Wednesday, December 22, 2010

to custard or not to custard

I love dinner parties.  I love scouring the internet and poring through cookbooks to come up with the perfect menu that is both easy and impressive.  And holiday dinner parties are even better.  More special.  More glittery.  But holiday dinners are my mom's domain - she's the matriarch of the family so holidays are always celebrated at her house.  I was raised Unitarian Universalist and while we celebrate Christmas, Christmas Eve was always an afterthought.  We don't go to church, we don't have gobs of family to visit, we open presents in the morning, the big dinner with roasted meat is on Christmas Day.  Christmas Eve was for reading 'Twas The Night Before Christmas and that's about it.  So I created an event out of Christmas Eve dinner as something to do - and as a reason for me to be in control of a holiday dinner.  What can I say?  I like being hostess.

I have my menu all planned out.  Brie & crackers to start (probably heated up with pears and/or almonds on top, though not en croute).  Crab & spinach lasagna, roasted Brussels sprouts and a green salad for dinner.  And a pear tart tatin with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

And that's where the custard dilemma comes in.

I have an ice cream maker.  My sister got it for me for Christmas a few years ago and I love it to death, but have only made ice cream once.  I hate making custards and apparently I didn't have everything cold enough because it froze up too hard (though still tasted great).  But I have this ice cream maker!  I should use it!

So I did some research.  If I chill the base properly and let it age in the fridge for 24 hours, it should mix up properly and not become a brick.  If I serve it after freezing for just a few hours, it should be fine either way (though my leftovers will possibly still be rock-hard).  If I add some gelatin or anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of vodka, it should help it stay scoopable.

But there's still the problem of having to make a custard.  Then I found this recipe from Williams Sonoma (I always have luck with their recipes).  Philadelphia-style ice cream made without eggs.  Oooooooooh.

After more research, I learned that this is how Breyer's Natural Vanilla (the type with the bean specks) is made.  And my sister and my mom really like Breyer's.  But I like Ben & Jerry's and Haagen Dazs better, both of which are made with eggs (and thus probably a custard). 

I don't know what my brother-in-law prefers so am going to assume he's like my niece and would be happy with either.

So should I make the Philadelphia-style ice cream?  Or should I buy a custard-based (or French-style) one?

Making my own ice cream will have to start tonight with freezing the machine and all that.  It will be one more thing for me to do on Christmas Eve day (though really, I could prep the lasagna the night before).  Buying a pint would be a heck of a lot easier and probably will taste better, but it won't be as rewarding.  But I'm often too ambitious and end up running late when entertaining.  Would be nice to be able to not have to spend the whole day cooking.  Or rearrange my freezer to make room for the machine.

I can't decide.  I'm going grocery shopping tonight and will decide on the fly.


Loretta Fontaine (APPLESandRUBIES) said...

Debbie- I'd go with custard-style! Sounds so good!

What did you choose?

Happy Holidays to you!

Debbie said...

I went with custard - but bought it. Haagen Daaz 5-ingredient vanilla bean. It was fab. And the tart tatin was possibly the easiest and most delicious dessert ever. Highly recommend!