Mar 30, 2016 08:15PM
Chris Jarreau grew up in Louisiana and raised her family in Mississippi, with the traditions of the south all around her. But losing her mom as a teen meant she had to learn those traditions herself. One of her sisters gave her a copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. And, when Chris married, she got a copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, turned to the “Cooking for Two” section, and took off stirring. Now a catering manager in Upstate New York (originally transplanted to Wellsboro by the energy industry), she shares one of the simplest, most elegant desserts (or dessert components), crème Anglaise, which is simply a boiled custard of four ingredients. Easy to make, and the foundation of île flottante (French for “floating island,” where the islands are crisp meringues), bread pudding (where the custard is the silky richness that binds everything), and milk punch (where all you need is a little milk and brandy or rum), it is the perfect recipe to hand down for a wedding or to a newly wedded couple. It needs nothing more than a bowl of fruit as the perfect home dessert. Pooled on a plate under a slice of wedding cake, it raises the taste—and the presentation—bar to a whole new level.
“You can not mess up this recipe,” says Chris of crème Anglaise. “If it is thicker than you want, add a little more half and half. If you want a really, really fine custard, strain it a second time. If you don’t have a chinois cap, a fine strainer—even a tea strainer—will work just fine.”
She has two strong suggestions: “The only secret to this is to not cook it too much, and to learn to recognize when it coats the spoon. You don’t want it just running off the spoon. When it starts to be done, there will be little hunks clinging to the spoon. But even if you overcook it, you can rescue it. I have never had to throw this away. Never scape the bottom of the pot,” she adds, “and don’t scrape it through the chinoise.” You can also modify the flavoring. “Brandy or rum extract would work, and almond extract would be marvelous.”
It is now firmly fixed in her family’s traditions. Adds Chris, “This is something I passed down to my daughter.”
Boiled Custard (Crème Anglaise)
- 4 c. whole milk & 1 c. whipping cream (or 5 c. half and half )
- 6 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 1⁄2 c. sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla
Heat milk slowly—do not let it boil. Beat eggs, yolks, and sugar until lemony in color. Add slowly to milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until custards coats a spoon. It will thicken more as it cools. Add vanilla. Pour through a chinois cap while hot. It will continue to thicken as it cools in the refrigerator. If it is too thick after cooling, whisk in extra half & half until desired consistency is reached.