Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Deck The Halls With Cardamom And Saffron! Pot de Cremes Go East

When not dealing with my Volvo which is feeling just fine now thank you due to an infusion of cash, I am a writer. I work with my husband. We write screenplays and I cook lunch. That deal started when we were first married and had a big kitchen table and no office so we moved the computer into the kitchen and I'd cook while we wrote. We still have the big kitchen table, but now we have an office in the house, so that's where the computers are. That's where we work, but I still cook lunch because next to writing, cooking's what I love best.
This time of year is also when the Hollywood studios send screeners out for awards voting, and every day something new is arriving at the house for us to watch. The other day Julie & Julia arrived. I couldn't wait to see it.
When I was a kid, Julia Child was on TV and my parents lived to watch her drop a chicken or flub something and do a last minute save. They were convinced that she was nipping from the cooking sherry and cooking half in the bag. They found it highly amusing. As for me, all I wanted to be able to do was throw a web of hot spun sugar over a broomstick set between two chairs and make a perfect cobweb for my Buche De Noel without giving myself third degree burns or turning myself into human flypaper. It never happened.
When I left home to go out on my own, the first cookbook I bought was Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. I worked my way though it over the years. One of the dishes that I always served at the end of a diner party back in the day was the Pot De Creme. In fact I was so found of Chocolate Pot De Cremes that I had a lovely set of little porcelain Pot De Creme pots imported from France. Up until a few days ago when I dug them out, I hadn't used them in ages. In fact I'd forgotten thy were even there.
Watching the movie inspired me to make use of them again, this time using spices and flavors that I work with every day.
I thought how nice would a cardamom and saffron Pot De Creme be? Quite nice I discovered. And really pretty easy to make. Here's what I did.
First of all if you haven't got any lidded Pot De Creme pots, not to worry. Just use 1/2 cup ramekins and when cooking them in the oven, cover them with foil. It works just fine.
Once the Pot De Cremes are mixed and poured, they'll be cooked like all custards in in a pan of hot water.
Now that the equipment is straightened out, here's what to do:
1.) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2.) in a small pot heat 1/2 cup of Half and Half and
3.) 16 whole cardamom pods which you have cracked with a mortar and pestle.
4.) Heat the Half and Half and cardamom until it just starts to boil with tiny bubbles forming around the edge of the pot. This should take a couple of minutes. Keep a sharp eye we don't want it to boil over now do we?
Meanwhile in a bowl whisk together
5.) 4 egg yolks and 1 whole egg with
6.) 1/2 cup of sugar.
Add in
7.) 1 and 1/4 cups of whipping cream
8.) 1/2 tsp of vanilla whisk it good and then add in the warm Half and Half cardamom mixture and a pinch of saffron. Be careful doing this. You don't want cardamom scrambled eggs. That's why you also don't want to get that Half and Half too hot.
When it's all well mixed, strain the whole thing into a big glass measuring cup and then pour the mixture into your Pot De Creme pots/ramekins and set them in a glass baking dish.
Pour hot water into the glass baking dish so that it comes half way up the sides of the pots/ramekins and cover the tops with tin foil, or if your pots have lids use those. Don't over-fill. I learned why, and it's not pretty. For a smooth surface you don't want your custard mixture touching the top of your lid. It doesn't really spoil anything but the aesthetics.
Slide the whole thing into the oven and bake it for 50 minutes. While they're cooking you might do a little decorating. I love stuffing ordinary evergreen wreaths I get at the market with whatever produce I have around the house. Chestnuts, walnuts, lady apples and all the persimmons that didn't make it into a salad or the Big Squishy. I also tossed a few pine cones in for good measure.

After a bit, check to see if they're done. They should be firm, yet the center should still be a bit wobbly.
Set your pots /ramekins on a wire rack to cool to room temperature then pop them in the fridge.
Serve them with a dab of whipped cream, and I don't have to tell you what to do after that. Yum.

I'm really getting back into this Pot De Creme thing again, they could become a habit...but hopefully not too bad of one. I suppose the next frontier to explore would be an Indian flavored Buche De Noel maybe with some pandan or kewra flavoring. Or maybe a pandan Pot De Creme. There are after all, two more weeks of Holidays to experiment in.
Wherever you are and whatever holiday you may be celebrating, make it a merry one!

**** This recipe just made the December 25th FoodBuzz Top 9!!


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