It’s the end of an era in Chicago–Charlie Trotter’s is shuttering after 25 years. I would go on and on listing all the honors, all the accolades it’s received over the years, but nothing beats experiencing it yourself, and I’ve been lucky enough to do exactly that.
Of course, it was an eye-opening delight. Spring onion with Indonesian vanilla, wild ramps, fiddlehead ferns and chives. Marcona almond risotto with green almonds and red wine. Meyer lemon with toasted brioche ice cream and caraway meringue. It’s been three years, but out of eight incredible, innovative vegetarian courses, one of the desserts has stuck in my mind the best: olive oil ice cream with a rich, dark chocolate sauce and cherries.
…Except that’s not what it was. It wasn’t until now that I dug up the menu and realized–I’m remembering all wrong.
Arbequina olive oil-chocolate chip parfait with dried cherries and oregano. No chocolate sauce, and was ice cream even involved? I definitely had forgotten the oregano. I really thought my memory was better than that, but maybe what’s important did really stick, and that was the flavor profile. It blew. My. Mind.
Even if I had remembered the details correctly, I wouldn’t call this a recreation of the original dessert, because, uh, I’m not delusional–it’d be ridiculous to even compare. But for savoring on my balcony on a warm summer evening with a good book? It’s a damn fine dessert.
It’s rich, interesting, unexpected, and you might think you won’t like it, but once you get past the idea that olive oil is strictly for savory dishes, it makes perfect sense. Olive oils run the gamut from bold and peppery to light, fragrant and fruity, which is what you’re looking for in this case. The ice cream will be as good as the olive oil you choose, so choose choosily, and choose fruity.
As for the chocolate sauce, it might be tempting to just buy one of those squeeze bottles, but I really think you should make your own. If you read the ingredients list on those store-bought things, I bet you can guess what the first one is. Corn syrup = not chocolate.
Plus, it’s easy, easy, easy. You already have everything you need–I came over and looked while you were sleeping. Nice lamp.
However, you don’t even need to bother with the sauce if you don’t feel like it. Clearly it was just a figment of my imagination. If I were to do this again, I would probably just coarsely chop a few ounces of good quality dark chocolate and stir it into the ice cream after churning. The lesson of the day is: the details don’t matter, and your mind will fill in the blanks. Also, memory is a funny thing.
Charlie Trotter, you rock. Thank you and godspeed.
Chicago, you also rock. I’ll be back. xo
For ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For chocolate sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup water (use milk for a richer sauce)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Milk, for thinning to desired consistency (optional)
1 cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
To make ice cream, heat milk, cream, sugar and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until steaming. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in about 2 cups of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until well incorporated. Return everything to the saucepan, return to heat and cook, stirring and scraping pan constantly, until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (4-5 minutes or so depending on your stove).
Strain custard through a fine mesh sieve. Allow to cool before covering and putting in the fridge to chill for at least a few hours. When completely chilled, churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
To make chocolate sauce, mix together all the dry ingredients. Heat water (or milk) and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat until it’s almost boiling; whisk in the dry ingredients and continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 5 or so minutes until thickened and smooth. Cool before using; thin out by adding milk, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.
Serve ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and fresh cherries.