Everyone has their own comfort foods. Mine have always involved vanilla-flavored things...puddings mostly. Boring, I know. And yes, I also choose vanilla ice cream over most other flavors when in an ice cream store, but for some reason never thought it a comfort food. It's a fun food. Although considering the calories, I don't know how we can call ice cream food, but whatever.
Who knows where the love of comfort food it starts? Childhood, I should think. My mother made a lot of comfort foods...in particular, her Floating Island comes to mind; it was ambrosial. One rarely sees it on a menu in restaurants in the US, but I've enjoyed it often when in France. I think it's considered a "nursery food" in Europe. But do you know, it's the crème anglaise that gets me every time. I could eat it by the bowlful. Forget the little egg white islands.
Crème anglaise is also referred to as English Custard. So simple to make...milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla....things we usually have in the fridge and pantry. Handy when you need comfort. You have to be a little bit cautious when making it so it doesn't curdle, but it's not brain surgery.
After making one of my rhubarb recipes for the blog, I had several stalks of rhubarb left over; I had recently seen Marion Cunningham's Rhubarb and English Custard recipe when I was searching for another recipe in her Breakfast Book (which frankly, you should all own and if you're still debating it, read this wonderful old Gourmet review HERE.). I had one of those "why haven't I made this before" moments. I took my leftover rhubarb and made her dish. Definitely comfort food, but with a difference. Of course, I ate most of the custard first.
Marion Cunningham's Rhubarb with English Custard
From The Breakfast Book
1 pound rhubarb, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. (4 cups)
1 1/3 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 inch thick slice fresh gingerroot
2 cups English Custard (recipe follows)
Put the rhubarb into a saute pan that has a lid. Add 1 cup of water and cook, covered, over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, just until the rhubarb is barely tender. Do not overcook! Carefully remove the rhubarb from and pan and set aside. Discard the water.
Put the sugar, 1/3 cup water and gingerroot into the saute pan and heat until the sugar dissolves and it comes to a boil. Add the rhubarb and stir gently for about a minute so the rhubarb is coated with the syrup. Allow to cool, remove the gingerroot and refrigerate.
Serve with English Custard on top.
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten with a fork
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla
Heat the milk to a simmer point. Not boiling, but little bubbles around the side and steam rising from the milk. Remove from heat and add sugar. Sitr to dissolve. With a whisk, slowly temper the egg yolks until all the milk is combined. Pour back into the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Pay attention, as there will be a slight thickening and the mixture will coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, strain, and then add the vanilla. I like my custard cool, so I place some plastic wrap on the surface so it won't form a skin, and refrigerate.