Day 302: Green Hair with Bloody Eyeballs and Toenail Clippings, and Crème Caramel

At least that’s what the boys had for dinner – leftovers from the show this morning (I’m not sure why it all wasn’t gobbled up?)

Green Hair with Bloody Eyeballs and Toenail Clippings

green or blue food colouring
ground beef or bison, egg and breadcrumbs (or any meatball mixture)
green pimento-stuffed olives
whatever tomato sauce you like on your spaghetti
whole chunk of Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add several drops of green or blue food colouring. Boil spaghetti according to package directions.

Blend ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs or whatever you typically add to your meatball mix; shape into balls around a olive, positioning it so that it looks like an eyeball. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet at 350F for 15-20 minutes, until cooked, or cook them in a hot skillet with a little canola or olive oil until cooked through. Warm the spaghetti sauce at the same time.

Carve half moon shapes out of Parmesan cheese so that they look like toenails. Serve green spaghetti topped with eyeballs, tomato sauce and toenail clippings.

I was out the door at 5 (with a few granola-nut clusters, a banana and a coffee) to teach a 2 1/2 hour crème brûlée class tonight – we also covered panna cotta, crème caramel and flan. It had the potential to be one of the biggest natural disasters in Julie history, but actually worked out OK, considering. (I can hold my own, but I’m certain I’m not the most qualified pastry chef in the city to teach this subject.) I have made crème brûlée quite a bit, and tons of panna cotta, but hadn’t made crème caramel in at least a decade and have never felt the urge to make a flan. I was actually glad to be forced into it – I rarely volunarily push myself beyond my comfort zone/area of interest. This version is baked in coffee cups, although the photo is one that was baked in a small ramekin – we didn’t have enough cups to bake 30 samples in with enough leftover for coffee and tea, too.

Also! I managed to practice a bit (having made a kajillion samples as well as pumpkin seed brittle in a couple different forms), read a bit more, and finally figured out a couple seemingly minor details that ironed out a few wrinkles in my caramel-making technique. Of all the times I have made caramel, and all the recipes I’ve read that involve some sort of caramel, I have never read these two snippets of information, which sort of brought everything into sharper focus:

1) when using the wet method (sugar plus water, not just sugar over heat) it’s essential to actually dissolve the sugar first as it comes to a boil to prevent crystallization after. Most recipes tell you this in not quite so many words, but (perhaps because I’ve done it for so long I’ve stopped paying close attention to the recipe) I’ve always assumed I could just start swirling the pan right away, since the sugar isn’t dissolved using the dry method, which involves no liquid but still works. When water is added the water eventually cooks off and the sugar kind of crystallizes as it melts but eventually gets where it’s going. I never realized the actual dissolving was so key – I mean, doesn’t sugar dissolve as it cooks anyway? Guess not. So – stir or whisk it as much as you want as it comes to a boil, making sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Then once it comes to a boil, don’t stir it – just swirl the pan around once in awhile.

2) when it comes to a boil, add a few drops of lemon juice. This will prevent crystallization. Genius! I’ve always brushed down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in water, which tends to slow things down since it adds more water which must then be cooked off. Last night I did the full dissolve and then added a few drops of lemon juice and the caramel cooked beautifully, without a trace of crystallization around the edges. I didn’t even need the brush and water, which I had at the ready.

(Caramelizing sugar using the dry method involves simply heating plain sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt – it will go instantly dark – shake the pan around until it’s completely melted with no chunks swimming around. That’s it. You could do that instead for the caramel in the bottom of these cups or ramekins if you like, using a cup of sugar.)

While we’re on the subject – in case you didn’t know this – if you add liquid, such as cream, to caramel it will splatter like crazy, so be warned. This recipe just uses straight-up caramel.

Coffee Cup Crème Caramel

Adpted from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax

1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup cold water

3 cups 2% or whole milk
1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp. pure vanilla or vanilla bean paste
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
6 large egg yolks

Place 6 heavy coffee cups or ramekins into a roasting pan. In a heavy saucepan or skillet, cook the sugar and water over medium heat and stir just until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, for 8-10 minutes or until the syrup turns a dark amber colour. Immediately pour the caramel into the cups, swirling to coat the bottoms. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325°F and place the rack in the center position. If you’re using a vanilla bean, put the milk in a saucepan and with the tip of a knife, cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add them to the milk, and throw the pod in too. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes or so.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and yolks; pull the vanilla pod out of the milk and slowly whisk the hot milk into the eggs. (Otherwise, whisk in the cold milk and vanilla extract or paste.) Pour about ¾ cup into each prepared mug or ramekin.

Place the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough hot water in to reach halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the custards are just set but still slightly wobbly in the middle. Remove from the water bath and cool to room temperature, then cover and chill until cold; at least 2 hours.

To serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the custard and invert onto a plate, allowing the liquid to run over top. Serves 6.



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8 comments on “Day 302: Green Hair with Bloody Eyeballs and Toenail Clippings, and Crème Caramel

  1. robyn
    October 29, 2008 at 8:26 am

    YUM. I’m not even a fan of dessert, but the creme caramel looks so good!! Glad the class went well!

  2. Melanie
    October 29, 2008 at 8:56 am

    I loved Jim’s comment on how the toenail clippings even smelled authentic!
    My kids will love the green pasta – super idea!

  3. maris
    October 29, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    I’ve always been so weirded out by these Halloween recipes. Last year my friend made us chocolate pudding “cup of dirt” as a joke since neither of us Halloween plans and I was so weirded out! LOL.

    I have nothing against food coloring though :) So this is such a cute dinner! And what a tasty looking dessert!

  4. Dana mccauley
    October 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    It’s been ages since I had toenail clippings! Such an underserved dinner garnish.

    Love the green coloured pasta!

  5. sue d.
    October 29, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    I love the look of the creme caramel. You take amazing photos Julie!

  6. Shannon
    October 29, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Julie, I was wondering if you have a toffee recipe to share – similar to Mackintosh Toffee, which, incidentally, is not being made anymore by Nestle.

  7. Ronel
    May 30, 2009 at 8:08 am

    I tried to do the caramel for the creme caramel. But every time I end up with a piece of hardened brown sugar at the base. What am I doing wrong?

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