Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Breathless (À bout de Soufflé au Fromage)

Last weekend’s Breathlessness stemmed from anxiety, which unfortunately, given my generous nature, I shared with my family. Although it is said to be "in the air" these days, my anxiety is home-grown, longstanding, diagnosed, certified, and self-destructive.  Growing up I remember reading on the wall of a worship house words from the Book of Isaiah“In Quietness and Confidence Shall Be Your Strength.”  But if they cast me in the role of an updated DC Comics superhero, I would need to be called Opposite-Of-That-Guy Man.  

(Speaking of which, coincidentally, while spelunkng in a West Chester garage last Saturday, we discovered a buried volume of files where Caroline, as a young girl and teenager, meticulously recorded the contents of her extensive and highly valuable DC and Marvel comic book collection, an assemblage my mother-in-law discarded when her daughter was away at camp one summer in Wolfeboro, NH.  Caroline has spoken about this collection, its decimation, and her catalogue raisonée to me since college.  Coming face-to-face with the first archeological evidence of its existence -- with what was now profoundly and permanently missing -- was fascinating, but felt tragic.  They say you can’t “prove a negative.”  They’re mistaken.)

 Eventually my self-pathos semi-settled into personal improvement resolutions, ones I (and my kin) earnestly hope I can fulfill.  It has been a very trying period and I’ve actually begun to sing to myself (a lot) David Bowie’s sad, edgy song Five Years, which I hadn't thought of for ages.  Bowie's tune at least looked forward with sci-fi foreboding. I find myself looking backward, already living my summing-up  period, la vida última tirada loca, it seems.

To square the vicious circle, or at least restore calm and order on Sunday evening, Jane kindly and expertly prepared for us Pierre Franey’s excellent 60 Minute Gourmet recipe for cheese soufflé.  Served with a green salad and a tonic glass of wine or ale, you feel like Shutting In The World you’ve created and Throwing Away The Key (after doing the dishes). 

Im recording the recipe here because I’ve never put it into my computer and we’ve decided to serve it once a week this winter.  Felix Baumgartner may voluntarily have traveled to a place where air and survival chances thin-into-void;  I’m just looking for a positive and peaceful dwelling place on Earth and I’m willing to try and do my part to find and deserve it.  


Soufflé au Fromage

(Cheese Soufflé)

¼ pound Swiss, or preferably, Gruyère, cheese
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons, butter
6 large eggs
4 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Grate the cheese or cut it into tiny cubes.  There should be about ¾ cup.  Set aside.

3.  Bring the milk just to the boil without boiling.

4.  Use 2 teaspoons of butter to grease a 5-cup soufflé dish.  Set the dish aside.

5.  Separate the egg yolks and whites. Put the whites into a mixing bowl.

6.  Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan.   Add the flour, stirring with a wire whisk.  When blended and smooth, add the hot milk, stirring rapidly with the whisk.  Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne and cook, stirring rapidly, about  5 minutes.

7.  Blend the cornstarch and water and add it, stirring briskly.

8.  Remove from the heat and add the yolks, stirring rapidly.  Pour and scrape the mixture into a large mixing bowl.  Add the grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir to blend.

9.  Beat the whites until stiff.  Add half the whites to the sauce and fold them in with the whisk.  Add the remaining whites and grated or cubed cheese.  Fold this in with a plastic or rubber spatula.  Fold over and around, top to bottom, until the whites are incorporated.

10.  Pour and scrape the soufflé mixture into the prepared bowl.  Place in the oven and bake 20 minutes.

Yield:  4 servings.

David Bowie: Five Years (Old Grey Whistle Test) (Link)

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