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Top ten: 1997

A Wonderful Year in Food

January 07, 1998

1. Charity Ferreira's love affair with creme frai^che began when she tasted it as a topping on a brownie at a Paris restaurant when she was 18. Though creme frai^che is taken for granted by French cooks, it is overlooked by many American cooks.

But Ferreira, a former Times Test Kitchen intern and now a pastry chef at Greens in San Francisco, would never make such a mistake now. And after her April cover story on creme frai^che, readers who tried her recipes won't overlook the tart cream either. Certainly the staff in the Food section will never forget what creme frai^che did for this blackberry ice cream--it was our overwhelming top recipe of the year's Top 10.

BLACKBERRY CREME FRAI^CHE ICE CREAM

2 pints blackberries

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

4 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups milk

2 cups creme frai^che

Puree blackberries in food processor or blender. Add 6 tablespoons sugar and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 14, 1998 Home Edition Food Part H Page 2 Food Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
The introduction to the Thai recipe for Kao Soi ("Top Ten 1997: A Wonderful Year in Food," Jan. 7), referred to the dish as a curry beef noodle soup. The actual recipe called for chicken, but the dish may be made with either beef or chicken.

Heat milk with remaining sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Whisk little of hot milk mixture into yolks, then whisk yolk mixture into rest of hot milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Stir in creme frai^che and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Just before freezing, combine blackberry puree with custard mixture. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

7 cups. Each 1-cup serving:

531 calories; 72 mg sodium; 247 mg cholesterol; 28 grams fat; 63 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 3.37 grams fiber.

2. We have former Times Test Kitchen intern May Parich to thank for getting her mom, Surapee, into our kitchen. Parich had raved so about her mom's Thai cooking that when her parents came out from St. Louis in November for a visit, we invited her mother to come to the Test Kitchen and show us her stuff. It is a testament to her talent that two of Surapee's three recipes were selected and the third was in the running for the year's Top 10.

Of course, Parich benefited just as much as the rest of us. She had been trying since she was a child to get her mother to share her recipes--especially the one for her favorite curry beef noodle soup kao soi--so she could make the dishes as well. Here, finally, in the Test Kitchen, May diligently watched and wrote as her mother measured and cooked.

KAO SOI

Kao soi garnishes are placed in dishes on the table so each diner can dress the soup to taste. Lime wedges and vinegared chile sauce are added if you like sour elements in your food; sugar and black soy sauce (thicker than regular soy sauce) are for sweetness. Fish sauce is added for saltiness, and chile oil adds heat. Cilantro and green onions are almost always added; fried shallots and pickled bok choy are less common but tasty additions.

GARNISH

1/4 cup oil

3 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup Thai chile sauce

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup fish sauce

1/2 cup black soy sauce

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup sugar

2 limes cut in wedges

1/2 cup chopped shallots

1 cup fresh Asian egg noodles set aside from curry recipe, deep-fried in oil until crisp

CURRY

6 dried New Mexico chiles, stems removed

1/2 cup shallots, peeled

1/2 cup cloves garlic, peeled

1/3 cup coriander seeds

1/4 cup cumin seeds

3/4 tablespoon curry powder

6 3/4 cups water

5 cups coconut cream

2 cinnamon sticks

3 pounds chicken thighs and chicken legs with skin

1/3 cup fish sauce

3 tablespoons sugar

2 (1-pound) packages fresh Asian egg noodles, less 1 cup for Garnish

GARNISH

Heat oil in small saute pan over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and saute 1 minute. Pour chile oil into small bowl.

Mix together Thai chile sauce and vinegar and put in another small bowl.

Put fish sauce, black soy sauce, green onions, cilantro, sugar, lime wedges, shallots and fried noodles in individual small bowls.

CURRY

Roast chiles, shallots and garlic on baking sheet at 300 degrees 10 minutes.

Place roasted chiles, shallots and garlic with coriander seeds, cumin seeds, curry powder and 3/4 cupwater in food processor and puree until smooth.

Pour into large pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add coconut cream, remaining 6 cups water, cinnamon sticks and chicken. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes. Stir in fish sauce and sugar.

While soup is simmering, bring water to boil in medium pot. Add egg noodles and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and divide among 6 large bowls. Divide chicken pieces and curry among bowls. Garnish as desired.

8 servings. Each serving:

1,239 calories; 1,446 mg sodium; 198 mg cholesterol; 62 grams fat; 132 grams carbohydrates; 43 grams protein; 6.94 grams fiber.

3. We love pies. We publish pie recipes throughout the year, and we devoted two covers to pies and pie-making. But the pie of the year, we all agree, was Nancy Silverton's lemon meringue tart from her book "The Food of Campanile" (Villard, $35), which we printed in time for Thanksgiving.

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