbecue. There’s no better accompaniment to meat grilled outdoors than a nice potato salad. In honor of being on the cusp of summer, I decided to dedicate my June tribute to Gourmet magazine to a recipe for Potato Salad With Olives and Peppers from the June 2007 issue. The flavor combination of the starchy potatoes, the salty olives, the fresh parsley and the slightly sweet smoky peppers was spot on.

My only complaint is that there seemed to be too little dressing. I halved the recipe based on the number of potatoes I used, but It seems like I could have used half again as much dressing to really bring out the flavors in those potatoes. It would be an easy problem to fix. Either way, there are numerous potential variations on this recipe, offering the opportunity to add a twist here and there. I think it would be good with anchovies, lemon juice or capers added to the mix. It’s food for thought, but happy almost summer, nonetheless.

Potato Salad with Olives and Peppers

yield: Makes 6 servings
active time: 30 min
total time: 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients
3 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 pound hot cooked small (2-inch) boiling potatoes, quartered
2/3 cup bottled roasted red peppers (4 ounces), rinsed, patted dry, and chopped
2/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/3 cup pitted brine-cured black olives, halved

Preparation
Mince garlic and mash to a paste with a pinch of salt using side of a large heavy knife. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in vinegar, salt, and red-pepper flakes, then whisk in oil.

Add hot potatoes to vinaigrette and toss to coat. Let stand until potatoes cool to warm, about 30 minutes, then stir in peppers, parsley, and olives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
May 2010, Moroccan-Style Mussels
April 2010, Shrimp Scampi Pasta
March 2010, Chicken with Black Pepper Maple Sauce
February 2010, Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
January 2010, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze

Gourmet, Unbound: May

We just returned from Barcelona on Sunday, so I decided seafood would again be in store for my May tribute to Gourmet magazine. Unfortunately, this month’s recipe sounded better than it tasted. There was not enough sauce to coat the mussels, and what sauce there was didn’t have as much flavor as I would have expected after all the spices I put in. The problem may have also been with the mussels I picked up from Whole Foods later in the day. They tasted mealy and a few tasted a little off. Needless to say, not a good sign.

Either way, this could probably be a better recipe with better salt and more liquid. In the meantime, here is the framework of the dish as it stands.

Moroccan-Style Mussels
May 2006
Yield: Makes 4 main-course servings
Active time: 30 min
Total time: 40 min

Ingredients
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika (preferably hot)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 (15- to 19-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons sugar
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, juice reserved and tomatoes coarsely chopped
3 lb cultivated mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation
Cook onion, garlic, and spices in oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in vinegar and simmer 1 minute. Add chickpeas, sugar, and tomatoes with their juice, then increase heat to moderate and gently simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Add mussels and return to a simmer. Cover tightly with lid and cook until mussels just open wide, 3 to 6 minutes. (Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes.) Stir in parsley and serve in shallow bowls.

See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
April 2010, Shrimp Scampi Pasta
March 2010, Chicken with Black Pepper Maple Sauce
February 2010, Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
January 2010, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze

Gourmet, Unbound: April

Happy end of Passover, everyone! I’ve waited until now to post my Gourmet, Unbound update for this month in order to share a delicious, but decidedly non-pesadic (and highly unkosher) recipe with all of you. As the weather gets warmer, I’m already in the mood for lighter foods. That and a yearning for some starchy pasta prompted me to make Shrimp Scampi Pasta from the April 2006 issue for my monthly tribute to Gourmet magazine. This recipe has plenty of butter, but the simple sauce gets lightness from the acidity of white wine, garlic and a touch of red pepper flakes. Tender shrimp and fresh parsley complete the Spring touch. Best of all, this recipe takes only 20 minutes to make and tastes positively luxurious. Gone are the tomato-based meat sauces of winter! Here to stay are the lighter, fresher flavors of Spring!

Shrimp Scampi Pasta
Gourmet, April, 2006

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp (raw; 20 to 25 per lb)
4 large garlic cloves, left unpeeled and forced through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 lb capellini (angel-hair pasta)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation
Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté shrimp, turning over once, until just cooked through, about 2 minutes, and transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Add garlic to oil remaining in skillet along with red pepper flakes, wine, salt, and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Add butter to skillet, stirring until melted, and stir in shrimp. Remove skillet from heat.

Cook pasta in boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander. Toss pasta well with shrimp mixture and parsley in large bowl, adding some of reserved cooking water if necessary to keep moist.

See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
March 2010, Chicken with Black Pepper Maple Sauce
February 2010, Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
January 2010, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze

Gourmet, Unbound: March

For this month’s tribute to Gourmet magazine, I made Chicken with Black-Pepper Maple Sauce from the March 2006 issue. The recipe was adapted from one by the chef Gray Kunz. It involves butterflying a whole chicken by removing the backbone and then cooking it with rosemary in a skillet under another skillet filled with weights. (Two cans of tomatoes work well.) The sauce, made with black peppercorns, maple syrup, chicken broth and cider vinegar is a wonderful sweet, tangy, spicy medley and really makes this dish.

One issue I encountered while making it was that it was difficult to check how done the skin side of the chicken was in order to know when to flip it. As a result, and maybe also because my burner was a bit too hot, I ended up blackening the skin a little more than I would have liked. (To all those who know me well, I avoided a major fit when that happened.) As I often find with stovetop chicken preparation, it was also a bit tough to get the meat to the desired doneness at the same time. I ended up with a chicken that was tender and perfect through the breast and most of the thighs, but slightly underdone in one leg. Despite my struggles, the flavors were complex and worth the effort. Here’s to March and the beginning of spring!

Chicken with Black-Pepper Maple Sauce
Gourmet, March 2006

Ingredients
1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) whole chicken
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 (3-inch-long) sprigs fresh rosemary plus 1 (1-inch-long) sprig
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup dark amber or Grade B maple syrup
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup cider vinegar

Special equipment: kitchen shears; 2 (10-inch) heavy skillets (one well-seasoned cast-iron or heavy nonstick); a 10-inch round of parchment paper; 5 to 6 lb of weights such as 3 (28-oz) cans of tomatoes

Preparation
Cut out backbone from chicken with kitchen shears and discard. Pat chicken dry, then spread flat, skin side up, on a cutting board. Cut a 1/2-inch slit on each side of chicken in center of triangle of skin between thighs and breast (near drumstick), then tuck bottom knob of each drumstick through slit. Tuck wing tips under breast. Sprinkle chicken all over with salt and ground pepper.
Heat 3 tablespoons butter in 10-inch cast-iron or heavy nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Add chicken, skin side down, and arrange larger rosemary sprigs over chicken. Cover with parchment round and second skillet, then top with weights. Cook chicken until skin is browned, about 15 minutes. Remove and reserve weights, top skillet, parchment, and rosemary, then carefully loosen chicken from skillet with a spatula. Turn chicken over and re-place rosemary sprigs, then re-cover with parchment, skillet, and weights. Cook until chicken is just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Make sauce while chicken cooks:
Toast peppercorns in a dry 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a clean cutting board and coarsely crush with a rolling pin. Return peppercorns to saucepan and bring to a simmer with syrup, 1/2 cup broth, and small rosemary sprig, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a platter and loosely cover with foil. Add vinegar to skillet and deglaze, boiling and scraping up brown bits with a wooden spoon until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in maple mixture and remaining 1/4 cup broth and boil until slightly syrupy, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and swirl in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season sauce with salt and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids. Serve chicken with sauce.

See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
April 2010, Shrimp Scampi Pasta
February 2010, Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
January 2010, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze

Szechuan Gourmet Burns the Right Way

Pork BellyMy search for a great Midtown meal continued a few weeks ago when Empanada Boy and I were looking for a place to eat before the ballet. Many of the places near Lincoln Center are overpriced or just plain too expensive. But I remembered reading about Szechuan Gourmet in a 2008 two-star review by Frank Bruni in The New York Times. Bruni singled it out as a true example of ultra-spicy, pepper-infused Szechuan cooking outside the expected confines of Chinatown and Flushing. The restaurant has two, Midtown locations, but I wanted to try the original on 39th Street. EB and I met there after work.

Before I get into what we ordered, it’s worth emphasizing that this food is spicy. And when I say spicy, I mean burning your esophagus, numbing your lips, spicy. But the food can also be sweet or distinctively seasoned in a way that lets you taste and enjoy the complexities before the burn begins. The key ingredient in this heat is the Szechuan peppercorn, the outer pod of which is toasted and scattered throughout this restaurant’s menu.

LambEB and I started with mild, but delicious, appetizer of tender sliced pork belly with a fantastic chili-garlic soy sauce. The succulent flavors of this dish were just layered on: fat, sweetness, saltiness and a bite of scallion here and there.

As is turned out, we were glad we tasted this dish first because the dishes we ordered got progressively dominant in flavor. The next plate our server set down in front of us bore a mound of crispy lamb pieces, coated in a cumin-heavy spice powder. The dusty shell broke away upon biting to reveal tasty morsels of gamy lamb. The heat in this dish came from dried peppers that were scattered throughout. Everything was manageable until I bit into one of those babies. The burn lasted for a while so I didn’t end up eating many of them, and the bold spicing of the meat stood up well to the heat. My one complaint with this dish was that it was very dry. It’s not that the meat was overdone, but rather that there was no sauce or juices to it. I am assuming this is typical of the dish, but I found myself wanting liquids to sop up.

TofuOur final dish was the ma po tofu, which is labeled with four stars (extra spicy) on the menu. Large, ethereally light, cubes of tofu are presented swimming in a pool of fragrant, slightly sweet, sauce. And then it hits you. The heat creeps across your lips and across your tongue, down your throat and into your stomach. The burn is both painful and pleasant. The sweetness of the sauce and the infusion of scallions comes through the heat, creating a symphony of components. We left feeling like we had eaten twice as much as our stomach muscles contracted with the heat of those chilies. Needless to say, it was a battle my stomach would be willing to fight again.

Szechuan Gourmet
21 W. 39th St.
New York, NY 10018
212.921.0233

Szechuan Gourmet 56
242 West 56th Street
New York, NY 10019
212.265.2226

Szechuan Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Szechuan Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Gourmet, Unbound: February

Chocolate ice creamEmpanada Boy and I love ice cream, and unlike some people, we have no problem eating it in the depths of winter. It’s been in the 20s and low 30s for about a week here in New York, but we have still been craving it. Luckily, we got our ice cream maker out of storage when we moved. For my February tribute to Gourmet magazine, I wanted to make a special, seasonal ice cream flavor, so I hunted down a Feburary 2003 recipe for Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream. This calls for Ibarra chocolate, a widely available Mexican drinking chocolate, which has the sugar and the spices all built in. If ever an ice cream could be wintry, this is it!

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

Yield: Makes about 1-1/2 quarts
Active time: 40 min
Start to finish: 2-1/2 hr (includes freezing)

Ingredients
1/2 vanilla bean
11 oz Mexican chocolate (3-1/2 disks; preferably Ibarra), coarsely chopped
3-3/4 cups half-and-half
3 large eggs
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer; an ice cream maker

Preparation
Halve vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into a 3-quart heavy saucepan. Add chocolate and half-and-half and bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking. Remove from heat.

Lightly beat eggs with salt in a bowl, then add hot chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Transfer custard to cleaned saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard registers 175°F on thermometer, 1 to 5 minutes. Immediately pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Put bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and cool, stirring occasionally.

Freeze custard in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until hardened, about 1 hour.

See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
April 2010, Shrimp Scampi Pasta
March 2010, Chicken with Black-Pepper Maple Sauce
January 2010, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze