Food

Dinner Chez Dumm: Onion Balsamic Jam, Mushroom Toasts, Basil Ice Cream and Chinese Noodles with Pea Shoots

We could have few themes for this post.  One might be “waste not, want not” for the shockingly responsible use of nearly every pice of produce in our fridge and on our balcony.

Another might be “experimentation” because, in a rare fit of kitchen genius, the onion jam part of the meal was inspired by a craving I felt rather than a recipe I read.

And when I’m talking craving, I’m talking craving.  I stood over the oven, dipping charred bits of onion into my balsamic glaze like some sort of sweet-and-sour junkie.  It was only with Chris’ intervention that I was able to move on to the next step in my hypothetical recipe before all of the onions disappeared.

Experimentation and produce use aside though, I think the best theme for this post might be, “look what happens when Dani and Chris are too tired and sick to go out for dinner but too bored to eat sandwiches.”

“What do you want for dinner?”  I asked the (sick) man of the house.

He looked at me with tired, tired eyes and sniffled a little.

“Bibimbap sounds good.”

“Do you want to make it or go out?”

“We should go out”

“Do you know how to get to the restaurant?”

“No, I’ll look it up”

“Or how about we try that one place we thought was a brothel but is actually supposed to be a respectable Japanese restaurant?”

“We could,” I replied, leaning my head back on the chair and closing my eyes, imagining the effort required to put on real clothes and walk through the smoggy streets.

“Or we could make dinner here?  Maybe noodles?”

“That sounds good.  Oh and that reminds me, I wanted to try…”

And then suddenly we were both in the kitchen, splitting our two burner stove and 6 inches of counter space, splashing in a touch of this, a pinch of that.  A certain amount of chaos ensued as more and more produce was pulled from the fridge and the pile of dirty dishes grew higher and higher in our tiny sink.

And what we ended up with was:

Appetizer: Sauteed Mushrooms in White Wine and Cream on Toast courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Main Dish: Pan-Fried Chinese Noodles with Stir-fried Pea Shoots

Side: Roasted Broccoli smothered in orgasmic Onion-Balsamic jam.

Dessert: Basil Ice cream (and potentially a slice of warm bread before the night is over)

The onion jam was soo good and soo ugly, it didn’t make it to the photo series but heaven help me.  Nothing that easy should be that good.  I’m going to make one final tweak to my recipe and then I’ll share it up here.

The mushroom toasts were lovely, I cut back on the dairy a bit and added some Italian-esque spices to the mix which I think worked well.  Went surprisingly well with the Chinese noodles.  You can find the recipe here.

The noodles and pea shoots were all Chris and they were fantastic.  I’ll post that recipe as soon as he remembers exactly what all he put into that dish.

Surprisingly, the basil ice cream, a dish I’ve been dreaming about making for months now, was somewhat disappointing.

I used more basil than the recipe called for but I still didn’t get quite as much basil flavor as I would have liked.  I think the real problem though was that I didn’t have an accompaniment for the ice cream.

I think perhaps basil is a flavor we taste most strongly in contrast to something else, and so this is ice cream, on it’s own, is a bit lacking.  Something about the way the basil and the cream interact makes the whole thing feel a bit too one-note.  You can taste the basil but it’s not a revelation in taste the way, say an ice cream made with fennel is (yes, still owe y’all that recipe).

That being said, I think you could take this recipe and really do something with it.  Maybe throw on a little balsamic glaze or serve it with strawberries and biscuits.  That might help.  I leave that experiment to you:

Basil Ice Cream (from Epicurious with a few adaptations)

Ingredients:

2 Cups whole milk

1/3-1/2 Cup of sugar (I found 1/2 to be a little too sweet)

Pinch of salt (big pinch is better)

5 Tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped (the original recipe calls for 3)

4 egg yolks

1/2 Cup chilled heavy cream

Preparation

1. Bring milk, basil, 1/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, stirring, then remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes. Transfer to a blender (reserve saucepan) and blend until basil is finely ground, about 1 minute.  (Don’t overbeat, if your milk gets too foamy it makes it much more difficult to tell when your custard is finished in the next step.)

2. Beat together yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 1 minute. Add milk mixture in a stream, beating until combined well. Pour mixture into reserved saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats back of spoon and registers 175°F on thermometer (do not let boil).

3. Immediately remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Set bowl in a larger bowl of ice water and stir until cold, 10 to 15 minutes. (If your sieve is like mine and growing a bit more lenient in it’s old age, try straining the custard twice for smoother results.  Stir the solids gently in the sieve to release more liquid but don’t press down too hard or you’ll end up with almost as many little egg solids in the custard as you started with.)

Stir in cream and freeze in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 2 hours.  (For easiest churning and creamier results, let the custard chill the fridge for a few hours before freezing in the ice cream maker.)

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