- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I need a quick dessert for a small supper party this weekend, and I know exactly what to serve. I’m planning to make an ice cream scrunch. The idea for this dessert came to me from chef Bill Gideon from Gideon’s Restaurant in North Adams, Mass. I met him a few weeks ago when he taped a segment for a local PBS series I host called “On the Menu.”

I’ve been amazed at the creativity and originality of the chefs we’ve interviewed. When Bill arrived for his segment, he announced, “This menu is so easy that it will take home cooks no time at all to make.” That certainly grabbed my attention, and he made good on his word.

He started with mussels sauteed quickly in garlic, tomatoes and white wine, then whipped up a plate of angel-hair pasta topped with scampi flavored with lemon and Parmesan. It was his finale, though, a signature dish at his restaurant, called the “scrunch,” that was my favorite.

The dessert is simplicity itself and takes about 20 minutes to assemble and prepare. The “scrunch” in the title stands for a crunchy sauce made with brown sugar, cinnamon and walnuts.

This trio of ingredients is cooked together for about 5 minutes until the sugar starts to melt and the mixture resembles, in the chef’s own words, “a molten goo.” Then butter and dark rum are added and the mixture is flamed. The result is a rich dark brown sauce flecked with bits of walnut.

The warm sauce, with its slightly burned sugar taste, is then poured over mounds of vanilla ice cream. The minute the sauce comes into contact with the cold orbs, it hardens into a brittle.

I’ve tried this dessert at home several times, making it first with walnuts, then trying almonds and pecans. Each combination was delicious. Now that I have the dessert for my weekend company, I’d better decide on the other courses.

Maybe I’ll make those mussels the entree and add a green salad. A menu that’s fast and delicious is definitely a winning combination for easy entertaining.

Bill Gideon’s ice cream scrunch

½ cup dark rum

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

11/3 cups loosely packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon plus a little extra for sprinkling

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 quart best quality vanilla ice cream, preferably with the vanilla bean seeds in it

4 cinnamon sticks for garnish, optional

Have ready 4 ice cream glasses, wineglasses or bowls and some matches for flaming the rum. Have the rum measured in a measuring cup with a spout and the butter diced.

In a wide-bottomed saucepan or a medium skillet, stir together the sugar, cinnamon and walnuts. Place pan or skillet over medium heat, and stir continuously until the sugar starts to soften and melt, and the mixture resembles “molten goo,” about 5 minutes.

If at any time the mixture starts to burn, reduce the heat to low.

Quickly stir in the butter. Then immediately add the rum, averting your head, as it might ignite. If the rum doesn’t ignite, strike a match and carefully ignite the mixture. Remove the pan from the heat and shake it until the flames die.

Once the flames have gone out, stir the sauce. Don’t worry if there are some little chunks in it.

Mound 2 to 3 scoops of ice cream in each ice cream glass, wineglass, or bowl and spoon some of the sauce over each portion. Add another scoop or two of ice cream to each container and spoon some additional sauce over each serving.

As the warm sauce comes in contact with the cold ice cream, it will harden. Garnish each serving with a pinch of cinnamon and a cinnamon stick, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.




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