Monday, January 01, 2007

could you hand me the fire pliers?

So this one is a little random. I was straining my brain to come up with something to wrap up the year. What better than to talk about the final dessert and libations for 2006! But in order to introduce dessert, I must go back a few days, to a jonesing for ube that found the monkey and I at Oakland's Chinatown, after striking out at the farmers' market. I had discussed ube ice cream with Ading A over the x-mas holiday and I just HAD to have some. Of course, this wouldn't involve buying it, because I'm can be an extreme hardhead. I'm not one to let never-having-made-it-before be an excuse. With ice cream not part of my repertoire, I thought "how hard can it be?" I just had to make it from scratch. The monkey and I bought a few pounds of purple sweet potatoes (The grocer indicated that they were from California, but my Mandarin is a little rusty, and he was probably speaking Cantonese, so in retrospect they could actually be from Hawaii.) We brought the loot home and I immediately fired up the Wedgewood, putting a few in to bake.

Slathered with a buttery spread, hot out of the oven, the purple gems are incredible. I had to have one this way, to calibrate the taste buds for venturing into the unknown. During the violet tasting I looked up a few recipes for ube ice cream. It seems as though many people mix ube powder into vanilla ice cream to get the desired affect. Or maybe start from scratch, use good ingredients, yet don't use eggs or cream. I took these factors into account, consulted the back of a Straus pint of ice cream for a hierarchy of ingredients, decided on making a custard base, and went from there.

I started with great cream and milk products, organic sugar and vanilla extract, baked ube, and coconut cream (not pictured). I had scored some "super-jumbo" double yolked eggs at the SF Ferry Building Saturday Extravaganza that would be perfect for the job. And yes, there might be a touch of sarcasm there, the place is a total zoo, complete with wandering "donkeys" (another more polite word for what I'd like to call them) who are more than willing to point out that the ricotta here is not real because it is not made from sheeps cheese as it is in Italy. Huh? I'm not sure what the hell this guy in particular was really talking about but he was highly annoying in his candor. When he spoke his nose elevated a few degrees toward the sky, while the rest of his face remained intact in a mutton-chopped and soul-patched scowl that just didn't go with the balding pate. I almost had to point that out to him, when his partner interjected "yes dear, but we're not IN Italy." Thank you and note to self: look up the various ways ricotta is handled and treated when you get home. It made me wonder that some people must forget to leave their "foodie badge" at home and therefore wander the public places correcting folks with their vast store of knowledge, projecting to an audience that are not at all impressed, or interested. Sorry 'bout that, but that guy really annoyed me and I've been trying to let go of my encounter with him since. There, done.

I borrowed Big-Daddy J's ice cream maker on New Years Eve morning and started plotting my final dessert of the year. I blended the baked ube with the coconut cream and set aside to chill. I poured in a pint of cream and a pint of mixed half n half and milk. I heated this thoroughly and then separated the yolks and added them after tempering in another bowl. With this mixture hot, I added sugar and extract and heated until it began to thicken. Goal attained, I added the ube/coconut cream blend, whisked together gently, and set in the fridge to chill.

I brought the components over to our friends' home to blend before serving. There were three 3 year olds anticipating ice cream so I felt a little pressure. Our monkey decided that she would wait by the mixer for her portion, even after I told her it would take another 20 minutes. "Oh yeah, and then it will be done Daddy?" Yes honey, I'll let you know when it is done, I promise. She lingered a few more moments and then decided to trust me. With the ice cream to a soft serve stage, I turned off the machine and immediately had three lilliputians competing for who was first to give me their bowl. With the serving complete and the monkeys seated at the tiny table, I stood over and snapped a pic to document that it is possible to have all three at the table at the same time. Ah the power of the ube......

After much struggle, the little tykes were down for the count and it was time for the parents to get schnockered. My German sources tell me that this means nothing in the native tongue, except maybe a small regional variant that refers to a mosquito. With that clarified, we finished our wine and beer and grappa (not necessarily in that order) and got down to viewing the real attraction of the evening, the "fire pliers punch" as it translates.

This is an action photo of the flaming drink that my friend G-man has treated us to on a few occasions. It involves cheap dry red wine, spices, oranges, ridiculously high-octane rum (that would be 160 proof) and made specifically for this concoction, the sugar cone and the fire pliers, and of course, alot of fire. The object of this one is to first not kill yourself while preparing this libation. It is perhaps best to let an experienced and qualified German friend prepare it. With a willing fire tender, pour the red wine into a large pot with spices and cut up oranges. Heat this over a controlled flame or on the stove. With the wine hot, but not boiling, place the "fire pliers" on the top of the pot, install the sugar cone, pour rum into a large spoon or small ladle and carefully light (AWAY FROM THE BOTTLE PLEASE!) Now douse the sugar cone with the flaming rum. Remove the flaming spoon/ladle and when the flame is extinguished, refill with rum and pour over the flaming sugar cone. It will crackle and hiss, and as you continue dousing with rum, the sugar cooks and dissolves, draining into the (mulled really) wine. With each new introduction of rum, the flames reach higher toward the ceiling, threatening to catch your place on fire. No problem. It's a rental! I mean, it's New Years, let's get this conflagration going.

Well, we managed to not burn down the house. We rang in the new year warmed by the flames now inside of us. And let me warn you: when someone hands you the fire pliers the night before, you might find it difficult to jump out of bed the next morning to do............anything.

Happy New Year!

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