Dimanche Repas: Semaine 9
AC, one of the chosen 5 in our Julia group, suggested that we all file our “Field Reports” and forward them to him — which he would then collate and publish, as one unified group, in a blog (I assume) that he will be creating. I cringed. Because his number one guideline was: Keep it brief. Something I have a bit of difficulty with. As you may have noticed, I digress quite easily. I babble, I vent. I make side-comments to my very own comments.
So I promised him that I would provide a summarized report of whatever it is I will babble on in this therapeutic blog of mine. Luckily, he agreed. He probably knew me only too well, to be simply incapable of sticking to the essentials. 🙂 That’s me.
But I promise to cross-post whatever he comes up with — which is truly an interesting read for those of you who are curious to see how we are all faring out in this exercise. It is amazing how one identical recipe can lead to many interpretations, how each of us (usually the guys!) can come up with their own ad-libs on how to reach the same end (with a lot of success, I must say!).
So stay tuned for that and be awed by this incredibly funny cooking group of ours. 🙂
This week’s menu was simple — and pretty much “last-minute” since one of the 5 was still busy vacationing somewhere. It was only on Thursday that I ended up suggesting a simple dish since we had lost track of whose turn it was to choose.
Being the pie-lover that I am, any food that is served with pastry is an instant hit in my books. So I was happy to try out yet another creamy rendition of Fondue de Volaille on ready-made pastry shells.
It’s a pretty easy recipe to follow — except I still managed to overcook my chicken. Maybe because my pan blew up in flames when I poured the Vermouth? Methinks so. I lost a few eye lashes, and burnt some of my bangs — but my daughter still raved about how delicieux it was. I served it with haricot verts sautéed in butter and chopped mortadella.
Along with this, I thought I’d catch up on last week’s recommended dessert: Ile Flottante, or Floating Island for the anglophones. Whew. Now this was quite a challenge. And one that I will remember for the rest of my life because it caused me my first cooking injury.
This dessert called for 3 steps: Making your Meringue, then your Crème Anglaise (Custard Sauce), and finally your Caramel.
The meringue was pretty easy to make — especially when you have your good old reliable table electric mixer to do the work for you. The important thing to mind here is that you don’t over-beat the egg whites — so much so that they lose their “stiff shining peaks.” The other secret that Julia recommended (which I dutifully followed) was to rub your mixer’s bowl with a tablespoon of white vinegar and a teaspoon of salt before pouring in your egg whites. This certainly delivered on its promise of “stabilizing” the egg whites — as mine came out pretty stiff and shiny. I also realized that I didn’t have a straight-sided 4-quart baking dish, 3 inches deep — so I had to cut the recipe in half. After all, I was only serving lunch for 4, so it was really not a problem. It will be one though, if you decide on serving this to at least 8 people — because the meringue takes up a lot of space … rises to almost double its size… before it shrinks down again when left to cool. (Which is why you need all that height on the baking dish.) Here’s my meringue before it went into the oven:
The Crème Anglaise. Deja vu. This is practically the same recipe for the créme brulèe that I made a few weeks back, except the latter uses half the amount of sugar, and, whipping cream instead of milk. No wonder it seemed familiar. This time though, I didn’t use an electric beater — and relied on my wrists and arm muscles to carry me through to the pale-yellow that was my goal. I flavoured it with a tablespoon of cognac — and to me, the sauce was heavenly. It still had those little dotty alien specks of who-knows-what … but it was certainly less than my first attempt at a Crème Anglaise. (I really should repeat that Crème Brulée recipe again!)
The Caramel. This was suicide. If only I had read David Lebovitz’s advise to keep a handy pot of ice water beside you while cooking the caramel — then my finger would not have bubbled from burning it in the 104 degree heat of freakin’ caramel! That was his advise. Now let me add mine: Do not, I repeat, do NOT put your forefinger into the caramel — to test if it is cool. EVEN IF the casserole is set in another bowl of icy water. Believe me. The caramel will take a loooooooong time to cool — so do be patient.
Another advise: Save the caramel till the last minute. Do not try to do it ahead of time, thinking that you can easily reheat it — because I found no help in determining how the heck one reheats caramel. When I tried to reheat mine — they crystallized and became big chunks of sugar crystals. EPIC FAIL, as my daughter would say.
But I served it anyhow — and the sweet sensation was still there to brighten up the custard and the meringue. It still turned out to be a happily-ever-after story, with my daughter being the happiest of all. 🙂
You can bet what I will try to master in the next few weeks: Caramel-making!