I can't begin to count the number of dinner parties I've had that have ended with ice cream as dessert. As much as I love to bake a pie or a cake or whip up something brûléed, sometimes the only way I can make a dinner party manageable on a busy schedule is to serve scoops of high-quality, store-bought ice cream for dessert. And so far, no one's complained!
The rules for serving ice cream at a dinner party are simple:
• Buy quality ice cream
• Remove it from the freezer to the refrigerator about half way through the meal, when you are changing courses or getting another bottle of wine. This will assure you that the ice cream is at a perfect temperature.
• Top it with something special or...
• Pass something special with it such as warm Recchuiti's Burnt Caramel Sauce, or some sablés, or a really nice chocolate bar. Or fresh strawberries macerated in sugar and elderflower liquor. Or rhubarb poached in vanilla.
• Be sure to have a sorbet on hand for non-dairy folks.
At a more informal party, you can offer more than one flavor and scoop the ice cream at the table, taking orders and passing the bowls down. For a more formal party, I usually stay with the elegant simplicity of vanilla and scoop it in the kitchen, having enlisted a friend to pass.
Of course, if you have your heart set on having a homemade dessert, you can always make your ice cream a few days in advance. Indeed, with many ice cream makers you will need a significant time to freeze the ice cream for a firmer consistency. It's also a good idea to keep a few pints of quality ice cream in the freezer (provided you're good at resisting temptation!) for last minute emergencies and impromptu gatherings.
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(Image: Faith Durand)