I have a hard time embracing the moment. Throughout my career I’ve had periods of six day work weeks, arduous hours standing on my feet painstakingly preparing food for other people to enjoy, and countless nights collapsing into bed immediately upon getting home. I would awake to my alarm for the next go round, my legs still throbbing from the night before, and barely trudge into work. My mind would swim with daydreams of a time when I would be homebound with endless days to do absolutely nothing.
Over the last week a smothering snowstorm gave me the chance to do just that, and all I could think about was how to get out of the house. The roads surrounding our neighborhood were swallowed whole with the snow, and nary a plow was seen for a full five days. In desperation we banded together with neighbors to slowly dig out of our cul-de-sac only to find that the adjoining road was too narrow and uneven to make it passable.
After the umpteenth hour spent staring out the window at a white washed road I began to work through my inner struggle with finding contentment in the here and now. Disassociating with my negative thoughts, I let myself become captivated rather than annoyed at the increasing level of snow that mounted up on our driveway. The sky was filled with a haze of glittering, fat flakes that landed to create a winter wonderland over every surface it touched. Icicles descended from rooftops creating shimmering crystals when hit by the sun.
Feeling inspired by the beauty outdoors and having the kitchen as my oyster inside, I dug out a recipe that seemed most fitting for this frosty, wintery afternoon. As I heated up cream and milk over the stove, then infused it with sharp peppermint and crushed candy canes, the ice cream base turned a pale pink and slowly began to brighten prospects for the afternoon. After a freezing cold turn in the ice cream maker, I dished up my edible equivalent of winter snow on a spoon. Folding in additional crushed peppermints created a ribbon of minty shards throughout each cool, creamy bite. Sitting down with my bowl full, watching the accumulation of snow continue to descend, I could not imagine a fate much better for that particular early afternoon in February.
Peppermint Ice Cream
3 C half and half
½ C sweetened condensed milk
5 egg yolks
6 oz finely chopped peppermint sticks, divided
pinch of salt
1 tsp pure peppermint extract
1 Tbsp vodka
Heat the half and half in a medium saucepan over moderate heat with half of the crushed candy until it reaches a simmer. Immediately temper it into the yolks by adding a ladle full at a time, whisking to incorporate. Reduce the heat to low, and add the liquid back to the pot, stirring the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula until it just thickens slightly. This should take about five minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, salt, extract and vodka. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve and cool it down in a large bowl set over an ice bath. Churn it in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. Fold in the remaining crushed peppermints and freeze for another two hours to completely solidify before serving.