TND – Birthday Season 2012 (part 1)

September 21, 2012

I have to preface this post by saying that custard is very much my culinary bête noir – everyone’s got one (or more), and nobody should be discouraged from making this ice cream based on how much I’m about to whine.

Or, let me put it another way, there’s a catch phrase in our house that nothing is serious until James Earl Jones says, ‘mother-of-god’*.  When I tasted the ice cream base on Saturday afternoon I paused, stared down at the pot in awe, and did my very best James Earl Jones impression (which since I’m a 5’ nothing WASP is distinctly underwhelming, but the sentiment was heartfelt).  This is seriously good ice cream, y’all. The Effort here is entirely commensurate with the payoff, my issues with custard notwithstanding.

Here’s the thing I don’t really understand about my issues with custard.  I am perfectly happy to spend the time to marinate meat overnight, brown it in the pan, and turn it into stew.  I’m content to julienne piles of vegetables for slaw, or make soup recipes that require three days.  I find making white sauce to be a pleasingly soothing endeavor.  Where my patience runs thin, however, is making custard.  And custard, very definitely requires patience.

Custard requires you to pray fervently, and then deploy your somewhat deficient ambidextrous skills as you whisk like crazy with one hand, while you slowly add hot cream to egg yolks with the other.  Custard then requires you to stand at the stove stirring for what seems like hours while the mixture stubbornly does not thicken and does not thicken and does not thicken.

You will think to yourself, ‘but, I could just turn up the heat’.  Resist that demonic voice, for down that road is a mess of curdled egg yolks which might be ideal if you were trying to achieve the dessert version of egg drop soup, but is a waste of two cups of heavy cream and half a dozen eggs if you’re trying to achieve custard.

Custard is a high maintenance guest.  You cannot walk away, you cannot stop stirring, you cannot stop yourself from eyeing the clock and wondering exactly how much longer this is going to take.  You will peer at the back of the spoon and debate exactly what it means when the recipe says ‘until it coats the back of a spoon’ because almost by definition all liquids will coat the back of a spoon.  Eventually you will resign yourself to the realization that, much like art and pornography, you will only know a thickened custard when you see it.

All this being true, I have to confess to being ridiculously proud that I have apparently at long last mastered custard.  For years and years this was one of the things that regularly defeated me in the kitchen.  No matter what I did, my custards would inevitably curdle.  However, apparently magically, I’ve mastered custard making because my ice cream base came together beautifully without a single strand curdled of egg yolk in sight.  I say magically, because it’s not like I’ve spent much (any) time practicing the delicate art of custard making.  Do you think this means that if I try to make guacamole now I’ll also have magically mastered that?

* Thank you, Hunt for Red October – side note, how is it possible that this movie came out in 1990?

Buffalo Chicken Fingers
Blue Cheese Cole Slaw
Carrot/Celery Sticks w/ Creamy Herbed Dip
Corn on the Cob

Buttermilk Ice Cream Truffles

Buffalo Chicken Fingers
(serves 6-8)

I dithered mightly over this dish.  Most buffalo chicken dishes are deep fried and then toss with buffalo sauce while fresh from the fryer.  I don’t deep fry, less on principal, and more as a factor of how messy it is.  Also, my roommate (it was her Birthday Dinner – actually on her birthday) doesn’t like wings which you could (theoretically) bake until crispy and then toss with buffalo sauce.

In the end I decided to marinate the chicken with some of the buffalo sauce, use the ATK technique for crispy baked chicken fingers, and finally drizzle the chicken fingers with a little more sauce just before they were finished cooking to let the sauce cook into the breading and caramelize a little in the heat of the oven.

I was entirely unsure what this process was going to net me in terms of how over- or under- powering the taste of the buffalo sauce would be.  I wasn’t sure if it was going to be so spicy we’d all be scrambling for glasses of milk, or so mild you couldn’t tell it was supposed to be buffalo chicken.

In the end it came out better than I had dared to expect.  There was definite heat and tang from the buffalo sauce, but not so much that it overwhelmed the chicken.  I also served it with extra buffalo sauce on the side, so that people could doctor their chicken to their preferred level of heat.

3 lb boneless-skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips (about 3-4 strips/breast)
½ cup buffalo sauce (recipe below)
½ cup buttermilk
4 cups panko
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
6 egg whites
2 Tbsp water
½ cup flour
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Combine the buffalo sauce and buttermilk in a ziplock bag.  Add the chicken strips, squish to coat evenly, and marinate in the fridge overnight.

In a large pan toast the panko with the olive oil until it is browned.  Cool and transfer to a shallow bowl (I find pie plates work well).

Whisk together the egg whites and water in a shallow bowl.

Combine the flour, garlic powder and onion powder in a shallow bowl.

Lightly oil a wire cooling rack and place over a sheet pan (I also tend to line the sheet pan with tin foil for easy clean up).  Preheat your oven to 475.

Pat the chicken dry.  Dredge in flour mixture, then egg whites, and then panko.  Place on the wire rack.  Spray the chicken lightly with cooking spray or olive oil (if you have an olive oil mister).

Bake for 10 minutes.  Drizzle with a little buffalo sauce and return to oven for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until cooked through.  Serve with additional buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing (see below) on the side.

Buffalo Sauce
1 ½ cups Frank’s Hot Sauce (or other hot sauce of choice)
6 Tbsp butter
½ tsp garlic powder
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
½ Tbsp honey (or to taste)
Salt/pepper/cayenne (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 5 minutes and then cool slightly – can be made in advance, bring back up to a very slight simmer to melt the butter before serving.

Blue Cheese Coleslaw
(serves 8-10)

A word of warning, when you make the dressing it will be the most unappealing blue-grey color that is disturbingly reminiscent of spackle.  Don’t panic.  Once you toss it with a lot of shredded cabbage and apple this color is not apparent.

¾ cup blue cheese, divided
½ cup buttermilk
3-4 Tbsp plain yogurt
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1+ tsp sugar (to taste)
12-14 cups shredded red and green cabbage
2 apples, grated

Place ½ cup blue cheese, buttermilk, yogurt, apple cider vinegar and sugar in a blender and process until smooth.  Crumble remaining ¼ cup of blue cheese and gently fold into the dressing.
Toss together the cabbage and grated apple.  Season with salt/pepper.  Toss with as much dressing as needed (I only needed about 2/3 of the dressing for the slaw).  Serve the rest of the dressing on the side with the chicken fingers.

Carrots & Celery w/ Creamy Herbed Dip
I almost don’t want to give this recipe, because everyone loved the dip and they’re all going to raise their eyebrows when they see the ingredient list.  I admit I made the dip partially because I wanted to give people an option other than blue cheese if they wanted something to cut the spiciness of the buffalo sauce (I being one of the people who only really enjoys blue cheese in small quantities – although that said, I really liked it on the slaw, possibly because some of the strong flavor was cut with buttermilk), and partially because I was intrigued by the recipe and wanted an excuse to make it.  This, in my opinion, is kind of what Dinner is for – being my guinea pigs.

1 cup cottage cheese (I used 2%, but use whatever you can get hold of/want)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 clove garlic
¼ cup parsley
3-4 scallions (or 3 Tbsp chives)
Handful other herb of choice (rosemary, thyme, basil, whatever you have in your fridge*)

Place everything in a blender and puree until smooth.  Season to taste.

* If you’re using rosemary go easy on it, because rosemary can get overpowering really fast.

Buttermilk Ice Cream Cereal Truffles
Summer was always a time when your parents relaxed the rules a little bit.  For me this meant I could get up at 6am and watch cartoons and eat Cheerios (or sometimes, decadently, Crispix) without my mother quibbling.  For other people this meant that when they were on vacation they could buy variety packs of the sugary cereals they weren’t allowed to eat in the normal course of events – Apple Jacks, Corn Puffs, Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Puffs, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms . . .

This is the grown up (well, kind of) version of vacation indulgences.  Its decadent tangy buttermilk ice cream rolled in crushed sugary breakfast cereals.

If you didn’t want to make breakfast cereal ice cream truffles, this ice cream would be spectacular with many other things – berries, peach melba, apple pie (assuming you like ice cream with pie, which I actually don’t, but that’s a whole different kettle of weird fish that we won’t get into here), or just eaten straight from the freezer on it’s ownsome.

Buttermilk Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 ¼ cup sugar, divided
6 egg yolks*
2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla or half a vanilla bean, scraped and simmered with the cream
Pinch of salt

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the heavy cream and one cup of sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and remaining ¼ cup of sugar.

Remove the cream mixture from the heat and drizzle a small amount into the yolks, slowly, and whisking constantly to keep the eggs from curdling. Do this a few more times to warm up the yolks before pouring the yolk mixture back into the cream, whisking constantly.

Cook over low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the mixture and whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, and salt. Cool completely and freeze according manufacturer’s directions.

* The original recipe called for 12 egg yolks with the note that while this would blow your mind (and I’m sure it would), that your world would still be sufficiently rocked if you only used 6-8 egg yolks.  Conveniently I had 6 egg yolks remaining from making the chicken fingers (or more precisely, had 6 egg whites left over from making the ice cream which is the order in which I actually made these recipes) so that’s what I went with, but feel free to be more decadent if you wish.  Although, having said that, I think that if you use much more than eight egg yolks the delicate tang of the buttermilk is going to get drowned out by egginess.

To Make Truffles

Roughly crush a variety of sugary breakfast cereals (I used Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios, Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, Lucky Charms, and Frosted Flakes) and place them in separate bowls.

Working quickly scoop the ice cream into 1 Tbsp size balls (I found a melon baller was the perfect implement for this – dipping the scoop into hot water in between scooping made it very easy).  Return to the freezer and freeze until ready to serve.

When ready to serve set out the bowls of crushed cereal on something you don’t mind getting messy.  Assemble everyone around the table and then bring out the truffles and allow people to roll the ice cream truffles in their cereals of choice.  Eat quickly, these melt fast.

Note:    I tried to do this in advance and found that the cereal just gets soggy, so letting people roll their own is both fun & interactive, but also gets the best crunchy texture against the smooth creaminess of the ice cream.



  1. […] tasty) huevos rancheros last week; the languishing remains of two quarter heads of cabbage from the Blue Cheese Cole Slaw; and some bone-in chicken breasts that didn’t get roasted two weeks ago when I made Moroccan […]

  2. […] Recipe previously given:  Birthday Season 2012 (Part I) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: