Thursday, January 22, 2009

Old Bay Ice Cream Sandwiches

The ice cream sandwich is believed to have been invented in New York City at the turn of the last century. A true American delight, it took the city by storm upon its introduction. There are many articles from the time that praise the discovery, but undoubtedly the best of them comes from the August 19th, 1900 edition of the Washington Post:
The ice cream sandwich is a new hot weather luxury which is rapidly coming into downtown favor. An enterprising hokey-pokey vendor, whose daily station is in John street, is the projector, and his push cart is constantly surrounded by a jostling, sweltering crowd of patrons, representing all social conditions, from banker down to bootblack and newsboy. The inventor takes a graham wafer, deftly plasters it with ice cream, claps another wafer on top, and there is your ice cream sandwich. The cost is trifling, ranging from 2 to 3 cents, according to the size and thickness of the thing. But the man is simply coining money, where he eked out a meager revenue before. He has simply tickled the public's fancy for something new.
While the cost may not be the same, nobody would question the ice cream sandwich's enduring popularity. It serves as a reminder that in America, hard work and a great idea can bring you a world of success, now matter how humble your beginnings.

Around 200 miles south and 40 years later, a new American tradition was born: Old Bay seasoning. A product of the brilliant mind of German immigrant Gustav Brunn, Old Bay has since become a seafood staple, and its delicate balancing of spices makes seafood all the more succulent.

Old Bay hearkens back to a simpler time in America, a time when crabs were so plentiful that bars in Baltimore would serve them for free while you got blotto (now, of course, the only free crabs in Baltimore are the kinds that need to be treated with prescription shampoo). It also symbolizes the opportunity that exists for everyone in America - even if you come from another land, if you're willing to put in the work, you can succeed.

Now that the dust has begun to settle on the historic 2008 election, and with renewed hope that America can begin to restore its reputation on the world stage, we thought that there would be no better way to celebrate this great country's promise than by combining these uniquely American food products. The result: Old Bay ice cream sandwiches.

As we all know, the ice cream sandwich requires two pieces - the ice cream, and the sandwich cookie. The Old Bay ice cream sandwich does not deviate from this traditional form. The ice cream is, as may be expected, is flavored with Old Bay. The sandwich cookie, however, required some thought: in the end, to keep the Old Bay in comfortable surroundings, we decided to sandwich the ice cream in between crab cakes. Should you dare to try this at home, here's one way in which to proceed.

As we were too lazy to deal with a custard type recipe we followed a very basic one procured from our fancy Cuisinart recipe booklet that came with our ice cream maker. It may not be quite as rich and creamy as the alternative, but it's a whole heck of a lot easier and faster! It still produces a delicious ice cream though (and face it, you don't want to go to too much effort for ice cream that may taste like crap).

Bucking with tradition ever so slightly, we opted for a variant on the classic Old Bay spice, called "old bay rub," which is very similar to the original, but among other things it has brown sugar in it. This furthered our hopes that old bay and ice cream would pair beautifully together. And so we begin...

In a medium bowl, we first mixed the milk and sugar with an electric mixer on low.

Once the sugar had dissolved we added the heavy cream. Unsure as to how much Old Bay we needed, we started with two teaspoons...tasted...and added three more.

mmmm....tastes like...celery salt!

Then we added it to our freezer bowl and plopped it in the ice cream machine for a 20 minute whirl. Once it was finished it had a nice soft frozen texture which some prefer, but if you're not one of them you may want to put this stuff in the freezer for at least an hour to firm up some more.

Now for the crab cakes!

We confess, we don't quite remember where we got our crab cake recipe. In the spirit of completion, however, we're going to list all the ingredients in the above picture. Looks like we've got some Ritz crackers, dill, parsley, a can of crab meat (yeah thats right we are cheap, deal with it) green onion, egg, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs and of course, Old Bay rub.

After mixing them with our gangster spatula, we dredged them in flour and fried them up!

fry crabbies fry!

After letting them cool a few minutes so that the ice cream wouldn't melt instantly, we sandwiched a nice scoop full of the Old Bay ice cream between two lovely crab cakes.

mmm...tastes like Maryland

What's the verdict? Sadly, Meg wasn't all that into this ice cream. This may be due to her impassioned aversion to celery salt. Those with more "refined" (or, as she would say, worn down) tastebuds found a happy medium of flavors that definitely tasted of old bay and crab.

We had 4 pints of this stuff, it really would have been smart of us to halve the recipe but we clearly did not think very far ahead. Homemade ice cream does not last more than a week in the freezer so we knew some of this was most likely going to be thrown away.

Our friends Josh and Gabe were the most ardent supporters; others were less enthusiastic. No doubt they were simply not prepared to have their minds blown. We can't fault them for that - we were not quite prepared ourselves.

In conclusion, if you're feeling adventurous and long for the spicy celery flavor of old Baltimore mixed with sweet ice cream, whip up this very unique ice cream sandwich and revel in your bizarre taste buds. Perhaps if you tell your friends it's vanilla they will eat it - hope you have better luck than us!