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From England

January 21, 2013

Greetings from England(!!)


yarnton in september

I’m here visiting Lee, who’s over here getting her Master’s this year. I didn’t move with her (very, very sadly), for a variety of reasons, but I’m getting to visit her for a month, and it’s making me pretty happy, as one might expect.

I brushed up on my Anglophilia before coming, but apparently obsessing on the internet still leaves out a thing or two. I’ve been calling my fries “chips” and my chips “crisps” as a good Brit should, but I’ve been stymied by the shopping carts, which are locked together my a weird little device. After poking, prodding, and trying to surreptitiously watch other people use it (no one came in), I ended up carrying a week’s worth of groceries around in a handbasket. As I was loading them into the bus, someone finally explained to me that you put in a pound. Grocery cart rental. Magic.

There was also my inability to find the potatoes in the farm stand down the road. Confusing, since the English really love their potatoes. After wandering around the entire stand, twice, I finally realized that the reason I hadn’t seen them because they weren’t sold by the potato, or even by the kilogram. The potatoes, you see, were tucked over in the corner, in their 15 kilogram bags, which were not going to be easy to carry back down the road with me.

IMG_2247IMG_2194yarnton in the snow

In honor of England, I have a custard for you. (It’s actually a pot de crème, but shhhhhh.) I told Lee the other day that I think I might be a little bit English, somewhere, somehow, as evidenced by my love of manners, British comedy, and both kinds of puddings: the custard kind, and the soggy bread kind. (Actually, I think that’s much more likely to make me a middle-aged English person. Whoops.)

So, custard:

IMG_2371

Vanilla Pots de Crème
From this recipe. Makes 4-6 servings.
A note on the vanilla: you could definitely do like the original recipe and use vanilla beans. If you do this, split them, scrape the seeds into the cream, and heat the cream until steam rises. Let it all steep for 15 minutes, then

2 cups heavy cream or half and half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or two vanilla beans
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

If using vanilla beans, cut them in half length-wise and scrape the seeds into the cream. Put the beans in there, as well. Heat the cream until it steams. (Keep a close eye on it. If you over-heat, it will develop that gross milk-skin.) Let it steep/cool for fifteen minutes. After steeping, remove the beans. (Don’t throw them away! Rinse them off and use them in homemade vanilla extract, or vanilla sugar.)

If you’re using the vanilla extract, just heat the cream until it’s warm.

While the cream is cooling, beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until they are light in color (about four minutes by hand). Pour in just a small amount of the cream, and whisk until it’s completely mixed in. Repeat until you’ve used about ¼ of the cream, and then you can start adding more like 1/3 of a cup at a time. If you’re using vanilla extract, whisk it in now.

Divide the custard between 4 or 6 ramekins (or stoneware/porcelain teacups!), depending on how large you want your servings. Cover the ramekins with tinfoil (to prevent a skin from forming), and place ramekins in a larger baking dish with sides. Pour hot water into the baking dish (about halfway up the outside of the ramekins).

Place the baking dish in the oven, and bake for 30-45 minutes. (The original recipe notes that cream sets fastest, and half and half sets slowest.) In order to get perfectly-cooked pots de crème, you want to take them out when the edges are set, but the center is still jiggly.

Chill, then serve, topped with whipped cream, if desired.

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