All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2017

Sunday, August 24, 2008

oeufs a la neige - the dud







We all know we cooks are prone to peculiar fits of passion, often going to remarkable lengths to either procure ingredients or experiment with a new recipe. Today was such a day.
It started so innocently. I picked up the September Gourmet and browsed through it, delighting in what looked like a return to the old Gourmet, which had “real” recipes and gorgeous photographs of Paris. Parisian food, I should say. I fixated on this recipe “Ginger-Cardamom Oeufs A La Neige” - or, in American cooking terms, Floating Island. I got the cardamom - pods and ground, since I couldn’t remember which was called for - and set aside a few hours today to make the recipe.
I whipped the egg whites and heated up the milk with the spices. Using an ice cream scoop, I placed the egg whites carefully in the hot milk for four minutes, turning once. The egg whites inflated quite suddenly, but I nudged them over, losing only one, which crumbled to bits. I took the skimmer and gingerly set them on a baking sheet.
I was halfway through beating the yolks into the hot milk to make the custard when I turned around and saw the puffs of meringue had shrunk to a strange gelatinous disc (see middle photo showing 1st and 2nd attempts)). I tasted it, and it had the texture of a very slippery, sweetened, poached egg. Struggling on with the custard, my eyes bugged as I saw the custard turning to a grainy, cornmeal-textured and colored sauce. I bravely plated it up and took a picture, swearing the whole time at the idiots who came up with this recipe ( see bottom picture).
About to flame out of the kitchen and take a walk, I felt that stubborn, ornery streak we all get at this point, and pulled out my cookbooks until I found "Oeufs" in a very old edition of Joy of Cooking. I washed the pots and started again. This time, the meringue stayed inflated, and I dollied up the custard sauce with pepper, lemon zest, and a crushed cardamom pod. I looked at the dish plated (top photo), tasted it, and wondered why anyone would want to go through this trouble for such a mundane dish - but email me if you'd like to try.
And now, I think I'll go smash a plate.

10 comments:

JR said...

It looks great Katrina, but it sure sounds like quite a hassle. I don't think I would have the patience to attempt this.

katrina said...

JR, the only answer I can give you is that foodies are insane. That's the best explanation for spending four hours grumbling through a recipe like this. Thanks so much for coming by to witness my obsession.............

normanack said...

It sure is photogenic, and anything puffy connotes difficulty to me. That said, I think you're fully justified in smashing a plate. :-)

katrina said...

normanack - I dunno. Puffy is pretty easy - think whipping up egg whites for meringues, squeezing out a little gougeres, but thanks for the pat on the back. I wish it tasted better, for all the agony I went through, but at least I "saved" the recipe. Writers for food magazines who pen up recipes that don't work (or worse, don't taste wonderful) get the shards of the Italian platter..........just kidding. Couldn't do it.

Barb said...

Hi Katrina - Well, this looks like just way too much work for the end result. I think I'd rather put my efforts into your biscuit recipe, but sometimes it's fun to try something different.

katrina said...

You're right on the mark, Barb - everyone likes a challenge once in a while - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - especially using a recipe you're not sure of. All part of the fun with cooking! But I admit, after 4 hours of messing around, I was getting cranky.....

jessie said...

gorgeous, girlfriend!

katrina said...

Hey, hey, jessie and (?) lillie! Delighted you found this!

winestainedcloth said...

Oh Kat, the ups, downs of the process and the tasteless things that result inspire us to try and try again, don't they?

katrina said...

Absolutely right, D! With this recipe ( especially after that first disaster with the shrinking disc) - the process became a duel of wills. I had a feeling "Oeufs" wasn't going to taste sublime, but jeezzz - no way could I admit to a flop because of someone elses technical misinformation. It's actually pretty funny to be so stubborn. Always good to see you!