I warned you about this one. It’s dangerous- rich, creamy, and sexy. Also, it’s pretty damn expensive to make, which is probably a plus.

A few weekends ago, I had the privilege of enjoying good food and better company at a new-to-me local restaurant. Enjoying a meal with the farmers who are thanked on the menu for providing the produce was a special experience. Seeing their hard work transformed into culinary bliss was even better.

Often when I go out to eat, it’s a disappointment. I usually reserve meals out to enjoy things I can’t do (better) at home. I can’t grill. Sushi is a little fussy even for me. I’ve yet to master the perfect white cheese dip. This meal, though, was even more special than that- fun, creative, and inspiring.

I won’t detail the whole menu, mostly because I’m sure anything I would have ordered would have been fantastic. Also, after tasting dessert, everything else fell into a bit of a haze. During a table visit, the chef asked if we’d like to be surprised for dessert. My mouth said yes, but my brain (heart? soul?) whispered, “Please, oh, please, bring me chocolate.”

And they did. And it was fabulous.

The waitress present me with a rectangular plate of three artfully presented bits of chocolaty goodness. Apparently I eat like I read, so I worked my way from left to right, beginning with the perfectly formed *quenelle of ice cream. Had I died after taking that first bite, I would have died a happy woman. Then I had a moral dilemma. To share or not to share. I shared. It was worth it just to see the same face I must have made when I took that first bite.

I didn’t set out to copy that ice cream exactly, but it did inspire me. The texture was perfect, so I thought that would be ruined if added water, even in the form of strongly brewed coffee. Instant coffee, with its tendency toward bitterness, didn’t appeal to me either. Then I found a recipe that called for using coffee beans steeped in the milk and cream. Bingo. It was the perfect jumping off point. The addition of cayenne is all me. (Well, all me and the inspiration of Hispanic cuisine that has been hundreds of years in the making.)

Coffee-Chocolate Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups whole coffee beans (I used Mountain Bird French Roast)
1 vanilla bean, split (I order from Arizona Vanilla Company)
1/4 – 1/8 tsp ground cayenne
1/4 tsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup very finely grated dark chocolate (I used Green & Blacks 85% grated with a Microplane) In a small sauce pan heat milk, 1/2 cup cream, coffee beans, vanilla beans, cocoa, cayenne, and salt until steaming but not simmering. Turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for 1 hour. Partially fill a large bowl with ice and place a medium bowl over the ice. Add remaining cream to medium bowl. Set a large sieve over the cream bowl and set aside. Reheat coffee bean mixture until steaming. Whisk together yolks in a separate bowl. Slowly add coffee bean mixture to egg yolks while stirring constantly. Return mixture to sauce pan. Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Pour mixture through sieve and into reserved cream. Discard beans and stir mixture into the cream. Chill in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Fold in grated chocolate and freeze per your ice cream maker’s instructions. Pack into quart container and allow to cure in freezer for at least eight hours.

*I’m on the fence about quenelles. I can’t decide if they look elegant or like blobby footballs. What do you think?


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