Crab Cakes with Sriracha Aioli
Herbed Rice Pilaf
Grilled Asparagus with Hollandaise
Astute Eats of Eden readers will recognize dessert as one of the 12 in 2012 adventures. I've never made a souffle; in fact, I didn't even own a souffle pan. I had to go to Sur La Table to get one; I forgot to register for that when we got married. Got distracted by the fondue pot. And note to anyone playing along at home: they don't sell souffle dishes at Target. Boo.
But see that raspberry-hued sexy digital Cuisinart mixer? That would be my Valentine's Day Observed present! It beat the whipped cream so fast and efficiently I almost overwhipped it into butter. But more on being whipped later.
I'd like to talk a smidge about the crab cakes, because they were fantastic. Since we weren't spending an obscene fortune at a sit-down restaurant for Valentine's Day dinner (bad service, sad little portions... BUT THERE'S A BALLOON ON YOUR TABLE! Yay...), I didn't feel bad buying a pound of lump crab or the really good chunk Callebaut chocolate at Whole Foods. I read about ten different recipes, and my end result was a hybrid of several techniques. I didn't want them to be too "busy" (Ina Garten's recipe) or too "bready" (the one in "Pure Foods"), but definitely flavorful with enough binder to keep the cakes together. The end result was a mix of cooked onion, breadcrumbs, Penzey's Cajun spice, mayonnaise, worcheschire and Tabasco. I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup to pack and shape the cakes, then let them take a long chill. Warm cakes disintegrate on the grill. If I were to do them again though, I'd add an egg to the mix. Several of my cakes died in the flipping process (a very thin, wide spatula is a MUST!), which made me crabby. But most kept it pretty much together, so it wasn't a total loss. Sriracha aioli (you could easily do just plain mayonnaise, too) is the perfect moist, spicy accompaniment to these meaty, slightly sweet cakes.
All right, enough expensive protein bragging. On to the adventure! I like to think that souffle is a healthy dessert, since it's primarily egg whites. I am probably delusional, so don't quote me. Especially since I had to melt down that lump of chocolate in my ghetto double-boiler, then mix with 3 egg yolks. My first experience with Callebaut was at the food distributor company, when I worked on making a manual on how to temper (melt) chocolate in the microwave. Yes, you can do it, but you can also make lasagna in the microwave. It doesn't mean you should. Gently melting over simmering water doesn't take that long, and keeps you in control of the chocolate.
The souffle itself is built on a foundation of whipped egg whites. They are whipped on their own until they form soft peaks. Judge how strong your peaks are by turning off the mixer and turning it upside down so the beaters stand up. If the tips immediately droop and seem soft, yep, soft peaks. If they're high and strong, you've got stiff peaks and the whole whipping portion of the recipe is probably about over. Then it's time to fold the chocolate into the egg whites. I hate this part, because it's like peeing in snow. Poor, pure egg whites! At least chocolate is delicious, even though it's the color of poo.
You have to stick it in the oven ASAP at this point, so the bubbles in the egg whites don't get tired and pop. We've all heard the stories of tragic fallen souffles, and I had no reason to think I stood any better chance of a successful souffle than anyone else. But maybe it's an urban myth, how fragile these dishes are. Because the dish took maybe 20 minutes to assemble, and though it wasn't a skyscraper of a puff like some pictures I've seen, it couldn't be described as "fallen." The dessert was deeply chocolatey but light--as Matt described it, "it's like a warm, fluffy brownie." He even went back for seconds, which is freakish because he doesn't even like dessert.
"There's lots of savory souffles too," I said, "cheese souffles..."
"Breakfast souffles?" He asked hopefully.
"Why yes, yes there are."
"We should try that this weekend."
Adventure success--encore requests!
Next month I'll be making my first Moussaka. Opa!! Until then, enjoy your Valentine's Day.
Originally featured in Gourmet magazine
- 1/3 cup sugar plus additional for sprinkling
- 5 oz bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
- 3 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 6 large egg whites
- Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream
- Special equipment: a 5 1/2- to 6-cup glass or ceramic soufflé dish