|Jacques Pépin Celebrates!: Episode
#204: Easter Special
In this surprise-filled celebration of spring, Jacques and Claudine prepare a sumptuous Easter dinner for friends, starting with CAVIAR SERVED WITH BUCKWHEAT BLINIS AND FROZEN VODKA -- the perfect adult answer to Easter eggs. SALMON STEAKS WITH A TANGY FRESH SORREL SAUCE and delicate little cucumber balls make an easy first course. And of course, there's lamb -- in this case, spring LAMB LOINS IN AMBUSH, coated with a ground lamb and vegetable mousse, served over fresh fava beans. Jacques' LEEK AND MUSHROOM PIE brings just the right earthy flavors to go with the lamb. And on the side, there are EGGPLANT "CUSHIONS" garnished with lightly stewed tomatoes; and ARTICHOKE BOTTOMS stuffed with brown-butter spinach, topped with a golden-brown gratin sauce. The meal ends as it began, with more grown-up Easter eggs: fluffy CARAMEL SNOW EGGS floating in custard cream. In a classic Pépin pairing, this ethereal dessert is served with Jacques' down-to-earth old-fashioned OATMEAL COOKIES (but, of course, they're dipped in a chocolate coating that elevates them to the level of "oat" cuisine). With entertaining tips, wine ideas and more, this program is a spectacular Easter basket, overflowing with the festive flavors and extravagant bounty of springtime.
Caramel Snow Eggs
Yield: 6 servings
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cup milk
6 egg yolks from large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg whites from large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1. To make the custard cream: Pour the cream into a bowl, and set a fine strainer on top. In a saucepan, mix the cornstarch with the milk, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, with a whisk, mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl, and beat until smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour in the boiling milk, then return the mixture to the saucepan, and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until it thickens (at about 180 degrees). The foam created from beating the egg yolks and sugar will disappear when the custard has reached 180 degrees, and the mixture will thicken. Immediately pour it into the cold cream through the fine strainer (to catch any curdled bits); this will lower the temperature of the custard mixture and prevent it from curdling further. The custard should coat the spoon. Add the vanilla, cover, and cool.
2. Place a large stainless steel saucepan with at least 2 inches of water in it on the stove, and bring the water to 175 to 180 degrees.
3. Meanwhile, make the meringue mixture: Beat the egg whites by hand with a whisk or in a mixer until firm. Sprinkle sugar quickly onto the whites while continuing to beat, and beat for another 10 seconds, just long enough to incorporate the sugar. Using a round ice cream scoop that holds at least 3/4 cup, scoop up a portion of the meringue, filling the scoop completely, and smooth the top with your fingers to round the meringue.
4. Drop balls of meringue one by one into the hot water, cooking six to eight at time and rinsing the scoop, if sticky, after each use in a bowl of clean water. The cooking water should not boil when you are poaching the meringues, or they will expand and then deflate and get rubbery.
5. Cook the meringue balls approximately 3 minutes on one side and, sliding a slotted spoon underneath, turn them over, and cook them for 3 minutes on the other side. Remove to paper towels with the slotted spoon. The meringue balls can be made ahead to this point and cooled. To check whether the meringue is cooked, cut one ball in half, and press on the cut surface. It should have a spongy texture.
6. To make the caramel: Put the sugar and water in a saucepan. Mix together just enough to moisten the sugar, then place over medium heat until the mixture boils. Keep boiling, without stirring or shaking the pan, until the mixture becomes caramel-colored (10 to 12 minutes). Remove the caramel from the heat, and let it rest for a few minutes to thicken a little.
7. Pour the custard cream into a serving platter, and arrange the meringue eggs on top. Drizzle a spoonful of caramel on top of each egg. Serve as is or with cookies.