Looking Forward in the Past
Also a great dessert. And a very aromatic vintage menu.
I was amazed when I found this old article; I do not recall writing it. But it certainly gives you a good picture of what was happening in the American food world almost thirty-five years ago. It’s a sign of where we came from - and of how very far we had to go.
Since we’re in the nineties, let me pass on one of my favorite recipes from that decade. I first went to L’Ami Jean in 2002, when I heard that Stephane Jégo, a chef who had worked with Yves Camdeborde at La Regalade, had taken over Paris’ oldest Basque bistro, L’Ami Jean. The restaurant first opened in 1931 but Jégo transformed the place into what was to become one of my favorite Paris restaurants.
This is the dessert that just about everyone has when they go there: a spectacularly luxurious version of rice pudding. The chef serves it with a nut brittle; I don’t bother making brittle - I just serve it with dried apricots and chopped almonds (or sometimes with chopped up Littlejohn’s English Toffee).
L’AMI JEAN’S RIZ AU LAIT (my adaptation of a widely-published recipe)
1⁄2 vanilla bean
2 generous cups whole milk
1⁄3 cup bomba rice or sushi rice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Split the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and put the seeds and pod in a medium pot. Add 2 cups of milk and bring to a simmer. Stir in 1/3 cup bomba rice and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it has become a porridge (about 25 minutes). Stir in the sugar. Cool to room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator for at least an hour to chill.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold it into the rice, little by little, until it is light.
Serve in individual bowls with confiture de lait, creme anglaise, and dried fruit and nuts on the side.
Confiture de lait
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pour the condensed milk into a glass pie pan or shallow baking dish. Add a pinch of salt and cover tightly with foil. Set the pie pan in a roasting pan and pour boiling water into the roasting pan (not into the condensed milk) until the water rises halfway up the sides of the pie pan.
Bake until the milk turns deep golden brown, about an hour. Keep checking the water level, adding more as the level goes down. Remove from the oven and cool. If the caramel has gotten lumpy, you can whisk it or strain it to make it smooth.
1/2 vanilla bean pod
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons sugar, divided 3 egg yolks
Split the half vanilla bean open, scrape out the seeds and place the seeds and pod in a small pot. Add the cup cream, milk, a dash of salt and 3 tablespoons of sugar and slowly heat it just until bubbles form around the outside of the pot.
In a bowl whisk the 3 egg yolks with 3 tablespoons of sugar until fluffy. Whisk just enough of the scalded cream mixture into the eggs to warm them, then whisk slowly into the cream mixture. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon over low heat until it coats the back of the spoon. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl set over an ice bath. Cool completely, then refrigerate.
Serves 6 to 8.
And now for something completely different. A fascinating menu to prove how drastically things changed over the next thirty years.