Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let your heart Golightly

Each year, there seems to be one holiday that's a bit more challenging than the others.  For me, 2011's emotional ties wrapped themselves around Thanksgiving.  In a myriad of melancholy, determination and a genuine love for Thanksgiving food, I found myself desperately negotiating my way through the holiday.  I deconstructed the meal, considered leaving town, suggested dinner at a Chinese restaurant....finally, I admitted that the holiday tradition had changed.  I needed to change with it. Thankfully, there are times when a pair of big sunglasses and a little black dress are all that's needed to regain your hope.

I was about seventeen years old when my mother rented Breakfast at Tiffany's; I watched Holly Golightly mingle about with her pointe shoes safely stored in the refrigerator and immediately fell in love with her disheveled elegance.  Fast forward many years, I could not help but think of my more refined muse enjoying her pastries in front of a Tiffany Window as I stood in front of the stove with a glass of wine in hand, my kitchen filled with people on none other than Thanksgiving Day.  My previous Thanksgiving failures: the salty gravy, dry turkey, runny casseroles and the inevitable emotional breakdowns became my cigarette in a woman's cocktail hat; the imperfections that make this my kitchen.

So with Thanksgiving long gone and Christmas on the horizon, I thought best to share my most imperfectly perfect dish: a souffle. Dug up from a dusty Williams -Sonoma cookbook, this sweet potato and gruyere cheese dish is a wonderful precursor to any holiday dinner, or a fantastic lunch paired with a salad.

Sweet Potato Souffle
Recipe By: Williams Sonoma Complete Seasons Cookbook
Serves: 6
2 lb sweet potatoes
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 TB unsalted butter
1 white onion, minced
1 1/2 cup milk
3 TB all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 ground ginger
6 eggs separated 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Pierce potatoes two or three times with a fork and place on a baking sheet.  Bake until easily pierced with a knife, 30-40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Cut in half and scrape out the pulp into a bowl.  Using a potato masher, mash to form a smooth puree; you should have 2 1/2 cups.  Leave the oven set at 375.
  3. Butter a 2 quart souffle dish and dust the bottom and sides with 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.  
  4. In a large saucepan oven medium heat melt the butter.  Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan over medium heat, warm the milk until small bubbles appear along the edges of the pan; remove from the heat.  Add the flour to the onion and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.  (Do not brown.) Whisk in the milk all at once and summer, continuing to whisk, until thickened, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the nutmeg, allspice and ginger.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the sweet potato puree and the gruyere cheese and stir until well blended.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  
  5. In a bowl, using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat the egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks.  Using a rubber spatula, fold one-fourth of the egg whites into the sweet potato mixture to lighten it.  Then gently fold in the remaining white just until no white streaks remain.  Pour into the prepared souffle dish.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. 
  6. Bake until golden, 45-50 minutes. 
My souffle could have used another 5 minutes for perfection, but like our holiday it was imperfectly fabulous.  It's no wonder that when my daughter asked who it was in the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany photo that hangs in our hallway, I shamelessly answered "that's mommy."

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