I barely snatched victory from the jaws of defeat this week. Crema Fritta isn't as easy as it sounds. After you see the happy conclusion in this photo, read on and find out how close I came to failure.
I was enjoying a zen-like trance while stirring the custard slowly in the double boiler. I swept the spatula left for several turns, then reversed to right. After a few minutes, I began counting the strokes and humming an Enya tune. It was dissappointing to come to the end of the thirty-five minutes of constant stirring - akin to the feeling I get when I wish I'd booked an hour long massage instead of a half-hour.
Following instruction, I poured the custard out onto a moistened platter to cool. When it was cold, It was time to cut it into diamond-shaped pieces. Here is where my nightmare began. It appears I am geometrically challenged. For the life of me, I couldn't get those diamonds to look like diamonds. They looked like squares resting on one of their corners. I gave up and decided the shape, as long as it was the same general size, couldn't affect the taste. So I moved on to the dredging stage. This turned out to be easier than I expected.
Next was the frying. I made sure the oil was very hot before slipping in the first piece. The first three pieces cracked open completely. My remedy was to add another coat of bread crumbs to the remaining pieces. While I was doing that, the leftover crumbs of breading from the first batch were burning away in the bottom of the pan of oil. As a result the second batch turned an ugly black almost the moment I put them in the oil. This picture is disturbing. Like passing an accident on the highway. You want to look away, but you just can't.
I still had four more pieces left, but I was worried they were getting too soft. So I stuck them, already breaded, into the freezer while I dumped the burnt oil and heated up fresh. I don't know if that little bit of time in the freezer is what did the trick. Or maybe the cooking gods just lost interest in toying with me. For whatever reason, the last four pieces cooked perfectly. (Well, except for their un-diamondlike shape.)