It's warming up! In New England, that means the hens are laying again. They quit when it gets too dark in the winter. You would, too.
All those eggs means it's also time for gelato. Break out that ice cream maker!
Despite its incredible richness, gelato is a cream-less ice cream, favored in Italy but found just about everywhere these days. All that richness? Egg yolks. Lots of egg yolks.
Unfortunately, North American milk production results in less cream (or fat) in the milk. (No, the whole milk in the carton is not how it comes out of the cow. It's richer au naturel.) Italian whole milk runs over 5% cream; ours, somewhere around 4.2%. So to get the right texture, we have to add a little cream. Cheat, as it were.
Here's a gelato fashioned on the famous Italian dessert: zabaglione, made with eggs and Marsala wine. Zabaglione is crying out to be morphed into gelato, don't you think?
You'll also want to start practicing your gelato technique now to be in good shape for the summer. You'd hate to come up short when your friends are watching.
First, beat 6 large, room temperature egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until creamy and thick, about 5 minutes, maybe even a little more.
It's important that those egg yolks be at room temperature for the right loft. Break them into the bowl and set the bowl on the counter for 20 minutes before you start.
Beat in 3 tablespoons Marsala. We prefer a rubino or a fine marsala, one with a little more body than perhaps the standard stuff used for cooking in the United States.
Set the beaten stuff aside and heat 2 1/4 cups whole milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles fizz around the pan's perimeter.
With the mixer at medium speed, beat half the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture until smooth; then beat this combined mixture into the remaining milk mixture in the saucepan until smooth.
Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until somewhat thickened, until it can coat the back of a wooden spoon when you dip it in and run your finger along the back of the spoon, from 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the weight of your pot, the ambient temperature of ingredients, and other factors. The line you make should stay solid even when you tip the spoon this way and that. If you want to get obsessive, the custard should be at 170F. Use an instant-read thermometer and stir like mad over very low heat once the mixture reaches the upper 160s.
Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve and into a large bowl; cover and chill for at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours. Then freeze it in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Afterwards, scoop it into a bowl and let it firm up by setting it on the floor of your freezer for an hour or so.
We didn't do that last. We scooped it out of the machine and had at it. Summer's here!