Friday, June 16, 2006

Fluff Daddy sets up for a Porker

Here’s a tip: when roasting beets, don’t pick out the biggest beets you can possibly find, under some bizarre notion you are getting more for your money. You will, like me, burn up more in terms of time, energy and patience than you might have gained in vegetable tonnage per dollar as you wait for the giants to cook through. AND you will struggle to find a way to fit them, size wise, into your final composition.

Another tip: fly to France, specifically Paris, or maybe Lyon (although I actually think more Paris), and try some soufflés before making some of your own. Not that a soufflé is so hard to make. It’s more to get the hang of the final consistency. To have a clue when it might be cooked enough. Julia Child here or there, there’s nothing like the real thing.

In younger days, my tendency here was to bake them until solid. I mean, who wants to eat eggs that aren’t cooked? Think rubber. Or masonry cement.

But in some of the restaurants in Paris, where I had the opportunity to dine with French nationals steeped in a lifetime of the stuff, and who seemed to know their way around a good soufflé, it was the moist, but not watery, interior that seemed to send them into ecstasy. Still gooey. Not completely set into a masonry project. Something you could gently scoop onto your plate, and that would hold its shape for just a bit, but probably as much for the nice crust on top as for the robust structure of the interior.

The cheesy interior, fluffy and light and gooey all at the same time, seems to be the trick.

So I endeavor to take mine out of the oven before my ‘rubbery scrambled eggs childhood’ sensibility tells me might be wise. And I revel in the fluffy, gooey lightness of this quirky little dish.

Much like my pizza or risotto, I don’t like to weigh my soufflés down with too many filling components. Simple is better. And I avoid things that would seem to negate the intrinsic lightness of the final effort. It’s all about the fluff. I put the heavy stuff somewhere else, like in a salad that goes along side.

So that’s what we did. The roasted beets – golden – got stacked up with tomatoes, mozzarella and roasted lemon slices. A light tarragon vinaigrette went on top. Aside from the long roasting time, this is a simple dish, but wonderfully elegant to serve.

And it was a nice variation of the traditional tomatoes and mozzarella salad we have so often.

The soufflé – as mentioned, simple, with just goat cheese, and some herbs. This time thyme, sage and parsley.

Alongside the soufflé was a romaine salad with a delicious fresh strawberry dressing. This is just mashed strawberries with some light vinegar (we used rice, but sherry, or maybe champagne, would work as well). Very simple to make, delicious on the salad. It kind of kicks the salad up a notch to complement the soufflé.

So you can bet TeenGirl was happy today! Practically nothing but veggies. But don’t worry – TeenBoy and I are just building up good will for Father’s Day, when I plan to spring some BBQ ribs on everyone. Pork, that is!

Roasted Beet, Roasted Lemon, Tomato and Mozzarella Stacks in Tarragon Vinaigrette
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

3 medium golden beets, trimmed and washed
5 Roma tomatoes cut into slices
4 fresh Mozzarella balls, about 4 ounces each, cut into slices
1 lemon, cut into think slices
3-4 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves
1 shallot, minced
2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Toss the golden beets in olive oil. Place in a baking pan, and cover tightly with foil. Roast for one to 1 ½ hours, or until tender when tested with a fork. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly. Remove peels while still warm. Slice beets, and reserve.

Lay the lemon slices on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Roast in oven for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, tarragon, shallots, salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking, to taste. Reserve.

On a serving plate, make stacks of tomato, beet, mozzarella and lemon slices. I cut the beets to match the size of the tomatoes, but that is optional. Spoon a little of the dressing over the top. Serve. Enjoy!

Herbed Goat Cheese Soufflé
Recipe based on FoodNetwork
Adapted by surfindaave
Serves 4

Grated Parmesan cheese
Butter for buttering baking dish
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, or parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or sage
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces of goat cheese, brought to room temperature, and crumbled
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle on top
8 large egg whites

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Generously butter one 10-cup soufflé dish or six 1 1/4-cup soufflé dishes; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to coat. (If using 1 1/4-cup dishes, place all 6 on rimmed baking sheet.) Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Cook without browning until mixture begins to bubble, whisking constantly, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, then wine. Cook until smooth, thick and beginning to boil, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix yolks, salt and pepper in small bowl. Add yolk mixture all at once to sauce and whisk quickly to blend. Fold in the goat cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I whisked until all the cheese melted into the sauce). Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites. Transfer soufflé mixture to prepared dish. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.
Place soufflé in oven; reduce heat to 375°F. Bake soufflé until puffed, golden and gently set in center, about 40 minutes for large soufflé (or 25 minutes for small soufflés). Note that mine (big dish) had to cook for about 50 minutes until it was just barely set. Test for doneness by inserting a long wooden tester in the center – it should come out clean. Using oven mitts, transfer soufflé to platter and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Strawberry Vinaigrette on Romaine

1 cup strawberries, cleaned and tops removed
2-3 tbsp light vinegar, such as sherry, or champagne, we used rice
1 tsp sugar
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, and ripped into bite sized pieces

Mash strawberries together in a bowl with the other ingredients until a soupy paste. Add a little additional vinegar if too thick. Adjust seasonings.

Toss the salad with the dressing just before serving. Enjoy!

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