Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Poofy Neuroses

I don’t know if y’all have noticed, but I have severe neurotic tendencies. Really, it’s true. Science does nothing to alleviate my neurotic sufferings, but instead amplifies them to a fever pitch, makes them bloom, sprout, and otherwise prosper and multiply. So what better preparation to undertake for a neurotic scientist (is that redundant?) than a soufflé!

Souffles are made of one part milk, two parts eggs, and the rest is worry. Will it rise? Will it be a brick? Will it be an eggy, mushy, foamy concoction with some cheese on top? The trick, as it turns out, is to get a firm grip on one’s neuroses and not check on the soufflé while it’s baking. Not even once. Opening the oven door is a soufflé death sentence. I was so good. I didn’t open the oven, not even once. Of course that’s not to say that I didn’t stand with my face plastered against the oven door with the little light on for the majority of the 50 minutes that the soufflé was interred in its toasty depths.

All my nervous energy must have aided the soufflé in rising to its potential (quiet. Puns are funny). The bragging rights of having made a soufflé are nothing compared to the satisfaction of seeing it rise in the oven, just like it should. Unfortunately, the uncooperative bugger that it was, the soufflé de-souffled itself (i.e. fell) the moment it came out of the oven, making picture taking, serving, and of course, bragging, rather difficult (the picture at top is a slightly de-poofed version of the teaser campaign pic).

If all those things fall into place, and everything works as it should, a soufflé is a marvelous thing. It’s like eating poofy, savory cotton candy, with a slightly eggy tang (unless it’s a sweet cotton candy type of soufflé, in which case you really hope the eggy tang is absent). I messed with the recipe a little. I used cheddar instead of Gruyere and threw in two big handfuls of parsley, scallions, and thyme. The herbs did a great job of cutting through the richness of the soufflé.

My second stab at soufflés (clearly, I had more worrying left in me) was a chocolate soufflé with a cardamom crème anglaise. While the cheese soufflé was for my own consumption (and worry), the chocolate soufflés were for friends – this took the worry component to stratospheric heights. But, all is well that ends well… or should I say, all is well that begins with ginger-wasabi martinis, moves on to three bottles of wine, and tops off with kir royales (there were four of us, FYI). We don’t fool around.

I used semisweet Valrhona chocolate for the soufflés and let me tell you, I needed a moment. I really did. I tried a piece of the chocolate and I realized that I needed a moment. It is positively hypnotic. The soufflés turned out silky, rich, light, and flavorful all at the same time, if that’s possible. Chocolate + cardamom - not an obvious combination, but wonderfully complementary and fantastic. Chocolate souffles with cardamom creme - not very photogenic, and somewhat deflated, and utterly delicious.

Since the recipe led me make about a cubic meter of cheese soufflé, I was eating it for quite a while. Turns out deflated soufflés are a marvelous substitute for scrambled eggs in the morning. Soufflés for breakfast. How amazingly bourgeois of me, right? It was great and lasted me almost a week! Not so much with the chocolate soufflés. Those didn’t last long at all. I had to physically restrain myself from drinking the cardamom crème anglaise. It was that good.

All this soufflé making had a purpose, by the way. It wasn’t simply to exercise my stress response. I was actually making soufflés for an IMBB event. It turned out that remembering the submission deadline was the one challenge I could not meet. I figure it’s all about the baby steps. I made the soufflé. Next time, I may even get the post up in time. Till then, I have another committee meeting to live through. The living through it part is becoming less and less a given as the day draws closer. Grad school has a wonderful way of taking my neuroses and helping them along to absurd heights. Taller than some soufflés, even.


JC said...

Hey, this isn't about clowns! The only kind of souffle I've ever tasted is the chocolate variety, and that was very long ago so I don't remember much. Glad yours turned out so well (for the most part)!

Anna said...

Clowns, I recently discovered, are not edible. Or are they in TX? Let me know :)
I have actually never had a souffle till I made one. Never ordered it in a restaurant before. I was pretty happy with my relatively disaster-free souffle experience.

JC said...

Nah, they're not edible here either. What a painful lesson that was to learn! Although I've had several people find my blog by searching for the phrase "ate a clown for breakfast". I don't even want to know.

You're such a gastronomic badass!

Homesick Texan said...

Ginger-wasabi martinis? Oh, my! And I love cardamom in sweets, but have never paired it with chocolate. Yum! I admire your souffle efforts--I've never attempted them myself. Perhaps I should give it a go.

Anna said...

JC - Hee. Gastronomic badass. I so wish I were. I also wish that were the name of my blog. How awesome would that be??

Homesick Texan - Thank you for coming by! It would appear that martini is now my signature preparation. It's a gin martini and it's oh so good. Goes down a little too smoothly! Souffles don't seem to be as scary as they are made out to be. If I can do it, anyone can.