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Okonomiyaki. It’s a mouthful. A delicious mouthful.
I’d never heard of okonomiyaki until I had it at a local Izakaya, a Japanese type of tapas bar. In fact, I didn’t know the Japanese even had tapas, but once I tried some of these delectable treats it made the average sushi joint seem a little wanting.
Okonomiyaki is popular street food in Japan. Some describe it as “Japanese pizza” but it’s more like a savory pancake filled with a variety of ingredients. Okonomi means “what you like” in Japanese and yaki means “grilled” or “cooked”. Okonomiyaki is largely associated with the Kansai and Hiroshima areas in Japan, but is popular throughout the country. The toppings and batters vary from region to region. In Osaka, Okonomiyaki are often made from a batter of flour, grated yam, and cabbage, and cooked on special hotplates called teppan. They are then topped with a sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker, mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, and pickled ginger.
In Hiroshima, the ingredients are not mixed together but layered, consisting of items such as pork, squid and sometimes cheese. Noodles are also common, and topped with a fried egg. The amount of cabbage used in Hiroshima okonomiyaki is considerably larger than that used in Osaka.
It had been awhile since I had tasted this little pancake, and I was suddenly craving one like crazy. I decided that it was time to figure out how to make it myself; then I could have okonomiyaki anytime I wanted–and I wouldn’t have to share.
I immediately decided that I wouldn’t make them with cabbage, but with zucchini. I don’t always do well with cabbage, and after all, okonomi does mean “what you like”. I decided I liked zucchini.I was going to make them with a batter, and even had one mixed, when I decided to go with a similar method used by Heidi Swanson on her blog 101 Cookbooks and simply combined flour with the zucchini. I wanted my okonomiyaki to be mostly vegetables, without any dough-like flavor or texture. I grated the zucchini and squeezed out the excess water, added a couple of eggs, and some flour and panko breadcrumbs for binding. I also decided to add a lot of green onions (scallions) for what is often referred to as negiyaki, similar to Korean pah jeon or Chinese green onion pancakes. Finally, chopped shrimp was ultimately what gave these such depth of flavor. I don’t know if a Japanese person would consider my concoction truly okonomiyaki, but they did the trick for me.
Now that I have okonomiyaki figured out, I can tell you that they’re going to be a staple at my lunch table. Sprinkle them with bits of nori (Japanese seaweed) and don’t forget to drizzle them with mayonnaise, which makes the more delicious.
Okonomiyaki – Savory Japanese Pancakes
3 cups grated zucchini
3-4 green onions, chopped thin
1 cup chopped shrimp or prawns
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons nori (seaweed flakes)
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
chopped nori, green onion, and mayo for garnish
1) Grate the zucchini and squeeze out extra water by the handful. In a large bowl, combine it with the rest of the items until a dough-like consistency is reached.
2) Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Scoop large spoonfulls of the mixture into the skillet and press down with a spatula until very thin. They should be as thin as possible without falling apart.
3) Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until deeply golden brown and carefully slide onto a plate. Garnish with mayonnaise, nori and onions, and serve immediately.
Baking, I’m starting to realize, is a lot like good looks. Either you have it or you don’t. In fact, when it comes to baking, it’s all about the pretty. Who amongst us hasn’t whipped up a cake that tasted scrumptious but was a little lopsided? Or made a tart that shrank coyly away from its shell, leaving an uneven, unfillable mess. If you haven’t, then you are a talent, indeed. But if I struggle with anything in the kitchen, it’s baking.
Some people are naturals, others need a little extra help. There’s a reason most French women would never dream of doing their own baking, besides the fact that in France the accessibility of excellent bakeries can make it seem pointless. The fact is, baking is hard.
Most of the time, my creations fall short of my vision for them. Yet sometimes a recipe comes along that is simple, requires no complicated techniques or ingredients, yet turns out beautifully enough to make you look like a baking rock star. I feel like that about these little chocolate cakes. Served up individually, there are no worries about lopsidedness. Topped with a rich chocolate glaze, there’s no chance of crumbs marring the icing. If you have some little brioche tins kicking around to bake them in, even better–for they will look unbearably elegant just topped with a sprinkling of icing sugar and and a few raspberries on the side.
Does the applesauce in this seem strange? The fruit taste in this is so subtle; what the applesauce really does is give the cakes an easy slicing texture and a moisture that keeps them fresh for days. Adding applesauce can also be a great way to reduce sugar or fat in baked goods, if that’s your thing.
This recipe is adapted from two recipes: Anna Olson’s “Applesauce Coffee Cake” and “Chocolate Applesauce Cakes”, both from her wonderful book Another Cup of Sugar.
Chocolate Applesauce Cakes
1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (125 ml) sugar
1/3 cup (75 ml) light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup (250 ml) unsweetened applesauce
1 2/3 cup (400 ml) pastry flour
1/2 cup (125 ml) Dutch process cocoa
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla
1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (4 ml) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground ginger
1) Preheat oven to 325F (160C). Grease 6 brioche tins or large muffin cups.
2) Whisk vegetable oil, both sugars, whole egg, egg yolk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in applesauce.
3) In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and ginger. Incorporate cocoa and stir gently into applesauce mixture.
4) Spoon batter into prepared tins and bake for 18-20 minutes, until cakes spring back when pressed. Allow cakes to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
5) Just before serving, drizzle with chocolate glaze. Se
1/2 cup (125 ml) whipping cream
6 ounces (175 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (60 ml) unsalted butter, room temperature
1) Heat cream to just below a simmer and pour over chopped chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then stir to smooth out. Stir in butter to melt and thicken glaze. Pour over top of cakes and allow to drip down the sides.
It was my honor yesterday to receive this little award from one of my favorite bloggers, Deborah from Love and a Licked Spoon. If you haven’t checked out her site, hurry over there right now. Deborah is a food writer and editor who writes beautifully and always comes up with something scrumptious to share with her readers. Her passion for food and life is infectious. Deborah started her food blog at around the same time that I started mine. She has always been very encouraging, commenting on all of my posts along the way. When you are just starting out in the blogging world, it is heart-warming to know that there are people out there that like what you’re doing, that come visit your site more than once, and take the time to make kind comments. It gives one the fortitude to keep going on days you wonder what the hell you’re doing this for.
When you receive the Kreativ Blogger Award, you are to nominate seven bloggers that you admire and pass the award on. Mine are:
Rachael at La Fuji Mama for her energy and enthusiasm in the kitchen. She is a busy mom to two beautiful little girls but still finds the time to blog on an almost daily basis and cook the most amazing, complicated feasts. I mean, this woman makes her own tofu!
Shari at Whisk: A Food Blog is an inspiration with her blog. She has put an astounding amount of energy into it, compiling an online cooking companion to Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Shari is cooking her way through the Cordon Bleu curriculum. Her recipes and photos are both delicious.
Hélène at La Cuisine d’Hélène for her beautiful photography and exquisite taste. Every time I read her blog I want to run to the kitchen and try my hand at whatever she has posted.
Julia at Mélanger because she is so inspiring with her baking. The sun came pouring out of the heavens on the day I discovered her blog. The photography on her blog is stunning.
Julie at Dinner with Julie because she continually amazes me. She works, manages a family, writes books, cooks up a storm, and blogs pretty much on a daily basis. I don’t know where she finds all that energy. Lucky for us.
Adrienne at Gastroanthroplogy for all her interesting posts from her travels. She is a pastry chef who is currently working on her Master’s in Food Policy. She knows everything there is to know about food and always posts the most delicious recipes.
Kamran at The Sophisticated Gourmet is an inspiration with his beautiful blog and wonderful photography, which are made all the more amazing because this guy is only seventeen! That in no way is meant to sound condescending. I think I’m doing fairly okay but I was the biggest twit when I was seventeen. We can only imagine what great things are in store for Kamran.
Once we have nominated whom we want to pass the award on to, we have to come up with seven interesting facts about ourselves:
1) I am a fiction writer. I started writing about food only a few months ago but I have been writing fiction all my life. I have a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and have been working on the Great Canadian Novel for longer than I want to admit. One day I will finish it. I have written poetry, scripts and memoir as well.
2) My family is from the former Yugoslavia and I have visited there thirteen times. We were there when the war between Serbia and Croatia was breaking out and had to make our escape. Most of my fiction is based on my upbringing and the people and experiences there.
3) I studied Art History in Florence. In Italian. I spent a summer semester immersing myself in Italian language and culture; it still stands out as the best experience of my life. I was not able to keep up the Italian. I can barely speak a lick of it now, although at one time I actually knew it quite well.
4) I’m a book-a-holic. Sometimes I read one book a day. I always read at least a couple every week. I have gotten rid of thousands of books in my life but my shelves, furniture–even my floors–overflow with books. It seems like I never have enough time to do all the things I’m supposed to do, but I always have time to read.
5) My two worst fears are heights and enclosed spaces, made all the worse by being stuck in an elevator on the top floor of the Eiffel Tower for twenty minutes. The Eiffel Tower! Who gets stuck in the Eiffel Tower? Me, that’s who. Yeah, that was a bad day.
6) My dream is to visit Egypt. I have had deep fascination for Egyptian history and architecture for as long as I can remember. I once promised myself to visit there by the time I was forty, but forty is fast approaching … maybe one day.
7) I’m not a big TV watcher but I have a habit of getting addicted to certain shows long after the fact. I missed the whole Twin Peaks craze only to become obsessed later. I am currently trying to catch up on all episodes of Lost before the final sixth season. The excitement of it all makes my heart pitter patter.
Thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog over the last few months, especially those of you who have taken the time to make comments. If you have received this award and would like to participate, please pass it on to seven other bloggers whose sites you love.
I am convinced that to be a true foodie, you have to be the obsessive sort. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of this–at least in the dim recesses of my mind. It’s all because of Walter.
Walter was my Dad’s best friend while I was growing up. He was a cabinet maker who ran his own business by day. After work, he would come home and make dinner for his wife and kids. He was a great cook, and he enjoyed cooking very much. Doubtlessly, he enjoyed eating even more. Walter knew everything there was to know about food and he knew all the best places to get it. Every Saturday he drove thirty kilometers into the city from his home in the suburbs and spent hours going from shop to shop, acquiring his favorite sausages and cuts of meats and raw milk cheeses from Quebec. He was a man after my own heart, that Walter.
I, too, am similarly obsessed. I have sat in gridlocked bridge traffic for a croissant from Thomas Haas, spent hours walking around Paris looking for Poliâne, the world famous boulangerie. Ask me specifics about the art and architecture of the great European cities I have visited, I may draw a blank. But I can recount in excruciating detail what I ate there.
So it’s no surprise that since I have started cooking from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking that I have been cooking from it compulsively. Now, I had this cookbook before all this hullabaloo about the Julie and Julia movie. It was the first book I bought when I decided I wanted to become a food writer and get serious about cooking. The idea of cooking from it, however, was intimidating enough that it sat on my bookshelf, gathering dust, until I joined some food bloggers in a MtAoFC challenge. Everything I have made turned out better than I expected, and though I haven’t made anything terribly complicated, what I have made has been absolutely delicious.
This Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne from MtAoFC Volume I is a fine choice if you need an impressive dish in a hurry. It calls for beef filet; the tenderloin butt and the tail of the beef are often used. It can be cooked in advance but requires care when reheating so as not to overcook the meat.
Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne
for 6 people
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon good cooking oil
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
2 1/2 pounds filet of beef
2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon cooking oil, more if needed
1/4 cup Madeira or dry white vermouth
3/4 cup beef stock
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons cornstarch blended with 1 tablespoon of the cream
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons softened butter
1) Sauté the mushrooms in the first amount given of butter and oil for about five minutes, or until lightly browned. Stir in the shallots and cook for a minute longer. Season the mushrooms and scrape them into a side dish.
2) Trim off the surrounding fat and filament from the beef and cut into 2-ounce pieces, about 2 inches across and 1/2-inch thick. Dry thoroughly on paper towels.
3) Place butter and oil in the skillet and set over moderately high heat. When the butter foam begins to subside, sauté the beef, a few pieces at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side to brown the exterior but keep the interior rosy red. Set the beef on a side dish and discard the fat.
4) Pour the wine and stock into the skillet and boil it down rapidly, scraping up the coagulated cooking juices, until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup. Beat in the cream, then the cornstarch mixture. Simmer a minute. Add the mushrooms and simmer a minute more. The sauce should be lightly thickened. Correct seasonings.
5) Season the beef lightly with salt and pepper and return it to the skillet along with any juices which may have escaped. Baste the beef with the sauce and mushrooms, or transfer everything to a serving casserole.
6) When you are ready to serve, cover the skillet or casserole and heat to below the simmer for 3-4 minutes, being very careful not to overdo it or the pieces of filet will be well done rather than rare. Off heat and just before serving, tilt casserole, add butter to sauce a bit at a time while basting the meat until the butter has absorbed. Decorate with parsley and serve at once.
Recently I have taken up a perilous hobby, one that leaves my heart palpitating with fear, a constant sweat on my brow. My hobby requires consummate skill and know-how; one misstep can mean disaster. No, I’m not talking about race car driving or jumping out of planes with a parachute. My new hobby is bread making.
It all starts with yeast. For as long as I have been interested in the goings-on of the kitchen, I have been afraid of yeast. Okay, perhaps afraid is too strong a word, but certainly intimidated. Yeast is what causes breads to rise and makes delights such as pizza and brioche possible. But its fickle and mysterious powers can lead to disappointment if you don’t know exactly what you are doing. It has led me to be the creator of more than a few leaden loaves of bread, of cinnamon rolls that resembled hockey pucks. I can tell you that for a long time, I gave up on yeast.
When it comes to bread, yeast is just the beginning. If you’ve ever tried to make your own, then you know that there are other crucial factors, such as the type of flour you use (protein is a big issue, I have discovered), the temperature of the room where you give rise, the ratio of the ingredients you use. Things can go wrong–and they often do–which is why I had once largely avoided bread making.
Yet every time I went to the bakery I was enraptured by the heavenly smell of bread baking in the oven. I wanted that smell in my own house. As much as I loved taking a fresh, crusty loaf home and eating it with my lunch, I wanted to pull my own bread out of the oven, to break off a chunk of it and slather it with sweet butter while it was still hot. What in life is as pure, as elemental?
On my crusade for the perfect loaf I consulted many books. Every one of them, I felt, made things more complicated than they had to be. I’m the type of person that wants to know why I’m doing something when I do it. Why do you have to punch dough down? Why do some breads need two, three risings and others just one? How do you really know when to stop kneading? Why knead at all? I wanted something simple, a dough I could quickly mix together and forget about until it was time to put it in the oven. At one point, I thought that the No knead bread published in the New York Times, the one that took the blogging world by storm a couple of years ago, was going to be the answer. The problem was that I didn’t have a Dutch Oven and I wasn’t about to go out and buy one. One-hundred-and-fifty dollars can get you a lot of bread.
So I did what I should have done a long time ago. I turned to Grandma.
My grandmother has been baking bread since she was old enough to see over the kitchen counter top. I have never known her to eat bread from a bag or buy a loaf from the bakery. Back in Serbia, where she spent the first half of her life, bread baking was a daily affair. I thought she might have some wisdom to impart to me. I was right.
This recipe is even simpler than I could have dreamed. You don’t need a scale, you hardly have to knead the dough at all, and you can plunk it right into the pan for its second rise. The work is minimal, really. You just need to pick a day when you are home for a few hours. The result will be delicious and ultimately satisfying.
Now, it’s not one of those really rustic loaves–the kind with the bubbly interior and a crust that saws into the roof of your mouth when you bite into it. We leave that to the baguette. This bread has a delicate yet chewy crust, with a soft and mealy interior, perfect for slathering with butter. It’s the kind of bread you want to mop your plate with, hearty yet light, great for sandwiches and lovely as toast. Try this recipe; it just might make you into a bread baking convert.
Note: You will notice that I use live yeast in this recipe because I think it gives the best flavor, however you can use one package of regular dried yeast if you wish.
Grandma’s Country Boule
2 ounces fresh yeast
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose white flour
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1) In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup warm water. Add sugar. Mix together with a whisk.
2) Sift the white flour and add to the mixture. Add whole wheat flour, flax, and salt.
3) Mix in 1 cup of water with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Coat hands with a bit of oilve oil and mix, scraping the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle with additional flour.
4) Knead until combined, not too soft or tough. This will really only take a minute or so. Cover the bowl with a cushion and leave to rise for one hour. Preheat oven to 375F.
5) After one hour, oil hands again and punch the dough down. Knead on oiled board or countertop for a few seconds. Shape dough to a greased 9 or 10-inch springform pan. Allow to rise another three-quarters of an hour, covered with a tea towel.
6) Wet hands with cold water and smooth over the top of the dough. Make three slits or a checkerboard pattern on top with a sharp knife. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.
7) Allow to cool on a rack for five minutes, then brush the top with butter. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt or wheat bran, if desired.
“Er, where are we?” I ask my friend Paul as he pulls into the parking lot of a strip mall in what I call Little Vietnam. His girlfriend Rachel and I exchange glances. “I thought we were going to a French restaurant.”
Paul has been talking about Les Faux Bourgeois for ages–one of Vancouver’s hottest new eateries. We’ve waited for a Friday night reservation for three weeks. I look across Fraser Street to the woman standing on the corner. Is she a lady of the evening, I wonder? As we step into the little bistro with its dim lighting and worn wood floors, we are immediately transported to a Parisian neighborhood circa the Jazz Age. I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s going to be alright.
The hostess greets us with a smile and leads us to a table by the window. I happily ease myself into a bench seat. This prime piece of restaurant real estate has already made the wait for a reservation worthwhile. As I take a closer look at the decor, I note that it actually has a retro appeal. The walls are covered in wood paneling and the lamps look much like those that hung in our living room in the seventies.
There is nothing kitschy about the menu, though–simply a lineup of the best classic French country cooking you’d find in a Parisian bistro: escargots de bourgogne, steak frites, chicken pot au feu. There’s even a chalkboard listing the daily specials. Most of the entrees clock in at an average of sixteen dollars, which as surprisingly inexpensive for French food of the quality this promises to be.
I start with the Coquilles St. Jacques, the scallops in white wine sauce. I also can’t resist ordering the frisée aux lardons, since it’s the only frisée salad I’ve seen on a menu since my visit to France last year. The scallops arrive piping hot, served in the traditional shell and smothered in bubbling sauce. The sauce is smooth, rich with wine and butter and a perfect foil for the velvety scallops underneath. The portion is small but that’s okay. I’m just getting started. The salad is fresh and crisp, tossed lightly with a traditional vinaigrette, and a nice light segue to my entree of choice, the cassoulet.
Cassoulet is a rustic casserole of beans, duck, and pork sausage. It actually looks simple but requires a myriad of ingredients and at least a day to prepare–if not two–which is why I never make it at home. I cannot resist ordering it whenever I go to a French restaurant, and the cassoulet at Les Faux Bourgeois does not disappoint. As I take my first bite the crunch of the golden breadcrumb topping gives way to a silky interior that is a melding of rich and complex flavors: tomato, garlic, pork, with notes of pepper and thyme. I decide right then and there that it’s the best cassoulet that I’ve had in the city.
My friends have ordered the duck confit and the poisson du jour (fish of the day), which happens to be salmon. Everything looks so enticing that we offer to exchange bites for future reference. The duck is fall-off-the-bone tender, served on a bed of wilted greens with roast potatoes, finished with a large dollop of a sweet yet earthy sauce of veal.
The fish is seared perfectly; light and crispy on the inside, moist and fork tender on the inside. It’s accompanied by spinach in a light yet flavorful cream sauce and a side of mashed potato and root vegetables.
As delicious as my cassoulet is, the portion is large enough for two people. I’m full before I eat a third of it. However, I always have room for dessert. I order the lemon cream tart, which has a sharp, bright citrus flavor with just the right amount of sweetness in a soft and flaky shell.
I take a bite of Paul’s chocolate mousse, which is as light as spun sugar, not too sweet, with the slight edge of bitterness that comes with really good quality chocolate. These sweet treats are the perfect cap to an evening filled with wonderful food and friendly yet unobtrusive service.
Les Faux Bourgeois is located at 663 East 15th Avenue at Fraser Street in Vancouver. Reservations may be made by calling 604 873-9733. The hours are from 5:30 pm to midnight. The restaurant also serves as a cafe from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm, serving organic fair-trade coffee and specialty croissants from Thomas Haas bakery.
Today is an important day of sorts. A day that I–as well as thousands of foodies and food bloggers–have been awaiting anxiously for weeks now; the release of Julie & Julia featuring Meryl Streep as Julia Child.
It also marks the last day in a series of recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking that I have been attempting over the course of the last little while. Until Hélène from La Cuisine d’Hélène suggested a MtAoFC challenge a couple of weeks ago, my copy of Julia Child’s magnum opus sat largely unused on my bookshelf. But later is always better than never, and I’m so glad that I got the nudge to cook from this classic cookbook. I’ve always been the type of person who uses cookbooks as a starting point. I rarely cook a recipe all the way through as printed. With Mastering, however, I decided that it would only be fair to Julia and the challenge to cook the dishes exactly as described.
I’m so glad I did. Everything I’ve made has come out much better than expected. I have started out with the simpler dishes but liked them so much that I’ve made some of them twice. Although this is my last MtAoFC challenge, it’s surely not the last time I’m going to cook from Julia Child’s wonderful book.
Soupe à L’oignon Gratinée – French Onion Soup
The key to French Onion soup is the slow cooking of the onions in butter and oil, followed by a long, slow simmering in stock. This helps them to develop the rich flavor this soup is known for.
5 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts beef stock, boiling
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cognac
4-6 rounds of hard-toasted French bread
1-2 cups grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
1) Cook the onions slowly in the butter and oil in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to medium and stir in the salt and sugar. The sugar will help the onions to brown. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have turned a deep golden brown.
2) Sprinkle in the flour and stir over heat for 3 minutes. Off heat, blend in the stock. Add the wine and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for another 30-40 minutes or more, skimming if needed. Correct seasonings.
3) Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Place rounds of bread in soup bowls or a tureen and pour soup on top. Sprinkle with grated cheese and brown under a hot broiler until golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.
Quiche Lorraine – Cream & Bacon Quiche
3-4 ounces lean bacon
8-inch partially cooked pastry shell
1 1/2 – 2 cups cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1-2 tablespoons butter cut into pea-sized dots
1) Preheat oven to 375F. Brown bacon in a skillet. Drain on paper towels and press pieces into bottom of pastry shell.
2) Beat the eggs, cream, and seasonings in a mixing bowl until blended. Check seasonings. Pour into pastry shell and distribute butter pieces on top.
3) Set in upper third of preheated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the quiche has puffed and browned. Slide quiche on a hot platter and serve.
My idea of the perfect dessert involves custard in any shape or form. That a few simple, everyday ingredients can be applied to heat to produce such a rich and silky concoction is surely one of the great feats of civilization, right up there with the invention of stiletto heels and landing a man on the moon. Add a bit of caramel into the mix and I swoon like a nineteenth century maiden in an Edith Wharton novel.
Crème caramel, also known as flan in Spanish-speaking countries and in North America, is a custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top. It is similar to crème brûlée, which is custard with a hard caramel top. However, crème caramel is usually served unmolded, and because of this, it calls for more eggs and egg yolks than custards served directly from ramekins or other serving dishes.
Although crème caramel originated in Spain, it spread in popularity across Western Europe and much of the world. Packaged versions of this dessert are ubiquitous in Japan and are called “purin”, which means custard pudding. It is also common in the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as South American countries like Argentina and Uruguay, where it is usually eaten with dulce de leche.
The recipe I submit to you today is Julia Child’s crème renversée au caramel–unmolded caramel custard. It requires the additional caramel recipe on page 584 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You line your ramekins or molds with the caramel, fill it with custard, and then bake in a water bath to ensure slow and even cooking. It can seem a little complicated but crème caramel is actually quite simple to make and it never fails to impress.
Crème Renversée au Caramel
by Julia Child, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
serves 4-6 people
for the caramel:
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Add sugar and water to a heavy stainless steel saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. When it starts to brown, swirl the saucepan around but do not stir. This will ensure that the sugar turns color evenly and will help wash any crystals off the side. When it is thick and a light, nutty brown, remove from heat and pour directly into molds; swirl each mold to coat evenly with the caramel.
for the custard:
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean
1) Bring the milk and vanilla bean (if you are using) to just below a simmer in a saucepan. Let the vanilla steep in the milk while you prepare the rest of the custard ingredients.
2) Gradually beat the sugar into the eggs and egg yolks in a bowl until well mixed, light, and foamy. Continue beating while pouring in the hot milk in a thin stream of droplets. If you are using vanilla extract rather than a vanilla bean, add it now. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into the caramel-lined molds.
3) To bake the molds, set them in a pan and pour enough boiling water around them to come halfway up the sides. Place in the bottom third of an oven preheated to 350F. After five minutes, turn down the heat to 325F. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the center is firm but slightly wobbly. Cooking it too long will result in a tough rather than tender custard.
4) If you would like to serve the custards warm, set the molds in cold water for about ten minutes before unmolding; otherwise chill in the refrigerator. To unmold, run a knife between the custard and edges of the mold. Place a serving dish upside down over the mold and quickly reverse the two, and remove the mold from the custard.