The Best Crunchy Ice Cream Topping Is From Last Night's Tempura Dinner

One of the ways to elevate a dish is to layer flavors by adding a contrasting texture, temperature, or taste. It's why popcorn and M&Ms are delicious at the movies and why chicken and waffles are irresistible together. The combination of salty, crunchy fried chicken and sweet, tender waffles has been served for over one hundred years and is a mainstay on brunch menus where diners struggle to decide between sweet and savory.

As a flavor enhancer, salt is an invaluable ingredient in the kitchen. It's why grandma sprinkled a little salt on fruit growing up, dessert recipes add salt to batters, sea salt is showing up on cookies and candies, and the combination of prosciutto and melon works so well. When salt and sugar combine, we have a positive biological response, which is why salty toppings work well with ice cream.

While a scoop of vanilla ice cream is a welcome addition to any meal, serving it over a warm brownie, mixing in salty pretzels or nuts, or topping it with sprinkles will infinitely improve the dessert. Chef Stephanie Izard, winner of Bravo's "Top Chef" in 2008 and owner of several restaurants in Chicago and Los Angeles, including "Girl & the Goat," has a new food combination that elevates the frozen dessert to the next level and should definitely appear in your next sundae bar.

Tempura Bits

Steve Herrell is credited with creating the type of ice cream we take for granted now. The Massachusetts ice cream maker was the first to combine ice cream with cookies and candy, introducing the industry and the world to "Smoosh-ins." Flavors like cookies 'n' cream and Heath Bar crunch are now represented in every ice cream parlor and freezer display case in America. His "Smoosh-in" concept was taken nationally by the familiar chain Cold Stone Creamery, while "Herrell's" still sits in Northampton, MA.

Today's ice cream toppings run the gambit with cookies, brownies, candy, nuts, and fruit, complementing the creaminess of ice cream with a contrasting texture. As strange food combinations go, Stephanie Izard's ice cream topping isn't that weird. Per Food & Wine, she places leftover tempura batter in a squeeze bottle and fries it in hot oil to make little nuggets that she coats in sugar to make a crunchy, sweet topping.

Tempura is a traditional Japanese dish that batters and deep fries vegetables and fish until golden brown. Tempura batter is light and airy, made with flour, egg yolks, and water. Low-gluten flour, like cake, or gluten-free flour, like rice, is used to create a light coating. To keep tempura light, it's essential to drain as much of the frying oil from the batter as possible to avoid a soggy, oily dish. A meal of tempura shrimp and sweet potatoes followed by a tempura ice cream sundae sounds like the makings for a great evening.