November 2010 Archives

What's quick, cheap and easy?

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souffle_roux.jpgsouffle_milk.jpgsouffle_yolks.jpgsouffle_whites.jpgmixing_souffle.jpgsouffle_oven.jpgsouffle.jpg Don't laugh when I say SOUFFLE.

Straight from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the project was 20 minutes from start to oven -- including reading the recipe -- and less than an hour to the table. Four eggs ($1 for good ones) and $2 worth of the best Parmesan in town makes plenty for two.

Here, see how easy it is:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter a 4-cup souffle dish, grate Parmesan cheese, 2 Tbs. finely and 1/2 cup (coarsely is quicker) and dust the dish with the fine version, reserve about 1 Tbs for the top of the souffle. The cheese is going to be the flavor of this souffle and you'll add it later.

If there is something else you want to add -- like fresh herbs -- get them ready now. I cut some fresh parsley from the garden, dried oregano and Piment d'Espelette, a red pepper from Savory.

In a small pan start to bring 2/3 cup milk to a boil.

Melt 3 Tbs butter in a good pan. Stir in 3 Tbs. of flour. Don't let this brown, but let it cook while you separate 3 eggs.

Break the eggs, so the whites goi into a bowl where you can beat them to stiffness. The yellows place in a wide mouth cup or glass. 

Add another white to the 3 you've got.

Take the butter/flour (roux) off heat. Add boiling milk all at once and whisk together.

Then whisk in one egg yolk at a time.

Beat the whites until they are stiff, and add a small bit of the yellow mixture to them.

Slowly fold the white and yellow together with the cheese and other additions including a pinch of salt.

Use a spatula to transfer every bit to the souffle dish which should be no more than 3/4 full. Smooth top and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Place in the middle of the oven.

Put the heat down to 375 degrees F. and bake for 25-30 minutes. Do not open oven for 20 minutes.

That's how easy it is. Honestly, I've not made a souffle in at least a year, so I was reading word for word, and still it was into the oven in less than 20 minutes.

While we wait for it to cook, let me quote Julia Child, "A souffle will always perform as it should if placed in a 400-degree oven and the temperature is immediately reduced to 375 degrees."

When the souffle looks puffed and golden brown, it's close. You should give it another 5 minutes or so in the hot oven and then serve at once.

Do NOT ignore that last instruction. Serve at once.

You've had 25 to 35 minutes to get done whatever you had to do. When this thing is done, don't waste the impact it will have. Serve at once.

The power of making do

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Someone French once told me French cooking's power comes from making the best of what you have. It's the middle of November and I've already exceeded my credit card budget for the month, and so I'm going to put my cooking style up against the French.

Lunch today, November 18thpumpkin.jpg
Spinach is still growing in the garden although there's been snow and we hit it pretty hard before we suspected frost. The chard can give up a few small leaves to add to our salad, and there's still parsley and the ever-vigorous sorrel. I found a radish in the flower pot where I made a late August stab at growing another crop. The carrots were dwarfed by everything else this summer, but now that the basil and beans are withered away, I can't believe they've been ignored.

A little good white wine vinegar, a little Dijon mustard, and a flattened clove of garlic mixed, then joined by a good olive oil in my little cruet and we've got a free salad.

Oh, and we added a few of the tomatoes that have been ripening in the dark. We gathered them in October leaving the smaller ones still on their vines. The yellow ones were sweet Sungold's and the others look like cherry tomatoes but were our tigerela variety. Sweet when they are this small.

We did add a piece of lasagna -- last night's dinner -- to our lunch. The lasagna was made with dry noodles that have been decorating a glass container for a long time. They are more pleasurable to look at, for me, than to cook with, but Steuart has been inspired. Last night's sauce was made completely from our 'late-harvest' tomatoes, fresh and dried herbs from the yard and the cheeses that are never missing from our frig -- great Parmasean and inexpensive mozzarella.

Now, we're trying to figure out what to do with this vivid canned pumpkin that we've just received from Steuart's brother's garden. Any ideas?
granola-banner.jpgThe suddenly very cold temperatures this week in Denver made me look for a reason to turn on the oven. For a good long while. Granola, the perfect excuse.

The temperature I use is low, 300 degrees F, so your energy costs will be small. As far as your physical energy expended, allow a couple hours at home to get the job done, but the actual hands-on time in granola making is 15 minutes. With that effort, you can easily produce 4 pounds of cereal.

Buy regular rolled oats in bulk for about $1.60/lb (organic available at WholeFoods for $1.80). This is the bulk of your cost for the finished cereal, so you can see that home-made granola is an inexpensive way to eat well at breakfast. The other expense is a good quality honey. At Denver Urban Homesteading & Farmers Market on 2nd and Santa Fe I was able to buy a quart jar of honey from a local producer that is excellent, and didn't cost more than $10.

granola-colorado-honey.jpgSpread oats onto cookie sheets, in a layer that isn't more than a flake or two deep.  Put as many trays as you can into the oven when it reaches 300 degrees, set the buzzer for 20 minutes and let them toast. Keep your nose alert for the smell of toasted oats.

granola-finished.jpgWhen most of the oats on any tray have changed from white to a nice tan color, slide the warm oats from the tray into a big bowl. Add 1 Tbs. of good honey and mix while warm. Put another tray into the oven to toast if you have more raw oats. And continue the process: adding the finished trays of oats to the bowl, followed by another dollop of honey and a give it a gentle mix. The time for toasting each tray will be different depending on its location in the oven, so you will need to keep you eyes and nose alert. Reset the buzzer to remind yourself.

When I'm about halfway through the trays, I might add about 1/4 tsp. of a very good salt, dried fruit and toasted nuts.  Toasting nuts brings out the unique flavor of each variety, and it's so easy to just keep toasting things while you're in the toasting business.

Eventually, every tray will make its way into your bowl and every flake will have had some contact with a little bit of honey. Let the cereal cool, but stir occasionally so the granola doesn't clump into one big mass.

If you want vanilla-flavored granola, add a fresh vanilla bean to the storage jar. Fresh fruit, yogurt, other nuts and dried fruit can be added when you serve the cereal.