Daring Cooks’ Challenge: Ouefs a la Neige

I try not to make resolutions in the New Year, mostly because I always break them about thirty seconds after I make them.  I prefer goals.  Of course, I generally fall short of those, too, but it doesn’t stop me.  My goal this year is to get back on the Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks wagon.  To that end, the first challenge of the year for the Daring Cooks was given to us from Kim at Ask a Foodie.  Making sure that no matter where in the world we are, we’d have a bit of snow by making Ouefs a la Neige or Eggs in Snow.  It’s pretty similar to Floating Islands—meringues in Crème Anglaise—only the meringues in this case are poached, not baked.

Full disclosure: I don’t enjoy Crème Anglaise or any vanilla pudding-type desserts.  I turn down vanilla ice cream and milkshakes and crème brulee and even flan.  I don’t know if it’s a milk thing or a texture thing.  I suppose a combination of both.  This isn’t a dessert I’d normally make, order, or serve; however, it was fun to make, and it was certainly a challenge.

The recipes we were provided by Kim.  The crème Anglaise and poached meringues are from The Encyclopedia of Classic French Pastries by Susan Whatley, and the praline recipe was from Rachel Khoo.  Since I am not a fan of this type of dessert, I reduced the original recipe down to a third of the original.  It reduced well and was more than enough for two large servings.  I will give the full recipe ingredients list at the bottom of the post.

Apologies for the photos. Since I have been away, some things have changed, and I just have not caught up with how to share the photos between my Flickr account and WordPress.  That or I have just forgotten.  I’ll figure it out eventually.


Oefs a la Neige


Meringue Recipe

2 large egg whites, yolks reserved

Pinch of salt

¼ cup granulated sugar

7 oz. whole milk (a little less than a cup)

Whip egg whites and salt to soft peaks.

meringue 2_edited-1

Gradually add the sugar.  Increase speed to high & whip to stiff peaks.

meringue 3_edited-2

Over medium heat, bring milk to a boil in a heavy saucepan; reduce it to a simmer.

poaching meringue 1_edited-1

With two spoons, spoon the meringue in an oval shape into the simmering milk.  Poach each side between 2-3 minutes, turning once.  They puff, so don’t try more than two or three at a time.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a plate.

meringue 4_edited-3

Crème Anglaise

2 large egg yolks (reserved from the meringue)

¼ cup granulated sugar

Pinch salt

1/8 tsp vanilla

Remaining warm milk from poaching egg whites

In a heavy medium sauce pan, mix yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla together until pale yellow in color.

creme anglaise 1_edited-1

Add a small amount of the warm milk, whisking vigorously.  Slowly add the remaining milk.  Stir until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Do not boil because it will curdle.  This step takes a little while, but it does get there.

Pour mixture through a strainer.  Chill custard.

creme anglaise 2_edited-2

Prailine Recipe

7 tbsp. granulated sugar

2 tbsp. less 1 tsp. water

½ cup slivered almonds

Bring water & sugar to a boil.

praline 1_edited-1

Add almonds.  Keep stirring.  When the sugar turns golden, pour mixture onto a silpat or parchment paper to cool.  Mine seized,

praline 2_edited-1

so I added more water and it looked like everything was okay…

praline 3_edited-2

until it cooled, then I had huge sugar crystals everywhere.


Delicious, but not what I wanted.

To serve, place the chilled crème anglaise in a shallow dish


and top it with the poached meringues and pralines.



Original amounts:

Yield 6 servings


6 large egg whites

Pinch salt

¾ cups sugar

2 ½ cups whole milk

Crème Anglaise:

6 large egg yolks

¾ cup sugar

1/8 tsp salt

½ tsp. vanilla

Remaining warm milk from meringue poaching


Same recipe


A Cookie is NOT a Dessert

First and foremost, let’s get one thing straight.  A cookie is not a dessert.  Yes, it’s sweet.  Yes, it’s most likely full of butter, and sugar, and maybe chocolate, and possibly even a few nuts, but if you tell me you’re bringing dessert and you hand me a cookie, I’m going to smirk at you—maybe not in your face, but most definitely in my head.  Is this polite?  Of course it isn’t.  But if you’re going to call a cookie a dessert, crumble it over some ice cream, or sandwich some ice cream between two cookies, or make one giant cookie and decorate it.  Just don’t hand me a solitary cookie and call it dessert, ‘cause, you know, I’m not three.

That said, today is National Cookie Day!  Is there a better month for cookies than December?  I think not.  Sadly, I don’t seem to have a single cookie recipe in The Pantry.  What’s up with that?  The closest I seem to come are these Chocolate Dipped Macaroons and this three year old post about cookies where I link some of the recipes below.

Here are some links to my favorite cookies– the ones I wish I could take credit for, but totally can’t– that I can’t do without over the holidays.

Original Nestle Toll House Cookies (Nestle)– for real– the BEST chocolate chip cookie recipe

Buttered Rum Meltaways (Martha Stewart)

Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies (Martha Stewart via Delish)– pictured in that old post referenced above

Pecan Bars (Martha Stewart)

Giant Sugar Cookies (Martha Stewart)

Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Smitten Kitchen)– also in that old post

and my favorite sugar cookie for decorating:

Basic Sugar Cookie Recipe (Sugarbelle)

That particular one is a temperamental pain in the…okay, you get where I’m going here.  However, if you keep the dough chilled, roll it on the cookie sheet and just pull the excess dough away from it, life is much easier.  For me, it is the best tasting recipe I have found so far– worth the frustration.


Daring Cooks’: Beef Bourguignon (in a Crock Pot!)

It’s been far too long since I’ve shared a challenge from the Daring Kitchen–one more thing in my life that I’ve put on the back burner. I’ve kept up with what’s happening in the Kitchen, and I’ve even completed a couple of the challenges.  However, for one reason or another I haven’t shared what I’ve been doing, and I certainly haven’t been around much here to share them.

The Kitchen is currently undergoing a bit of a renovation, and during the months of November and December, Rachel from pizzarosa has issued a Better Late than Never challenge in which we have been offered the opportunity to go back and choose and complete one or more challenges that we missed in the past.  In addition to the chance to try any of the challenges, we’ve been granted the freedom to post these at any point during the month instead of the usual posting date of the 14th for the Daring Cooks.

So with the opportunity to jump back into the kitchen, the only question became one of which of the sixty-plus recipes to choose.  Since we were in the midst of yet another bizarre cold snap and we had a bottle of delicious red wine that I wasn’t going to drink all by myself, I opted for Beef Bourguignon.   After all, what’s more warming that Beef Stew with red wine?

Perfect choice, but I had a problem:  no Dutch oven.  That’s right.  I don’t have one.  And that, well, that’s just wrong.  Not that I don’t own one, but that so many wonderful recipes require one.  And did you ever look at a recipe where a third of the commenters insisted that the recipe just didn’t work at all for them?  I’ve come to believe the reason it didn’t work in at least 85 percent of those cases is because those people don’t have good pots and pans.  I don’t think it is user error; I think it’s a lack of good equipment.  As someone who only recently acquired an All-Clad skillet to replace a thirteen year-old Revere Ware one, I can tell you honestly that it makes a difference—a big one.

Now watch a cooking show—America’s Test Kitchen, Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, Barefoot Contessa—and look at what they use: All Clad, Le Creuset, etc.  Does this mean that you can’t cook with what you have?  No, absolutely not.  It means you have to know what the differences are.  If you have a thin pan, the caramel you’re trying to make is going to cook much, much faster than those eight minutes the recipe’s instructions indicated.  Eight minutes in All Clad versus eight minutes in Revere ware is the difference between perfection and a dark brown, bitter mess.  But you have to know that the equipment changes the recipes’ instructions.  If you don’t, you’re out-of-luck before you’ve ever begun to measure your ingredients.  Sometimes it isn’t feasible to buy those high end pieces, especially when one All-Clad pan is the same price as a ten piece set of Revere ware.

So where was I?  Oh, yes.  No Dutch oven.  But, man, I wanted really wanted to do the Beef Bourguignon, and there had to be a way to do it according to the challenge instructions without begging for and borrowing that enameled pot.  And my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook provided the answer with Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy.  With some adjustment and a little daring-do, I could make this work for us.  And I did.


Crock Pot Beef Bourguignon

adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook (335-6)

Note: There is no onion and mushroom garnish in this version.  Despite every attempt to introduce them to the deliciousness that pearl onions and mushrooms can add, my family just isn’t having it.  I can usually hide them, but in this case, I had to simply leave them out.  It was that or have a pot of stew that all parties refused to touch. I chose to leave them out.


4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch chunks

1 3-4 lb. Chuck Roast, fat removed & cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 medium sized carrots, chopped

3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 ¼ cups Merlot (I used Noble Vines’ 181 Merlot)

¾ cups no salt added chicken broth

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

4 tbsp. butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour


Set up your crock pot– mine is 4 quarts.  Don’t turn it on– just put it together so it is ready to go.

Prep everything.   Cut, chop, pour, measure, and lay everything out.  Get Frenchified (totally a word) and go all mise-en-place (totally not proper grammar) in that kitchen of yours for this recipe.  This includes patting the beef dry with paper towels, and seasoning the meat well with salt and pepper.  Trust me, it’ll make your life much easier.  Oh, and these photos aren’t my usual style.  I’m having some technical issues that I hope to rectify soon.

prep 1_edited-1Start by cooking the bacon in a skillet over medium heat.  Remove the bacon for another use, but keep the fat in the skillet.  Okay, yes, after going on and on about using good pans versus using serviceable ones, you do see that I am using my All-Clad here.  I could have just as easily used my thirty dollar T-Fal (a great pan, by the way), but I really wanted to use the All-Clad.


There should be about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan.  Add a just a little vegetable oil if there doesn’t seem to be enough fat.  Turn the burner up to medium-high heat and add half of the seasoned beef to the hot bacon fat in the pan.   Brown the meat on all sides– don’t cook it all the way through.

cook half beef_edited-1

In the bottom of the crock pot, place the uncooked meat followed by the browned meat.

crock pot beef_edited-1The skillet should have crumbs and what not (fond is the technical term) on the bottom of it– leave them.  Turn your heat back down to medium.  To the hot pan, add the onions and carrots and a pinch of salt.  Cook them down for a few minutes until they are slightly tender and brown.

veg 1_edited-1

Add the minced garlic and thyme leaves and cook them for about 30 seconds or so– much more and the garlic will burn.  Burned garlic is bitter and not at all tasty.  The sheer speed at which all of these steps take place is why you need to prep in advance.

veg 2_edited-1

Now add the tomato paste and stir it all together and cook it for another 30 seconds or so.  Not the prettiest dish in the world, but oh it is delicious.

veg 3_edited-1

Remove the pan from the heat and put the mixture in the crock pot on top of the browned meat.

Return the pan, which should be really covered in fond by now) to the burner and raise the heat back to medium-high.  Quickly and carefully add  the wine, broth, and Worcestershire sauce, scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan.  If you are using a non-stick pan, you may not have any stuck on browned bits at all.  That’s really the benefit of using a regular skillet.  Let the mixture simmer for about a minute.  I didn’t photograph this part.  Sorry.

Pour it over the vegetables in the crock pot.

crock pre cook_edited-1

Put the lid on, and cook everything on low.  If you plan to eat the meal that day, cook for eight and a half to nine hours.  If you plan to make the dish ahead and serve it the next day- which is what I did– cook for eight hours and leave it in the crock pot until cooled to room temperature.  Then refrigerate the stew until the next day.

The pictures I have show the cold stew being defatted.  This is harder to do with a hot stew, but not impossible.  Just skim the top fat with a spoon in wither case.  With the hot stew, the fat will be a little shiny and liquid.  With the cold, stew, it’s solid and at the top and very easy to move.  And, oh, yuck.

Defat the stew and strain the liquid into another bowl.

strain beef_edited-1

In a clean skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Sprinkle flour evenly over the butter, whisking the two together until you have a light brown roux.

roux 1_edited-1

Then carefully whisk the reserved liquid from the stew into the roux.   Simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly.  Add the meat back to the sauce.  Simmer until it is all heated through.

roux 2_edited-1

Serve over rice or potatoes or bread or all by itself.


Yield: 10 servings was what we got out of it.  You may or may not get more depending on your portion sizes.  It fed us for a couple of days.