Every spring and summer, I go crazy for mint. Its sweet-but-spiky flavor just seems to harmonize with practically everything I like to cook at this time of year, injecting a cool breath into a hot day. My CSA farm has several herb beds, and this year, Patti’s instituted a pick-your-own policy for the herbs, so each week my pickup involves snipping handfuls of basil, sage, oregano and more. But I hadn’t spotted the mint yet, so on Monday, I asked Patti if she had any. “I don’t have regular mint…but I do have chocolate mint.” She pointed me towards two large pots behind her farmstand shed. “I keep it separate from the other herbs because otherwise it will completely take over,” she said.
I broke off a sprig and breathed in: it smelled just like Thin Mint cookies—bracing and clean, but with a chocolate-y undertone. I knew immediately what I was going to do with this: my husband had just unearthed an ice cream maker from the basement, so that night, we set about preparing a farm-fresh mint-chocolate chip ice cream. The mint stems also had such great aroma I decided to steep them in the milk and cream along with the leaves.
Chocolate Mint Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart.
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup packed chocolate mint leaves (about 12 sprigs), plus their stems, all coarsely chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 oz. best-quality bittersweet chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger), chopped
In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk, and mint leaves and stems. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, watching carefully that the cream doesn’t boil over. Turn off the heat and let the mint steep in the cream for 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs. Slowly whisk about 1/2 cup of the cream mixture into the eggs, then whisk the eggs back into the saucepan of cream. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly but gently, until the custard thickens enough that it coats the back of a spoon, and when you draw your finger across the back of the spoon, it holds the trail–about 10 minutes. (Be careful the not to let the custard boil.) Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all of the custard, and stir the custard to cool slightly. Press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the custard and refrigerate until completely cold (overnight is good).
Freeze the mixture in an ice-cream maker. Add the chopped chocolate during the last minute of churning. Transfer the ice cream to a quart container and store in the freezer until hardened, about 4 hours.