Friday, August 22, 2008

Alice Waters: Vanilla Pots de Creme

I have reservations about Alice Waters' Art of Simple Food. To start with, it mostly recycles recipes that have appeared in previous Chez Panisse cookbooks. Plus, Waters is trying to address a mainstream American audience and hasn't a clue how to go about it. Her awkward condescension can be excruciating. 

But I've found myself gravitating to this book among all the Waters/Chez Panisse titles in my collection because it focuses on recipes I can make without special ordering beef cheeks from the butcher (don't think I haven't tried) and acquiring a propane torch.

Like vanilla pots de creme. I haven't made these in thirty years. I had the idea to garnish them with crystallized violets, which I thought was very clever of me.

Then I decided to compare the Waters recipe to the one I made all those decades ago from the old burgundy-jacketed Gourmet II cookbook. (If you take out a magnifying glass you can see my name embossed in gold letters on the cover -- a gift from my mother circa 1977. Thank-you Checka!) And there, in the instantly familiar photograph, were pots de creme garnished with crystallized violets.

In any case, pots de creme are pots de creme, and there's not that much you can change about the standard egg yolk/dairy/sugar combination. The Waters version is lighter, using a mixture of half-and-half and cream as opposed to straight cream; and it calls for a little less sugar. 

But otherwise, it's hardly an original recipe. Just a very good one. I think Waters' goal with this book, is to remind us how delicious, and how easy, some of these basic dishes are. And she succeeds.

3 comments:

  1. Actually you might not have had the idea for the violets if i hadn't brought them out yesterday. And i wouldn't have known about them if Juliet hadn't found them in the pantry so the real person to thank is her. the custard was very good.

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  2. Well, then, thank-you Juliet.

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  3. The thing about these pots of cream is they tasted a lot like egg custards that are a little too egg and a little too custard. That's a matter of my personal taste. I like my custard a little blander.

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