Cooling off with Szechuan peppercorn and salted cookie ice cream sandwiches, from L.A.’s A Frame restaurant
A few months ago I wrote a about A Frame, one of my favorite Los Angeles restaurants, for The Boston Globe. You can check out the full story here. The restaurant is housed in a converted IHOP (hence the name), but you would never know it from the hip makeover. I love the laid back Hawaiian feel of the place, it reminds of my time in Oahu, but nestled on the side of a busy highway in Culver City it feels distinctly L.A.
The chef behind A-Frame is Roy Choi, the CIA Valedictorian, turned taco truck superstar, turned restaurateur. I had a great time interviewing him and learning about his eclectic food.
Choi’s food has been described as high-end stoner food, and Asian-fusion picnic. He blends his Korean heritage with the many flavors of L.A. neighborhoods to produce his unique cooking style. In the Times Magazine last week Sam Sifton described Choi as “the creative force behind a handful of Los Angeles restaurants that celebrate various iterations of big-flavor cooking at the intersection of skater, stoner, lowrider and Korean college-kid desire.”
Whatever you call Choi and his pot-fueled kitchen wizardry, the dishes coming out of his restaurants are crazy delicious.
Flavor bomb, after flavor bomb.
This furkikake popcorn is the only way to start a meal at A-Frame. I make a lazy man’s version at home by mixing together store bought kettle corn and corn pops, and dousing it with melted butter and healthy shake of furikake (a seaweed and sesame seasoning blend you can find at Asian markets), I also throw in a pinch of cayenne for a little kick.
Eating Roy Choi’s food makes me want to pickle everything. I toss my onions with sugar and salt before I throw them into salads, and I made my first batch of quick refrigerator pickles the other day, but the possibilities are endless.
Choi’s food isn’t exactly light, but he has found a beautiful way to cut through the richness, and balance the layers of flavor in his pork-filled rice bowls, and his fried chicken with all kinds of deliciously briney fruits and veg.
Who here makes beer can chicken?
I love beer can chicken. It’s one of my faves. Except all I do is rub some spices and salt on the bird, stick it over a beer can on a hot grill, close the lid, and come back to see if it’s done in an hour.
At A Frame they beer brine it, rub it with a spice blend, braise it, and then deep fry it and serve it along with creamy, spicy, Peruvian style sauces.
I’m tired of cooking just thinking about it.
But that’s why I devour it at A frame and not at home. And why I dream about when I’m back here in Boston.
Speaking of Boston, and things to make at home…
It is approximately 1 KABILLION degrees in Boston today, but luckily I adapted A-frame’s recipe for Szechuan peppercorn ice cream and salted chocolate cookies, so you can make yourself a tasty treat to cool off!
Seriously, if you have an ice cream maker, you have to try this recipe. It’s so chocolately, sweet and salty, and leaves a slightly tingly feeling on your tongue from the Szechuan peppercorns.
And it’s insanely delicious.
The inventor of this genius recipe is Beth Kellerhals, the pastry chef at A-Frame, and here is what she had to say about it.
“Whenever my chocolate craving has an identity crisis I reach for this recipe. Do I want a brownie? A cookie? A new puppy? Luckily I don’t have to decide. The dense, dark chocolate fudgy goodness reminds me of a brownie; the chewy middle and crisp, crackled edge yells cookie. A little sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and it’s the perfect vehicle for getting the Szechuan black pepper ice cream into my mouth. A new puppy? This recipe is way easier.”Amen, sister.Stay cool my friends!Salted chocolate cookiesMakes 12 large cookies
3½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped 1 tablespoon butter 1½ cups flour ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1½ teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 1 ounce milk chocolate, chopped 1½ cups sugar ¼ cup vegetable oil 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3 eggs Sea salt (for sprinkling)
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a saucepan, melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter, stirring often. When it is almost melted, turn off the heat and let the remaining chocolate melt in the heat of the pan.
3. In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and chopped milk chocolate to blend them.
4. In another bowl with a wooden spoon, stir together the sugar and oil. The mixture will be dry. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
5. Stir in the cocoa mixture in 3 additions until well combined. The mixture will thicken as you work, so this will take some muscle.
6. Spoon the batter in 3-tablespoon mounds (slightly bigger than golf balls) onto the baking sheets. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
7. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until the tops crack and are just firm to the touch when pressed with a fingertip (they will harden as they cool). Immediately, slide the parchment paper with the cookies onto wire racks to cool.
Catherine Smart. Adapted from A-Frame
Szechuan pepper ice cream
Makes 1 quart ice cream
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns, ground in a spice blender or crushed with a mortar and pestle.
4 egg yolks
1. In a medium saucepan combine cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and crushed peppercorns over medium heat, stirring frequently. When it comes to a gentle simmer, remove from heat.
2. Meanwhile, separate the eggs and transfer yolks to a small bowl, discard whites or reserve for another use.
3. Whisk 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, and whisk the tempered eggs back into the cream mixture.
4. Pour the ice cream base through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, or overnight.
5. Transfer ice cream base to prepared ice-cream maker and churn until frozen.
6. Top 6 cookies with about 1/2 cup of ice cream and press another cookie on top to make a sandwich. Return to freezer for at least 1 hour before serving. Wrap cookies with plastic wrap if you plan to store them for more than a few hours.
Catherine Smart adapted from A-Frame