My husband has just left for a quick visit to his family in the Chicago area. I had lived on both coasts growing up, but I’d had virtually no exposure to the Middle West. At Christmastime in 1971, I visited George’s family. We were not yet engaged, but that happened before New Year’s. During the visit, he took me to a number of the famous Chicago sights, including Marshall Field’s. At that point in my life, I’d shopped at New York, Washington, and Boston’s finest stores, but Marshall Field’s was amazing – especially with its enormous Christmas tree.
In my Christmas stocking that year, my future mother-in-law put some Frango Mints. I looked at them with bewilderment, never having heard of them. The family quickly informed me that they were absolutely wonderful mint-flavored chocolates. It was love at first bite, and in the years since, I’ve never found any as good. In Canada, we have Laura Secord French Mints, but they aren’t quite in the same league. In the restaurants in Marshall Field stores, Frango Mint ice cream pie was served. You could even buy containers of Frango Mint ice cream to enjoy at home. Frango Mint pie is a truly lovely dessert.
Recipes for Frango Mint pie are difficult to find, but I had saved this recipe for an “adaptation” from a 1979 issue of Gourmet. It doesn’t call for Frango Mint ice cream or Frango Mints, but tells you how to make a good equivalent.
Heat 2 1/2 c. of sugar over moderate heat, stirring until it is melted and forms a golden syrup. Add 1/2 lb. filberts (hazelnuts), toasted and skins rubbed off, and cook the mixture, rotating the skillet until nuts are coated with the caramel and the caramel is deep golden. Pour mixture onto lightly oiled marble or metal surface and with an oiled spatula spread the nuts out in one layer. Let mixture cool for 15 minutes or until completely hardened, and break it into pieces. Pulverize the praline in food processor a few pieces at a time to a coarse powder, reserve 1 c. of it, and store remaining praline in an airtight container in a cool place.
In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted and cooled, and pat the mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie tin. Bake the shell in a preheated moderate over (350 degrees) for 10 minutes. Transfer it to a rack and cool.
In a food processor or in bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1/8 teaspoon peppermint oil into 1 quart dark chocolate ice cream softened. Pour ice cream into the shell, smooth the top, and freeze the pie in the freezing compartment of the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until just set. sprinkle the reserved praline over the ice cream, pressing it down gently,and freeze the pie, covered with plastic wrap and foil for at least 1 hour.
This site gives lovely pictures of the old Marshall Field’s, and a recipe for Frango Mint pie given out by the store years ago: http://lostpastremembered.blogspot.com/2010/12/frango-mint-ice-cream-pie-at-marshall.html
Marshall Field’s was bought by Macy’s, but the original Frango Mints can still be bought: http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=201918&PseudoCat=se-xx-xx-xx.esn_results