After four non-stop hours in the kitchen cooking from the aforementioned abandoned books I have emerged from my cooking hiatus and I’m back in full force – terminator style.
The occasion was Valentine’s Day and usually Steve slaves in the kitchen while I pamper myself with a pedicure and eyebrow threading but this year I took the reigns. I needed it. So did the kitchen. Not to mention my dusty cookbooks. And at the end of the day we all emerged victorious with only a few spills and one slightly burned hand. Note to self, do not grab the handle of a hot pan that just came from a 400-degree oven.
I’m a pretty lucky girl to have a husband who cleans the house when I work a lot, rubs my feet when I’m on them all day and sticks to our mostly vegetarian diet without complaints. Because of this I decided to pamper him with a five-course dinner highlighting one of his favorite dishes – bbq’ed ribs. It was the least I could do for him and I’m glad I did. He enjoyed them so much that the leftovers didn’t make it past 10am the next day!
But… the rib recipe isn’t what I’m going to share with you today. As good as they were, the stars of the show were the amuse bouche and the dessert. So instead of a recipe for ribs I’ll make up for it with two recipes. Deal?
First, the Amuse – celery root puree with caramelized fennel and parsley salad. This absolutely knocked our socks off. Caramelized fennel is a treat in itself. Thin slices of fennel, a little olive oil, 15 minutes and you have a chewy, rich, slightly sweet bite of goodness. Now add in a little parsley to brighten it up and you will want to eat buckets of it. The celery root is simmered in water and heavy cream, which really mellows out the earthy flavor and brings out its sweetness. Then you puree it, strain it and your left with a velvety, delicate but slightly thick puree that compliments the fennel in ways that you wouldn’t believe.
Next is dessert. Strawberry soufflé. To be honest I was pretty scared to make soufflé because I’ve heard how temperamental she can be but she must have known that I needed a little kick in the butt and she delivered.
Strawberries are coming into season right now so start scoping them out at the market and make sure you try one before buying. Strawberries should be sweet – don’t settle for anything less. I also encourage you to make your own custard. It’s easy and makes the dessert that much more special. The combination of the sweet berries, rich pastry cream, airy egg whites and ginger snap crumble topping create an exciting combination of flavors that will send your dinner guests into a tailspin. The leftover ribs may not have lasted past 10am but the soufflé was polished off before 8:30. Need I say more?
Celery Root Puree with Caramelized Fennel and Parsley Salad – Adapted from Rick Tramonto, Amuse-Bouche
Serves 6 amouses or 2 first course meals
1 medium celeriac bulb, (celery root)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 fennel bulb
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- Peel and coarsely dice the celeriac. Put in a pot with the water and cream, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until fork tender. Purée until smooth in a blender and then push through a strainer or a chinois. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
- For the fennel salad, discard the stems and halve horizontally. Discard core and thinly slice. Cook in the oil (you may have to do this in batches) until soft and golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the parsley.
- To serves, put a small amount of the celery root puree on small place or shallow bowl, top with the fennel.
Strawberry Soufflé with Homemade Custard – Inspired by Jamie Oliver.
16oz of Strawberries, quartered
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons softened butter
6 gingersnap cookies
10 tablespoons custard / pastry cream
1 large free-range or organic egg yolk, plus 4 egg whites (use leftovers from custard)
1 teaspoon plain flour
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks (save whites for soufflé)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
For the custard:
- In a heavy saucepan bring the milk to a simmer over high heat then reduce heat to low.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, egg yolks, and cornstarch until smooth.
- Now whisk about half of the milk into the egg mixture. Now pour that mixture into the pan with the milk. Whisk over medium heat until thick. Add vanilla.
- Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly to the surface to prevent skin from forming.
- Refrigerate until needed.
For the soufflés:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/ and put in a baking tray to heat up. Put the strawberries into a saucepan with the 1/2 cup of sugar. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the strawberries are soft. Put to one side and leave to cool completely.
- Get yourself six ramekin dishes and rub their insides with the butter. Put the gingersnap cookies into a sandwich bag, tie a knot in the top and smash them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a pan to make fine crumbs. Dust the insides of the buttered ramekins with the smashed cookies, then shake out any excess crumbs and keep them for later. (You can put the dishes into the fridge at this point until you’re ready to put your soufflés together.)
- Blob a tablespoon of the cooled stewed strawberries into each ramekin dish. Mix the rest of the berries with the custard, the egg yolk and the flour. In a large, clean bowl, using an electric whisk beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until you have soft peaks. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and whisk on a high speed until the whites are very stiff – this should take about 3 minutes.
- Working gently, fold 2 spoonfuls of the stiff egg whites into the berry mixture. Tip this into the bowl containing the remaining egg whites and fold together very carefully. Divide the mixture between the ramekins and level the tops. Wipe the rims of the dishes clean.
- Remove the hot baking tray from the oven and place the ramekins on it. Put back into the preheated oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the soufflés are a lovely golden color and have risen nicely. Serve immediately, sprinkled with your leftover gingersnap crumbs and extra custard.
WOW – that was a mouthful! I hope I didn’t overwhelm you. Enjoy!