Kitchen Perfect is Overrated

Close friends came for dinner last night, and the occasion was momentous. This thing called Life recently recently threw them some unexpected twists and turns, and I responded to the news with an impromptu offer of food and drink at casa O'Donnel.

Ice cream is one of their favorites, so I knew a batch of the homemade stuff would be a welcome distraction and perhaps yield a few smiles.

After much deliberation, I decided on flavoring the ice cream with peaches before they disappeared into the culinary sunset until next year. A little basil thrown into the heated cream and allowed to infuse would lend an additional late summer note, I thought.

In spite of my lateness, the custard was moving along nicely and was setting up in the fridge for its churn in the machine. And then I goofed. No, I royally screwed up.

With dinner nearly ready, one pal was interested in watching the ice cream come to life, so I asked her to peel and chop a handful of peaches. As the custard churned, I added the peaches, and never once thought about the texture of the fruit I had just added.

Dinner was served, and we dug into the cucumber/watermelon/basil salad, cashew rice, roasted Anaheim peppers and marinated London broil. We toasted to better days, and everything was delicious. While the ice cream froze up a bit, we played a round of Cranium.

And then the moment of ice cream truth arrived. At first spoonful, I knew of my blunder. The fruit had turned into frozen chunks that protruded like stones. The vanilla-rum base was so creamy, so nice on the tongue, and the fruit, a serious buzz kill, jarring and not as sweet as I had hoped. Sigh.

As I sunk into obsessive misery, the rest of the group was lapping up dessert and didn't really seem to notice the debacle (or, that's what was said to protect my wounded ego). Pride aside, what should I have done to avoid such a disaster? The fruit should have been pureed and strained before going into the ice cream machine. It probably could have benefited from a smidge of sugar, to release its juices. Pureed fruit integrates much more readily than raw chunks, and that is the culinary lesson learned.

But the other and perhaps more significant take-away piece is that at the end of the night, none of these details really mattered. My friends needed comfort and camaraderie, and both of these ingredients were served in abundance.

After all, a perfect meal is one shared with the people you love, regardless of the menu.

What's your idea of a perfect meal? Share your thoughts in the comments area below, or join me at noon ET today, for a live hour of kitchen banter.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 5, 2006; 12:10 PM ET Kitchen Musings
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A perfect meal is one that's shared. Ought to have do-ahead prep, so you aren't rushing around when you'd really like to have a glass of wine with your guests.

And a little fold-over from the names (Savory Bytes...or any other names that include a similar pun)

Posted by: Rita | September 5, 2006 1:34 PM

I always make chicken stock the frugal way my mother taught me: from the leftovers from a roasted chicken dinner including all the bones and the neck and giblets. After having a roasted chicken for dinner, I pick off the remaining meat and save it separately, then put all the bones, drippings and any left over vegetables and potatoes go back in the pot. I may need to heat some water in the roasting pan to get all the drippings. Then I scour the refrigerator for other leftover vegetables that go into the broth like last night's beans, a rubbery celery stick or a carrot. Add a bay leaf, maybe some pepercorns and one onion with the ends cut off but the skin on for color. Cover the whole mess with water and cook until bed time. Then I strain it into a container and leave the pan to soak in the sink until morning.

It makes a nice broth that varies depending on the herbs used to roast the chicken and the available leftovers. Works as a great base for just about anything and wastes nothing.

Posted by: suzie | September 5, 2006 2:17 PM

quelle domage

Posted by: rocking rudy | September 5, 2006 6:32 PM

In today's chat you mentioned homemade ice cream (sans eggs) only lasts a few days. This past weekend I ate cookies and cream ice cream I made on July 30th. It tasted wonderful and delicous, but now I'm wondering...did I do a bad thing?

Posted by: Washington, DC | September 5, 2006 6:55 PM

Add the peaches to the custard and puree with a stick blender before putting it in the machine.

Posted by: Fran | September 8, 2006 11:51 AM

I am trying to find the recipe for Kim's "Lulu cookies" -- help!?!

Posted by: Lynn McLain | September 11, 2006 11:31 AM

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