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It’s the Whole Fredo . . . August 20, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, random stuff.

Or no Fredo at all.

Oh, no, wait.  Not Fredo – it was semiFREDDO.  My bad.

A couple of weeks ago, while reading another blog, I saw the recipe (and associated commentary) for Gourmet magazine’s cantaloupe grappa semifreddo, which, according to Thursday Night Smackdown, was “shockingly palatable.”  Mmmm . . . high praise indeed. So I bookmarked the recipe and I waited.  I waited for a ripe melon.

Do you know how to tell a ripe cantaloupe?  I’ve heard that that you can thump on it, or you can shake it.  I’m not sure what either is supposed to accomplish, but I’m going to let you in on a secret.

The BEST way to tell if a cantaloupe melon is ripe is the smell.   Really.  Try it.  Go to the supermarket and pick up a melon and sniff it.  Don’t worry about the people staring – what do they know?

However, I will warn you – if you’re getting your melons at your grocery store, you’re probably going to have to get right up close to them to smell anything much – most mass-produced produce is usually harvest just slightly pre-ripe, and it’s just not the same.

But go to a farmer’s market and try it.  That’s how I found this baby – I was at the public market last weekend, and I walked by a farmer’s stall that had a sign “Home Grown Melons” and I smelled them.  You know the smell – that perfectly ripe, sweet, musky melon scent that just makes your mouth water.  How could I pass it by?

Then, if, say, you get home from the market with roughly a BOATLOAD of vegetables to hide put away before your husband gets home, and it’s a hundred and fifty degrees outside and you go out and work in the garden for a while and forget all about your beautiful melon, you can take care of it first thing in the morning – and be eating delightful FULL freddo that evening!

Take your ripe melon and cut it up – I actually used a spoon.  Just because I could.  You’re going to start with about a pound, or, in my case, almost exactly half the melon.

Guess what I had for breakfast?  (No, not the grappa.  I’m a midwestern Swede, not an 85-year -old Italian bocce player!)

Blend the pound of cantaloupe  (about 2½ cups) with 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup grappa, and add just a pinch of table salt.  We blended the daylights out of this – I don’t want chunks – this is going to be a smooth, creamy dessert.

A smooth, creamy, custardy dessert.  In the top of a double boiler (or a stainless bowl that will get set over a pot of boiling water) whisk in 5 (count ’em – FIVE) egg yolks.   I mixed a couple of the egg whites in some  scrambled eggs for breakfast, and the rest got stuck in the freezer for future egg washes.  Thrifty, that’s me.

The original recipe directs you to to use an electric hand mixer, and, over the double boiler, beat until the melon-egg-grappa mixture is tripled in volume and reaches 170° on an instant-read thermometer, or about 8 minutes.  Rather than  go find drag out the electric mixer, we went the old-school method and decided to just use a whisk.

Um, here’s the thing.  I am old, fat, and out of shape.  And I apparently don’t have as much whisking stamina as I should.

And really, 170°?  We’re not cooking chicken here.  I want my melon to retain some of that fresh-melon flavor, so after about an hour and a half 10 minutes of whisking, we decided that egg yolks at 160° (or thereabouts) are probably safe enough for two reasonably healthy adults.  It’s kind of hard to tell exactly after you, um, drop the thermometer in the sticky cantaloupe-egg goo.  Oops.

Moving on.  We put that bowl into another bowl of ice water to cool down, then into the fridge to wait and continue chilling.  Then I took 3/4 cup of heavy cream and threw the whisk in the sink.

Then we dumped the cream, along with 2 Tablespoons of sugar, and poured them in the workbowl of the stand mixer and whipped the cream until, well, until it was whipped cream.  SO much easier than trying to use a whisk, let me tell you.

And once we have sort-of peaks, which didn’t take long at all, the now cold cantaloupe base got whisked into the whipped cream.

I tried to be a little gentle with it – we just spent all of 45 seconds or so whipping that cream – the last thing I want to do is mash it!  But on the other hand, if I wanted a light and fluffy frozen treat, I’d go get some cotton candy.

Now here is where I slightly diverge from the “semifreddo” path.  Rather than dump the mixture into a loaf pan and let it freeze, I decided to break out the ice cream attachment and make. . . what?  Ice cream?  Sherbet?  Gelato?  Glace?  I don’t know, but something fruity and creamy and churned and frozen, anyway.

So we let the, um, stuff churn until it it was thick and creamy and all clumped together in the bowl of the ice cream freezer, then put it in a container and into the freezer until after dinner.

(I licked the beater, though.)

So. . . how was it, you ask?  How is an ice cream (or something) made from cantaloupe and a type of liquor that has occasionally been likened to paint thinner (or worse)?

Peeps, who doesn’t care for cantaloupe and won’t touch grappa, even to win a bet, thought it was “not horrible.”

I, on the other hand, LOVE IT!  As in, I want to lick my bowl.  I love being able to actually taste the cantaloupe, and I love the just-a-hint of grappa.  And, of course, there’s the cream.  I was a little concerned that the grappa would overwhelm the delicate melon, but it didn’t – the cold mutes the booze just enough to complement the fruity goodness.

A couple of caveats, though.

First, make sure you get a perfectly ripe melon – get something that was picked from someone’s garden yesterday, if at all possible.  A melon that, when you cut into it, you know you’re going to have to wash your hands up to your elbows, because that juice gets EVERYWHERE!  A melon you can smell from the next room.

And second, don’t use low-end grappa.  It will taste like paint thinner, and it’ll ruin your delightful melon and you’ll waste all those heavy-cream calories.

But really – this is amazingly delicious!

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