Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cooking For Madam (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Summer Recipes)

        Trying not to eat yesterday, or to complain about that or the sweltering heat, which assumed an increased degree of difficulty because I chose to perform strenuous outdoor chores and save money by not turning on the air conditioning inside, I managed to cool down my spirit and body temperature a little by reading these three summer dessert recipes from Marta Sgubin’s charming book, Cooking For Madam: Recipes and Reminiscences from the Home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. (New York, Scribner, 1998) 

        Marta Sgubin worked for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis from 1969, when she was first hired as governess for Caroline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy, Jr., until Mrs. Onassis’s death in 1994.  Her role in evolved as the Kennedy children got older and eventually she became Mrs. Onassis’s cook and household major-domo. Later, she continued working as part of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s household.

        After Mrs. Onassis’s death, Ms. Scubin was encouraged by the Kennedy children to assemble this discreet memoir/recipe book and it’s excellent, entertaining and useful.  Most of the recipes, including these three, are highly appealing and absolutely within the mastery of practicing (as opposed to expert) and enthusiastic home cooks, which is really how it should be.   Caroline and I, realizing that we’re currently in a sort of recipe rut, will undoubtedly cook from this book this summer.


        Charming details abound, including the one included below about what it’s like to have Jasper Johns supply your mangoes for mango ice cream.  Gossipy, really interesting stories, are missing, such as those concerning Mrs. Onassis’s strict dieting habits (inserting a fork in items of food to extract the essential flavors and calling that a meal; making a day’s total calorie consumption a small portion of a single dry baked potato topped with Beluga caviar), but I don’t think that’s any cause for concern.  Those stories might be fiction; so might the stories included in this volume.  Anyone who has ever tried caption writing knows that pictures say 1,000 words and words can be used to paint various artistic pictures.  The point is that they seem real and they weave a part of American history that is still very much with us.  


        Democrats, Republicans and Independents can all cook from this book and, I think, enjoy it.   The Raspberry Sauce, which is paired with the Frozen Lemon Soufflé here, also accompanies the Peche Cardinale in Marta Sgubin’s book.  I’ll publish that highly appealing recipe another time.  


Frozen Lemon Souffle
(Serves 6)


        I used to make this soufflé often for parties, multiplying the recipe as needed to serve the number of guests.  I always try to allow enough so that everyone can have two generous helpings and then there will be some left over to go back into the freezer for snacking time.

        The orphan egg whites can be frozen to be thawed and used later.

12 egg yolks
1 ½ cups plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
¾ cup lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup heavy cream
6 egg whites

        Select a deep-sided skillet or sauté pan that will comfortably hold a medium-sized heatproof bowl and allow room for water to come up the sides of the bowl on the outside.  After testing, remove and dry the bowl and bring the water in the skillet to a boil.

        Beat the 12 egg yolks with 1 ½ cups of the sugar in the bowl, using either a whisk or an electric mixer until light and lemon colored.  Add the lemon juice.  (Note:  It’s easier to grate the zest off the lemon before squeezing the juice, so do it in that order and set the zest aside.)

        When the water in the skillet is boiling, set the bowl in it and continue to beat until the egg mixture becomes smooth, creamy and custardy.  Be very careful, because if you aren’t paying attention at this point, the mixture can scramble in a minute.

        Scrape the mixture into a larger bowl and stir in the grated zest.  Let cool, and then refrigerate and chill thoroughly. 

        Prepare the soufflé dish.  Tear off a length of waxed paper that will fit around the dish and overlap itself by about 2 inches.  Fold the paper lengthwise into thirds to make a long, thin strip, then wrap it around the upper rim of the soufflé dish to form a high collar rising above the rim. Make sure the ends overlap by at least 1 inch.   Secure with string tied under the rim of the dish.  

        Beat the heavy cream until it starts to thicken, then add 2 teaspoons of the remaining sugar and continue to beat until the cream is stiff.  Fold carefully into the chilled egg mixture.  

         In another clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites.  When they start to mound, beat in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar.  Keep beating until the whites hold stiff peaks, then fold them carefully into the soufflé base.

        Pour into the prepared dish, smooth the top, which should come up almost to the top of the paper collar, then place the dish in the freezer for several hours or overnight until frozen.  Before serving, remove the collar and decorate the top with thin circles of sliced lemon and mint.  I put a little sprig of mint right in the middle so it looks like it was growing there.  

        If the soufflé has been frozen overnight, you might want to leave it in the refrigerator for half-an-hour or so before serving so the texture won’t be icy.

(Serve with Raspberry Sauce, if desired.  Please see recipe below.)

Mango Ice Cream

(Makes 3-4 quarts)

8 cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups sugar

4 cups pureed fresh mango (6-8 mangoes; they must be very ripe)

Juice of 3 limes, strained

        Scald the cream, then, off the heat, stir in the sugar until it dissolves.  At that point, stir in the mango puree and the strained lime juice.   Let cool, then freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.  When the ice cream is ready, store in a container in the freezer.

        This should be served the same day it is made so it doesn’t get too hard.  I used to scoop it into the serving bowl a little ahead of time and leave it in the refrigerator so it would be gooey but firm.  Madam always liked her ice cream slurpy.

        Madam loved this ice cream, especially when I served it with a sort of julienne of fresh mango over the top.  We were lucky.  Jasper Johns, a friend of Madam, used to send mangoes to us from his house on Captiva.

        Another good idea is to grate some fresh ginger over the ice cream just before serving.  I can just see the expression on her face as she took a bite.

Raspberry Sauce

(Makes 1 ½ to 2 cups)

1 pint fresh raspberries

Juice of ½ lemon

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon arrowroot

1 Tablespoon Framboise or Kirsch

        Combine the raspberries, lemon juice and ¼ cup water in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Strain through a fine sieve to remove all the seeds.

            Pour the puree into a small pan, add the sugar and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Dissolve the arrowroot in the liqueur and stir into the sauce.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  When cool, cover and refrigerate. 

            This can be made with frozen raspberries, but  in the summer, when fresh berries are available,  it tastes so much better.  


Marta Sgubin (l); Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (r)


  1. I love raspberries! My sister used to say I was obsessed because I would choose raspberry whenever I was given a flavor option. Therefore, that sauce looks really appealing :)

  2. I'm glad you liked it. This is a really cool book, actually. It belonged to my mother. Both of these desserts looked really appealing and reading about them on Saturday really cooled me down when I was feeling a little overheated. When I sit down and make them, you're invited. They look easy. Curtis