I grew up in a mint-loving family. When I was a cookie-selling Brownie, I could always count on my relatives to purchase dozens of boxes of Thin Mints. My mother and my aunts adored Grasshoppers. My father thought the best thing about the Easter lamb was the mint jelly. You get the idea. As you might imagine, one of the first things I planted when I had room was mint, which in our house shows up in everything from cocktails to salads. Fortunately, in an unprecedented act of foresight, I confined the mint in its own planter so it wouldn't overrun the garden. I suspect the little mint plants are not happy about this; at night, I imagine they plot to escape their confined area, infiltrate the rest of the garden, and take over completely, which so far has not happened. The closest they get to the other herbs is recipes like this, which shows that with proper supervision, they can play nice. —wssmom
Test Kitchen Notes
The use of both basil and mint adds a unique and subtle flavor combination, elevating the sophistication level of this ice cream above that of an ordinary desert. I made only a few changes: first, I raised the temperature of the custard to 180 as Merrill suggests with the use of a candy thermometer. Also, I strained the custard through a fine sieve before chilling. Otherwise the recipe is "over the top," as described by my husband! —DianneD
about 1 quart
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, torn
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into bits and kept cold (if you can get your hands on Ki' Xocolatl organic dark chocolate bars, so much the better)
Warm the milk in a saucepan and when bubbles gently form on the side, add the basil and the mint leaves. Turn off the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes or so. I don't think longer would hurt, but I've never had the patience to wait!
When ready, strain the basil-mint milk through a sieve into a small bowl, squeezing any remaining liquid out of the leaves. Return the milk to the saucepan and reheat along with one cup of the heavy cream.
Meanwhile, beat the sugar and the egg yolks together. Take a 1/2 cup of the hot basil-mint milk/cream from the saucepan and temper the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Add the tempered yolks to the saucepan along with the remaining cup of heavy cream.
Heat over a medium flame 3-5 minutes, stirring/whisking all the while and being careful not to let it boil. When the temperature reaches 170 degrees, who am I to argue?) or the custard coats the back of a spoon, remove from the heat and pour into a chilled metal bowl. Refrigerate for at least four hours, preferably more, until completely cold.
Freeze according to your ice-cream maker's directions, adding the chocolate bits and pieces at the end. Scrape into a freezable container, press wax paper or plastic wrap onto the surface, cover and freeze for two hours before serving.
If you feel artistic, stick a mint and/or basil sprig into each serving.