We are standing in the kitchen together again, as we have for more than 50 years, but this time we weren’t in her kitchen. The location doesn’t seem to matter, we have an easy rhythm that two people share when they are just happy to be together. Like a duet, effortless, even though we hadn’t practiced in a long time. We shop, cook, eat, drink, and talk, and after resting we start all over again. I learned that our Uncle David was going to be a rabbi, she learned that my favorite wine is Vouvray. We have history, both genetic and the kind that comes from having lived in close proximity to each other, and despite our mature ages, she is still my role model. I am astonished that she arrives to cook with perfectly done hair and make-up, wearing a twin sweater-set she could just as easily have been dressed for an afternoon at the museum.
On Friday afternoon Micheline took center stage, no recipe in hand to guide her, just years of practice and the experience of having prepared this dish hundreds of times. I stood and watched, still learning from my cousin who has already taught me so much about food, family, and life.
After the first day of Yontif, Micheline went home, and we discovered a brown bag with her custard pan, the slightly larger pan which she uses for a Bain-marie , along with the small Corningware pot that she uses to make her caramel. I called her to see if we should ship them to her, but she said to keep them. Now those pans belong to my son and daughter-in-law. May they use them in good health, and have them as a reminder of the wonderful Rosh Hashana that they created for the family. Maybe one day they too will make crème caramel.
I called Micheline this morning and she asked me to share this part of the story. That afternoon, she trustingly left me to watch over the crème caramel while she ran to the market. I over-baked it and “ruined it.” I hope she will forgive me, but it was a lesson well learned and one I don’t think I will ever forget. There is still so much to learn. Chag Sameach.
Micheline’s Creme Caramel
(original recipe from Mireille)
8 egg yolks and 4 whole eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 quart whole milk
dash of salt
2 tsp vanilla
In a large mixing bowl, mix eggs with sugar, then add milk and salt, ending with vanilla. Set aside.
1 cup sugar
water to cover
To make the caramel, place sugar in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover the sugar, no more than that. Place pan on stove over medium heat. Do not stir. Allow syrup to boil until it starts to turn dark brown. Then quickly remove from the heat and immediately pour into baking dish, tilting pan till bottom is covered with caramel.
Pour custard over caramel. Place larger pan in the oven and put custard-filled pan inside of it. Carefully add cold water in between the two pans, 2/3 up the side. Not too much! We don’t want it to flow over into the crème caramel.
Set oven temperature to 350° F. and bake for about 30 minutes. The water should not boil during baking. The custard is done when it has set, which you can test by inserting a knife which should come out clean. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Allow the custard to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate till serving time. To serve, run a knife along the outside and turn over onto a dessert plate. Serves 10-12