In the Kitchen: Pistachio Semifreddo

I'm always on the hunt for a specific type of recipe to add to my culinary repertoire. They're almost mythical, they're so rare- those recipes that are both exceptionally delicious and a snap to make.  Recipes that you can bring out on any occasion and reliably expect oohs and aahs (and requests that you make it again and again).  When I find one, I tend to hoard it for my very own, but this one is just too good to keep under wraps. Prepare yourselves for epic deliciousness, friends.

 You can't wait to eat this.

You can't wait to eat this.

Pistachio Semifreddo with Dark Chocolate Sauce

Adapted from Gourmet, January 2007

Ingredients

For semifreddo:

  • 1 1/2 cups shelled salted pistachios (6 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large egg whites 
  • 2 cups chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For chocolate sauce:

  • about 1/2 cup good dark chocolate, chopped
  • about 1 Tbsp salted butter

Special Equipment

  • 10" springform pan, lined with waxed paper (any 2 quart high-sided pan will do, but I like the springform for ease of serving)

Directions

For semifreddo:

Pulse 1 cup pistachios with 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until very finely ground.  Empty this mixture into a bowl and add remaining 1/2 cup pistachios to the food processor, pulsing until just coarsely ground.  Reserve coarsely ground nuts for serving later.

Beat egg whites* in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, then increase speed to high and beat until meringue just holds stiff, glossy peaks.

Beat cream with almond extract in a wide bowl with mixer at high speed until it just holds soft peaks.

Fold meringue into cream gently but thoroughly, then fold in finely ground nut and sugar mixture in same manner.  Spoon the cream/meringue mixture into the springform pan and freeze, covered, until firm enough to slice, at least 4 hours (you can make this a day ahead and freeze if overnight.  See?  Easy.).  Let the semifreddo soften slightly before serving.

*Please keep in mind that the egg whites in this dish are not cooked.  If you have concerns about the safety of raw egg whites, you can try using pasteurized eggs in the recipe, or adapt the recipe to use a swiss meringue, in which the sugar and eggs are combined together and heated before beating (make sure to let the meringue cool before incorporating with the rest of the ingredients).  The semifreddo may be slightly denser when using this method.

For chocolate sauce:

Once you are ready to serve, and after you have pulled the semifreddo from the freezer to let it soften, melt the chopped chocolate with butter in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the butter is incorporated. Let cool for a few minutes.

To serve:

Slice the semifreddo into wedges and top with drizzled chocolate sauce and the roughly chopped nuts.  The chocolate sauce will harden pleasantly (like Magic Shell!  But fancy), and, with the nuts, provides the perfect textural contrast to the fluffy semifreddo.  Enjoy!