I can never remember not having a junk drawer in my life – double negative aside, it’s true. We moved around a few times when I was young, but there was always a junk drawer on the premises. And now that I operate my own premises, I insist on curating my very own junk drawer.
The thing about junk drawers is that they are commonly known to contain, well, junk (duh). But I learned early on that they’re actually a veritable gold mine of available castoffs just waiting for one to claim as their own.
When you’re little, it’s the possibility that Dad may have emptied his pocket change into the drawer, or Mom may have dumped off one of her pretty pink lipsticks. That’s a free of charge motherload right there! Yours for the taking, my friend!
Later on, it’s some rockin’ RIT die for coloring up your cutoffs, or -heaven’s to murgatroyd- the keys to ye olde wood-paneled station wagon! Best call everybody – there’s a party happening down at the skate park and you’re driving!
And now that you’re an adult, it’s still cool to find some car keys in the junk drawer, it’s just that they’re the ones that you’ve been hunting for 3 hours because you forgot that you carefully threw into the junk drawer when you came home saddled with 67 pounds of groceries.
Also office supplies. It’s always cool to find a fresh highlighter or Post-it Pad in the junk drawer.
While I still keep my junk drawer up and running, my pantry operates in a very similar fashion: it slowly collects the cast offs, remnants and also-rans of my busy kitchen. So I’ve made it a personal policy to occasionally force myself to go through my junky pantry and use up the tiny bits of what have you and this and that in a manner befitting their original state of deliciousness.
Today, this means ice cream. Because it’s 1,048 degrees Fahrenheit outside and I’m a firm believer that if you have the right base, you can, and should throw anything into your ice cream and it’s only going to get better.
Which leads us to this Junk Drawer Ice Cream.
The truly glorious thing is that, even though your pantry junk may not exactly match my pantry junk, you can stick to the general proportions and still achieve ice cream greatness; a half cup of crunch, a half cup of something chocolatey, some kind of caramel sauce – you get the idea.
And look at you! You’re cleaning and feasting at the same time! Doesn’t it feel good? Almost as good as feeling the wind through your hair as you take ye olde wood-paneled station wagon out for an illicit midnight spin with your friendly compatriots? Well, almost…
Junk Drawer Ice Cream
3 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. whole milk
3/4 c. white sugar, granulated
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. pecans, chopped, toasted (As I mentioned above, the mix-ins included in this recipe are flexible, although I would attempt to stick with the general proportion of crunch vs. chocolate vs. caramel vs. etc. You can, for example, substitute a butterscotch sauce for the cajeta, cashews for the pecans, and chopped chocolate for the mini chips. Clean out your pantry and craft your deliciousness!)
1/2 c. cajeta
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
Chef’s Note: You will need an ice cream maker to make this ice cream. I used the ice cream attachment to my standard KitchenAid mixer. This attachment has a two-quart capacity and it was filled to the brim once the ice cream was completed.
Bring the heavy cream, milk, sugar and salt to a boil in a large sauce pan. Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and, once the cream mixture is boiling, whisk half of it into the yolks. Adjust the temperature under the remaining cream mixture down to low, whisk in the cream and yolks, and continue to cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, approximately 5 more minutes. Remove the cooked mixture from heat and pass it through a fine mesh sieve. Set the custard aside in the freezer to chill.
Once your custard has chilled through, put it into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. My KitchenAid attachment required a churn time of 20-30 minutes and produced a soft serve-style ice cream. Note that the point at which you choose to add your mix-ins will affect the nature of your finished ice cream. For example, I opted to add my cajeta at the beginning of the churning process because I wanted the entire ice cream to have a caramel flavor. If I had added it at the end of the process, the cajeta would likely have been frozen into solid threads throughout the ice cream. I added the rest of my mix-ins at the end of the churning process (20 minutes in my machine’s case) and added the peanut butter in teaspoonfuls. Once fully churned, remove the ice cream and freeze overnight before serving.
YIELD: approximately 2 quarts