Eventually I figured out that the key is to boil off the alcohol, which also intensifies the flavor as the wine is reduced. I was a little worried that it might become grape-y, so I added a little spice -- a few cinnamon sticks, some pepper, and vanilla. Weird, right?
And yet it worked! (And my house smelled great while it was simmering).
I'm so excited about how this came out. It actually tastes like wine, but with a depth of flavor that makes you pause as it melts over your tongue. You know it's wine, but it's also ice cream, and then there are all these other subtle fruit and spice flavors dancing on the margins. A very sophisticated dish and perfect for a grown-up summer party.
Here's the recipe:
2 bottles cabernet sauvignon (though I imagine a shiraz would also be really good)
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
(you may also want to add other mulling spices like cardamon and clove)
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
9 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Pour wine into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add cinnamon sticks and peppercorns (plus other spices -- but the wine should be the main flavor, otherwise the ice cream, while still good, becomes less about the wine and more about the spice). Simmer until the wine is reduced to 1 cup, anywhere from 1 - 2 hours.
Depending on how fast your wine is reducing, about half-way into the reduction, bring the milk, cream and half of the sugar to a boil in a large pan and turn off heat.
In a bowl, whisk together yolks and remaining sugar. Temper the yolks into the boiling milk by gradually whisking about 1 cup of warm milk into the yolks and adding this slowly back into the pot with the remaining milk. Stir in the salt and the vanilla. Whisk in the reduced wine. Set pan over a bowl full of ice to cool.
Pour the chilled ice cream liquid through a fine mesh strainer and then into an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Freeze at least 2 hours before serving.
Yes, technically I "won" the challenge (the vote was 5-2 in favor of my dish, just in case you were wondering). But really, doesn't everyone win when there's ice cream involved?