We had a confab last week with my husband's family – his mom and two sisters, all of their kids and three of ours – at his sister's place in New Jersey. We've done it for several years now, descending on Carolyn's house for a few summer days of hanging out by the pool, cooking, eating, doing a lot of nothing. I'm not sure who it was dubbed the joint “Rancho Relaxo”, but that pretty much covers it. The house is big enough that everyone can cooexist without driving one another apeshit, and that includes 8 cousins ranging in age from 6 to 16 – all playing happily together. I managed to forget my camera, so no pictures of the food. The photo above is from 2 years ago: all of the cousins plus a few friends.
Mora family gatherings nearly always feature a paella (my father-in-law was from Spain). I documented one here, with a lot of good pictures. These summer meets have also come to require homemade ice cream, made in the hand-crank White Mountain Freezer with all the kids taking turns doing the cranking. It's a little fussy and messy, but it makes really good ice cream if you know what you're doing (read: if you have good recipes).
We were fêting my stepdaughter Isabel's 14th birthday. A peerless chocolate junkie, she requested that we make chocolate ice cream, even though Carolyn and Beth had already made deeply chocolate cupcakes (with fluffy Swiss meringue frosting). Birthday wishes trump all, so chocolate it was.
The recipe we chose to work from called for 2 cups each of whole milk and heavy cream, plus 4 egg yolks. I've come to dislike overly eggy ice cream, so I cut the yolks to 2. And because I am a firm believer that all sweets require some salt, I added a teaspoonful (more or less). The resulting ice cream was unanimously pronounced Best Chocolate Ice Cream I've Ever Had, which is no doubt hyperbole, but it was damned good. Richly chocolate (helped ever so by the salt) with a perfectly smooth texture, and creamy without being sticky.
Note that I used coarse kosher salt, so cut it by half if using finer table salt.
6 oz. good-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 large egg yolks
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
(NOTE: Edited 05/30/09 to include sugar. Thanks to Jesse for the heads-up on my omission!)
Carefully melt the chocolate according to your preference (double boiler, microwave) and set aside.
In a 2-qt.-ish bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and few tablespoons of the milk (just enough to get the mixture loose enough to beat) until thick and pale yellow. Set aside.
Put the cocoa powder in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and slowly blend in the remaining milk to form a smooth paste, then stir in the cream. Carefully bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat.
Whisk the hot milk/cream into the egg mixture, a very little at first, then gradually adding all of it, whisking constantly so the ingredients are well blended. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Don't let the mixture come to a boil, or it will curdle. (If using a thermometer, bring the mixture to 165° – 175°F.)
Strain the mixture into a clean bowl and let cool slightly, then whisk in the melted chocolate, salt, and vanilla. If small lumps of chocolate or cocoa remain, you can give the mixture a quick bzzzzt with a stick (immersion) blender. I did this, and it may or may not account for the fine texture; I'll have to test this theory on a future batch.
Cover and refrigerate – or stir in an ice bath – until completely cold, then freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream maker.