The simplest foods often have the strongest hold in memory. For many people in south Louisiana, bouillie is serious comfort food, evoking grandmeres, holidays, and days gone by. It’s nothing more than a stovetop egg & cornstarch vanilla custard, often baked in a sweet-dough crust (tarte a la bouillie), or poured warm over angel food cake, pound cake, strawberries, or even toasted french bread ends. Spooned into ramekins, it will cool to a softer set than commercial puddings. (Try it cold, drizzled with a little Steen’s, for breakfast.)
Someone from Baton Rouge emailed me this week, looking to recreate his mother’s long lost recipe. Here’s my version of the Cajun custard; it is simple and straightforward, with just a bit of sugar, only one egg, and a combination of fresh and evaporated milk. Common variations call for fresh milk & cream, canned condensed milk, or significantly more sugar.
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
12 oz evaporated mik (1 tall can)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons butter
Combine cornstarch & sugar in a small saucepan; whisk in the egg.
It will be dry and clumpy at first. Keep whisking until the entire mixture is evenly moist and yellow.
Pour in the evaporated milk, whole milk, and split vanilla bean. Whisk vigorously to dissolve the sugar & cornstarch. Cook over low heat, stirring often. As mixture approaches the boiling point, it will give off a little steam and begin to thicken; stir with a spoon or spatula, scraping the bottom of the saucepan to prevent lumps.
Once the mixture is thick, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter. Remove the vanilla bean and either serve warm over cubed cake, pour into ramekins and chill, or use to fill a 9″ sweet-dough crust.
It doesn’t get much easier than this. Modern twists on this old recipe include replacing the sugar with Splenda for a low-calorie, diabetic friendly version, substituting skim & fat-free evaporated milk, and using almond, butter rum, or other extracts to flavor the custard. I stick with the classic version, myself.