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I have to admit to being generally ignorant about all things Christmas. More than once I've forgotten why the day's marked as a holiday on the office calendar. I don't get the whole tree, lights, and decoration thing. I've never been forced to eat fruitcake.
In my defense: I'm a Jew from an especially Jewish part of New York City whose childhood gentile friends joined me for dim sum on Christmas Day.
A Christmas-free life never bothered me much. The end of the year is pretty stress-free for me and my family. Chanukah, our beloved fried potato holiday, requires a fraction of the Christmas effort but reaps plenty of fatty rewards. There are few laborious expectations beyond the simple pleasures of spinning tops and unwrapping chocolate coins.
But the wall came crashing down when I was in college and had my first taste of Christmas ham. I took a salty, porky bite and I knew. I understood why people made such a big deal about this holiday.
You guys eat well on Christmas.
Since then it's been hard to live my Decembers totally devoid of tinsel. I find myself imagining ways to eat the holiday spirit without, well, betraying my people.
Hence this ice cream. It's what I imagine a Christmas dessert should taste like if ice cream and chocolate were part of the holiday meal. (Are they? If not, shouldn't they be?) Here's chocolate, warmed by allspice and kissed by orange. The combination is unexpectedly complex, especially when sweetened with the molasses twang of brown sugar. If chocolate ice cream has been tasting a little flat to you recently, this is a surefire cure.
I upped the holiday factor with some crushed candy canes, their chill and crunch a welcome complement to warm spices and chocolatey richness. It may have been my first time cooking with candy canes, but it won't be my last. They all but sparkle on the tongue.
This ice cream tastes great, but my favorite part is how long you can leave it out of the freezer. The unchurned base is basically a solid, so the ice cream doesn't melt. I served it at a recent holiday party and it was still cold and scoopable after more than an hour. Just something to make your holiday just a little easier. Consider it my thanks to Christmas, with its ham and its peppermint and its Herculean dose of sweets.
Now if someone could explain the sweaters, that'd be great.
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