For the past month or so, I’ve been going back and pouring over older books to understand what “California” cuisine really means. Not just recipes, though they do provide one part of a practical component of understanding the culture behind a regional cuisine but at the same time, also try to learn the history and influences that drive the thinking behind the process. Some influences are obvious, the weather and geography that make this state such an agricultural diamond mine which in turn also led to the migration of people from different parts of the nation and the world to come in search of brighter futures. Subsequently, these factors shaped and transformed the way in which food is expressed in a rather unique way in this region.
And so, part of my research has involved, immersing myself completely, daily cooking my way through some of these books and adding my own touch as I go along. Here is one of the recipes for a blood orange ice cream that I came across in the Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook by Lindsey Remolif Shere, who worked as the pastry chef at the iconic restaurant. It’s a simple recipe and the only special tools you’ll need is an ice cream maker and a freezer. I’ve infused the egg custard with rosemary and star anise at different stages of preparation, the flavors are subtle and don’t overwhelm the citrus notes of the orange.
The longer citrus peels are used for the infusion and then discarded. The finer shaving added at the final stage is incorporated into the ice cream and eaten.
rosemary and star anise infused blood orange ice cream (adapted from the Chez Panisse Desserts book by Lindsey Remolif Shere)
makes : approximately 1 1/3 quarts [1.2L]
1 lb [455g] blood oranges (around 3 to 4 oranges)
3/4 cup [ 180ml] half-and-half
1 cup [200g] sugar
2 whole star anise pods
6 egg yolks (obtained from large eggs)
2 1/2 [600ml] cups whipping cream
Two 3 inch [7.5cm] rosemary sprigs (it should be relatively young and not woody)
Wash the oranges under warm water and gently wipe them dry with a kitchen towel. Cut thin strips of orange peel from two oranges using a citrus peeler (avoid the bitter white pith under the peel). Put the peel in a non-reactive stainless-steel saucepan with the half-and-half, star anise, and sugar and heat over medium-low heat until it just starts to bubble. Remove from the heat, cover the saucepan with a lid and let the liquid steep 15 minutes. Remove and discard the peel and star anise pods.
Return the saucepan to the stove and heat over medium-low heat. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and pour 1/4 cup [60ml] of the the hot liquid mixture into them slowly, beating constantly so the eggs don’t scramble. Pour back into the pan, bruise the rosemary with a knife and add it to the mixture, set over low heat to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon. Strain the mixture using a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and discard the rosemary. Using a zester, grate the zest of the remaining oranges and add to the custard. Fold with a silicone spatula and allow to stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Fold in the cream. Juice the oranges, strain the liquid, and discard the pulp. Add 3/4 cup [ 180ml] of the juice to the custard. Fold with a silicone spatula to combine and then freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions of your ice cream maker. Cut a piece of parchment paper and press it down on the surface of the ice cream and freeze the ice cream in an airtight container for at least 4 hours to firm up before serving.