The night before our wedding in Maine, we hosted a traditional lobster bake for our out-of-town guests (read: pretty much all of our guests). We lucked out with the weather, which was perfect, and the food was equally stellar. Along with lobster and drawn butter, there were mussels, corn on the cob, both a potato and a green salad, Parker House rolls, and burgers and dogs for the non-shellfish eaters. For dessert, the caterer made a huge fruit salad with lots of local berries. But the stars of the show -- by far and away -- were the Harbor Bars.
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Harbor Bars are enormous, chocolate-dipped ice cream sandwiches made with soft chocolate chip cookies. They're a Maine thing, and my sister and I grew up eating them during the summer and fantasizing about them the entire rest of the year. At one point, Harbor Bars disappeared from the local markets for about ten years, and we were heartbroken. Then a few years ago, we spotted the signature wrapper in the far corner of the freezer at the general store in town. Harbor Bars were back, and as good as ever! (Click here for the complete Harbor Bar history.)
When the time came to plan the menu for the wedding weekend, I knew we had to incorporate them somehow, and the lobster bake seemed like the perfect opportunity. And am I glad we served them. Everyone raved. Some even managed to eat two all on their own, and I was witness to a conversation among several guests from different parts of the country where Harbor Bar "franchising" was seriously discussed. (Yes, they're that good.)
Below you'll find my attempt at recreating the illustrious Harbor Bar -- using mint ice cream, which is my favorite (it comes in vanilla as well); feel free to use whatever ice cream flavor you like. I happened upon this formula for the chocolate coating, which evokes a lovely bit of nostalgia: it's essentially a homemade version of Magic Shell! (And yes, Amanda shamelessly stole my discovery last week for her post on S'mores Semifreddo.)
Don't miss the photo slideshow of the lobster bake below -- courtesy of my friend Adele and my new cousin-in-law Rachael!
Mint Chocolate Harbor Bars
Makes 4 gigantic ice cream sandwiches (serves 4 to 8, depending on how willing you are to share)
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or organic vegetable shortening
1 pint mint or mint chip ice cream
8 chewy chocolate chip cookies (I like this recipe from Alton Brown)
1. Put the chocolate and the oil or shortening in a deep saucepan that is not too wide (you'll be using this to dip the ice cream sandwiches, so think about that when you choose your pot). Over the lowest heat, melt the chocolate, stirring constantly to incorporate the oil and make sure the chocolate doesn't burn. As soon as it is smooth, remove the chocolate from the heat and set aside, letting it slowly come to room temperature.
2. In the meantime, soften the ice cream for a few minutes outside of the freezer. Sandwich about 1/2 cup of ice cream between two cookies, pressing firmly and smoothing the sides. Repeat with the remaining cookies and then return the sandwiches to the freezer for at least half and hour to harden.
3. When the chocolate is cool and the ice cream sandwiches have hardened, you are ready to dip! Lay a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer. Working with one sandwich at a time (and leaving the rest in the freezer), place the sandwich on a slotted spoon or perforated skimmer (something like this works really well) and lower gently into the chocolate. Turn the sandwich over so that the entire thing is coated evenly in chocolate, and then lift out with the spoon, letting an excess chocolate dribble through the holes. Transfer to the baking sheet and quickly repeat with the remaining 3 sandwiches. Immediately return the sandwiches to the freezer until the chocolate sets, at least 15 minutes.
4. Peel off the wax paper and eat. Share if you dare.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).