Monday, July 16, 2007

The Best Kind of Sandwich

“I am now on the quail bandwagon,” said my brother seriously, the sleeves of his blue button-down rolled up to his elbows. A white plate so clear it could have been licked clean lay on the table in front of him; it once held a salad of pickled green tomatoes, fresh figs, and fingerling french fries underneath a seared quail breast, topped with a fried quail egg and pomegranate molasses. Coming from a guy who wouldn’t eat anything but white food (vanilla yogurt, plain pasta, etc.) for the majority of his childhood, this was big.

The business man seated across the table—distinguished gray hair and a black polo shirt; a glass of delicate rose in hand—nodded in agreement. “I don’t often like dishes that incorporate eggs like this, but it worked wonderfully.” His wife, an artist, was smiling and talking to the photographer a few seats down. I could hear an excited conversation running about a recently opened gastro-pub in Brooklyn. The apartment's light was diffuse and warm; meat sizzled behind the cobalt blue curtain separating the diners from the kitchen. Wine glasses clinked and a peel of laughter erupted from the next room over.

This past Friday was the third event of the Brooklyn Food Group, a“roving supper club” that I began with a few friends in April. Twenty-two people—a group ranging in age and profession and including my wonderfully supportive brother and two of his friends—were gathered in an apartment in Cobble Hill, partaking in our five course meal.

Ben, our chef, outdid himself with the savory courses: it began with a riff on ratatouille (red pepper puree, fried squash blossoms filled with a cinnamon ricotta, eggplant caponata); then a snapper cerviche with jicama, peach, red onion and coconut alongside a mini fish taco; a fresh pasta course with peas and pesto; and then the quail.

As pastry chef and official bread baker of the establishment, I spent a good part of last week playing with sourdough starters and cookie doughs. Fragrant loaves of Italian bread and a rosemary focaccio emerged from my oven early that morning.

But mainly, in the midst of this sweltering July weather, I could not get away from ice cream—thinking about it, making it, eating it. And what resulted was a tasting of mini ice cream sandwiches: molasses cookies with plum sorbet, saffron-butter cookies with pistachio-cardamom ice cream, chocolate wafers with fresh strawberry ice cream, and peanut butter cookies with dark chocolate ice cream.

In retrospect, creating these elaborate ice cream and cookie combinations to feed so many was perhaps a bit much and the process was not without some stress (who knew things could melt IN the freezer?). But I was proud of the end result: four little sandwiches—varying in color and texture, all contrasting a creamy cold with sweet crunch—lined up on the white plates, balanced next to a small berry salad, and popped into mouths by hand.

It was fun, successful night; it reminded me, again, of how much I love to cook and how addictive the adrenaline of the kitchen can be.

Some great photos from the event are on flickr here and here.

My favorite of the sandwiches was the saffron-butter cookie with a pistachio-cardamom ice cream. The ice cream, however, is great straight up out of the freezer.

Pistachio-Cardamom Ice Cream
adapted from Shona Crawford Poole's Ice Cream

8 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
heaping 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
2 oz shelled and chopped pistachio nuts
1/2 cup whipping cream

Add sugar to 1/2 cup of water in a heavy pan and heat slowly until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook the syrup for five minutes. Set aside to cool. Add evaported milk, cardamom, nuts, and cream.

Freeze in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions.


Renee said...

That all sounds delicious. I love the little ice cream sandwiches...very chic!

Anonymous said...

just wanted to say hello..

im a cook from minneapolis that recently took a trip to nyc for the first time...and fell in love with it. now i want to move there.

you have any advice as someone that lives in brooklyn?

take care and keep writing,

Anonymous said...

Wow! What an amazing dinner event you and your friends created. The ice cream sandwiches sound delightful. And I was particularly pleased to read the words "fragrant loaves" as you described your baking efforts. Glad the nose seems to be back in business.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Molly for leaving your job and coming to New York. Thank you for taking a day job with a New York art magazine. Thank you for getting yourself to a Chelsea art gallery and writing so beautifully about what you saw.

Molly said...

Thanks, nanners, they were indeed delicious :)

Hi Tony, yes I think it's hard not to fall in love with nyc, especially coming from a culinary standpoint. I'm not sure I have any great advice, but if you want to email me with any specific questions I'd be happy to talk about brooklyn/manhattan/food etc.

Terry, the loaves were very (!!) fragrant. My nose seems to be working better every day.

And Katherine, thank you so much for writing. It was more than a pleasure to review your beautiful work. I hope to see more soon.


Unknown said...

Oh, that ice cream sounds so good.

I have really been into ice cream this summer BIg Time.

serna-monsalve family said...

Molly, I have been looking all over the place for a recipe for madeleines. Other than the name of your blog do you have anything on madeleines?

(I enhoyed reading about you on the Brown Magazine)