Whenever my husband and I go to Han Dynasty, one of our favorite local restaurants, we always delight in an array of fiery noodles and meats all soaking in incarnadine slicks of chili oil, but there's no closer, unfortunately - save the requisite fortune cookies that come with the bill. I searched around and came up with the perfect dessert to cap a delicious Sichuanese meal: Peppercorn ice cream, adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe. If you don't have Sichuan peppercorns on hand, just up the black peppercorn quantity a bit (or experiment with other peppercorns!). It makes for a dreamy scoop...decadently rich and piquant. Enjoy!
Peppercorn Ice Cream
Makes about 2 cups
*1/2 cup whole milk
*1/3 cup sugar
*1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely cracked
*1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely cracked
*1 cup heavy cream, divided
*3 large egg yolks
Warm the milk, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and half of the cream in a saucepan. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for about 45 minutes to an hour, and then strain out the peppercorns. Rewarm it over medium heat. Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/2 cup cream into a good-sized bowl set in an ice bath and put a mesh strainer on top. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then pour it all back into the saucepan.
Stir constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the utensil. Just make sure the mixture doesn't boil! When it's done, pour the custard through the strainer, into the cream. Stir the mixture over the ice bath until it is cool.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze it in your ice cream maker for about 15-18 minutes or until properly frozen. Working with a smaller amount such as this, it usually takes less time to freeze than the manufacturer states. Pop it in an appropriate container to ripen in the freezer for at least an hour or two longer.