Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Vanilla Rum Creme Anglaise (Page 844)

RECIPE #1236

  • Date: Friday, October 15, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, Clara, Dave, and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This recipe was a component of a souffle dish I made when my in-laws came to visit last month. I forgot to take a picture of the creme anglaise alone, but you can see a bit of it dripping out of the souffle above. I started by boiling half-and-half with a vanilla bean. Then I scraped the seeds of the vanilla bean into the half-and-half and discarded the pod. I whisked egg yolks, salt, and sugar, and added the hot half-and-half. I cooked the mixture on the stovetop, stirring, until it reached 170 degrees. Then I strained it and cooled. I stirred some rum into the sauce and refrigerated it until it was very cold. As expected, this sauce was delicious! It's hard to go wrong with creme anglaise. It is rich and flavorful and wonderful. The balance of vanilla and rum was great in this sauce and it complemented the souffles very well!

The recipe is here.

Only 57 recipes left to go!

When I was in culinary school I was instructed by several excellent chefs. Chef Stephan was the one who made the largest impact. I was mildly terrified of him. He had a way of shouting my name across the kitchen that could stop me in my tracks. His standards were extremely high and he wasn't particularly flexible about them. I remember more than one occasion when it was 1am and everyone was exhausted and ready to go home but Chef Stephan would make someone re-plate their dish because he or she had violated some rule for proper plating. We all had to wait for this re-plating to occur before the food could be critiqued and the kitchen cleaned. Not infrequently we were still in the kitchen at 2am and everyone was cursing Chef Stephan under their breath. Secretly, everyone loved him. I think often of the lessons I learned from him. He taught me a lesson one night about seasoning that honestly changed my life. It involved a vat of pureed vegetable soup, a dozen small dishes, and a box of salt. It was simple enough, but an absolutely brilliant example of what my colleagues would call "active learning."

Chef Stephan wasn't a particularly warm and fuzzy kind of guy. He was more scary than cuddly. But he had a soft spot for at least one thing: creme anglaise. Every time we were in the kitchen he would instruct the person making the dessert to make some creme anglaise to go with it. Chef Stephan thought everything went well with creme anglaise. Cheesecake and creme anglaise? Sure. Ice cream with creme anglaise? Why not. He would drink the leftover creme anglaise out of a mug at the end of class. Creme anglaise is incredibly rich (being mostly egg yolks with heavy cream or half-and-half)-- every time I saw him drink it by the cupful my stomach would turn a little. Chef Stephan lived near the culinary school and rumor had it that late at night he would raid the school walk-ins for leftover creme anglaise from other classes and drink that too.

While I was in school, Chef Stephan's partner died of cancer. Everyone felt terrible, and helpless. I did the only thing I could think to do: I made creme anglaise for him. I carefully labeled my container of creme anglaise, "For Chef Stephan." When I opened the walk-in to leave it inside, I was greeted by container after container of creme anglaise, each labeled "For Chef Stephan" with a different handwriting. It was really moving.

I think of Chef Stephan every time I make creme anglaise. Remembering his class always brings a smile to his face. Now that I am a teacher myself I think often about the examples of excellent instruction that I have experienced in my own life. Chef Stephan's course certainly stands out as an amazing learning experience.

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