– Vanilla ice cream
– Ba-da bing
– Ba-da boom
It takes only four, and arguably only two, ingredients to make one of my favorite desserts, affogato al caffe. Italian cooking has a long and illustrious tradition of evocative and hilariously literal food names such as saltimbocca (“jumps in mouth”) and tiramisu (“pick me up”). Affogato hails from the more morbid reaches of culinary nicknamery – you aren’t just pouring coffee over your ice cream, you are drowning, smothering or suffocating it. It means your ice cream sleeps with the fishes. Luca Brasi knowzwhaddamtalkinabout.
The recipe, if pouring espresso over a glass of vanilla ice cream can be called a recipe, is hot and cold, light and dark, sweet and bitter, and a surprisingly impressive and complex payoff for such easy preparation. So if it’s already so simple and elegant, why waste valuable bytes writing about it? POUR COFFEE ON YOUR ICE CREAM! There. Done. Why am I still here? I’ll tell you why: because there’s there no booze in it. Yet.
It was back in college, while I was studying in Italy, that I discovered the Eighth Wonder of the World: a drink called caffe corretto. A caffe corretto is a plain cup of espresso that is “corrected” by the addition of a shot of alcohol, and for a 20-year-old who was (A) constantly sleep-deprived and (B) newly arrived in a country with no real drinking age, that one-two punch of caffeine and alcohol was pretty much the coolest thing in the entire world (narrowly beating out the massive rats in the Arno River).
The first chance I had, I wandered down to order coffee and booze at my neighborhood café, the Giubbe Rosse in Florence’s Piazza della Reppublica. It turns out the Giubbe Rosse is also a local literary landmark: one hundred years ago F.T. Marinetti sat there and wrote a “manifesto of ruinous and incendiary violence, by which we today are founding Futurism.” And why’s that, FT? “Because we want to deliver Italy from its gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antiquaries,” and then he goes on to fetishize all things loud, modern, mechanical and violent for several furiously espresso-fueled pages. By the way I already called dibs on “Gangrene of the Antiquaries” for my next black metal album, so don’t get any ideas. The Futurist Manifesto inspired some very cool painting, strange poetry, bad politics and at least one cookbook, but since most Italian Futurists got what they quite literally asked for and died violently in one World War or the other, even a shameless tourist like myself had no trouble finding a seat at the spot of their heavily caffeinated inception. The waiter brought a cup of espresso and a shotglass of grappa, and I did what comes naturally: combine, drink, repeat, until the manifestos start flowing.
Today, with those caffe correttos as an inspiration, I propose we correct the one glaring omission in the affogato recipe the same way an Italian café would: with liquor. I realize that, percentage-wise, this is a HUGE increase in the number of ingredients. I hope you can bear with me.
Affogato Corretto, Hot:
– Brew the espresso.
o I use an inexpensive stovetop espresso maker, one of those multi-faceted metal Italian things called a moka. Takes 5-10 minutes.
– Fill one shot glass with espresso and one with liquor.
o Grappa is traditional. Liqueurs like amaretto or Frangelico make for a very sweet dessert with little alcohol taste. I tried both bourbon and rum: both have enough alcohol to taste, are relatively sweet, and have a caramel flavor that goes well with the ice cream.
– Pour over vanilla ice cream.
o In a glass, so you can see everything mix.
Now maybe you’re looking at the recipe above and saying, “5-10 minutes? But I want it nooooooow.” And I don’t blame you. If time is money, fleeting, or of-the-essence, or if you just don’t have an espresso maker, then skip the brewing and dump the ground coffee right onto ice cream. The official, cute-unless-you-speak-Italian name for this option is gelato spazzacamino, which means “chimneysweep’s ice cream.” Presumably because the coffee looks like soot, and gelato black-lung-disease was already taken. Enjoy.
Affogato Corretto, Cold:
– Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of ground espresso…
– …over 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream…
– …and top with 1 oz. whiskey.
Marcella Hazan says to use scotch in this recipe; I used bourbon again because the bottle was already down. You may have to take my word for it, but this is better than it sounds and better than it looks. The sweet ice cream and bitter toppings gradually melting together makes a great combination. You really cannot go wrong with either version of affogato corretto. It’s your dessert, your post-prandial coffee and your after dinner drink all rolled into one: a ruthlessly efficient, modern, and, dare I say, Futuristic way to eat dessert.
Which reminds me: twenty five years after banging out his manifesto in the Giubbe Rosse, and obviously running out of things he could attach the word “Futurist” to, Marinetti published, I kid you not, the Futurist Cookbook. Here’s a sample:
“RAW MEAT TORN BY TRUMPET BLASTS”: cut a perfect cube of beef. Pass an electric current through it, then marinate it for twenty-four hours in a mixture of rum, cognac and white vermouth. Remove it from the mixture and serve on a bed of red pepper, black pepper and snow. Each mouthful is to be chewed carefully for one minute, and each mouthful is divided from the next by vehement blasts on the trumpet blown by the eater himself.”
And that’s one of the more appetizing things in the book. La Cucina Futurista seems to be out of print in both English and Italian, but you can see more Futurist recipes here, here and here. The book is mostly batshit crazy, a big surrealist art prank with the occasional Fascist anti-pasta rant thrown in for good measure (all those carbs make Italians bloated and un-warlike). Occasionally though Marinetti’s ideas for making meals into multi-sensory experiences sound an awful lot like the things that set critics drooling over temples of molecular gastronomy like Alinea in Chicago, Bazaar in LA and El Bulli in Barcelona. Mark my words, people: next year you will walk into the hottest new restaurant and they will be handing you a trumpet. Blow vehemently, and you’ll fit right in.