Thursday, May 20, 2010

A quick and easy dinner that is sure to surprise and satisfy

I recently purchased Dominique Browning's latest book, "Slow Love," in which she talks about the process of losing her former job as Editor of House and Garden magazine, selling and moving out of her children's childhood home outside of NYC, shaking off a relationship, and making peace with her "new" life. The way she rights delights me - it's so straightforward, yet like music. Ample description when there needs to be, and it flows at the most lovely, melodical pace. Her writing reminds me of my own stream of conciousness, letting one idea smoothly transition to another, illustrating the process along the way.

Many parts of this book, though she and I are in different stages of life, resonated with me, partly because I quit my job a year ago to travel and go to culinary school...and I'm still unemployed. The change of pace, making a "schedule" out of your otherwise unscheduled (compared to office life) day, the fight to either a) stay in pajamas, b) work out clothes (I've bought 2 pairs of Lululemon pants in the past 6 mos since there the perfect medium between clothes and pjs) versus putting on REAL clothes.

Being a foodie, there was one part of the book that really stopped me and made me think. She talks about how, when she first moved to RI, she would forget about meals, simply scrounging around in the pantry for whatever was on hand (usually peanut butter). She eventually moved on to muffins. But when her kids were around, she would often make souffles for them. She admits she isn't the best of cooks (following recipes don't always yield what they should), but she had mastered the souffle, and talk about how easy it is.

I love it. The irony of a souffle being super easy for the non-cook.

Being supremely competitive, I knew that if she could do it, so could I. Even though, outside of level 2 of culinary school, I've never made a proper souffle.

It is no surprise that a couple of days ago, in a moment of unemployment gloom, that my mind travelled to Dominique's book, and of course the souffles. What to make for dinner, just me, that will comfort and warm me on this damp, dreary day? Of course, a cheese souffle!

I knew I had Ina Garten's Blue Cheese Souffle on hand, but I didn't necessary want to use blue cheese. I always have a block of gruyere on hand, so I knew it would be easy to swap. Add in a couple of other adjustments, and I had myself the recipe for what I would soon find out to be a DELICIOUS dinner. Throw in some leftover roasted asparagus, and a healthy glass of red wine, and I soon forgot about my stresses, worries and frustrations of the day.

Simple Cheese Souffle
Inspired by Ina Garten
Serves 2

1 3/4 tbsp butter, plus more for greasing molds
grated parmesan for molds
1 3/4 tbsp flour
2/3 c milk
Salt and pepper
Pinch cayenne
Pinch nutmeg
3 egg yolks
4 oz cheese, grated (I used gruyere and parmesan)
3 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter the insides of 2 3 cup souffle dishes (I used Apilco ones) and cover with parmesan.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Off the heat, add the milk, 1/4 tsp salt, black pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg and whisk well. Bring back to heat and cook, over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture is nicely thick and smooth. Back off the heat, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, and then the cheese.

In a mixer, combines the whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt and whip, with whisk attachment, until smooth and glossy stiff peaks.

Whisk 1/4 of the whites into the cheese mixture to lighten, then add the cheese to the whites and gently and quickly fold (it should not be fully homogenous). Pour into souffle dishes, smooth the top, and draw a ring around the top, about 1/2" from the sides to help aid in puffing. Place in oven, turning it down to 375, and let bake until very golden and puffed, about 30 minutes (it might look done, as mine did after 15 minutes, but the top was still wobbly, indicating the egg mixture wasn't fully cooked at the top.

Serve immediately!!

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