Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dinner for Three

A few nights ago J and I wanted to thank a friend who has been so helpful in watching Woods numerous times this summer while we were traveling for the wedding, our honeymoon, and so forth. What better way to thank her than a delicious home-cooked meal, one that she didn't have to prepare?

Our menu included two recipes we have never attempted before, but I am proud to say they both turned out fantastically. The first, J's dish, was Tyler Florence's Chicken Cordon Bleu, that we saw him make last weekend on an episode of Tyler's Ultimate. Instead of the usual ham and swiss stuffing, this recipe called for prosciutto and Gruyere cheese, with a Panko breadcrumb crust.

The second, my dish, was a Cheese Souffle with Fresh Corn from The Best of Cooking Light cookbook. If anyone is looking for a great low calorie cookbook but aren't willing to sacrifice flavor, I highly recommend this cookbook and Cooking Light recipes in general. Anyway, back to the souffles. I am happy to say that it rose just like it was supposed to, much to my delight! Unfortunately I didn't get photos of either dish (bad KT!) but I did get a picture of our table setting.

J had the great idea to break out all of the new china, silver and crystal that we had gotten for our wedding! We had yet to use it and it seemed like the perfect occasion. We even used cloth napkins, tea towels from my bridal shower, which added a little bit of color against our sage green place mats.

I like the idea of really using your china when you have family or friends over, instead of keeping them wrapped up somewhere only to be used once or twice a year on Christmas or your anniversary. I think that the china absorbs some of those good times and good meals served on them over the years and that old china has great stories to tell! Like homes, I like things that are truly lived in and well loved.

The recipe for the Cheese Souffle with Fresh Corn is below. I highly recommend it and really, despite what you may have heard, they are not hard to make!

Cheese Souffle with Fresh Corn, from The Best of Cooking Light Cookbook


1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
NOTE: I had brought 6 ears back from a farmer's market in Michigan two weeks ago, cooked the corn, still on the cob, in the oven and after cutting it off the cob, froze it to use at a later date. I thawed it in the refrigerator for a day before using it in the recipe. I highly recommend this as a way to enjoy fresh corn throughout the year! Even though this corn was previously frozen, it tasted much more fresh and had more texture than store bought frozen corn.
1 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (we used red pepper flakes because that was what was on hand)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large egg yolks--heads up, reserve the egg whites from this to help make the souffle mixture
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extrasharp cheddar cheese
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Cooking spray

Kitchen Supplies:
Ramekin (also called souffle) dishes, 4 small or one large
Hand mixer or stand mixer
Baking sheet, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the first eight ingredients in a food processor or blender, processing until blended, scrapping the sides once. I used our blender because I find it a little easier to clean and put away, at least in our current kitchen where we don't have a lot of counter space and my food processor is stored on a shelf in the hall closet! Add the cheddar cheese and pulse 2 times until well blended. Pour corn mixture into a large bowl.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed of a mixer until stiff peaks form (mine was an electric hand mixer so don't think you have to have one of these to make this recipe!). Stir one-fourth of egg white mixture into corn mixture with a spatula and gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture. The key here is to fold the mixture, not beat it or roughly combine it. You went through a lot of work to get those fluffy, stiff peaks. Don't ruin them by being too aggressive with your mixing. It will cause the egg whites to fall and those are what make your souffle fluffy and light!

At this point you can pour the mixture into a 2 1/2 quart souffle dish coated with cooking spray, or else pour the mixture into individual ramekins, also coated with cooking spray and about 2/3 of the way full. I poured them into individual ramekins because I like each person to have their own little dish and I also like that the souffle stays fluffy throughout your presentation to the guest, which would not happen if you cut into a larger souffle to serve it up to your guests. This is a completely personal preference, however, so do whatever floats your boat and what you feel most comfortable doing! If you do decide to use individual ramekins, place them all on a baking sheet so that it is easier to place them in (and get them out) of the oven!

Place them in the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes for individual ramekins or 45 minutes for 2 1/2 quart souffle dish or until puffy and golden. Serve immediately and enjoy!

WARNING! Do not open the oven AT ALL while the souffle is cooking or else your souffle will fall and not rise properly. If you want to check on your souffle, use your oven light and look through the oven window (if you have one).

If you are like me, this above warning means coordinating with your other dishes (or your hubby) because you have one oven and are making two that are cooked in the oven. The good news was that the Chicken Cordon Bleu took basically the same amount of time to cook! So you can make this meal with one small oven without ruining your souffle or serving a cold entree!

So the moral of the story is to not be afraid to try cooking souffles. It is not very hard and like risotto, once you learn the system, you can make all sorts of souffles with master and ease! Happy cooking!

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