Thursday, April 9, 2009

Burned is Better, Baby

Right now I have a burn mark on each arm. My right arm was not burned from cooking per se. I was boiling some water for tea, went to pull the hot water heater plug out of the wall, and my arm hovered over the steam a moment too long. It's currently peeling, this amoeba shaped burn, while doggedly impersonating a birthmark.

On my left arm is a burn from one of my new stainless steel Calphalon pans. Stainless steel pans can get hot, especially when you transfer olive tapenade steaks to the oven in them. I used an oven mitt to pull the pan out of the oven. But then I took off the mitt and leaned over the pan with a fork and knife, ready to check the steak, remove it, and reduce the pan juices into a sauce. My left arm grazed the handle and the hot metal immediately branded me. I ran for the freezer where I keep some ice packs ready for just such an occurrence. There was no residual pain, only a nasty thin brown mark. If I press it to the burn on my other arm I can shoot laser beams out of my arms and slice my enemies to shreds. Hopefully I won't end up with any scars.

In the spirit of burns and burning things, I decided to try this recipe for Burnt Caramel Ice Cream. It's an interesting concept. Go ahead and burn some sugar. Just let it melt, turn brown and then a little bit black. Come on, you burn things all the time - just not on purpose. Now add some cream and milk and let it mellow out the caramel until you get a dark, thick sauce.

Now strain it and mix in some more cream and milk, cool it in the fridge, and pour it into the ice cream maker.
I did all this without a hitch, but when I pulled it out of the ice cream maker it looked like...well...have you ever played that baby shower game where you put different types of chocolate candy mushed up in diapers and everyone has to guess what kind of candy each diaper has? Some of the candy looks an awful lot like what you might really find in a diaper.

Okay, so it's not the most appealing color for ice cream. And when I first tasted it, all I could think was This is burnt. But then I kept licking the spoon. And then I ate a whole scoop. Something about the flavor was addictive. A little bit bitter, a little sweet, with a rich wrapping of cream. It was frozen but tasted of warmth, of bonfires on the beach and roasted marshmallows. And who doesn't like the little crispy bits of pulled pork, the caramelized cheese on a pizza, the char on a hot dog, a blackened chicken sandwich? Burned is better, baby. That's how I feel about these burn marks on my arms (and the one on my wrist from a long ago misunderstanding with an oven door). I may be burned but that only makes me better.

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