Alex and I had a long weekend off to get married. We were working on Martha's Vineyard at the time and our wedding date in early June had been set well before we took the positions out on the island. Fortunately June is early season on the Vineyard and we were able to sneak off for three days to get hitched. We flew back in time for the rehearsal dinner, were married the next day, and had one day on our own before returning to work. For dinner that evening we went to Gramercy Tavern and had a tasting menu with wine pairings. It would have been a delightful evening no matter where we ate. We were doubly blessed because the much vaunted food and service lived up to our expectations that evening. At the suggestion of Paul Grieco, then the sommelier at Gramercy, I finished the meal off with a snifter of dark rum instead of cognac or Grand Marnier.
The drink was a revelation. To me rum had always been daquiris, pina coladas and later, rum punches. Although rum punches and a good pina colada will play up the character of dark rum, in all of these drinks it is paired with sweet fruit flavors and used as a partner and as an accent rather than as the main attraction. The dark rum that I was served that evening was an entirely different animal. It was smooth and rich, dappled with fruity and spicy notes, and ending with a lingering burn of burnt sugar essence. It started me on a never-ending journey to discover the best dark rums, which is on a brief hiatus at the moment, exploring the dark elixirs from various countries around the world. Fortunately as my interest has grown, so has rum's popularity, making it easier and easier to find new and interesting products.
When we decided to do an end of summer class at Astor Center, choosing two liquors to highlight was a no brainer. We went with dark rum and mezcal, two of our favorites, and two of the most flavorful drinking spirits out there. Their slightly heavier flavors would balance well with the gradually cooling evening temperatures and the rum was a natural for ice cream. (That way I could partake of a taste relatively guilt free.) We created an eggy custard base with milk and half and half and a generous helping of dark rum, in this case is was a an eight year old Rhum Barbancourt Réserve Spéciale. We let it rest for several hours to allow the flavors to meld and the rum to bloom and then we froze it in spheres in liquid nitrogen and rolled the balls in raisin dust. At home you can freeze this ice cream in any ice cream maker and simply fold in raisins at the end.
As for the mezcal, well that's another story entirely. You'll just have to wait for that one. In the meantime here is the ice cream recipe to keep you occupied and well fed while you wait.
Rum Raisin Ice Cream Spheres
500 grams milk
500 grams half and half
8 egg yolks
175 grams sugar
2grams fine sea salt
90 grams aged, dark rum
Combine milk and half and half in a large, heavy saucepan over medium high heat. In a blender, combine egg yolks, sugar, salt and rum. Turn the blender on low and then increase speed to medium. Once the dairy is simmering, turn the blender speed back to its lowest setting and pour the hot liquid carefully into the running blender. Pour the custard base back into the saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook to 165°F. Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for five minutes. Strain the custard base and chill it for at least four hours.
Pour the base into sphere molds and submerge in liquid nitrogen until frozen. Place frozen spheres in the freezer until ready to use. When ready to finish the rum raisin balls, loosen spheres from the mold and return them to the freezer while you prepare the raisins.
300 grams raisins
2 quarts liquid nitrogen
Pour liquid nitrogen over the raisins in a large bowl. Stir gently until the raisins are completely frozen solid. Strain out the excess liquid nitrogen. Place the raisins in a strong blender or Vitamix and process until powdered.
Pour the powdered raisins into a chilled bowl. Roll rum ice cream spheres in the powdered raisins. If the raisins start to melt, add a bit of liquid nitrogen to the bowl to keep them smooth and powdery. Coat the ice cream balls thoroughly with the raisin powder. Serve immediately.