San Francisco. The Mission. Saison Restaurant. I had a meal that stretched my mind (pig butter), my belly (14 courses), and my tolerance (6 wines).
The early evening was a blur of Vouvray Brut, caviar, awe, cucumber foam, oysters, radishes, lemon verbena, WTFs, nasturtium honey, and Chablis.
This decadence was followed by a brief walk around the courtyard as I chatted with the babysitter about Bella's earache.
Back to the table to suck the brains out of a wild spot prawn.
Some Riesling, assorted brassicas, oh yeses, foie gras, rabbit, a brief argument with my husband, and lots of Côtes Du Rhône.
Another phone call. And a plaintive voice asking, "WHEN are you coming home? WHAT are you doing? My ear hurts SO MUCH." Tears.
"Bella, we're out of here in 20 minutes. I promise."
Triple-tiered lemon mousse, glee, rice milk ice cream, questions, milk chocolate mousse, port, port, and port.
I thought we were finally done. And then out came the popcorn ice cream.
OMFG. Popcorn ice cream.
I got up at 6am the next morning to try to recreate this luscious confection that hit my tongue tasting like a handful of lightly salted and buttered popcorn and slid down my throat as a cold pillow of aerated cream, eggs, and sugar.
The only info I got from the pastry chef (via our server) was that he infused the cream with popcorn. So that's where I started.
I added 2 cups of popped popcorn to the hot cream and it melted away like biodegradable packing peanuts. I added another cup. Gone. And another. I passed the thick popcorn cream through a medium strainer, allowing miniscule slivers of popcorn to slip through and add a bit of crunch.
When Bella finally rolled out of bed later that morning, she berated me for staying out so late. And then she checked out what was cooling in the ice bath.
"Bella. I made the coolest thing. Popcorn ice cream base. I'm so excited."
"Popcorn ice cream. Huh. Cool. Okay. Great." She is not a good actress but she is always supportive.
"Mama. It needs something. Like a topping."
Don't laugh. Here's my recipe for Caramel Corn.
1/2 cup caramel sauce
3 cups freshly popped popcorn*
Drizzle warm caramel sauce over popcorn. Mix until popcorn is coated.
*Did you know that you can make popcorn in the microwave. And, no, I'm not talking about those prepackaged bags. Instead, take a brown paper lunch bag, add 1/4 cup kernels, and seal the top by folding it over a few times. Full power for 2-3 minutes. Done. RE-VE-LA-TION. I'm keeping my microwave.
If you want something a bit more refined check out yummysupper's beautiful Brown Sugar Caramel Corn.
POPCORN ICE CREAM
inspired by Saison restaurant
1 1/2 cups half and half
6 egg yolks
scant 2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup popcorn kernels (4 cups popped popcorn), popped in a paper bag in the microwave (2-3 minutes on full power) OR in an air popper (don't add salt or oil)
Whisk together half and half, yolks, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
Prepare a water bath. Place medium strainer (not too fine) over a medium-sized bowl. Immerse bottom of bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Set aside.
Heat heavy cream in a medium-sized saucepan. Turn off heat as it starts to boil. Whisk in popcorn one cup at a time until it's mostly dissolved. Strain through a medium strainer. Rinse and dry pot and reheat infused cream until just under the boil. Take off heat and slowly whisk into half and half/egg mixture.
Pour back into the pot and cook on low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly. It's done when you drag your finger across the back of the wooden spoon and it leaves a trail.
Pour mixture through the strainer into the bowl that's over the ice bath. Leave bowl in the ice bath until the custard is cool. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Place saran wrap on top surface of custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate custard for several hours. Freeze ice cream according to manufacturer's directions. Freeze for a few hours before serving. Serve with caramel corn?