Saturday, January 29, 2011

puffed up and proud

Soufflés are perceived as sophisticated and elegant but difficult. They’re actually not that hard. They are laborious.
But they make an airy wisp of a perfect meal for brunch or supper on a cold, wintry night with a side dish like a salad or soup and maybe warm croissants. We always make them on Christmas morning. 

If you’ve never made a soufflé before, 
you are in for a treat. 
Take your six eggs out of the fridge early, they work better when they warm up a bit. Turn your oven on, too, and hot, it should preheat to a withering 400F.

Soufflé’s can be made dessert-sweet with orange or lemon and Grand Marnier, or supper-savory with cheese or seafood, herbs or spinach. Egg can adapt to almost any flavor so let’s make spinach soufflés. Wash your spinach, pinch off the stems and wilt the leaves in a pat of melted butter. Then squeeze it all dry, chop it fine and set it aside.
Now separate your eggs, being very careful not to get even a tiny speck of yolk in with the whites. The whites won’t achieve their potential volume if you do.

Time to prep your ramekins. 

You can make one large soufflé or several smaller ones. We make individuals here but a big one works just as well. Butter the insides thoroughly and then dust well with a hard, grating cheese like reggiano or grana padano. Add a few grates of fresh pepper and you’re ready.

Now it’s time to make a white sauce.
Bechamel, the classic French white sauce is a staple and it begins with a roux, something we’ve made here several times before. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add two tablespoons of flour…

...whisk over moderate heat until the roux just begins to tan…

...and then whisk in very hot milk, start with about two cups and whisk with vigor, you want to get all the lumps out to thicken this delicious, white sauce. Add more milk to a lush consistency and whisk until it is silky smooth.

While your sauce is gently bubbling add a few flecks of grated nutmeg, a fair amount of ground black pepper, a bit of salt. 

Now whisk the egg yolks until they grow smooth and pale and then drool them slowly to the sauce, stirring it well as you go. Then add the chopped spinach and stir it all again. Does it look like this?

Great. Turn off the flame under the sauce and beat the daylights out of the eggwhites...

...until they grow stiff and start to peak. With sugar, the French word is “meringue”, the stuff on top of a lemon meringue pie.  But don’t add sugar, just beat them, this is for soufflé.

A couple of minutes and they’re nice and stiff, see? Now, take half--just half--of the beaten whites and blend them fairly well into the spinach bechamel sauce.
Now here’s the trick: take the other half of the beaten whites and gently FOLD them into the mix leaving large unmixed blobs of beaten white throughout the mixture. Don’t mix it well. This is important, the trapped air in the pockets of eggwhite will swell and make the soufflé rise.

Now take your mix and fill the cups about halfway. Some theatrical cooks fill them all the way up and then add a buttered paper collar that is tied on with string to contain the “crown” over the ramekin. It’s impressive, but they taste the same either way.

Now quickly place them on a middle rack and get that oven door closed fast. It’s the shock of heat that gets them started. Turn the heat down to 375 and bake until they rise up over the rim and turn golden brown, about 20 minutes for small individuals, perhaps 30 for one large soufflé. Set your table in the meantime, pour the wine, dress the salad, have everything ready and serve the soufflé immediately while it is still puffed up and proud. 
Now take a bow and dig in. 
Fried eggs are great but they’ll never be the same.

Friday, January 28, 2011

We remember

Everyone who was old enough on January 28, 1986 remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news the Challenger Space Shuttle had been lost.

Like John Lennon’s assassination, this day is a cultural touchstone on the timeline of our babyboom generation.

The shuttle program launched for the first time in April 1981 and America marveled in a national pride that is hard to imagine in a world where we now carry that much computing power around in our pocket.
We were particularly proud of Christa McAuliffe, a young civilian teacher from Boston who won over 11,000 other applicants for the unprecedented privilege to teach our school children with a broadcast from space. 

Every crew member was lost. Life went on as it always does, but I remember being so overwhelmed with confusion and grief that I could not focus at work. I set my work down and went home for the day.

Twenty-five years ago tonight our entire nation was glued to the television to watch President Ronald Reagan pay tribute to some very brave men and women.
We remember.

Thanks, Juan

New York City’s record for the snowiest month in history may topple this weekend as more snow falls atop the 19 inches received 2 nights ago. The storm that began on Wednesday broke an 86-year-old record for January snowfall.

A total of 36 inches has fallen in Central Park so far this month, beating the old January record of 27.4 inches set in 1925. The record for the snowiest month in New York City history is 36.9 inches, set last February, 2010.

So we're a mere 0.9 inches from tying the current record for most snow in any calendar month and that record may fall by midnight tomorrow night. All it will take is a full inch and that is most definitely attainable with the flurries arriving by midday or early in the afternoon tomorrow.

Last night I went down to the recycling cage and there was Juan in the cold dark, bundled up like Nanook, breathing heavily and chipping ice from the concrete so we don’t slip. We have a great super.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A lovely day

“When I wake up in the morning love….

and the sunlight hurts my eyes.”

And something without warning love...

Bears heavy on my mind.” 

“Then I look at you...

And the worlds alright with me.”

“Just one look at you... and I know it’s gonna be...

A lovely day.”

Artist loft #418 in the ClockTower,
available now, no fee, for $1650.


Last night.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Home on the range

Oh give me a home

with square footage to roam

and a view of Third Avenue Bridge.

With Manhattan close by

and a ceiling that’s high

plus a kitchen, with range and a fridge.

Artist loft #511 in the ClockTower, 
available now, no fee, for $1400.