île flottante and more

In the kitchen with Elise tonight, it’s Quiche Lorraine, une salade, and les baguettes, followed by the fabulous île flottante (which is sort of a ball of meringue floating in a sea of custard). How did I get so lucky? And why does she leave so soon?

Elise and me
Tomorrow, we head to Eugene to show her the University of Oregon, then it’s on up to Portland to stay the night with friends so the early morning trip to the airport the following day isn’t so tiresome. It’s been fantastique, our time together. I found a wonderful American friend for Elise, too. When you’re a young girl exploring cultures, this is a dream come true! I love being a match-maker! Now, I just wait for the time when I get to visit her in France.

I told Elise about the time when I was around her age and had the opportunity to be an au pair for a family in Besançon, a city in the northeast of France at the foothills of the Jura Mountains and near the Swiss border. I shortly thereafter met my future husband and cancelled the job and the opportunity of a lifetime, which is unknown to a young girl at the time who just worries about whether he’ll be there when she gets back. I’m so proud of her, and perhaps a bit envious, for getting out there and doing what is not so simple and unfettered a thing to do once you’re married and have children. Oh, I’m so happy I stayed back and married my husband, and someday I will have another opportunity. However, I generally counsel the youth I work with or come in contact with to just go. Really, if that boy truly loves you, he’ll still be there.

La cuisine beckons, so je suis aller!

Recipe for île flottante

2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup water, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) sliced almonds
8 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Creme Anglaise, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the caramel, heat 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Cook over medium heat until the syrup turns a warm caramel color. Don’t stir, just swirl it in the pan. Off the heat, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla; be careful, the syrup will bubble violently. Stir and cook over high heat until the caramel reaches 230 degrees F (thread stage) on a candy thermometer. Set aside.

For the praline, combine the almonds with 1/4 cup of the caramel and spread them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the almonds are lightly browned. Allow to cool at room temperature and then break up in pieces.

Lower the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

For the meringues, beat the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy. Turn the mixer on high speed and add the remaining 1 cup of sugar. Beat until the egg whites are very stiff and glossy. Whisk in the remaining teaspoon of vanilla. With dessert spoons place 12 mounds of meringue on the parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

For serving, pour creme anglaise on the bottom of individual plates. Place a meringue on top of each serving, drizzle with caramel sauce, sprinkle with praline, and serve.

To make a day or two ahead, leave the caramel and praline at room temperature and refrigerate the creme anglaise. Bake the meringues before guests arrive and assemble the desserts just before serving.

Creme Anglaise:

4 extra-large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 3/4 cups scalded milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons Cognac

Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, optional

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.

With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs. Pour the custard mixture into a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thickened. The custard will coat the spoon like heavy cream. Don’t cook it above 180 degrees For the eggs will scramble!

Pour the sauce through a fine strainer, add the vanilla extract, Cognac, and vanilla seeds, if using, and chill.

Yield: 2 cups

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6 Responses to île flottante and more

  1. Reagan says:

    Funny, my counsel for young(er) girls is usually to go as well! I wanted to go on a foreign missions trip so badly….ah, but then there was the boyfriend. I got rid of him and almost went and then I met the sweetest farmer ever. I’ve never lost the desire to go….someday I will. It is thrill to watch others expereince what I didn’t.

    I will be praying for you as you minister to Elise. What a gift!

  2. Anita says:

    Oh well, Jennifer, perhaps you might not have to wait too long. Have you come across Rick Steve’s books on travelling Europe with kids on a shoestring?He suggests camping, which was great, great fun for our kids. We tent-camped in France, Belgium and England, and RVed in Switzerland, Norway and Ireland. With campfire meals and tenting, costs can be kept down. In fact, many of our English friends with kids go on tent-camping trips to France, Italy and Spain. Of course, once you factor in airfare from the US, it’s more expensive! Haven’t kept track of what the airfares are any more. What a fab time you seem to have had with Elise!

  3. e-Mom says:

    What a lovely time you’ve had! And the recipes look merveilleuse! As for the Bible, hmmm. Not sure what I would do. I suppose I would pray REALLY HARD (I know you are) and obey what the Spirit tells me.

    Is she a reader? Does she have a curiousity about books? Or would she be open to Christian music CDs and other auditory teaching materials. I know you’ll make the right decision.

    ((Hugs)) e-Mom ღ

  4. Gina says:

    Just in praying you are making a difference in her life…I’ve been thinking of her (and you) and was praying these last weeks, praying for fertile soil and a seed planted.

  5. Jen says:

    Reagan, maybe you and that sweet farmer will get a chance to go together someday? I agree, I love watching others have that opportunity to experience foreign missions or trips.

    e-Mom, I didn’t send the Bible after all. Thanks for your prayers on that. I did cry as I watched her disappear through her gate at the airport, wondering if I’d made the right decision. What if by some freak of things her plane went down and she never had a loud & clear word from me? But, God is bigger than my manipulations and fears…and I have to trust His timing.

    Gina, thanks, my friend. So glad you got to put her face with her name and meet her!

  6. Jen says:

    Anita, I’ll have to check out that book! Tent camping–it would be cost prohibitive to bring my own from the US maybe? Just get one there I guess -or borrow yours once I get there ;-). That sounds like a fun idea…and RVing sounds even better! Yeah, the airfare is a big deal, especially with a family of six.

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