Kitchen Perfect is Overrated
Close friends came for dinner last night, and the occasion was momentous. This thing called Life recently recently threw them some unexpected twists and turns, and I responded to the news with an impromptu offer of food and drink at casa O'Donnel.
Ice cream is one of their favorites, so I knew a batch of the homemade stuff would be a welcome distraction and perhaps yield a few smiles.
After much deliberation, I decided on flavoring the ice cream with peaches before they disappeared into the culinary sunset until next year. A little basil thrown into the heated cream and allowed to infuse would lend an additional late summer note, I thought.
In spite of my lateness, the custard was moving along nicely and was setting up in the fridge for its churn in the machine. And then I goofed. No, I royally screwed up.
With dinner nearly ready, one pal was interested in watching the ice cream come to life, so I asked her to peel and chop a handful of peaches. As the custard churned, I added the peaches, and never once thought about the texture of the fruit I had just added.
Dinner was served, and we dug into the cucumber/watermelon/basil salad, cashew rice, roasted Anaheim peppers and marinated London broil. We toasted to better days, and everything was delicious. While the ice cream froze up a bit, we played a round of Cranium.
And then the moment of ice cream truth arrived. At first spoonful, I knew of my blunder. The fruit had turned into frozen chunks that protruded like stones. The vanilla-rum base was so creamy, so nice on the tongue, and the fruit, a serious buzz kill, jarring and not as sweet as I had hoped. Sigh.
As I sunk into obsessive misery, the rest of the group was lapping up dessert and didn't really seem to notice the debacle (or, that's what was said to protect my wounded ego). Pride aside, what should I have done to avoid such a disaster? The fruit should have been pureed and strained before going into the ice cream machine. It probably could have benefited from a smidge of sugar, to release its juices. Pureed fruit integrates much more readily than raw chunks, and that is the culinary lesson learned.
But the other and perhaps more significant take-away piece is that at the end of the night, none of these details really mattered. My friends needed comfort and camaraderie, and both of these ingredients were served in abundance.
After all, a perfect meal is one shared with the people you love, regardless of the menu.
What's your idea of a perfect meal? Share your thoughts in the comments area below, or join me at noon ET today, for a live hour of kitchen banter.
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