Monday, June 23, 2008

Ile Flottante or We'll Always Have Paris

Have you ever watched Emeril Lagasse on TV? Oh the "BAM!" business is truly annoying, but watch how he adds spices and garlic. If the crowd goes crazy for more garlic he just "BAMs" some more in there. It's all about the show.

It doesn't work that way for desserts.
Desserts are the "hospital corners" of cooking. There is comparatively little room for spontaneity when it comes to dessert recipes. There are repercussions from using baking soda instead of baking powder; you can't just wing it with a cup of heavy cream more or less.

Everyday cooking is theater. It's the scallopine hitting the saute pan with a burst of flame. It's the explosion of bubbles and steam as you add wine to deglaze a pan. Cooking is for showmen, desserts are for surgeons. It's why I cook dinner and SSSal makes the desserts. I just don't have the patience or precision for dessert making. She does.

After senior year in high school SSSal spent the summer living in Paris. She learned to appreciate the French culture and food. So here's a simplified (no, really) version of a dessert that she's always wanted to try. I wouldn't call it easy, but for you precise types out there it should right up your alley (or is that "place"?).

Ile Flottante, Floating Islands with Lemon-Scented Custard Sauce and Raspberries
from Bon Appetit, April 2008, Jeanne Thiel Kelley

1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

Meringue islands:
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup sugar
6 paper-thin lemon slices
2 6-ounce containers fresh raspberries

For sauce:

Bring cream and milk to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Using whisk, beat egg yolks and sugar in medium bowl until light, about 2 minutes.

Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into yolks.

Return mixture to saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 3 minutes (do not boil).

Pour custard into bowl. Stir in lemon juice and peel.

Cool slightly, then chill uncovered until cold. do ahead Sauce can be made 2 days ahead.

Cover and keep refrigerated.

For meringue islands:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Generously butter six 3/4-cup soufflé dishes and dust with sugar. Place on baking sheet.

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites with pinch of salt in large bowl until soft peaks form.

Gradually beat in sugar.

Continue beating until stiff and glossy.

Divide meringue among prepared soufflé dishes, mounding slightly.

Bake until meringues puff and begin to brown lightly on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Cool to room temperature, at least 20 minutes and up to 3 hours (meringues will deflate).

Divide custard sauce among 6 shallow soup bowls. Carefully run small sharp knife around edge of meringues to loosen, if necessary.

Invert meringues, then turn top side up and place on sauce. Garnish with lemon slices and sprinkle with raspberries.

The result is this eggy, marshmellowy meringue sitting atop the best vanilla pudding you've ever had. A word of warning, like the recipe says, the meringues do deflate so don't be upset. Also a touch of fresh mint wouldn't hurt the look or taste of this dish.

OK crablings, This one was a little tough but I think you'll find the result worth it. See you next time, remember, you can do it, you can cook.


Anonymous said...

I am addicted to sweet wine. There I said it. A wine geek that admits his first love is sweet wine usually gets kicked out of the wine cellar. So with a boot print riveted into my butt, I suggest a couple of sweet wines for this dessert.
Monbazillac is affordable
classic French dessert wine. Styled similarly to Sauternes, it has the perfect balance between sugar and acidity. That means it is not sticky in your mouth.
The other choice is Muscat Beaumes de Venise. Here the sweetness is counterbalanced with high alcohol, so be careful.

Both wines should be served chilled, but not ice cold. When wine is too cold you don't get the full flavor and aromas of the wine.


Anonymous said...

"Desserts are the 'hospital corners' of cooking." Ah, you crack me up, Crabby. Now go bounce a quarter off that meringue ...

hungryandfrozen said...

Those look beautiful. Love your way of comparing the different types of cooking - it's pretty true :) I've never, ever had or made Iles Flottant but I've always wanted to try. Plus I love the name!

Anonymous said...

looks much prettier than those normally served here in Paris!!