Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ode to Pedro Ximenez Sherry ...

Now, you may ask how I’m going to leap from a perfume that dates from 16th c. Spain to Pedro Ximenes Sherry Ice Cream with Prunes with any kind of sense, let alone grace? . Easy. SCENT. Scent is the connection and the inspiration.

Inspiration. I read this during the summer via 18th c. Cuisine. A perfume poet known by ‘cncrocket’ said of Peau d’Espagne cologne:

"This fragrance lingers on everything it touches like a rugged kiss from a cowboy soaked in campfire smoke and saddle leather sweat. It smells like the sexiest man you've ever seen in your life, taking a hot outdoor bath in a tin tub, smeared with sweet shaving lather and dust, steaming on a cold high-desert morning."

British sexologist Havelock Ellis esteemed peau d'espagne as "a highly complex and luxurious perfume, often the favorite scent of sensuous persons" and noted that "it is said by some, probably with a certain degree of truth, that Peau d'Espagne is of all perfumes that which most nearly approaches the odor of a woman's skin..."

Needless to say, I ran to LAFCO in NYC to buy myself a bottle immediately. I mean really, how could I resist (even though this stuff is pricey)?

It is everything they say and not like anything you’ve ever worn, scent-wise. People lean over and ask what you have on… it’s that kind of smell. No one will ever think you bought this at Macy’s perfume counter! It is not for the faint of heart or a rabid devotee of sweet floral-scents. The nice folks at SMN in Florence have been whipping it up for 100 years or so… but then they have been doing everything for centuries in one of the most remarkable stores you will ever visit… it’s the world’s oldest pharmacy!

The origin of the Antica Farmacia goes back to the Dominican friars who in 1221 settled in Florence, but it was officially founded in 1612 .

Many of the Officina’s essences and perfumes are still prepared to a large extent following the formulas studied in 1500 for Caterina de’ Medici. The store was originally a church abounding in frescoes that was donated by the Acciaioli family to the friars in 1335 in recognition of their services.

This same company makes a potpourri that has scented my home for many years. The first time I smelled it I saw Medici palaces when I closed my eyes. Nothing smells like it. And they have been making it for 800 years! It comes in jars like these:

But I digress ( I really did have to share about SMN, the store is that amazing).... all this is a preface to a recipe (it really is connected!) via the musings of a devout sensualist. I mean, think about it. How is the cook, who measures herbs and spices to achieve taste and aroma, that different from a perfumer who adjusts notes and tones to make a fragrance (take care you don’t go too far and end up possessed by scent like Des Esseintes in Huysmans' Against the Grain (À Rebours))?

You see, it's all related. There are tones in perfume, incense and liquor that have a positive, primal effect on me. I love the dusky smells of SMN’s Peau d’Espagne as I love Lagavulin (the secret ingredient of my pot pie). You see, I am crazy for the scent of wood smoke so I’m over the moon for the peaty smokiness of Lagavulin (Johnny Depp, who doesn’t drink, sometimes pours a shot just to inhale in the heady aroma).

I get dizzy with pleasure breathing in the scent of libraries full of old leather books so it would make sense that I would swoon over old vintage port

I love the scent and patina of 18th c. furniture so I find the charm of a 19th c Madiera utterly irresistible. You can absorb history with every glass… the age of the stuff drifts through you like music played on a Stradivarius.

And that gets me to Pedro Ximenez Sherry (bet you thought we’d never get here).

I fell head-over-heels with the stuff thanks to Tertulia de Sabores post on Prunes with the sherry and Earl Gray tea. Double swoon.

A wine review gushes: “The impressive 1927 Pedro Ximenez Solera, from a Solera begun nearly 80 years ago, boasts a dark amber color as well as an extraordinary nose of creme brulee, liquefied nuts, marmalade, and maple syrup. Huge and viscous, yet neither cloyingly sweet nor heavy,” it has a “ wonderful, caramelized texture, {that} evolves into a mature tobacco leaf and cigar box palate, still revealing hints of burnt sugar and tea leaf, with incredible length and purity on the silky finish.”

You get the idea, (how do they write like that?).

So, in homage to the beloved scents of our lives... to things that make you flush with pleasure... to small, private smiles, I give you:

Pedro Ximenez Ice Cream with Prunes.

4 oz prunes

1/3 c P.X. Sherry (you could use cream sherry but the difference would be astronomically huge and just wrong—spend the $20 to get the real deal or wait to make it until you can).

Pinch of 5 spice (or, if you are feeling like an adventurous alchemist, try homemade Garam Masala with rose petals—I’ll give you the recipe if you ask)

1 Earl Gray tea bag (in 1 c of boiling water, let steep 2-3 minutes and remove. Add the prunes and cook 20 minutes on a low flame until prunes are softened. Remove with remaining liquid(only a few tablespoons should be left), add sherry and let this macerate overnight or at least 5 hours.

Take 1/3c sugar and caramelize with 2T water.

1 c cream, warmed. Add to caramel slowly and dissolve any clumps you may have over a low flame. I use Milk Thistle Farm cream...it's amazing.

5 egg yolks, beaten to lemon yellow

Slowly add warm caramel cream to eggs, return to pan and stir till thickened over a low heat (not above 160º). Then add

1 c milk and a pinch of salt.

Puree ½ of the prunes and sherry and add to the mix. Refrigerate the mixture overnight.

Blend in an ice cream maker. When it is almost done, add the rest of the prunes, finely chopped with the accumulated juices and finish blending. Freeze to finish.

Best eaten softly frozen… and with chocolate! Cookies, flourless chocolate cake, whatever appeals… and more sherry, either in a glass or poured over the ice cream. Or, you could make the best chocolate sauce ever:

1/2 c sugar

1 c heavy cream(warmed)

7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 t vanilla

1 T cognac

Melt the sugar till it turns dark amber, add heavy cream slowly taking care to melt any caramel that seizes up. Remove from stove and add chopped chocolate. Stir till smooth and add cognac and vanilla.

Pedro Ximenez on FoodistaPedro Ximenez


Kate at Serendipity said...

"... like a rugged kiss from a cowboy soaked in campfire smoke and saddle leather sweat." Oh, my! MAMMA! I need to find some of this. Florence, eh?

What a wonderful post! This ice cream sounds positively decadent. Thanks for posting the recipe.

Deana Sidney said...

I couldn't resist the description either!!! You can buy it here in the States...hit LAFCO in the text, they are in NYC, but also, some small perfume stores carry it so you can try it. It is always fun calling them to find out where else to get it... how's your Italian?

The ice cream is insane, el Amor Brujo, dark, deep mezzo-soprano gypsy voice wicked!! It is waiting to be photographed... if there is any left to photograph! Oh that I was a better photographer!

Faith said...

This is such a lovely post! Your description of the perfume is fantastic...and I've been looking for a new scent. I've got to check this out!

This ice cream sounds divine...especially with chocolate, like you said! Love at first bite, no doubt. ;)

Deana Sidney said...

Thanks, Faith! The perfume is not for the faint of heart... but the ice cream will cure what ails you!

Darren Purchese said...

Hey, thanks for the comment on our blog the other day. Very kind of you, we are now following you and have added a link to your blog on ours. Have a great day, Burch & Purchese

Deana Sidney said...

Ditto, Burch & Purchese... I look forward to dessert ideas from you guys down under!

Moira - Tertúlia de Sabores said...

Nice text and wonderful recipe :)
Thank you for including me.

Deana Sidney said...

Moira..you have a great site... and I work up a hunger translating your recipes!

Karine said...

Your ice cream sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

Deana Sidney said...

Thanks Karine... it really is delicious! A great compliment coming from a wonderful dessert maker!

Anonymous said...

Wow you really have a wonderful way with words! I was drawn in from the first sentence! :D

Deana Sidney said...

Coming from a master like yourself... I am extremely honored on my 1 month blog anniversary. Thanks so much... your blog has been inspiring for years!

Tres Jolie Studios said...

I love that scent inspired this recipe! How clever and so appropriate.

Tania said...

Very interesting post and delicious ice cream!

Deana Sidney said...

Thanks, Megan...scent is a powerful motivator and very inspiring! Put a bowl of quinces on a table and see if you don't want to make something!

Grazie tanto, Tania. io studio italiano molti anni fa. Cerco di leggere il
vostro lavoro in Italiano!

Gemma said...

Pedro Ximenez is a sweet delicious wine, the ice cream with plums is wonderful.

Brittany (HeCooksSheCooks.net) said...

Fascinating! I would LOVE to smell that fragrance and to try the ice cream inspired by it. Even if I recreated the ice cream, I feel as though I'd have to get my hands on the perfume first.

Deana Sidney said...

Gemma, I love your site, and I translated a recipe from Catalan! The "recepta per la prunes panses" is really good!

Thanks Brittany, you don't have to get the perfume...the sherry is really
good by itself!

Angie said...

amazing article, amazing recipe! I'll be back!

Deana Sidney said...

Thanks, Angie! Great to meet you! Love your baby food articles. I think they would be good for people who can't eat solid food too...

MaryMoh said...

Love your sharing about the perfume. But I'm more interested in the ice cream....looks sooooo good :P Would be perfect about a spicy meal...mmm

Deana Sidney said...

Yes, well, the ice cream is amazing... so is the chocolate sauce that takes about 5 minutes to make. I put it in the fridge and take out a spoon or 2, put it in the microwave for 15 seconds and plop my ice cream on the warm sauce.... I think it would be great after that wonderful salmon dish of yours!!!!!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What an amazing ice cream and lovely blog. I'll return often to see what you have created.

Deana Sidney said...

Thanks Mary... please do...

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Deana, your posts are wonderful and have me wanting to run off and try perfumes like the Peau d’Espagne. I often feel like I belong in another decade so I really enjoy your posts! :D Have a gorgeous weekend!