Grand Marnier mango ice cream

I am in absolute heaven this time of year. Mango heaven. One of my favorite fruits has made its appearance and the season is too short. When we drive by mango groves and have to stop for topes, those annoying Mexican speed bumps, niños run up to us with bags of mangoes bursting with ripeness. The price is so low and the fruit so beautiful and fragrant, we have to buy at least twenty mangoes, knowing we already have twenty more at home. What can we do but make Grand Marnier Mango Ice Cream?

This recipe is lower in fat and sugar than most ice cream recipes. If you want to increase both, see the notes below. Use organic ingredients if you can find them. I used eggs from free-range chickens, organic sugar, and raw milk and cream, antibiotic- and hormone-free.

Grand Marnier Mango Ice Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml.) raw cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml.) raw milk
  • 3 whole eggs or 6 eggs yolks
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml.) organic sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Vodka (optional)
  • 1 cup (60 ml.) cubed mango

Read recipe through completely, and assemble and measure ingredients.

Heat cream and milk over medium-low heat until hot, but not simmering. Turn off heat and add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Whisk 1 cup of hot cream/milk mixture into beaten eggs. Gradually pour egg mixture back into the pan of hot cream and milk, whisking constantly. Return the pan to the stove over medium-low heat and stir or whisk constantly, cooking until mixture thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon and leaves a line when you wipe your finger across the back of the spoon.

Immediately remove the pan from the stove, and continue stirring until the custard is cooler. If this is not done, the residual heat will continue to cook the custard, possibly causing it to break. Even if it does break — and you will know if this happens by the appearance of small curds — whisk very vigorously until it is smooth again. If you are very particular about achieving the smoothest ice cream, you can pour it through a sieve, but I rarely do this. Add vanilla and Grand Marnier.

Refrigerate the custard and the ice cream machine canister overnight. Unless your freezer is already extremely cold, you will need to lower the temperature setting for 24 hours so that the canister is frozen rock hard. If you can shake the canister and hear gurgles, it is not frozen enough.

Pour the cold custard into the ice-cold canister and follow instructions for your ice cream maker. As soon as the custard goes into the ice cream maker, quickly cube 1 cup of mango and put it in the freezer, spread out on a plate. The fruit needs to be ice cold, but not frozen, when it is added to the ice cream. Add the mango when the ice cream is just minutes short of being done. You may need to use your ice cream maker a few times to get a feel for its appearance when it is thick enough, but not too thick, to stop the ice cream maker from turning. If it is too thick to continue churning, work the mango into the ice cream with a spatula.

It is recommended by many cookbooks that homemade ice cream be placed in the freezer to “ripen” — to freeze until firmer. If you like soft-serve style ice cream, don’t wait. Dish up and rejoice that it is mango season. If you do put it in the freezer, take it out for 15 minutes or longer to soften before serving.

Serve a scoop of Grand Marnier Mango Ice Cream on a cheek of mango, cross-cut to the skin with a paring knife, for a bite of fresh mango with each spoonful of ice cream.

Our ice cream maker is made by Cuisinart. I recommend it without reservations. It is a bit on the noisy side, but maybe all the counter-top models are. At a price of around $50, this one has repaid us many times over with quality ice cream. It came with two canisters, both kept in the freezer, ready to go, so  I can make two different flavors, back to back.  It makes ice cream in about 20-25 minutes and cleans easily.

One big plus for making your own ice cream is that you know exactly what went in it, and can avoid the strange ingredients in most commercial ice creams. If you love ice cream, treat your self to an ice cream maker.

Notes:

Homemade ice cream becomes much harder in the freezer than commercially made ice cream. This is because commercial ice cream makers use emulsifiers, anti-crystallization ingredients and stabilizers to maintain a soft consistency.

To achieve softer homemade ice cream, increase the amount of fat, by using two cups of cream to one cup of milk, as fat does not freeze. Use all yolks, instead of whole eggs to increase the fat content. Also, increase the sugar to as much as 3/4 of a cup to a combined three cups of milk and cream, as it, too, does not freeze. Finally, alcohol inhibits freezing. Add up to one tablespoon of vodka or flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Kirsch, for each one cup of combined cream and milk.

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Eating and Making Gringas or How to Make Tacos in Jalisco, Mexico

A Gringa Taco

Yesterday was one of those magical days that can only happen in Mexico. We had driven to the mountain town of Mascota in the state of Jalisco to take care of some business. Just the drive itself, through the scenic, greening mountains, would have made the day special enough. Going to Mascota always includes a visit to Cuka and Capi’s rancho to buy eggs, cheese and cream. Cuka invited us to stay and eat the afternoon meal with her family. She was going to make Gringa Tacos, often seen on local menus and seeming to have no explanation for its curious name. The mountain air had made us hungry and we would have been fools not to accept an invitation to sit at Cuka’s table. Suddenly, the day was even brighter.

I had my camera, but I didn’t have my reading glasses, so I couldn’t see the settings on the camera view finder. Even though some of these photos aren’t as clear as they could be, the meal was too special to not share with you the making of Gringa Tacos in Jalisco.

Gringa Tacos, at least the way Cuka makes them, are freshly made corn tortillas filled with cheese and seasoned beef, served with an avocado salsa, a tomatillo salsa, and chopped cilantro and onion. For a simply made meal, the tacos were muy mexicano y excelente!

It took Cuka about two minutes to make an avocado salsa in the blender, using one large avocado, three raw, chopped tomatillos, a few tablespoons of chopped onion, salt and enough milk to thin for a pourable consistency. Never, never have I come across a salsa with avocado and milk. I should know by now to expect the unexpected when I’m in a Mexican kitchen. Cuka said a green chile could be added for piquancy, but she didn’t add it this time.

In another two minutes, she had a red salsa prepared by first grinding in the blender a small handful of toasted chiles de árbol, then adding raw garlic, cooked tomatillos, water, salt, and a bit of yesterday’s salsa roja, the latter to add color, she said. I liked her freestyle use of some left-over salsa for the sake of a redder color.

Next, she tore apart some queso adobero, so named for its resemblance to the shape of an adobe brick. It was stringy, like Oaxacan string cheese.

A pan of coarsely ground beef, chopped tomato, chopped poblano chiles (which Cuka called chile gordo), onion and a bit of chopped bacon was already cooked. She told me this was similar to chorizo, a common Mexican sausage usually made with pork. Words can not describe the fine balance of flavor and seasoning achieved with so few ingredients.

Cuka was zooming and I had to move quickly to keep up with her. She dashed into the adjacent laundry/sink room to knead masa dough — purchased from a Mascota tortillaria — on a metate. How many photos I miss because the room is too dark, and I don’t want to intrude with a camera flash! This was another missed shot, with Cuka in a blur of motion.

Then back to the kitchen, with a primitive wooden bowl full of pinched off pieces of masa, each the exact same amount, despite their irregular shape, to produce perfectly round tortillas of the exact same size. (This is where I would be using my kitchen scale, weighing by the gram, and still coming up with strangely shaped tortillas. Not Cuka, who must have made by now thousands of tortillas in her life time.) The tortilla press was set up next to the stove, a comal already heating. Cuka got to work.

As Cuka pressed tortillas and placed them on the comal, her sister was turning them over, and adding cheese and meat once they were cooked. Each was topped with a cooked tortilla, sandwich-like, and heated through.

You can see the tortilla press in the foreground. I like the salt container — a coconut shell with a blue enamel lid. I want one.

Upon being served, I learned the name of their ranch —Rancho La Escuadra, so named for its square shape of land. We had green mango ate for dessert, bought in San Sebastian, a near-by town famous for its ate. A cross between jelly and fruit leather, ate is usually too sweet for me, but this was just right, with a sublime taste of mango, this month’s favorite fruit on Cooking in Mexico.

Scenes from the ranch.

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How to Slice and Dice a Mango

Today is too hot to do much of anything but think about eating mango ice cream.  It’s mid-July and we are in full-blown, all-out mango season on the west coast of Mexico. Tommy Atkins are everywhere, but we have also seen the sweet Ataulfos and giant Kents. Consuelo is who lives across from the kindergarten, is selling “Tommys”, four pesos for one kilo.

I bought ten kilos, which is a commitment.

Mangoes are picked green, just like bananas. They ripen within a week, becoming juicy, sweet and sticky. The food dryer, the freezer, the ice cream maker and me —  we will all be working over-time for the rest of the week as my ten kilos of Tommys become tender to the touch and fill the house with their perfume.

A few have already ripened, and I know that mango ice cream will be the first thing to make. That is, after we eat our fill of plain, sliced, unadorned mangoes.

Here’s how to slice and dice a mango if you don’t know how to tackle this gorgeous, tropical fruit.

Stand the mango on its fat end, and slice the two cheeks off, cutting as close to the slender seed as you can without cutting into it. In the upper right of this photo, you can see a cheek that was cut too close to the seed. No matter, just trim out the piece of seed.

Place the cheek on a cutting board or cradle in the palm of your hand, and, with a paring knife, score the flesh into whatever size pieces you wish, being careful not to cut through the skin. I scored into 1/2″ dice.

Still holding the cheek in the palm of your hand, take a soup spoon and run its edge between the flesh and the skin, releasing the pieces of mango. Do this over a bowl so that no juice is lost. The juice can be added to a smoothie, your morning glass of orange juice or a glass of iced green tea. This photo shows the fibrous nature of Tommy Atkins. Their flavor and sweetness more than make up for the fibers.

Run the paring knife around the edge of the mid-section to remove the peel, and slice off as much fruit as you can from the seed.

A bowl of diced mango, ready for topping cereal, ice cream, or a dish of yogurt.

The weather page reports that it is 86 degrees F., “feels like 97 F.” with the humidity factored in. Mango ice cream is beckoning.

A tray of mango slices heading to the food dryer.

Once dry, they will keep for months in the fridge, but most likely will be long gone by winter. A piece of dry mango is as sweet as candy. I wish you were here to share the mango bounty with us.

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Grilled Tenderloin of Beef with Vegetables

Russ’s birthday menu yesterday featured grilled tenderloin of beef with a selection of beautiful vegetables, plus pineapple slices. We spent the afternoon at our friends’ beach house in San Pancho, and the setting could not have been any better.

There was no blue sky to highlight the blue of the ocean, which you can barely make out at the end of the sand. It is hard to believe that Hurricane Alex, so far on the other side of Mexico, sent its cloudy arms over the western coast, hundreds of miles away.

The birthday boy is also the grill master, and he likes his grilled meat fairly simple, without distracting bar-b-que sauces and seasonings. A simple marinade of olive oil and minced garlic bathed the tenderloin in a zip lock bag until it was grill time. The remaining oil in the bag was then brushed on Mexican squash halves, pre-cooked, halved potatoes, and portobello mushrooms, which also got generous pats of organic butter.

The over-sized green onions (known as chambrays in this part of Mexico) went on the grill as is. There’s not much you can do to improve carmelized onions right off the grill. Same for the whole poblano chiles (how to roast and peel chiles) and the sliced pineapple, which added a sweet taste at the end of the meal. For us, less is more when grilling. KISS is our grill motto. Do I have to spell that out for you?

Notes:

Grill the tenderloin as one piece, rather than cut into individual steaks, to retain maximum moisture. After it is removed from the grill, cover with foil and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. If it is sliced immediately upon coming off the grill, without a rest time, too much juice will drain out of the slices, resulting in drier meat. A tenderloin is too special to be treated this way.

Use an instant-read thermometer for the best indicator of doneness.

120-125 degrees F. (49-52 C.) = Rare

130-135 degrees F. (54-57 C.) = Medium Rare

140-145 degrees F. (60-63 C.) = Medium

If you have to cook your tenderloin to medium well or well, in my humble opinion

you are over-cooking one of the best cuts of beef.

The tenderloin was from Kenny’s Meat Market in La Cruz, where the beef is from range-fed cattle. At 120 pesos a kilo, that works out to just under $5 a pound. If you are shopping for tenderloin in a carnicería in Mexico, ask for “filete”.

OK, since you asked, I’ll spell KISS for you. Keep It Simple, Sweetie.

A heron on the neighbor’s roof. Click the photo twice to see his beautful, striped head.

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