Our lives are full of mystery. The degree to which one sets out to discover knowledge varies widely, but on some level, we all are challenged and fascinated by the power of a secret. Children wonder why the sky is blue; detectives doggedly hunt for clues to solve crimes; and scientists hunch over microscopes, searching for that miniscule, inscrutable squiggle that will hasten a disease’s cure. Every question that is asked of us, no matter how mundane or profound, begs an answer. I was asked about Page 123.
Page 123 is a meme I’d never heard of until the wise and spiritual Nanditha of Miles to go Before I Sleep!!! passed it on to me several weeks ago. At first I didn’t know what to make of it nor how to fulfill it. The original guidelines of the meme are to discuss the fifth paragraph of Page 123 of the book you are currently reading. This seemed as arbitrary and valid as any other meme presented to me, but I was hard pressed to find focus among the stacks of fiction and non-fiction books I am simultaneously reading in various stages of progress. A cookbook, therefore, was the most natural, easiest choice for me. Since the chief lure of the meme tripped all my wires of curiosity, I selected a brand new volume, one only gotten a few weeks back, its binding uncracked, its thick, 4-color pages smelling like a deck of new cards. Clearly, this cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking, needed to be broken in, spattered and dog-earred, before it was officially mine. Page 123, featuring Caramelized Cardamom Apples with Pistachio Cream, was the perfect landing for the inauguration.
In an effort not to exclude anyone in the community, I offer this meme to whomever is curious enough to take it up, whether in its original format as set forth by Nanditha or as I have transformed it into the equally pleasurable exercise of eating.
If you choose to approach it as a culinary question, you will not know which recipe you will be lead to. It does not matter. You will already know the crux of the answer before you even begin your search. You know you will eat well.
Baked Custard Timbales - Inspired by Patricia's Technicolor Kitchen recipe
1 - 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 measures of heavy cream (use the condensed milk can as each unit of measure)
[Regular milk as suggested in Patricia's original recipe, as well as 2% fat milk, are good choices for those watching their fat intake.]
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 375 Degrees F.
Pour all ingredients in a blender and whip on medium speed until fully combined. Allow to rest at least 15 minutes to flatten foam. (Foam causes pockets and bubbles in the custard.)
Coat two 6-count regular-sized muffin tins (silicone works best) with non-stick spray. Set tins into a shallow baking pan centered on middle rack of oven. Evenly divide custard mixture into each muffin cup. Pour very warm to hot water into the baking pan (moderates cooking of eggs to prevent curdling) until water reaches level 1/2 to 2/3 up the sides of the muffin cups. Loosely tent aluminum foil over muffin tins and carefully push rack into place in oven.
Bake at 375 Degrees F for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in custard comes out clean. If custard is very wobbly and wet, continue to bake at 10 minute intervals, checking after each interval. Do not worry if the tops of the custard brown and buckle a bit. The muffin cups will ultimately be inverted, making the tops the base of the timbales.
Remove muffin tins from oven and water pan, and allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Move muffin tins, carefully covered with the foil, into the refrigerator to fully chill and set the custard. It is best to leave them overnight. A cold custard will be firm and much easier to unmold.
Caramelized Cardamom Apples – Loosely adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's recipe
[I have greatly reduced the quantity of butter and increased the cardamom].
4 unblemished baking apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored and diced
Lemon juice to prevent apples from browning
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons freshly-ground cardamom seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons crushed pistachio nuts
In a large bowl, toss diced apples with lemon juice to coat. Over low heat, melt butter in a large non-stick skillet, then add the apples and gently stir. Allow apples to cook over low heat approximately 5 minutes. Add spices and sugar to skillet, gently stirring to combine. Raise heat to medium-high and cook for approximately 6-8 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the apples begin to caramelize with a thick and sticky sugar syrup. Continue to cook until the syrup bubbles, reduces and thickens even more. Remove from heat and allow to cool approximately 10 minutes.
While apples are cooling, remove custard muffin tins from the refrigerator. If you use metal tins, carefully run a wet knife around the edge of each custard cup to facilitate unmolding. Place a cookie sheet over one muffin tin then quickly and carefully flip so that the cookie sheet is on the bottom. Tap and gently shake the tin to release the timbales. If using silicone, gently pinch then bend back the muffin cups to release the timbales. You do not have to use a knife with the silicone. Repeat with second muffin tin.
Arrange timbales on plates, then spoon caramelized apples around and on top of each. Finish each serving with a sprinkling of crushed pistachio nuts.
Serves 6 - 12 depending on appetite. --