12/15/2009

Fig & Port Ice Cream


I have developed a "like" of port wine over the past year for two reasons. 1) I received a bottle of amazing (and probably quite expensive) shiraz port for Christmas last year, and it changed my mind about how port can taste; and 2) Since then, a favorite recipe of mine is this one from Giada, pork with fig and port sauce. Of course for cooking I bought a lower quality port, which I found basically undrinkable as a result of being spoiled last Christmas. But I was amazed at the combination of figs and port, and from then always thought of using them together in a dessert. Tada, fig & port ice cream!

Sound weird? It's just a riff on rum raisin ice cream, which I thought I'd hate but really enjoyed. I used dried figs, half good port and half not-so-good port (best if you use a good-quality one, but I can understand that most people won't have it lying around). But because its flavor comes through so strongly in this ice cream, I would use a better one next time. Also the significant amount of alcohol in the custard will prevent it from freezing firmly, so I would freeze it in the ice cream maker, then keep it in the freezer overnight before eating it. Texture was softer than other ice creams I've made in the past, which was actually an improvement! The figs I ended up chopping with an immersion blender because I didn't want big chunks of frozen fig, but rather small shreds of fig dispersed throughout.

Fig & Port Ice Cream

1/2 c dried black mission figs, roughly chopped
1/3 c + 2 Tbsp good-quality port
1 1/2 c whole milk
1 c heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
Pinch of salt
  1. Combine figs and port in a bowl to allow the figs to soften and absorb the port, for about 2 hours or more.
  2. While the figs soak, combine cream and milk in saucepan over low heat, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a simmer. As it heats up, whisk egg yolks with sugar until they turn pale yellow and fluff a bit.
  3. When mixture is simmering, turn off heat and pour 1 c very slowly into the yolks, making sure to keep whisking so the eggs do not scramble. Then add back to saucepan and turn on medium-low heat.
  4. Keep stirring over heat until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Then take off heat, cover and refrigerate until it cools. After the figs have soaked, use a few pulses of an immersion blender to chop the figs to small shreds, but do not puree. Combine with custard and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Freeze in your ice cream maker.
I have to warn you that I was taken aback by the smell of this ice cream, especially in custard form. It scared me a bit, that I had ruined yet another ice cream, since the custard had such a strange, almost savory scent. Originally I had added less than 1/2 c of sugar because I thought the port would be overwhelmingly sweet on its own, but I eventually had to ramp it up spoonful by spoonful. Something about the intense, eyebrow-raising smell and taste of alcohol mixed with cream and eggs made me seriously doubt this flavor's success.

Thankfully, when I froze it the next day, it was delicious... but not immediately. It required a little thought. I ate a spoonful, and it was a shock to the senses at first, then a sort of "ahh, it's port and figs" moment. Any hint of "savory" went away with freezing, which was a big relief. And yes, you can definitely still taste the alcohol.

Next up: Same but different!
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