Monday, February 21, 2011

Negligent Me

 Or "How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Dijon Mustard."

I'm terrified by how quickly February's disappearing.  This past month of non-blogging has been surprisingly busy with three things: 1.) writing my dissertation (and then realising that I need to look up something, and then realising that it's been too long since I last checked the journals for anything new, and discovering that my field has shifted...); 2.) preparing to teach my first course that's all my own (and oh my goodness, I'm supposed to finalise my textbook choice tomorrow); 3.) cooking a lot.

And so I'm going to talk about cooking, because it's been a really pleasant distraction between my angst about whether I need to assign a sourcebook (and whether the textbook I love is too expensive to allow for assigning as sourcebook), and angst about the fact that a historian recently referred to the study of the Neue Frau as "overdone," just as I'm making major findings about the Neue Frau. 

But but but!  In the midst of that, I've been reveling in French cookery.  It started with a fascination with Laura Calder's Food Network show French Food at Home.  And then I read Julia Child's My Life in France.  And then I started to DVR FFaH.  And then I bought Laura Calder's recent cookbook French Style.  Since then, I've gone a little crazy in the kitchen.  Like, buying-lots-of-fennel crazy.  And making-crème-caramel-twice-in-one-week crazy.  Basing-entire-meals-around-dijon-mustard crazy. (And I didn't even like mustard before.)

Speaking of crème caramel: it has seriously become an obsession of mine.  I used to be a little intimidated by it, because I'm a little scared of anything that needs to keep its shape when you unmould it.  But it involves two of my most favourite things to make: caramel and custard.  Anything that involves a water bath?  I'm there.  Also, being encouraged to push caramel to be as dark as possible, but without burning it?  Bring it on.  In a consequence-free world, I would make caramel sauce every day for the next year.

I made my first crème caramels for Valentine's Day, and because I adapted the recipe a little too much, I ended up overcooking them a little, but they were still pretty:

I made a big cake-sized one on Friday for a potluck, and even though the whole thing broke apart because it jiggled too much in the car, it was amazing!  And it worked!  I keep raving to people about how the whole process seems like magic to me: you let caramel harden in the bottom of the pan, and then you pour custard over top of it.  Then, as the custard cooks and sets, the custard melts the caramel!  And then you flip it upside down on a plate, and the caramel sauce runs all over this jiggly yellow cake, and you feel like you just performed a magic trick using just eggs, milk and sugar (well, along with vanilla and sometimes orange zest).  (And by "you" I mean "I.")  Also, if you put a pan of caramel in a water bath without the custard, it doesn't melt, because it's actually the custard itself that liquifies the caramel and not just the heat.  Science!

So, yeah.  I've been seriously geeking out in the kitchen lately.  Now, I just need to bring this sense of nerdy wonder back into my academic self.  Because the angst thing is quickly growing old.


The Blog Fodder said...

That looks so delicious. And never mind historians who pan stuff they haven't read yet. You work will be ground breaking.

C said...

congratulations on getting your own course! yay! If your fav textbook is too expensive, you can always put some readings from it on course reserve.

Isn't creme caramel fun? Ever tried it with maple syrup? you have to start with light maple syrup, and then cook it the same as the sugar syrup. yummo!

Glad you are having fun with kitchen adventures, you need something creative to do to get away from work!