Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy 100th B-Day Julia

August 15th is Julia Child's 100th birthday.  I really admire and like her as a person.  Her autobiography, My Life in France, was a fun read.  (But, I wouldn't recommend Julie and Julia, the book.  I liked the movie, but I stopped reading the book in the first chapter.  Julia was right, Julie was rather vulgar.)  I haven't read any of her cook books, but I'm sure they're great, too.  Her views on cooking changed the way that we in America look at food.  She inspired a generation of chefs and home cooks.  She was revolutionary and personable.  In honor of her birthday, I thought I would publish probably the only "French" recipe I know.  It also happens to be one of my cooking triumphs.  I think Julia would have been proud of me.  A few years ago, Aaron and I went to the French buffet at the Parisian in Vegas.  I had the creme brulee, okay, it was so good, I had two.  I had always wanted to recreate it at home, because you can't pick that up at your local Walmart, but I didn't have individual ramekins (who does?).  So, one night I decided to just go for it and make a family sized creme brulee.  Amazingly, it turned out!  It was delicious and creamy.  I enjoyed it for several days, hoarding the leftovers in the fridge, hiding them from the kids.  So, in honor of Julia, I share this recipe with you.  It's from America's Test Kitchen, but I did change the pan size and, of course, the cooking time.

Creme Brulee Family Style

4 c. heavy cream, chilled
2/3 c. granulated sugar
pinch salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
10 large egg yolks
1/4 c. turbinado sugar (you can also use regular sugar)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees.  You will need two pans--one slightly smaller than the other.  I used my extra large 9x13 pan and a slightly smaller oval casserole dish.  Cover the bottom of the 9x13 pan with a dish towel.  Place the smaller casserole inside--make sure there is 1/2 to 1 inch space between the two pans all the way around.  Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

2.  Combine 2 c. cream, granulated sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Take the pan off the heat, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

3.  Stir in the remaining 2 c. cream.  Place the yolks in a large bowl and pour in 1 c. of the cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly, until smooth.  Whisk in the remaining cream mixture until thoroughly combined.  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup or pitcher.  (Don't skip this step, you want to make sure there are no bits of cooked egg in your creme brulee--just silky goodness.)  Pour the custard into the casserole.

4.  Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour enough boiling water into the pan to reach two-thirds of the way up the sides of the casserole.  Bake until the center of the custard is just barely set and is no longer sloshy.  I think I baked it for 35-40 minutes.

5. Transfer the casserole to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.  Cover the casserole with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours.

6. Just before serving, uncover the casserole and gently blot the top dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top of the casserole.  Shake it to distribute the sugar evenly.  Ignite a torch and caramelize the sugar.  Refrigerate, uncovered, to rechill the custard, 30-45 minutes.  Serves 8.

If you don't have a torch, you can caramelize the sugar in your oven.  Adjust oven rack to uppermost position.  Preheat oven on hi broil setting.  Place sugar topped custard in oven and broil until sugar is caramelized.  Watch this carefully, it shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes, but burnt sugar is terrible, so again watch carefully.  And you will definitely need to rechill the custard after doing this.

We had this for Family Home Evening.  I had made it the night before and chilled it all day.  We put the sugar on, got my dad's industrial blow torch, and Aaron caramelized the sugar while the kids watched.  It was very dramatic.  Then we dug right in without chilling it again.  Oh man, just thinking about it is making me salivate.

The recipe actually calls for a vanilla bean, but again, who's got that?  If you want those instructions, email me.  You will have 10 egg whites left over from making this, you could make an egg white omelet or an angel food cake.

I hope you will try this recipe in honor of Julia.  She would want you to cook something interesting, to have fun in your kitchen, and to enjoy eating.   Bon appetit!


Barbara said...

I love this. Some friends actually gave me her cookbook (vol. 1?) for my birthday. Ben started using it and got through a lot of the soups. They were all super delicious. Ben is also strangely obsessed with creme brulee, so for our first Christmas I got him a torch and four little dishes, so to answer your question, we totally own those little dishes! We will make some creme brulee in honor of Julia :)

ps - I read all the way through Julie and Julia and you were right to stop while you were ahead, I'm not crazy about the author.

Hilary said...

i saw that episode of america's test kitchen and want to try it. i need a torch!