I ran a little guessing game on Facebook last night to see which classic French dessert people thought I’d be posting today. The answers ranged from tarte Tatin to crème brulée and clafoutis aux cerises (a springtime speciality!). No, it’s crème caramel — one of this country’s favorites, and mine too. It’s simple to make, and very healthy as desserts go, with just milk, eggs and sugar as ingredients. I’ve been making it forever. Now it’s your turn.
Crème caramel / Crème caramel
A little history. When I first moved to France, in 1974, I lived on the rue des Boulangers in the 5th. It’s a winding street that, at the time, was paved with cobblestones. Around the bend from my place was a little bistro of the kind one can only dream of. Red-and-white checked tablecloths, a great selection of classic dishes, good carafe wine — and a 10-franc menu. That’s about $2. A handsome couple ran the place, with the man behind the copper bar and the woman serving up boeuf bourguignon, gratin dauphinois (that’s potatoes) and, for starters, the world’s best assiette de crudités. And for dessert, a selection that always included crème caramel. She would scoop out each portion with panache and swoop it over to your table, the custard gently wobbling in its rich caramel sauce…
Okay, enough dreaming. That sort of bistro is hard to find these days, so the best solution is to make your own crème caramel. This recipe allows you to make individual portions if you prefer. It is adapted from a Julia Child recipe I used to use as a young chef, and should be prepared a few hours before you plan to serve it.
A couple more things. Thanksgiving is coming, and if you’d like to innovate with a French touch this year, you can find recipes on this site for everything but the turkey. Here are some suggestions: wild mushrooms with herbs or pumpkin soup for starters, then rolled roast of duck with rosemary or roast quail, roasted butternut squash with pine nuts or sweet potatoes with herbs or Georges Blanc’s pumpkin gratin or stuffed pumpkin, accompanied by pomegranate relish, polenta with parmesan and rosemary, salad of mixed greens from Provence and, to conclude, French apple tart.
Finally, just a reminder that my new book, Desperate to Be a Housewife, came out last week. In the fourth chapter, the one called Paris (the first three are called Flight, Sex and Men), you will find a colorful description of my life on the Rue des Boulangers, in an apartment I shared with a man I’d met only 12 hours before we signed the lease! Those were crazy days, but fun.