Kordell Stewart's Root Beer Float with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Let me start off by saying that this root beer float recipe is not endorsed by Slash, though I like to think he would enjoy one. The title rather refers to the brand of pop we're going to use. You may choose to substitute with another root beer, but Stewart's is a classic!

Kordell Stewart, or "Slash," as he was dubbed by the late, great Myron Cope, filled a variety of roles for the Steelers between 1995 and 2002, including, but not limited to:

Rookie Fourth String Quarterback

Wide Receiver

Running Back

Starting Quarterback

Fan Favorite/Breakout Star


Sports Radio Punchline/Punching Bag.

Steeler Nation can be fickle and its relationship with Stewart was very hot and cold (then a little warmer, then cold again) as he rose through the ranks, but ultimately fell out of favor with fans. Slash was a breakout player in his rookie season, though not as a quarterback. He made key plays and scores both running and receiving when the Steelers made a playoff run that took them to Super Bowl XXX. In '96, Stewart shuffled back and forth as quarterback, trading off with Mike Tomczak. He also set the record for longest touchdown run by a quarterback during that season - a record that he still holds.  

I think it's also worth noting that my '90s "Slash" pennant still hangs in my childhood bedroom next to the Norm Johnson newspaper poster (not the nicely framed pennant pictured below, but the same design).

By 1997, Slash secured the role of starting quarterback. While he had his share of successes, including touchdown runs and comeback wins, it seemed that they were matched by his number of interceptions thrown. It didn't help his cause that the Steelers would miss the playoffs in '98, '99 and '00 (which they hadn't done since '91). The team was in transition during that stretch with a rotating cast of offensive coordinators and the loss of key players in Greene, Woodson and Thigpen after the '95, '96 and '97 seasons, respectively. It stands to reason that these factors were at the heart of the Steelers' problems in the late '90s, but, while a team's quarterback is often heralded by the fans as its star player, he also commonly becomes the scapegoat when things aren't going well. (There's no "I" in "TEAM," guys!)

Stewart bounced back for a career season in '01 as the Black and Gold fought their way to the playoffs, making it all the way to the AFC Championship game. Stewart was also named to the Pro Bowl and team MVP that season. Sadly, the Steelers fell to New England in the championship game (uh, wasn't that when they were cheating anyway?). Slash would shuffle back and forth again in '02, this time with Tommy Maddox, and then headed out of town to Chicago in '03. He officially retired as a Steeler last May and today we toast to his toughness on and off the field with a root beer float. 

I decided to try some homemade vanilla bean ice cream for the float - perhaps as a tribute to Stewart, because we're not making it an easy win (with store bought ice cream). As I often say, the end result is worth the extra effort. It also seemed fitting to use Martha Stewart's vanilla ice cream recipe. Let's get churning!

Kordell Stewart's Root Beer Float with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Ice Cream recipe (slightly adapted) from Martha Stewart Living

2 vanilla beans
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream

2-4 bottles Stewart's root beer

Slice vanilla beans down the middle and scrape seeds with a spoon into a small bowl. (You can get some extra yardage out of the vanilla beans by storing the seedless-hulls in your sugar jar for yummy vanilla-flavored sugar - great in coffee!) Combine milk and vanilla scrapings in saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover for 20-30 minutes. 

Combine sugar and egg yolks in medium mixing bowl and mix on medium speed with whisk attachment for hand mixer (I don't have one, so I just used a single beater). Remove lid from saucepan and bring milk back to a simmer. Very slowly pour milk into mixing bowl while mixing with beater/whisk on low speed. (You can do this 1/2 cup at a time or straight from the pan in a slow stream, just avoid pouring all at once or the egg may cook rather than being tempered.) Once fully combined, pour back into saucepan over medium heat, making sure that you scoop all of the vanilla seeds from the bottom of the bowl. Stir until the custard lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream.

Pour mixture through strainer into a bowl to catch any egg bits. Chill mixture, covered, in the fridge for 3-4 hours (remember to scrape all of the vanilla seeds into the bowl again). Remove from fridge, place in (chilled) ice cream canister and churn as per machine instructions (mine churned for a little over an hour before it was perfect). Once it reaches a soft serve-like consistency, store in the freezer, covered, for at least 4 hours. 

Pour root beer into 16 oz glasses until 2/3 full. Gently place 2 scoops of ice cream into each glass. Serve with a spoon and straw!

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