Sunday, July 28, 2013

Orange and strawberries



Sea-Tac. Starbucks. Beautiful glass. Sheraton. Insomnia. Starbucks. Beautiful glass. Sea-Tac. Writing. Self doubt. Writing. Self doubt. Very little cooking. This past week I’ve been unexpectedly busy, traveling and re-doing work I thought I’d already done and trying to get into the groove with Orange is the New Black.

And, unlike everyone else in the United States, I have failed.

The first episode featured an image so upsetting I couldn’t wash my mind’s eye clean for days and I trudged through four more episodes then gave up. Everyone else seems to be getting so much pleasure out of that show and damn it, I wanted pleasure too! 

What did give me pleasure last week: strawberry flummery from a recipe in American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland. It's a cornstarch-milk-sugar-egg pudding that you serve with berries, much like panna cotta, but sturdier. While the Time-Life volume is reticent on flummery’s origins, Amanda Hesser isn’t. According to Hesser, flummery is a descendant of a Welsh dish of very dense boiled oatmeal. Dictionary writers have defined it variously as “bland custard” and a “sort of pap and “Something insipid, or not worth having.”

For those of you who love bland custard and pap as much as I do, here's the recipe:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
pinch salt
3 cups whole milk
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint fresh strawberries

1. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, the cornstarch, and the salt in a heavy saucepan and, whisking constantly, pour in the milk in a slow, thin stream. Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens. Turn the heat down as low as it will go.

2. Ladle a few spoonfuls of the hot cornstarch-milk mixture into the beaten egg yolk, mixing well, and, still whisking, pour it back into the pot. Cook for a few minutes more, but do not let it come to a boil. 

3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into a serving bowl and refrigerate until very cold. 

4. Just before serving, hull and halve the strawberries. Toss with the remaining sugar and then arrange them on top of the flummery. Serve immediately. (Leftovers are tasty, but after a while the strawberries collapse and their juice starts to run into the custard and the whole dish looks a lot less appealing.)

30 comments:

  1. If you are looking for some pleasure in the form of a television show to get into, I highly recommend The Mindy Project. It is funny, smart, and touching. I bought the first season on iTunes and plowed through it in about a week. Just an idea!

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    1. My son Owen keeps lobbying for the Mindy Project. I will give it a try.

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  2. If it makes you feel remotely better, I've never even heard of Orange is the New Black.

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  3. Orange is the New Black brings up a lot of uncomfortable topics that mainstream America would rather dismiss. Then they take those topics and finds a bit of humor in them. I particularly enjoy it because shines a light on groups of people who are often not represented or misrepresented in entertainment. It passes the Bechdel test! A real life trans* actor actually playing a trans* on t.v. is a small miracle in itself. Still, it has elements that are problematic and should be discussed. If this show another stepping stone towards movies/t.v. that is more inclusive and diverse, then more power to it.

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    1. I agree, I just wish I liked the humor more and I wish I'd felt more warmly towards the characters. Instead of humanizing them, the show made me less able to empathize. I did like the transgender character, she was great, unlike, say, Crazy Eyes or the Spanish mother or the Porn Star. And I like Natasha Lyonne.
      It's just me. I'm really, really squeamish and this isn't a show for the squeamish.

      Delete
  4. I love pap! And custard! Thank you.

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  5. I love pap, too! Thanks for the recipe. As for Orange is the New Black, well I was unsure after episode 1 as well. However, I persevered because there is very little available right now that I want to watch. It gets better and the lesbian sex is much less graphic later on if that is what you couldn't wash your mind's eye clean of after the first episode. Or was it the sandwich? I agree with sydney. It does portray people that are often left out of most discussions about cultural problems. I got invested enough in the characters that I finished watching it yesterday. Having said that, I cannot say that there is anyone that I particularly like in the show, but that seems to be the case for me with a lot of the current entertainment out there. Maybe as they portray people closer to how they actually are with all their failings, it becomes less likely we will like them?

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    Replies
    1. Not the sex, it was the sandwich!!!! And then, later, Crazy Eyes spying on her in the bathroom and, even later, marking territory. This is my problem. My husband said he completely forgot about the sandwich.
      I know this will sound pompous, bc everyone always cites The Wire as the best TV show ever, but that show really did make me think and care about the lives of people I have nothing in common with. The prurient sitcom aspect of this one gets in the way for me.

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  6. I don't watch TV, other than the shows my children are watching when I walk through the room, so I've got no idea about Orange is the New Black. Also, not a custard/pap/pudding/flan fan, although I made a kick-ass chocolate pudding once that the aforementioned children scorned because it didn't taste enough like the jello pudding cups they'd scored at a friend's house. SIGH. I should have arranged strawberries in a lovely pattern on top!

    Are you familiar with the blog "A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn"? Your current cookbooks are reminding me of her project. She finds old recipes, the kind your grandmother scribbled on an index card and stuck in a little metal box that got stickier and stickier over the years due to its proximity to the stove, and bakes them, often with great results.

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    Replies
    1. That's a beautiful blog and such a great concept. I'm a little jealous.

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  7. Funny - I read your title as "Orange is the new Strawberry"...my husband and I finished all 13 episodes, and yes, it is disturbing but, we thought, amazingly good and well-cast. But no need to waste time on a series you don't care for - it's like reading a book you don't like.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly. If a TV show gives you no pleasure, it's a waste of time.
      Orange is the New Strawberry would have been a better title for the blog!

      Delete
  8. Tried "Orange" myself - found the lead character so insipid I wanted to smack her silly inside 15 minutes. Not a good sign, so I went back to my Brit mysteries on PBS. I'll have to try this flummery. I'm near Plant City, where the Strawberry Queens of country music fame are crowned. Lots and lots of strawberries, but all folks around here seem inclined to do with them is make "strawberry shortcake" (read that "buy some sort of angel-food cake type stuff and a can of skoosh or Cool Whip, and commit a crime against produce by combining these with fresh sliced strawberries) or those horrible strawberry pies with that weird bright red ooshy stuff for filling. This actually sounds like a worthy fate for a decent strawberry.

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    Replies
    1. Strawberry shortcake. I've never really figured that out. Plant City. Where is that? I'm going to have to look it up.

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    2. "Cheaters" strawberry shortcake is awful, but my mother, who was a true rural Southerner, made it differently, and it was to die for. She made pie crust from scratch, formed it into rounds from 4-6 inches around, baked those on a cookie sheet until they were lightly browned. She placed a bowl of sliced strawberries that were lightly sugared on the table along with a bowl of real whipped cream. Everyone stacked their own as they pleased. The pie crust which was a little salty, covered with sugared strawberries, with whipped cream - divine! Believe me, this dessert has nothing whatsoever to do with insipid, grocery store angel food cake and cool whip. It is simple, but it allows the strawberries to shine without being too sweet.

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    3. Beckster's mother's strawberry shortcake sounds insanely good. INSANE. Now that I think about it, I've always preferred strawberry shortcake with slightly salty (or, at least, no-sugar-added) biscuits. Beckster, did she make her crust with shortening and White Lily flour?

      Tipsy, I was surprised to read that you don't already have a wonderful take on strawberry shortcake, it sounds like just your kind of dessert: delicious, not too sugary, and most of all, not chocolate. A Scottish friend of mine once told me that she was in a Vermont diner when she had strawberry shortcake for the first time and, I quote, "recognized one of the pinnacles of American cooking."

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    4. Beckster and Lee, I've tried with strawberry shortcake and it never comes off quite right. I should keep trying. I think there's actually a strawberry shortcake on the cover of one of these Time Life books. Or maybe I'll just make some slightly salty pie crust and give that a try!

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    5. Lee, it was insanely good. It's good when I make it, but not quite as good as hers was. My mother was a second generation Scot, so she had that "short" thing down pat. Yes, she did make her pie crusts with shortening and White Lily, as all good Southern girls do! How did you know? I think one of the reasons this combination is so good is that the crunch of the pie crust remains intact since it is stacked right before you eat it. Nothing is soggy.

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  9. I just watched the first episode of BBC's Sherlock. Really great, although my husband still fell asleep. The 90 minute thing throws me off though.

    Strawberries pretty much just go straight into my mouth.

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  10. I have been waiting for someone I respect to say that they don't "get" OITNB, either. I'm not squeamish, I'm just allergic to shows that feel so pandering and button-pushing. There was no "realness" for me to cling to at all, at least based on the first episode, and I felt so alone. Thank you, as always, Tipsy.

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  11. I liked the book, but haven't tried watching the series.

    You could just rename this post...

    ReplyDelete
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