Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cheese Soufflé for One

 When I was middle-school-aged, I loved going to the library in the small southern-Missouri town we lived in at the time. Reading was—and still is—my passion. One book I remember was about a girl my age learning to cook so she could compete in a cooking contest. While all the other contestants were making fancy desserts, she chose a classic cheese soufflé.

I didn’t even know what that was! My Midwestern family was more into chicken fried steak, meatloaf, and pot roast than French cuisine. The novel taught me about the dish, and later on, Julia Child taught me the rest.

(By the way, if anyone knows the name of that book from a long, long, LONG time ago, please let me know! I’d love to find a copy!)

A few months after entering the world of modern widowhood, I came across a cookbook by Judith Jones—the editor who discovered Julia Child, and many others—called The Pleasures of Cooking for One.  She wrote this book after her own husband died to encourage people on their own to cook for themselves. Sadly, she passed away just this past August.

The book’s cover features the photograph of a beautiful cheese soufflé for one. I immediately had to make it, and it’s become one of my favorite recipes. After the first time or two learning the recipe, I can whip one up quickly. And, in spite of soufflé’s temperamental reputation, mine have always risen beautifully.

If you’ve never had a soufflé, just think of it as a very fluffy omelet.  I usually pick whatever cheese I have in the fridge. You don’t need much. My favorite is aged cheddar and nutty Gruyere. I use grated Parmesan to coat the inside of the ramekin.

I’ve enjoyed this soufflé for breakfast, lunch, and supper. (Not all on the same day! Lol) I pair it with a tomato and celery salad and crusty bread. And I agree with Ms. Jones—it’s nice to make a meal for just myself.

Cheese Soufflé for One
Adapted from The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones

2 1/2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup whole milk
A large pinch of Kosher salt
A small pinch of paprika
1 large egg yolk
2 large egg white
1/3 cup tightly packed grated cheese (I use cheddar and Gruyere.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and move the rack to the center of the oven. Coat the inside of a 4-by 2 ¾-inch ramekin with 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Add the Parmesan cheese and turn the dish to coat all the sides and bottom of the dish. Set aside.

Melt the rest of the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Then pour in the milk and whisk to combine. Continue cooking while stirring constantly until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the salt and paprika, and then remove from the heat. Whisk in the egg yolk and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Spoon a dollop of the egg whites and half the cheese into the saucepan and stir to combine. Fold in the rest of the egg whites and the cheese until just combined. Pour into the prepared ramekin.

Place the ramekin on a small baking sheet and put into the oven. Lower the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake until fluffy and lightly browned, about 18 minutes. Serve immediately—soufflé waits for no one!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mamaw’s Chocolate Meringue Pie

Inspired by my last post, I asked the blog’s Facebook followers to tell me about their favorite pies. Many of them not only said a flavor but also told a family story to go with it. It seems that pie inspires a lot of memories.

For the Spring 2016 issue of Topeka Magazine, I wrote about Easter on my maternal grandparents’ farm. I also included Mamaw’s Chocolate Meringue Pie recipe. This is what I wrote:

“Mamaw’s country dinners were always delicious, but what everyone most anticipated was the dessert. Her chocolate meringue pie made an appearance at every holiday meal. It was mandatory. The meal wasn’t officially a celebration until the pie made it to the table.

Each of the pie's components was made from scratch. The crust was brown and flaky, the chocolate filling rich and creamy, and the meringue topping light, fluffy, and golden brown. Mamaw never used a mixer to make the meringue. Instead, she put the egg whites into her deep-blue, depression glass bowl, and whisked them until light and airy with a flat metal whisk full of holes. Everyone knew the rapid ting, ting sound of metal against glass meant she was making meringue

(That's Mamaw holding me a long, long, long time ago.)

I remember Mamaw's pies being perfect, but admit that my memory may be clouded by my love and admiration. My pies never seem to turn out as perfect as hers. Still, I make them and remember her kitchen and the holiday in muted color images.”

Mamaw’s Chocolate Meringue Pie
Serves 6 to 8 people

1 9-inch pie shell, baked until golden brown

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

For the filling:
3/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, place the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Turn the mixer on to medium-high and beat until the egg whites form soft peaks. Continue beating while slowing adding the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk together. Slowly whisk in the milk. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir about 1 cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, and then pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remaining filling. Return to the heat and bring to just a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Pour the hot filling into the prepared pie crust. Spoon the meringue over the hot filling, making sure to spread it out so it adheres to the edge of the crust. Create swirls with the back of a spoon.

Place the pie in the oven and bake until the meringue is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least two hours before serving.