June 21, 2010

ladies who dine

How lucky am I?

Once again, I was completely bowled over by the culinary prowess of these women. We feasted on delicious Vietnamese en plein air, then went inside my charming friend's stylish pad for dessert & Vietnamese coffee, & a suite of parlour games that had us laughing so hard I don't think there was a dry eye at the table.

A host of fireflies saw us to our cars when the festivities were over. Thanks again, ladies, for a wonderful evening!

Banh Dua Ca Ra Men
Coconut Créme Caramel

for the caramel
1/4 cup sugar (I used turbinado with good results)
1/4 cup hot water

for the custard
1 cup fresh or canned coconut milk
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°

to make the caramel
Cook the sugar in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until browned & melted. Stir the hot water into the caramel slowly, being careful to guard against splattering (the mixture will bubble vigorously). Boil the mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (about 2 minutes).

Pour the caramel into a 1 Quart soufflé dish or 5 4-oz. ramekins. Swirl the caramel around in the dish(es) to coat all of the surfaces with caramel.

to make the custard
Combine the coconut milk, milk & sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Scald until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs & vanilla together. Gradually whisk the hot coconut milk mixture into the eggs, blending thoroughly until creamy & uniform.

Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl, or a pitcher for easier pouring. Pour the custard into the caramel coated dish(es).

to bake
Line a large roasting pan with 2 layers of paper towels. Put the souffle dish or ramekins in the pan, & add hot water to reach half way up the side of the pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not disturb the custard while it is baking, the "secret" to producing a smooth & velvety custard.

Remove the dish(es) immediately from the hot water & let cool for 1/2 hour. Chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

to serve
Run a cool knife around the edge of the custard & turn out onto dessert plates. Garnish with lime zest. We ate ours directly out of the ramekins for a more casual approach.

from "The Foods of Vietnam" by Nicole Rauthier

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