RECIPES: Cleopatra Made Caramel Custard? You Bet Your Asp She Did!
Looking for a sweet ending to summer? How about cooking up some caramel custard with Claudette Colbert? Unlike many “recipes of the stars” that were churned out by studio flacks, this one actually does come from Claudette. She really did whip up things like this sugar-and-fat extravaganza and still look fabulous. She was French, people!
And she looked great well into her 80s.
Back in 1985, Claudette starred on Broadway with Rex Harrison in Aren’t We All, a bonbon of a play by Frederic Lonsdale. I remember nothing of the plot but everything about the star’s arrival at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. As I stood waiting on West 47th Street, she breezed out of a taxi in a pink-and-white-checked bouclé suit, likely Chanel. Such was her power that those who had gathered instinctively parted to let her sweep by, and suddenly she was Cleopatra gliding down the Nile again. She smiled, nodded, gave a little queenly wave, and disappeared inside.
She did not look like a lady who’d spent eight decades scarfing down decadent desserts. Still, her custard sounds pretty delish. So here goes:
3 cups of half-and-half
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Scald the half-and-half. Melt the sugar in a cast iron frying pan and stir constantly until it’s light brown. Add the boiling water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Now add the half-and-half. Pour the hot mixture over the eggs, fold very gently, and place in the top of a double boiler. Cook over hot (not boiling) water until the mixture coats the spoon, stirring constantly. Add the salt and vanilla. Chill and serve ice cold in small glass dishes. Maybe some nice pink depression glass!
Enjoy! And then summon the spirit of Claudette to keep those pesky pounds at bay. (I hear milk baths help.)