Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Winter Solstice! Happy Saint Stephens Day! Happy New Year! May whatever holidays you celebrate this season be merry and bright.
This past week, in addition to the usual holiday madness, we celebrated a few December birthdays and I used the occasion as an excuse to check off a few French Fridays with Dorie recipes. For dinner we had Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak (recipe posted by Dorie here) served with roasted potatoes (as close to pommes frites as I can bring myself to make at home) and salad with homemade blue cheese dressing. And to round out my bistro menu, this week’s FFwD recipe, Creme Brulee.
First, let’s talk steak. During my semester abroad in France I lived with a french family and ate dinner with them every night. On the occasions when steak was served I had an up close look at one of the culinary differences between typical american and french tastes.
My french family would throw their steaks into a very hot pan, sear it a minute or so on each side, and then sit down to eat a steak which, as far as I could tell, was still mooing. They would good-naturedly leave my steak in the pan to let it come to what most american restaurants would consider medium, and what they called burnt. Vive la difference!
These days I like my steak more on the rare side, which is a good thing because I still enjoy traveling to France and rare is about as well done as one can get a steak there. True to its origins, Dorie’s pepper steak recipe calls for cooking filets mignons 2 to 3 minutes on each side, and then deglazing the pan with a bit of cognac and cream (it’s a french recipe after all). The resulting steak is rare and absolutely delicious! The perfect birthday indulgence.
And since no birthday is complete without dessert, let’s talk about Dorie’s Creme Brulee. Now, I’ve cooked many a creme brulee in my life, and I’ve eaten many more, but I’ve never come across one with jam. Yes, jam! Dorie’s recipe calls for a spoonful of jam as the base layer of her creme brulee recipe. Definitely a first for me. And, as I currently have a rather large number of half-finished jars of jam in my fridge, I decided to use a different one for each dish so that we could taste test and see which one we liked best. My favorite turned out to be the pear-ginger and my husband’s was mirabelle, but aside from the lemon curd (which we both agreed was the only one which didn’t work) they were all quite tasty.
As for the more technical aspects of this dish, this was the first creme brulee recipe I have ever seen which did not call for the custards to be baked in a water bath. In fact, every other recipe I have ever read pretty much insists that a water bath is the only way to cook the custards evenly, however, Dorie’s came out perfectly cooked with no problems. I’m still wondering why that is. Are all the other recipes just overly cautious? Or is Dorie’s recipe different in some way which makes it possible to bake without the water bath? I’m stumped.