Saturday, October 10, 2009

Oh yeah, forgot. (DH here again.)

Easy dad dinner #1--I've been cooking this one for 20 years.

Cheese souffle--3 tbsp butter melted in a 4-cup measure in the microwave; 3 tbsp flour whisked in and nuked for a minute and a half or so; 1 1/2 cups milk whisked in and nuked for 3 minutes; remove, whisk, and run for 3 minutes more. This makes a perfect white sauce every time. This time I got over-excited and I think used too much butter and too much flour and then maybe too much milk and the white sauce set after the first nuking with milk, but it was fine. A bay leaf or three and salt and pepper is good.

Whisk in enough grated cheese. Enough might be 1/2 to a full cup of grated cheese, depending on how cheesy you like your souffle. Don't use cheddar--it melts very badly and leaks whey all over the place. I used fontina which was good but surprisingly salty. Whisk in 3 egg yolks.

Take the whites from those eggs and 2 more and whisk them up separately to shaving-cream consistency. (Julia says "soft peaks" which is fine as a technical description if you know what that is. Think shaving cream.) Fold the egg whites and white sauce mixture together gently (I do it right in the bowl I whisked the eggs in) and pour into a prepared souffle dish. Save the extra egg yolks for the pudding you'll make tomorrow.

I'd gotten away from flouring my souffle dishes, but I did it this time (butter the bottom and sides, sprinkle in some flour, roll it around, knock out the excess) and I am reminded why it's worth doing. It turns into a lovely crust all around the custardy interior and makes for more happiness for the fans of BCBs (Burnt Crispy Bits).

Cook the whole thing at 375 for 20-30 minutes, until it's got some nice toasty brown on top. Ideally it should be crusty on the outside and like custard in the center. These were perfect. I say "these" because my aformentioned over-enthusiasm with the white sauce led to more souffle than would fit in one dish so we had the dual souffle option.

With the souffle went chard from the freezer, put up by the Delight of my Life, and cooked with onions. (Caramelize the onions first, then put the chard in. They're so good they don't need anything more than that. Maybe a little cider vinegar. They'll stand being cooked for a bit, too.)

We also had carrots julienne. This is something I first had in France (dreamy look... where was I? Oh yes) but it's one of those recipes that has sort of evolved over the years. The only problem with it is getting those julienned carrots. You can sometimes buy carrot slaw in the grocery these days (I love these days) and I wouldn't disdain them. You can also get a mandoline at great expense from the French or at very little expense from the Japanese. (The teeth of ours, from the Japanese, have gone astray, so that wasn't an option.) Or you can get a julienne blade for your Cuisinart if you want to go to the trouble of setting it up and cleaning it. What you can't do is use a grater. You want matchsticks, not flat slips of carrot.

So this time, with the souffle in the oven and nothing to do for ten minutes, I julienned by hand. Cut your carrots to 2" lengths; cut those in half and put the flat side against the cutting board; make thin lengthwise vertical slices of those; stack up the slices and slice lengthwise again to make matchsticks. Pretty much fun on a slow day. I worried my matchsticks were too thin, but hah, that's not happening.

Finish with a enough olive oil and good mustard to coat the carrots thinly.

So that's it. Even the dad, who's a slow cook, can do that in 45 minutes from a standing start. And the four of us gobbled up one whole souffle and half the other in a sitting.
Another post by the DH. I have to get it in quick before the Delight of my Life and Desire of my Days posts tonight's dinner, which was a corker.

So: Seafood risotto. In France (and how many sentences around here begin "In France..." accompanied by a slightly dreamy expression), you can get salade au fruites de mer, which generally includes whelks and cockles and things with too many legs. In Italy, you can get risotto ai frutti di mare, which has clams and shrimp and things with too many legs. Here, well, I thought I'd see what I could do.

I'd made risotto before but never a seafood risotto and I wasn't following a recipe because none of them would be what I had in Italy, so why bother? and this is what I got:

Asparagus because they were at the grocery and looked good; scallops ditto; shrimp from the freezer, jumbo and I would have preferred smaller, but that's what they had; bluefish because it was in and I love bluefish; carrots chopped square for color, mushrooms because why even bother be in the kitchen if you're not cooking mushrooms?

So chop an onion and a few cloves of garlic and saute until limp. Add mushrooms and cook till they've given up their water and re-absorbed it. Then the real cooking begins.

2 cups arborio rice, added straight to the onions and mushrooms. I've used sushi rice too, and it's okay, but the truth is arborio rice is better and is generally available at a reasonable price. The sushi rice tends to cook down until there's a tiny little grain of sand at the center of each kernel, and then from there it goes immediately to mush.

1/2 cup of dry white wine added to the rice after you've stirred it around once or twice. Then keep adding water and stirring to maintain a sort of slurry in the pot--wet but not swimming. I do this in a wok, by the way, because it's got the best cure in the kitchen.

While that's going on, I pre-cooked the other ingredients in the microwave. I wasn't sure how long they would take to cook, so I nuked them until they were almost done. Once the rice was almost done I tossed the other ingredients in to finish.

Final touch was a few pats of butter. No cheese for a seafood risotto, but nothing ever was hurt by monte au beurre.

Vegetable was a salad. Enough already with complications in the kitchen.

Enough for the whole (reduced) family of four plus the two grandparents, and it kept even the picky vegetarians at the table. I might not use bluefish next time. The taste was fine but the texture was a bit odd in combination with everything else. Swordfish would go well.