September 22, 2010

Mastering the art of not screwing up...

This weekend I was adventurous. When I get an idea in my head, I just have to follow through. I got "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" for my birthday and I had only really tried one recipe from the book (leek and potato soup), so I decided to try something more ambitious. 

Leek and Potato soup

Julia Child's version of leek and potato soup is delicious and incredibly simple to make. Add 3 cups of chopped leeks and 3 cups of chopped potatoes to 8 cups of water. Let simmer for about 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and mash the potatoes a little bit in the water. The soup should be thick and not too watery. If the soup is still watery, let the water boil off for another 20 minutes. Add a tbsp of butter and fresh chives or parsley before serving. 

Anyways, on to my endeavour. I decided to make Julia Child's "Cheese Souffle."I had just watched the episode of MasterChef where the participants had to make Chocolate Souffle and one of the contestants literally sat in front of the oven to make sure his souffle was rising. The clock was ticking and Gordon Ramsay--with huge veins sticking out his neck--preceded to yell at them, "It's collapsing! It's collapsing! Get it on the table!" To see the intensity for yourself, check out this clip:


Well, I wasn't making Chocolate Souffle in some intense competition and I didn't have Gordon Ramsay breathing down my neck. But souffles are one of the hardest things to make and some cooks take years to perfect them. I melted the butter and flour together, then I poured in boiling milk and whipped everything together. I separated the egg yolks and whites into different bowls, then added the yolks to the milk/butter/flour mixture. 

Then I got the part where I had to whip the egg whites and fold them into the mixture. I had never folded egg whites in my life. Plus, Julia Child was sternly telling me to not overfold and "not to be too thorough." Huh? I was a little worried. She describes the process in the book (cut down the top centre of the mixture with a spatula, then draw it towards you and up) but the whole success of my souffle depended on this technique and I had never done it before. I was either going to waste five eggs or put something salvageable in the oven. This kind of sounds like an episode of MasterChef, doesn't it? 

I did the best job I could and put the souffle in the oven. I didn't even go near the oven while it was cooking because I didn't want to accidentally brush up against the oven door handle and accidentally open the oven (yes, these things actually crossed my mind). Then after 30 minutes in the oven, I opened the oven door and this is what appeared:

cheese souffle

Hmm, not quite as pretty as this:

(from this blog)

...or this:
(picture from here.)

My souffle decided to be mean and not rise at all. I think it was bitter that I didn't fold the egg whites right the first time or perhaps some yolk got into the whites. I didn't perfect the souffle the first try, but I will keep trying. 

cheese souffle

After the fact, I found this great video on how to fold egg whites. The souffle did taste amazing though even if it wasn't picture perfect.

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