Other people’s recipes: Joanne Chang’s honey-cinnamon ice cream & Cook’s Illustrated’s rice and lentils

It’s a two-for-one today: first the honey-cinnamon ice cream from Joanne Chang’s first cookbook, Flour (p. 260), and then from this month’s Cook’s Illustrated, it’s “Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions” (pp. 8–9).

Let’s start with the ice cream, which I made first but tried second (since it wasn’t finished freezing last night). Chang describes how a honey-vanilla ice cream turned into honey-cinnamon ice cream when a supplier failed to deliver her vanilla order on time to Rialto, the restaurant which she had her first job as a pastry chef. Since all the desserts were accompanied by ice cream, she had to substitute, and decided to use cinnamon. Other than that one substitution, it’s a fairly standard French-style ice cream, made with half cream and half milk plus lots of egg yolks to form a custard base. The primary sweetener is honey — I used McLure’s orange blossom honey — with a small amount of sugar added, and the cinnamon gives it the sort of understated spiciness for which Chang is known. The custard base is wonderfully smooth after mellowing for 18 hours, and remains silky smooth even after a day’s hardening in the back of the freezer. Behold:
A serving of ice cream in a dessert cup

I’m actually interested in turning this back into a honey-vanilla ice cream, and possibly experimenting with different types of honey to see what sort of flavors are expressed. With a full ¾ cup of honey in the custard, the honey flavor definitely carries through to at least some extent. But I have lots of other things I want to try before I get back to this one! (Ingredient notes: I used High Lawn Farm low-fat milk and Sky Top Farms unhomogenized heavy cream for the dairy, and Country Hen extra-large organic eggs for the egg yolks; the nutrition data below does not take this into account.)

That brings us to the Test Kitchen’s “Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions” with a tangy yogurt sauce — also known as mujaddara or megadarra — a complete-meal vegetarian dish from the Middle East. The Achilles’ Heel of this dish is definitely the crispy onions: although I thought I followed the directions fairly closely, I still ended up with blackened, nearly burnt onions which absorbed nearly half (¾ cup!) of the frying oil. If I made this dish again — and I might well do — I would probably substitute caramelized onions, which add far less fat to the dish and are less finicky. (Or I could just buy crispy onions from the store, but that seems like cheating, particularly to get the equivalent of two pounds of fresh onions!) Nonetheless, I found myself irresistibly drawn to snacking on the onions, to the point where there wasn’t enough left to sprinkle on top as directed, so I just stirred all the onions in.

I made the onions a day ahead, and by the time I actually needed them, they had lost a great deal of their crispness, so I put them in the oven on a parchment sheet at 250°F to drive off some of the remaining water — would that I could do that with the fat! — with reasonably success. Of course, this just made them even more snackable.
Crispy onions, slightly burnt, on a sheet of parchment for reheating

As prepared, the recipe made a little over three pounds — which made Cook’s Illustrated‘s “serves 4 to 6” seem a little silly: as a side dish, it probably serves 8 to 10, and as a vegetarian main dish, 6 to 8. To serve 4, you’d be talking 12 ounces of mujaddara per 900-calorie serving. I’ve used 6 servings for the nutrition computation below (which, note well, also includes an entire cup of canola oil!), but for dinner tonight I had a six-ounce portion (¾ serving) alongside four ounces of store-bought chicken salad. (Portion weights do not include yogurt sauce, measured separately, but the calorie counts do.) This is Sunday’s dinner plate:
A serving of the finished rice-and-lentil dish, with yogurt sauce, on a dinner plate
If I had been less tired, I would have steamed some spinach to add some more green to the plate.


For the ice cream:

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: ½ cup
Servings per container: about 10
Amount per serving
Calories 308 Calories from fat 190
% Daily Value
Total Fat 20g 31%
 Saturated Fat 15g 73%
 Monounsaturated Fat 2g
 Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 235mg 78%
Sodium 93mg 4%
Potassium 28mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 24g 8%
 Dietary fiber 0g
 Sugars 24g
Proteins 4g 8%
Vitamin A 23%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 41%
Iron 3%

For the mujaddara:

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 8 ounces (excluding yogurt sauce)
Servings per container: about 6
Amount per serving
Calories 589 Calories from fat 351
% Daily Value
Total Fat 39g 61%
 Saturated Fat 4g 19%
 Monounsaturated Fat 22g
 Polyunsaturated Fat 11g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 6mg 2%
Sodium 1015mg 42%
Potassium 719mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 16%
 Dietary fiber 15g 59%
 Sugars 11g
Proteins 15g 29%
Vitamin A 4%
Vitamin C 33%
Calcium 13%
Iron 24%
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