December 31, 2007

Cheese Souffle with Lobster Sauce

Let me tell you about my friend Margaret. I met her at the university where we both taught English. She is beautiful, brilliant, talented, creative, funny, caring, and a wonderful cook. I always think of Margaret as an "Earth Mother," always a nurturer.

I love her.

Recently, Margaret learned to master the souffle. So, before Christmas I suggested that we cook together...she could teach me to make souffle and I could show her how to cook a live lobster, something I learned at one of Kitchen Conservatory's Novel Cuisine classes.

Our little dinner party evolved into one of extreme, but simple, decadence. As Margaret wrote on her blog:

Here is my menu for an upcoming very small holiday dinner at my place, as demonstration of the principle that quality ingredients prepared simply are the secret to culinary happiness:

Caviar on crackers with creme fraiche
Very Light Salad
Cheese souffle with lobster sauce
Hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps
Gingered Sugar Cookies, Peppermint Sugar Cookies

Yes, all simple. Nothing to cover up, nothing to obscure. If any of these ingredients were less than fresh or less than fine the meal would suffer horribly (and thus the guests). So, we'll work with live lobster, fresh (even though the inexpensive domestic kind) caviar, good eggs, local cream and milk, fine cheese and chocolate, homemade cookies baked that day, and the freshest salad makings (Kelly is bringing them, and I know she won't go astray). That's it.

Margaret had called the local seafood market to see if they had any caviar; they were getting a shipment that day of Missouri paddlefish caviar (very comparable to the expensive Russian kind!) at $20 an ounce, so she reserved a jar for us. I picked it up with a 1 1/2 pound lobster.

I was pretty nervous about Margaret's suggestion of a "very light salad." I didn't want to disappoint. So, I wandered around Whole Foods until I decided on fresh arugula with tangerines (with the leaves still attached!) and balsamic syrup.

Making the souffle was much easier than I expected. We first boiled the lobster, then I went to town with a kitchen towel, breaking the meat out of the shell. We undercooked it just slightly, as it would finish cooking in the sauce. Next, we made a roux for the souffle, then added some eggs yolks to it. Margaret beat the eggs whites BY HAND, and that got folded into the yolk mixture with some cheese. It was dumped in a prepared dish, which was buttered & parmesaned. Apparently, that's the give the souffle something to cling to as it rises up the pan.

As the souffle cooked, Margaret made the creamy lobster sauce, which she spooned onto plates and topped with portions of the souffle. The salad was a do-it-yourself kind of thing as everyone got to squeeze tangerine wedges and drizzle balsamic syrup on their arugula.

The entire meal was simply divine. It was some of the most delicious, most satisfying food I've had in a while. The souffle was perfect, the lobster sauce was obscenely rich, and the "real" hot chocolate (dark chocolate melted in heavy cream) was absolutely orgasmic.

I was so full when I left, that I had to unbuckle my belt in the car. No joke.

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