I'm writing the cookbook for the L.A. resto phenom, Mozza (Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, and Mozza 2Go), and included in that is what seems to be no-end-in-sight job of testing the recipes. The executive chef, Matt Molina, Nancy Silverton, who owns the joint (along with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich), and I wrote Nancy's last book, Twist of the Wrist together. And it's safe to say that we are all complete freaks about publishing recipes that can be followed by anyone with a decent command of the language the book is printed in, and successfully executed at home by anyone with opposable thumbs. (No offense, Rufus.) Each dish that I or one of my trusty testers cooks has to be tasted and approved by either Nancy or Matt, judged not just by whether or not they work, but by whether the results are Mozza-esque. It is tons of work and the kitchen in my 1920's Spanish style rental is seeing more mileage than it likely has since the frozen dinner was invented. But I love it. I feel like Willy Wonka except I work with olive oil and anchovies instead of chocolate and cream. Yesterday, however, I worked with olive oil and cream. I made olive oil ice cream, which was as much about recipe testing as it was an excuse to use my new Cuisinart ice cream maker, in a first and what turned out to be sad attempt to recreate for the all-American home cook, the olive oil gelato that is part of a composed dessert offered at the Osteria.
"I don't even know where that recipe came from!" Nancy said when she tasted it. "This is nothing like ours." And she was right. It was not Mozza-esque.
That being said, today I spooned some of this creamy frozen confection into a small glass, drizzled it with what I in the nomenclature of this book refer to as "finishing-quality olive oil," (I used one called Monino, which you can buy at Mozza2Go) and sprinkled it with big flakes of Maldon sea salt. And you know what? It may not have met Nancy's standards. (Few things do, which is why she is where she is.) But it wasn't disgusting either. In fact, it was good. Good enough that I regretted dumping a whole quart-size deli container's worth of the stuff in the garbage yesterday. But what else was I to do? Nancy was watching. A girl has to have some pride.
Olive Oil Ice Cream (Grade: B)
The luxury of fresh ice cream made in the comfort of your own, comfortable home will make up for the fact that this is not Mozza-esque. It's best served soft, fresh from the ice cream maker, as it gets icy after time in the freezer. This means make the custard before dinner and start churning just as you are finishing dinner. I have no idea where this recipe originally came from but here it is, on my hard-drive and here I am, sharing it with you. Good thing there is no copyright on recipes. This recipe presumes you have both a standing mixer and an ice cream maker. If you do not have these things--or at the very least the ice cream maker--do what my favorite cook Gino Angelini has done for me on occasion: get yourself some nice vanilla gelato or ice cream. Drizzle it with some nice olive oil, sprinkle it with flaky sea salt. Truth be told: it's just as good. In fact, it may be even better, because it has that secret ingredient that even the cooks at Mozza can't imitate: No clean up.
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
Finishing-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Maldon sea salt
Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat them with the whisk attachment until the mixture is thick, pale in color and forms a ribbon when the whip is lifted. This will take about 5 minutes. With the mixer still running, drizzle in the olive oil; beat for 2 more minutes to make sure the oil is combined. Add the milk and cream and continue to beat for a minute or 2 to make sure all the ingredients are combined.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of an ice cream machine and freeze it like you would any ice cream until it will freeze no more; it will be about the thickness and frozen-ness ofsoft serve ice cream. Like I said, it is at its best right now, drizzled with the good stuff and topped with those flakes of salt. If you want to put it in the refrigerator, do it. Perfection is over-rated. At least when you're hungry.
Serves 8 to 12 not very hungry people.