How did vanilla get such a bad rap? I don't know how it came to mean "bland" or "boring", when done correctly, it is exotic and floral and sweet, rivaling the intensity of chocolate or fruit.
Ice cream, for me, is always best homemade. No grocery store pint can quite replicate the creaminess and richness of freshly churned ice cream. We always made it in the summer -- out on the cool slate stones of the front porch -- in an old-fashioned wooden hand-churned ice cream maker, packed with rock salt. It tastes better once you've put some muscle and sweat into making it.
My mom favors a Sicilian-style gelato recipe from an old Saveur magazine. It's slightly unusual, using an egg yolk in addition to milk and cream. The result is rich and custard-y, but light enough to let your chosen flavor shine. I consider this a perfect vehicle for a serious dousing of quick salted vanilla caramel sauce.
Quick Salted Vanilla Caramel Sauce
1 stick butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt your butter. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously to combine. Add the cream and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer and cook -- whisking constantly -- for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
Serve warm or refrigerate for later. Heat the sauce gently to loosen it before serving.