Those Norman French sure love their apple brandy. A sidebar next to this recipe in Susan Herrmann Loomis’ French Farmhouse Cookbook lists seven rounds of Calvados served at the end of old-school Norman meals, including the coup de pied au cul or “kick in the ass.” Gourmandistan’s recent relocation to Normandy saw us imbibe several shots throughout many meals, some as apéritifs and some in desserts, but never seven in one sitting. (Steve would not have fared well, as Steve is not one to “party,” as his heavier drinking friends like to put it.)
We had a beautiful vacation. Thank you for asking.
Our house in Écots in Basse-Normandie had apple trees all round it, as well as several nearby cider and Calvados makers.
We had a wonderful month in Normandy, though we quickly recalled from a stay six years ago that the region’s holy fromages trio of Cambembert, Livarot and Pont L’Evêque does not include our favorites. (Norman cheeses are too bland and bouncy. We prefer a nice firm Laguiole or a runny Époisses.)
Despite the cheese issue, we made several dishes with local Calvados and cider, as well as an apple compote, during our stay. Though while our small rental kitchen was more than serviceable, it was no place to make ice cream.
When we returned to the States, apple season was in full swing and for a time still featuring Steve’s beloved GoldRush variety. We wanted to make a dish celebrating our successful vacation and, since we were back with our ice cream maker, settled on a somewhat typically complicated Gourmandistan solution: Calvados Ice Cream with Apple Calvados Compote.
Michelle added even more Calvados to the custard than the recipe called for, causing her to fear it wouldn’t freeze. She also worried the firm-fleshed GoldRush apples wouldn’t cook down into compote. (Michelle, you may have noticed, worries a lot in the kitchen.) Neither nightmare happened, of course—the ice cream was delicious and dazzlingly liquorish, tasting of eggnog and boiled custard without the holiday horrors of cinnamon and nutmeg. The compote was syrupy and satisfying with just a little tickle of tartness. We also opted for the optional Calvados topping, which can be tricky. Michelle got quite a cough-laden surprise at one serving when she slurped up a spoonful of virtually straight liquor, leading Steve to observe that she obviously wasn’t ready to “party.” It might simply be that our Kentucky bottle of Calvados is of much better quality than the bargain-bin bottle we bought at the St. Pierre-sur-Dives SuperCasino, but we thought this was the best home dessert we’ve made in quite a while.
You might try this without the extra Calvados. Or, you might rather skip the ice cream and compote and inquire about the seven rounds. That’s up to you, but we know which way we’re choosing to party.
CALVADOS ICE CREAM WITH APPLE CALVADOS COMPOTE
(adapted from Susan Herrmann Loomis’ French Farmhouse Cookbook)
CALVADOS ICE CREAM
- 1/3 c. Calvados
- 2/3 c. sugar + 1 TB
- 2 c. whole milk
- 1-1/2 c. heavy cream
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 t. vanilla extract
Stir 1 TB sugar into Calvados and set aside for several hours. Stir occasionally to blend.
Heat milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat until scalded (i.e., bubbles are starting to form in the corners of the pan).
Whisk egg yolks and 2/3 c. sugar until blended, by hand or in a mixer. Pour a bit of the scalded milk/cream into the egg/sugar mixture to temper. Add the remainder of the milk/cream, a little at a time, beating all the while. When mixed, pour back into the saucepan.
Cook the custard over low to medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until slightly thickened.
Remove from heat. When cooled slightly, add Calvados/sugar mixture and vanilla. Pour custard into a bowl and refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.
Freeze custard according to the instructions of your ice cream maker.
APPLE CALVADOS COMPOTE
- 1 TB butter
- 2 lbs. firm, tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4″ squares
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. Calvados
- 1 t. vanilla extract
Melt butter in a medium saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add apples and sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until apples have caramelized slightly. This will take at least 15 minutes, likely more. Reduce heat a bit. Add Calvados and vanilla and cook until liquid has mostly been absorbed by the apples. Set aside to cool.
To serve: Spoon some of the compote into the bottom of a small bowl. Add a couple of scoops of ice cream. Drizzle with a bit of Calvados.