My parents will hate me for saying this, but I don’t have many memories of us cooking together. There are a few exceptions: squishing together the ingredients for my mother’s tomato soup meatballs the night before Thanksgiving; tearing apart the dough for Toll House break-and-bake chocolate chip cookies; and, when I got a bit older, carefully slicing my dad’s grilled herb-marinated pork loin—his one and only specialty—into even strips on Christmas day.
Mostly, we found our food traditions outside the kitchen: At our favorite special-occasion Italian spot, with its white tablecloths and grapevine trellises adorning the ceiling, where the three of us rarely veer from ordering rigatoni alla vodka. At the old-school department store café in Fort Lauderdale where my grandmother and I meet for lunch every time I’m back in Florida, and where the only acceptable order is a grilled cheese on Texas toast and a slice of blueberry pie a la mode.
And in the living room, where my mom and I sit on the couch, wrapped up in blankets, watching our favorite sitcom and eating ice cream. Not just any ice cream: Breyers mint chocolate chip ice cream (the unnaturally green kind) with a splash of milk over the top. I know, I know, I thought pouring milk over ice cream was weird at first, too. But the milk makes freezer-cold ice cream crystalize in places, so that it becomes crunchy and icy and very fun to chew on.
I think it started around eighth or ninth grade—when we discovered that Will and Grace reruns came on every night at 10 o’clock, which was conveniently just around the time when I’d be done with homework. We’d scoop ourselves a few big spoonfuls of ice cream into a glass (never a bowl), pour over the milk, and sink into the couch just in time for the show.
Always laughing in the same spots, and catching up on whatever had happened at school that day over commercial breaks, it was one of my favorite ways to spend time with my mom. Even though my dad and I have always been more similar (in our interests, temperament, and even looks), this time was exclusively for my mom and me. And those were the thirty minutes—or, if we caught back-to-back episodes, an hour—of the day I looked forward to most.
When I was asked to share a cookie for this big holiday feature, I was a bit stumped, because my family doesn’t really have a special recipe we make over and over. I was complaining about this fact to my friend Eric, when he had the most perfect idea: adapt these oreo meringues he loves to make, in memory of the ice-cream I loved so much. With just a few drops of green food coloring and a little bit of mint extract, this light and chewy dessert becomes a cookie-fied version of the tradition my mom and I still share.
Instead of passing this recipe down, I’m passing it up. So the next time I’m home, my mom and I can spend a little bit of time in the kitchen making this together—before we sit down to ice cream and TV, of course. —Erin Alexander
In a large bowl or stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and salt until light and foamy.
Gradually add the sugar, spoonful by spoonful, until you've got firm peaks—bright, white, and shiny.
Just before you’ve got firm peaks, add the mint extract and food coloring.
Gently fold in most of the Oreo crumbs, just barely (so you have ribbons of "cookie" amidst the "cream"), leaving some behind to top the meringues later.
You could pipe out mini cookies from a pastry bag, but what I like to do is scoop (with an ice-cream scoop) balls of the meringue mixture onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, then sprinkle the leftover Oreo crumbs on top messily.
Bake at 275°F (135°F) for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until dried out but not totally crisp. These meringues should be like chewy cookies 'n' cream clouds when you bite into them.
Erin Alexander is the Associate Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.