Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crème de la crème

As I made my way around the perfectly kept home with my Riedel flute sparkling with chilled champagne, the flowers selected to match the walls in each room, the baccarat crystal glistening in the ambient lights in each corner, the hors d'oeuvres magically materialising on platters carried by white gloved hands and the host graciously welcoming the invitees, I heard a sudden loud boisterous noise from the main entrance of the home and a loudly clad couple made its equally loud entrance into the home. For a split second I could virtually taste the tension in the air as the host, bewildered as can be, went up to greet the couple. I stood there quietly observing the scene unfolding before me as I had a feeling there was some sort of un-welcomed invasion taking place here and things were probably going to heat up and turn ugly.

On the contrary, the loud couple got louder as they walked in and the host with his wife welcomed them in with open arms and not a flicker of annoyance showing on their faces. I caught a few words, crass as they sounded - "Ah, so we heard about today's dinner, and thought we'd swing by as we were on our way to another party, thought why not drop in and say hello" - "Sawant, bring us two glasses, dont just stand there" (In the local dialect) - addressing the aged house-help, who was shuffling about at the kitchen entrance while the nattily dressed waiters made a more pronounced appearance. I was curious by now to know who these people were, and I edged my way towards the centre where they were pretty much - the centre of attention. The host realised things were a bit uncomfortable around the room with this inconvenience, and fortunately or unfortunately caught the first person to introduce - "Me".

"This is my sister and her husband" - I greeted them with a polite nod, and before I knew it the lady had already grasped my hand in delight, scrawny fingers glittering with chunky emeralds and uncut diamonds, practically spitting in my face, with a "what are you drinking" - Dachu (addressing her husband), I am feeling like a bubbly now, can we get that, throw your whiskey away, we have same bottle at home" 

This "Dachu" started speaking to me, with the usual conversation starter: "what do you do?" and before I could finish my answer he was on a train ride tirade of his "business" and his "achievements" with a "Oh, Yes and a Oh, No" and a nasty poke from his wife now and again. I was quite bored five minutes into this so called one-sided conversation and the other guests had dispersed into the odd corners of the room, looking quite like a replacement to those baccarat crystals; when the host, sensing my discomfort, swooped in with a couple of other family members, who looked very unlikely to be the ones partaking as my replacements. The night carried on with the only voices in the room - of the new entries.

I was back to my mingling and a couple of champagnes down, when I saw the "louds" still hanging about, making a good deal of noise, still louder as they too were a couple of "bubblies" down. I got myself thinking,what happened to that so called "Party" they were on their way too? class apart, they were nothing short of bumbling, new-moneyed fools who were trying to make their mark amongst the well heeled, cashing in on the brothers life and probably screwing it up with their presence. A sense of pity arose towards the host and the hostess - who were trying their level best to maintain a dignified silence while the unwanted drove all the attention.

We all have the "louds" somewhere, sometimes in our lives. It takes a lot to maintain a dignified style of living, a personality and the total outlook of your life. The people we choose to remain is not imbibed in us but an acquired trait. Of course, upbringing is a key ingredient in being grounded however high you may have flown, but the class trait is a very rare acquisition and this is what sets you apart from the others, or should I say - makes you the Crème de la crème?   

I think I have got a bit carried away here with my post and am duly coming back to food. The crème de la crème of the night was the Crème brûlée at the dessert counter. A divine creation (God bless the French! though the origin of this rich dessert still remains a mystery) which incorporates the best part of cooking I like - Burning. As the name suggests Crème brûlée means burnt cream. This is not some recipe gone wrong but a fantastic dessert having a delicious custard base and the caramelized topping which is a coup de grâce in the good sense, because the combination of soft, mellow and slightly sweet custard with the hard hitting bitter-sweet taste of caramelized sugar is sure to blow your mind away.

You can try this simple version at home, but be sure to indulge in some ramekins before proceeding.

200ml Heavy Cream
2 Egg Yolks
1/3 cup Milk
3 tablsp Sugar (Granulated)
A drop of Vanilla Essence (optional)

Powdered Brown Sugar
Butane Torch (Optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 240C with the low rack inside, if baking immediately (read recipe for optional step).

In a non-stick pan, pour the cream and keep on a low flame to simmer, stirring continuously till steaming, but not boiling.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar (and vanilla if used) till well incorporated and a runny paste. While still whisking start pouring in the cream with a thin stream. Go on whisking lightly till all the cream is all poured and you have a thick pasty but consistent liquid.

Prepare the ramekins (the one I have used here is the perfect size for the recipe given) by pouring in the cream and egg mix. Cool and cover with a foil and place in the refrigerator overnight. This is an optional step as this gets you best results, but I have tried baking it immediately and it works just fine, except the overnight one turns out to be well set.

Prepare the water basin, by placing the cream filled ramekin in a aluminium pan with tall edges. Pour warm water slowly in the pan till it reaches half way up to the ramekin. Place the pan in the pre heated oven and bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Check for done-ness by simply wobbling the pan lightly, the top of the crème brûlée should be like sponge and the middle should wobble slightly.    

Take out from the oven, remove from water basin and place the ramekin on a rack to cool. Chill for a few hours before the final prep.

For the grande finale:

Sprinkle some fine ground brown sugar like a thin film on the top of the baked crème brûlée and torch with a butane chef's torch till the sugar starts caramelizing. You should have a nice thin and crunchy layer of sugar over the soft custard base. Enjoy it as is.

Alternately, you can spread the sugar and pop under your oven grill (top rack) or your broiler to get the same effect. I have, of course, used a butane chef's torch (which I sneakily use for various other quick fix's) to caramelize the sugar but the caramel in oven turns out as good.


shruthi said...

Oh boy! Do i know some such "louds"(for lack of a better term). Btw , Next time try a little orange flavored sugar - easy to do, zest a tsp of orange into a cup of sugar , mix it up and use! It just adds another dimension to the crunchy topping,so yummm!

nonchalantgourmand said...

Thanks to your "ramekins"
used em for the first time -- after so long !!!

Shirley said...

Its nice blog. I read article and I will follow you. thanks!!!!

Gourmet Free