The Sweet Secrets of the Boudoir
Empress Eugenie (1826-1920)
Described by her husband as the most marvelous of wives, a woman that "never complains, never raises her voice in anger, and never makes demands of any kind whatsoever", Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III and Empress of France from 1853 until 1871, was viewed somewhat less favorably by one of her ladies in waiting. She wrote that the empress was "a woman so unconcerned with the pleasures or passions of life that it is difficult to know whether she is ill or merely stupid."
The truth was that Eugenie María de Montijo de Guzmán of Madrid simply did not care for her husband or the French people. In her memoirs, published a year before her death, she wrote: "My husband thought I was content. He was wrong. I only pretended to be comfortable in order to hide the fact that I loathed him." As to the French, she found them "dull compared to the Spanish and not nearly as charming as the Italians." She also detested "the soups and roasts and sauces and other such monotonies that so please the French" and although she would sit tolerantly through formal state dinners, she rarely ate anything in public. Like several other royal Europeans, Eugenie had a passion for sweets, and after her guests had finished dining she would retire to her rooms, there to feast on six or more dessert dishes.
In 1874, a year after her husband died, Eugenie returned to Spain and her appetites returned. In addition to being a valued guest at dinner parties, she was frequently found at the fine restaurants of Madrid. Historian Juan Gayalo wrote that "even though she continued to be fond of sweets, the former empress now showered her devotions on large red lobsters served with butter and lemon, and omelets filled with crabmeat." For the rest of her life she avoided French food and French men and never again spoke the French language.
Riz a l'Imperatrice Eugenie
Rice à la Empress Eugenie
1/4 cup glacéed fruits, chopped
3 Tbsp kirsch liqueur
1 cup rice, well washed
7 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sweet cream, whipped stiff
1 cup raspberry jam
1 cup vanilla custard
In a small bowl, mix together the glacéed fruits and kirsch, stirring well. Let stand until ready for use (at least 1 hour).
In a large saucepan bring 2 quarts (4 liters) of water to the boil and in this boil the rice for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse under warm water and drain again.
In a flameproof casserole dish bring the milk, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt to the boil. To this add the rice and cook over a high flame for 5 minutes. Cover and transfer to an oven that has been preheated to low and cook until the rice is nearly tender. Remove from the oven, let cool for 20 minutes and then add the egg yolks, mixing in carefully with a fork. Taste and add sugar if necessary, and then let the rice cool completely. With the rice at room temperature, stir in the glacéed fruits and then fold in the vanilla custard. Gently fold in the whipped cream.
Lightly oil a ring mold and spread the bottom with a layer of raspberry jam about 1 centimeter deep. On top of this place the rice. Cover the mold with buttered wax paper and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, dip the mold into hot water for several seconds, taking care not to moisten the contents. Remove the wax paper and place a serving plate on the mold. Holding the mold tightly, quickly turn the plate over, thus turning the rice onto the plate. (Serves 4-6)
Variations: To make pêches a l'Imperatrice, peel 8 peaches and poach them in vanilla flavored syrup for 5 minutes. Drain the peaches and arrange them around the rice. Refrigerate until well chilled and just before serving place a teaspoon of strawberry or raspberry jam on each. For abricots a l'Imperatrice use poached, unpeeled apricots.