Meet Ralph. I mentioned him last week, in the first of my posts from Maine. He is one of my very best friends in the universe, and last week I got to hang out in his kitchen and photograph him making a batch of ice cream.
Why? Apart from just because ice cream is good to make and even better to eat? Because a few months ago Ralph bought a double- boiler and called to tell me. I'm a rotten friend. I laughed. I told him he could actually use a metal bowl and a pot of water…but then I shut up a bit and asked what he was going to make with it. He told me he'd found a recipe for white chocolate ice cream that sounded good, and that's why he got the double-boiler.
And there it is. It looks a bit crooked or something in the picture below, but it's not, really.
Anyway, during that conversation, we talked about making ice cream. He asked some questions, I talked about tempering the eggs, and he told me he'd let me know how it turned out.
Turns out the ice cream was fantastic. He also made the raspberry sauce that went with it (in the magazine article). Yum.
Fast forward a bit and I was calling Ralph to make plans for us to stay with him during our trip to Maine in February.
I told him I would make tarte Tatin for him, and I told asked him to make the white chocolate ice cream to go along with it. Done.
And then…we're in February now, like, the day before we're heading to Maine. And Ralph calls to tell me he realized he hadn't put the ice cream insert thingy in the freezer. And it's supposed to chill for 24 hours before you put any ice cream in it.
I heaved a great sigh, and told him to stop cleaning his house and focus on the ice cream.
He ignored me completely. We ended up buying ice cream to serve with the tarte Tatin that first night. Ah well. We decided to make the ice cream the next day, Monday, which was going to be the day Bill and the kids went off to ski and I was just going to hang out with Ralph. And that's just what we did. Well, sort of. He made the ice cream. I took the pictures.
I love other people's kitchens. I just love to see what they have and where they put it and what they store it in. Ralph has plans for this kitchen. There are some elements he loves, like the huge wall cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling.
He has an electric oven, but he wants to switch to gas eventually.
We first met when he was going to grad school and I was in college, sharing a house with a few other people, including a friend of his from back home (further north in Maine).
One of the other guys in the house was graduating and moving out, so we needed to fill that space. Enter Ralph. And the beginning of a silly and fabulous friendship.
We hit it off pretty quickly, sharing a frighteningly similar sense of humor. We basically became eight-year-old children when we were together, and I look back on it now and just shake my head. It was a glorious time in my life, those next couple of years. Full of lots of laughter.
That first school year, one Saturday morning, we were at the house one morning and so was roommate #4, whom I'll call P. P was not the one Ralph knew from back home (I'll call him R). I'd actually known P longer than Ralph or R, and he and I and several other people had shared a house BEFORE this one. Gaaa. Long story.
Anyway, Ralph and P and I were home. P was still sleeping. Ralph and I were in the kitchen, and I don't remember how it all got started, but somehow we were suddently hosting our own cooking show, talking to our imaginary audience in the living room, and putting a crazy assortment of ingredients into a large bowl on the counter.
I don't remember everything that went in, but I do know everything was safe to eat. I'm sure there was flour…sugar…maybe an egg or two…too much baking powder…and I remember including a multivitamin.
We mixed all this stuff together, babbling on like idiots and laughing the whole time. And then we poured it into a muffin pan and baked it.
And boy, did that batter puff up! The resulting little concoctions were just about completely round, and they felt soft enough to consume. Not that we wanted to eat them ourselves. We were, in that moment, akin to the older boys in the old Life cereal commercial – "Let's get Mikey!" Only in our version, it was "Let's give it to P!"
Now, I have to explain here that we were not being malicious. Well, maybe a bit. But the thing was, P barely had a sense of humor, and what little amount he did have, he kept locked in a box in the back of his closet. He could be kind of snarky. Kind of unpleasant. He probably thought we were idiots. And maybe we were, but we were HAPPY idiots.
Anyway, we broke open one of the little round baked items we'd created, spooned some jam on each half, and left it on a plate in P's room (he was in the shower by this point). And we waited – probably giggling like…well, like idiots.
P came out of the shower, headed back to his room and shut the door. A little bit later, he came out again, and said think you. He'd eaten it. And – he liked it! We never expected THAT.
We didn't spend all our time being idiots, though. Time passed. I got my BA; he got his MA. I got a job outside of Boston, and he moved back up to Maine. But we stayed in touch.
He was in my wedding. He was one of my two "Bridesmen," along with two bridesmaids, a matron of honor, and a flower girl.
I remember trying to sort out who should stand up with me, on my side of the room, when I married Bill, and at first I tried to pick out a bunch of females – friends, family, family-to-be.
I had a couple definites – my sister would be matron of honor, for example – but I just couldn't figure out how to choose the others.
I think Bill had already picked his groomsmen, so I was trying to balance things out, too, for nice, symmetrical wedding photos.
But it wasn't working.
Who were the people throughout my life who had really been there with me and there for me over the years.
My best friend for all of my childhood and on into adulthood.
Another woman I'd met at Barnes & Noble when I worked there – that's another story for a future post – but she had become a dear friend.
And then…I picked Ralph and another guy friend of mine.
And I felt a tremendous sense of rightness about it.
The wedding photos didn't really have to be symmetrical.
Nothing is REALLY symmetrical anyway.
At least, nothing alive, nothing that grows and changes and evolves.
So that's how that came to be.
And I'm so glad.
He likes to start the churning process first and then pour the liquid in.
I don't know why I never thought to do that. It makes sense – less chance of the ice cream just freezing to the sides of the bowl.
And – sorry – that's it for pictures. The ice cream was wonderful – creamy and luscious and delicious. I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate, either, but this was really, really yummy.
You can find the White Chocolate Ice Cream recipe here, on Southern Living's website.
Ralph ripped the page out of the magazine a few days ago and mailed it to me. The envelope arrived today, and I was all set to type it out when it suddenly occurred to me that maybe the recipe was online already. And it is. You can also find the Raspberry Sauce recipe along with it. Ralph had some in his freezer, and he thawed that and served the ice cream in martini glasses with a drizzle of rasperry sauce. Very elegant and beautiful. And of course I neglected to take a picture, goldurnit. Too intent on EATING the whole thing at that point, I guess.
Thanks, Ralph, for being a guest "chef" here!