I once wrote a post on here called Ten Things You Should Never Serve At A Dinner Party that was mildly controversial. Craig’s sister Kristin was offended that I included “boneless, skinless chicken breasts,” so on my next visit to Washington State, she cooked up a Chicken Piccata that really put in me in place.
And now I’m about to put myself in my own place by refuting number ten on that list: sorbet. Here’s what I wrote then: “This is a dinner party, not a cleanse. If you’re feeling lazy, that’s fine, but at the very least, have the decency to serve us ice cream. But sorbet? SORBET? That’s it…I’m leaving.” Wow, I don’t even recognize the person who wrote that… especially now that I’ve made the sorbet that I’m about to tell you about. But first, the context.
It was my friend Marcos’s birthday and I’d sussed out that he’d really enjoy a Bolognese for his birthday dinner. I’d also sussed out that he was up for going out on the town after dinner. So, in my mind, after serving a rich, heavy Bolognese, it didn’t make sense to serve a rich, heavy cake. Which is what led me to sorbet, specifically the Campari and grapefruit sorbet in Ottolenghi’s wonderful new dessert cookbook, Sweet.
That’s Marcos with his friend Katherine Spiers, the food editor at L.A. Weekly, who I was excited to meet and cook for on this lovely Friday evening. First, I served them a salad of endive and fennel dressed with a Medjool date/anchovy dressing from that Nancy Silverton cookbook I was raving about in the Frito Pie post.
And here’s my Rigatoni Bolognese up close, Marcella’s recipe of course.
So you can see why, after such a heavy, rib-sticking entree, I’d want to go for sorbet. And what a sorbet this is! The key ingredient is my favorite cocktail ingredient (I’m a Negroni man): Campari.
The qualities that I love about Campari are the same qualities that I love in most people: it’s very bitter and very sweet. Here, it does two major things: (1) it gives the sorbet a sharp, bitter edge that makes it a zillion times more sophisticated and complex than any sorbet you’ve had before; (2) the alcohol keeps the sorbet soft and scoopable.
My only twist here to Ottolenghi’s recipe is that I used blood oranges instead of regular oranges. The supermarket had them and I figured the bright red color and the unique blood orange flavor would contribute something unique; but if you can only find regular oranges, that’s fine too. Make sure to use ruby red grapefruits, though, that’s important.
This whole thing is really easy, as long as you have an ice cream maker. I’m even going to give you the recipe, so listen up. Combine 2 cups freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice in a bowl. Pour one cup of that into a small saucepan with one cup of granulated sugar.
Heat over low heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Set it all aside for ten minutes and then pour in the remaining juice, 1/3 cup of Campari, stir, cover, and chill for at least an hour in the fridge.
When the liquid is cold to the touch, get out your ice cream maker and pour in the Campari mixture and start churning. It takes about twenty minutes… Ottolenghi says you’ll know it’s done when “soft waves form.”
Then you just transfer that to a container, cover with plastic wrap, and pop into the freezer until it’s time to serve.
I froze little cocktail coupes to serve the sorbet in, which was extra cute, if I do say so myself.
Ottolenghi says you can pour extra Campari on top, but this really doesn’t need it (especially if you’ve already had a bunch of wine). But I absolutely loved this sorbet and so did everyone else. Not only is it refreshing, it’s explosively flavorful.
So if I could go back in time and change history, I’d print out this post and hand it to my older self moments before writing “Ten Things You Should Never Serve At A Dinner Party.” Imagine what kind of world we’d be living in today if only such a thing were possible.