Sik Sik Wat

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In Ethiopia, the word wat is basically the word for stew. But this is no ordinary stew. Ethiopian wats, no matter what meat is used, whether cooked or raw, are spicy, saucy stews of vibrant color and endless flavors.

Two main seasoning ingredients must be prepared first before following through with a wat. One is Berberé, a rich paprika-based mixture, and niter kebbeh, a fragrant infused clarified butter.

This stew is a classic example of a wat. I hope you get a chance to make it! The recipe is from African Cooking, one of many of a Foods of the World series from Time Life.

Sik Sik Wat
Beef Stewed in Red Pepper Sauce
To serve 6 to 8

2 cups finely chopped onions
1/3 cup niter kibbeh
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger root
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons berberé
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup water
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped and puréed through a food mill (I used a teaspoon of tomato paste)
2 teaspoons salt
3 pounds lean boneless beef, preferably chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy 4- to 5- quart enameled casserole, cook the onions over moderate heat for 5 or 6 minutes, until they are soft and dry. Don’t let them burn. Stir in the niter kebbeh and, when it begins to splutter, add the garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg, stirring well after each addition.

Add the paprika and berberé, and stir over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the wine, water, pureed tomato and salt, and bring the liquid to a boil.

Add the beef cubes and turn them about with a spoon until they are evenly coated with the sauce.

Then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan partially and simmer the beef for about 1 1/2 hours. Sprinkle the wat with a few grindings of pepper and taste for seasoning.

Sik sik wat is traditionally accompanied by injera or yewollo ambasha, but may also be eaten with Arab-style flat bread or hot boiled rice. Below left, injera, below right, yewollo ambasha.

Plain yoghurt may be served with the wat from a separate bowl.

Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil

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I’m actually not a soup person, no matter what time of year it is. But I was highly intrigued by this recipe in Eric Ripert’s cookbook, A Return to Cooking. Interestingly enough, the other recipe I’ve blogged about from the same cookbook was an outstanding seafood chowder.


Chef Ripert’s name for this soup is Pumpkin, Acorn, and Butternut Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil. I like the idea of mixing the squashes, and then nutmeg and walnut oil as finishing touches?! Yes please.

Here is the cookbook, published in 2009.

From the author, Michael Ruhlman, regarding this recipe: “Eric almost didn’t make this soup because he’s so put off by overspiced squash soups. While he does add some gratings of fresh nutmeg at the end, the fresh thyme and the walnut oil are the primary seasonings, and the soup retains the flavors of the squash.”

Pumpkin, Acorn, and Butternut Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil
Printable recipe below

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sliced onions
2 cups peeled and diced sugar pumpkin
2 cups peeled and diced acorn squash
2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
3 thyme sprigs
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 whole nutmeg, for grating

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin, acorn and butternut squash dice and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover with the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Purée the soup in batches in a blender until satiny-smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any remaining lumps, and return the soup to the pot. Add the cream and the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Bring to a simmer.

Wrap the thyme sprigs in a square of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Add to the simmering soup and let infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the thyme bundle and adjust the seasoning.

To serve, divide the soup among six warmed soup bowls. Shave the cheese over each bowl and drizzle the walnut oil over the cheese.

Grate nutmeg over each bowl to taste and serve immediately.

The walnut oil I purchased in August of 2021 and opened in October to make this recipe was rancid. The bottle was sealed, so I was surprised and disappointed. I don’t recommend this brand.

 

 

Potted Ham

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I love all forms of charcuterie, but I’m especially enamored with pâtés, terrines, and rillettes. It’s something about their rustic, picnic-like nature.

On my sister-friend’s cooking blog a while back, I saw something I’d not made before – potted ham! I knew I’d love it. It’s a simple recipe, not much different than making rillettes. And to make it simpler I used my food processor.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Linda Duffin, whose blog is Mrs. Portly’s Kitchen, you are missing out. First of all, besides being a professional cookery teacher, recipe developer, and writer, she’s a hoot!

I often read her blog posts out loud to my husband, mostly because we can’t figure out what she’s saying, with all of her Britishisms, but we still laugh out loud!

Here is Linda posed by her infamous Aga, and a shot of her beautiful English kitchen.

A post of Linda’s from May 3, 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, had us rolling on the floor. You can read it here. My favorite line from the post is, “Get me a lobster thermador or I’ll cough on you.”

Potted Ham
Printable recipe below

5 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 small garlic clove, peeled
14 ounces lean ham, trimmed
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Clarified butter or duck fat

Add the butter, cream cheese, and garlic clove to a food processor. Run until the garlic is well dispersed. Chop the ham and add it to the mixture in the food processor, along with the parsley and spices. Pulse until combined, but not lose texture. This should be spreadable, but not baby food.

Taste for salt.

Add to crockery jars and top with clarified butter.

I considered getting fancy with mustard, but then just decided on a whole grain Dijon.

Serve at room temperature with toast and cornichons.

Lift off the chilled butter and dip into the wonderful ham spread.

Personally my adaptation of Ms. Duffin’s recipe is perfection. I’m sure hers is perfect as well, I just went a little fattier and a bit spicier.

Potted ham is basically ham rillettes. Add butter, spices and parsley to a meat and that’s what you get.

The potted ham would be fabulous with cheeses as well. Especially on a picnic by a creek in the Cotswolds. But for now I’ll just enjoy my potted ham in quarantine.

 

 

Berberé

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Before one can make any traditional dishes of Ethiopia, it is necessary to make the wonderfully complex spice paste called berberé. It is paprika based, but also contains onion, garlic, and many wonderful spices that add to the complexity of this unique seasoning mixture. These include cayenne, ginger, coriander, cloves, fenugreek, cardamom, and more.

The recipe I use is from the Time-Life series called Foods of the World.

It doesn’t take much time at all to make berberé, and the toasting spices will make your whole house smell wonderful.

Once you have this spice paste, as well as the other unique seasoned butter called niter kebbeh, you will be able to make a number of authentic Ethiopian dishes.

Berberé
Red Pepper and Spice Paste
Makes about 2 cups

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons salt, divided
3 tablespoons dry red wine
2 cups paprika
2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups water
1 – 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a heavy skillet, toast the ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice over low heat for a minute, stirring constantly.

Then remove the skillet from the heat and let the spices cool for 5-10 minutes.

Combine the toasted spices, onions, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt and the wine in the jar of an electric blender and blend at high speed until the mixture is a smooth paste.

Combine the paprika, cayenne, black pepper and the remaining tablespoon of salt in the saucepan and toast them over low heat for a minute, until they are heated through, stirring the spices constantly.

Stir in the water, 1/4 cup at a time, then add the spice and wine mixture. I used some of the water get get more of the wine mixture from the blender jar.

Stirring vigorously, cook over the lowest possible heat for 10 – 15 minutes.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the Berberé to a jar or crock, and pack it in tightly.

Let the paste cool to room temperature, then dribble enough oil over the top to make a film at least 1/4″ thick.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. If you replenish the film of oil on top each time you use the Berberé, it can safely be kept in the refrigerator for 5-6 months.

Now, you can buy powdered berberé, like I did when I visited Kalustyan’s in New York City, but you can see I’ve never opened it. I’d much rather make the paste from scratch.

Niter Kebbeh

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Niter Kebbeh is a spice-infused butter. Along with berberé, niter kebbeh is an essential element of cooking Ethiopian cuisine. The recipe I use, and have for years, is from the Time-Life series called Foods of the World.

I made this spiced butter after the lockdown in March. It’s typically made with butter, then clarified. I used 24 ounces of ghee, which is clarified butter, instead of 32 ounces of butter. The process was easier because the solids didn’t have to be removed. Following is the original recipe.

Niter Kebbeh
Spiced Butter Oil
Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
4 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cardamom pod, slightly crushed with the flat of a knife, or a pinch of cardamom seeds
1 piece of stick cinnamon, 1 inch long
1 whole clove
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

In a heavy 4- to 5-quart saucepan, heat the butter over moderate heat, turning it about with a spoon to melt it slowly and completely without letting it brown. Then increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is completely covered with white foam, stir in the remaining ingredients.

Reduce the heat to the lowest possible point and simmer uncovered and undisturbed for 45 minutes, or until the milk solids on the bottom of the pan are a golden brown and the butter on top is transparent.

Slowly pour the clear liquid into a bowl, straining it through a fine sieve lined with a linen towel or cheesecloth. Discard the seasonings.

If there are any solids left in the butter, strain it again to prevent it from becoming rancid later.

Pour the kebbeh into a jar, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. It will solidify when chilled.

It can safely be kept, even at room temperature, for 2 or 3 months, but I keep mine refrigerated.

Mincemeat Ice Cream

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I know. Your initial impression of ice cream with mincemeat may not be favorable. But this isn’t the suet and minced meat type of olden days mincemeat. This is a glorious mixture of spiced apples, raisins, and pecans – mixed into ice cream.

Last Thanksgiving I made the ubiquitous pumpkin pie, a favorite of my family, and served it with this mincemeat ice cream. And it was a sublime pairing. There are no photos, because I’ve learned that food blogging can’t really happen during special meals! But I did want to share the recipe, which originally came from Bon Appetit.

The recipe is for a custard-style ice cream plus the mincemeat that is folded into the prepared ice cream.

This year, for the sake of time, I purchased a gallon of high-quality vanilla bean ice cream, made the mincemeat per this recipe, and folded it into the softened ice cream. You can do it all from scratch like I did last year, or cheat like I did this year.

I purchased a pumpkin pie for the purpose of photographing this ice cream, because this year I have other dessert plans for Thanksgiving. You know me – so much food, so little time… but I did want to share this spectacular recipe.

Mincemeat Ice Cream
Bon Appetit recipe, slightly adapted
printable recipe below

Ice cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
10 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar

Mincemeat:
2 Golden Delicious apples (about 1 1/3 pounds), peeled, cored, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup apple cider
1/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Juice of one lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

To make the ice cream, mix cream and milk in heavy large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer; remove from heat.

Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes. Strain custard into bowl. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours.

To prepare the mincemeat, bring all 13 ingredients to boil in heavy large saucepan.

Reduce heat to medium and cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick.

Transfer mixture to bowl; refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Process custard in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to bowl. Fold in 3 cups cold mincemeat. Cover and freeze until firm, about 4 hours. I you’re using a gallon of purchased ice cream, use all of the mincemeat, which measures 3 cups.

The mince meat could be made with pears as well if they were firm.

Just for fun, I combined some of the cider and brown sugar bourbon I used in the mincemeat and reduced to a syrup, then poured it warm over the ice cream on the pumpkin pie.

I have the worst time photographing ice cream, but I can guarantee that if you love apple pie filling, you will love this recipe.

It is so good by itself, but especially good with pumpkin pie!

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!

 

 

Christmas in your Mouth!

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Okay, weird title, but there’s no other way to describe this after-dinner drink. It just tastes like Christmas, which I happen to love.

I’ve mentioned quite a few times over the years that I’m no mixologist. I’ve made some good margaritas, but it seems like when I try to make something creative, it’s terrible.

Actually, it’s not that my skills are completely lacking because I’m typically following recipes, but I don’t enjoy a lot of cocktails, especially if they’re terribly strong. Like martinis. So whatever I might make and dislike, which seems to happen often, I pass on to my willing husband.

Typically when the weather turns cold, I stock up on seasonal liqueurs. I love Amarula, Eggnog, Bailey’s, various chocolate liqueurs, and so forth. Some I will put in coffee or hot chocolate, or some over ice in lieu of dessert.

One night I got super creative (sarcasm) and combined all of two different liqueurs together for my husband and myself. We both thought that this drink was so good that we haven’t been able to stop drinking it!!!

It’s good, it’s pretty, and it’s Christmas in your mouth. You’re welcome.

Christmas in your Mouth
Makes 2 drinks

2 – 8 ounce cocktail glasses
Small ice cubes
4 ounces Buttershots
4 ounces Rumchata

Fill the glasses with ice.

Divide the buttershots and Rumchata evenly in both glasses.

Stir and serve.


You can add some freshly grated nutmeg if you’d like.

And, it’s Christmas!

Coconut Eggnog

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I happen to love eggnog. I mean I love eggnog so much that I even buy it in the carton. I doctor it up a bit with spices and bourbon of course; this photo is from last Christmas Eve.

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But why stop drinking eggnog after the holidays? I say hell no to that! I want my eggnog!

Recently I came across a Goya magazine ad for coconut eggnog, or Coquito, which according to the ad is an authentic Puerto Rican beverage.

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Since eggnog isn’t available at the grocery store any longer (why?) I knew I would have to try this version for my eggnog fix.

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This isn’t the same as regular home-made eggnog, but I thought the coconut flavor would be really fun, and it definitely is.

Here’s the recipe as I photographed it from the magazine.

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In a blender jar, add the evaporated milk, cream of coconut, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Blend on high until mixture is well combined.

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Pour eggnog into a pitcher and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill until cold.

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When ready to serve, shake first, add to glass, and add rum to taste.

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Garnish with ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, if desired.

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I tried the eggnog both chilled and at room temperature, and I enjoyed both.

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The color isn’t as pretty if vanilla extract and cinnamon are included in the mixture, so these photos don’t show the eggnog with those ingredients.

I did include a grind of nutmeg before serving.

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Note: If you chill this eggnog overnight, you could always include a few cinnamon sticks.

Pumpkin Mousse

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Someone recently asked me what my favorite dessert is. Without hesitation, I responded chocolate mousse. Not the fluffy, creamy chocolate stuff, but the dark, rich, almost fudge-like chocolate mousse.

I was honestly surprised that I didn’t have to think about it, not being much of a dessert eater. If you’d asked me for my favorite meal, I’d still be thinking of an answer, although a course of foie gras would be part of it…

So after I thought about how much I really do love chocolate mousse, I realized that it’s not on my blog.

But because it is my favorite time of year, and I’m one of those pumpkin “freaks,” I decided to create a pumpkin mousse recipe instead of preparing my traditional chocolate favorite. I wanted it to taste like pumpkin spice, yet still be fluffy, without the use of gelatin.

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Here’s what I did.

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Pumpkin Mousse
Makes about 10 8-ounce servings

3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 can pumpkin purée
16 ounces marscapone, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon powdered vanilla
Pinch of ground cloves

Beat the egg whites and salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Set in the refrigerator.

In a larger bowl, beat the pumpkin, marscapone, and sugar until smooth.

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Add the spices and blend. Taste the pumpkin mixture for sweetness and flavor. The strength of cinnamon really varies based on the source, so adjust the flavor according to your personal taste.

Also, pumpkin by itself tastes like, well, squash. So the spices, especially the cinnamon, are quite important!

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Gently but carefully fold in the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Try not to over fold, so as not to deflate the egg whites.

When more or less combined, place the pumpkin mousse in individual serving dishes.

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Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, well covered. Serve either chilled or at room temperature; I prefer room temperature.

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Add a little dollop of whipped cream or marscapone on top, and add some freshly grated nutmeg if desired. A little cookie doesn’t hurt!

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After I made the mousse, I realized I’d forgotten the vanilla powder. If you’ve never used it, I highly recommend it for situations when you want vanilla flavor without the extract liquid.

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Eggnog Ice Cream

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What is eggnog? Have you ever thought about it? I mean, it’s a drink – a lovely caloric drink – that is very traditional during the holidays. It’s made with eggs and cream and flavored with nutmeg.

And that’s really what it is. It’s not a flavor, per se. And yet, you can make eggnog flavored pancakes, eggnog flavored quick breads, and so forth. But eggnog itself is really just a drink.

I never thought about that until I decided to finally make eggnog ice cream – something I’ve wanted to do for many years. I realized there’s not an eggnog “flavoring” that I could add to a basic ice cream base to duplicate that wonderful eggnog flavor. Not like pumpkin or cranberry, for example.

So I decided that the best thing to do was to incorporate actual eggnog, but not the home-made variety – the yellow, thick stuff that comes in cartons. There’s not too much in the way of food that I buy that contains fake colors and a variety of chemicals. But in this family, we all love eggnog in a carton. Of course, once you add the brandy or rum, you really don’t care about the chemicals.

So here’s the recipe I created using eggnog, and I must say, it really turned out fabulously. Unfortunately, the recipe creates a volume larger than for one bowl, given your basic ice cream maker capacity, but if you have one with two bowls, this will work out perfectly.

Eggnog Ice Cream

6 cups eggnog from a carton
Heavy sprinkle of cinnamon
Sprinkle of nutmeg
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup spiced rum

Beginning in the morning, pour the eggnog into a large saucepan. Begin heating up the eggnog.

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Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and continue to heat the eggnog.

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Meanwhile, add the heavy cream to the yolks in a small bowl and whisk them together.

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When the eggnog is hot, slowly add the egg-cream mixture to the eggnog. This will be a slow process.

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Turn up the heat just a little bit more, and continue whisking the eggnog mixture. It should continue to become thicker.

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Once the mixture just comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, and let it cool at room temperature for about 45 minutes or so, whisking occasionally.

Then cover the pan and refrigerate the mixture for at least 2-3 hours.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, set up your ice cream maker. Add the rum and whisk it into the eggnog mixture.

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Pour the ice cream base into the ice cream maker bowl, and begin processing.

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You will know when the ice cream is done when the machine starts making a little more noise, and ice cream forms.

At this point, place the bowl in the freezer. Try not to make the ice cream more than two hours before serving. Even with the rum, the freezer always seems to over freeze ice cream, and you have to wait quite a while for it to soften.

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I served this ice cream atop pumpkin pie that included a layer of rum-soaked raisins, and was baked in a hazelnut cinnamon hazelnut pie crust.

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verdict: This ice cream turned out beautifully. Incredible flavors, and not so subtle, because of the use of the commercial eggnog. No sugar was necessary in this ice cream, either, as the commercial eggnog is already sweetened. I just felt it necessary to add some heavy cream, to increase the fattiness of the ice cream, since I don’t believe in low-fat ice cream, and the egg yolks made this ice cream more like one that is custard-based. Delightful. I’ll definitely be making this again!