Sunday, March 30, 2008

Slightly Melted; Still Intact

Sally Cruikshank posted a (somewhat French) cooking horror story yesterday. I thought I would post my own French cooking horror story.

When we first moved to CA we were friends with this couple who traveled a lot and loved good food. We met them at Tommy's Mexican for dinner right before their trip to France. We had all been reading those books by Peter Mayle about Provence. My favorite parts were about drinking Pastis, and I wanted some Pastis so bad.

When they came back from France, they brought us some Pastis, and also a giant rubbery-plastic pastry scraper with "E. Dehillerin, 18 rue Coquilliere 75001 PARIS" inscribed on it. They didn't want to go to Tommy's anymore. But they offered to cook us a French dinner. I was very intimidated by our friends, but in a desperate move I offered to make dessert. At the time the only dessert I knew how to make was pecan pie. I've since learned cherry pie (from cans) and a flourless chocolate cake with easter eggs and worms on top.

But this pecan pie is out-of-this-world good. A couple things that make it so good: It uses good rum, and it uses not only dark brown sugar, but Lyle's Golden Syrup instead of corn syrup. And of course I make the crust using King Arthur's flour.

I had a time getting the dough off the counter and into the glass pie dish, but managed to do it with the help of my new pastry scraper and assorted other spatulas. The pie went in the oven. After 50 minutes the buzzer went off. That's when you're supposed to insert a skewer into the center of the pie. If the skewer comes out clean, the pie is done. Well, the skewer would not come out clean, even after returning the pie to the oven 5 or 6 times.

I called Aggles. She told me to forget about the skewer. She said to hold the pie up so that you can see the bottom of the pie crust through the bottom of the glass dish. If the crust looked a little brown, it was done. I managed to hold the pie up and imagine my horror when I saw the giant "E. Dehillerin, 18 rue Coquilliere 75001 PARIS" pastry scraper staring at me from the bottom of the glass dish. It had adhered itself to the bottom of the pastry and cooked along with the pie. There was no time to make another pie, so I took that one and decided to act surprised.

Do you have any French cooking horror stories to tell?