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Monday, February 23, 2009

Fried pastry cream? Yes, thank you!

I'm a rather different kind of cook than Dr. Ricky. While he likes to create new dishes, I am content to stumble my way through other peoples' creations. I love cooking, but I won't take any creative license until I feel like I've truly mastered a dish. Like many home cooks of this variety, I have quite a number of cookbooks. This month, I added to that collection, purchasing The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller.

When purchasing a cookbook, I look at the 5-star reviews in addition to the 1-star reviews. I often find the 1-star reviews more revealing:
Despite the beauty of the photos and layout, this book is only usable if you have all day to spend in a professional or gourment home kitchen. I mean really, who has time to spend hours making stock for one recipe ... ?
Yep, I knew this book would be for me. I love to spend 12 hours tending the fire to make smoked brisket. Spending hours making a single stock sounds GREAT!

So this past weekend, in addition to having a bacon extravaganza (which I won't write about, as I promised earlier), I made a dessert from the French Laundry Cookbook. I made the "Pineapple Chop", described well at French Laundry at Home. First, you cut the pineapple into two "racks" to resemble frenched rack of lamb. Then you fry and roast them in a butter/vanilla mixture.

While roasting the pineapple, you prepare a caramel butter sauce, and fried pastry creams. The fried pastry creams are simply ridiculous. You make what is essentially a custard on the stovetop, except that it has flour in it. You reduce this custard until it's thick, then pour it into a bread tin to chill it. Pop out rounds of chilled custard, bread it with Japanese panko, and deep-fry it. DEEP-FRIED CUSTARD!!! What can be better than that?

So in the end, you serve this delicious caramel-glazed pineapple chop with a bit of the sauce, and the pastry cream, and a dollop of rapidly-melting whipped crème fraiche. Simply absurdly delicious.

I even screwed up the recipe on multiple levels - I didn't roast the pineapple long enough (I got impatient, it was late) so it didn't fall apart the way it was described. I also didn't chill the custards properly, so they didn't hold their exact shape through the breading process. Finally, I overheated the caramel sauce, and it broke.

Nonetheless, despite these errors, it was still the most delicious dessert I have ever cooked. Once I fix these small details, it will be outrageous. With one recipe, this book has proved its worth.

Next week: Lemon Sabayon-Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone Cream. YUM!

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