We had our friends Matt and Sean over for dinner, and the pressure was on. They love food. They live in San Francisco and are used to eating at some of the best restaurants around. My goal was to make something delicious but still easy enough for me to enjoy their company.
I decided on a simple appetizer of manchego cheese topped with chunks of quince paste, and some Marcona almonds. I made pasta by hand, but it can be done ahead of time – and since it’s fresh, it cooks up very quickly. The sauce for the pasta can be done ahead of time as well, leaving just a quick warm-up on the stove and tossing in the cooked pasta. Sauteed vegetables and an easy salad with a flavorful, creamy dressing pair well with the meal – the fennel in the vegetables and the tarragon in the dressing play well together.
Dinner was very good, but not spectacular. A solid performance. I decided to go dramatic for dessert, though. Souffles seem elegant and difficult, but they’re really not. It’s just some sort of a base, lightened with whipped egg whites, and baked. In this case, the base is lemon curd – use your favorite recipe, or even a high-quality prepared version will do.
The souffles can be made the same day and stored in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking. No need to make them up at the last minute. They’ll still puff up beautifully, but serve them quickly, because they deflate in no time at all!
Lemon Curd Souffle
Yield: 4 servings
Melted butter and granulated sugar, for the ramekins
1 cup prepared lemon curd, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
5 egg whites, at room temperature
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the inside of four 1-cup ramekins and dust with sugar, tapping out the excess. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the lemon curd in a large bowl and whisk to smooth it out.
Whip the egg whites to soft peaks, then gradually add in the sugar, whisking until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks.
Gently fold a quarter of the egg whites into the lemon curd to lighten the mixture, then fold the remaining whites in, leaving no white streaks.
Gently fill the ramekins with the curd mixture, dividing it evenly between the dishes (the souffles can be stored in the refrigerator for several hours at this point). Place the ramekins on a sheet pan and then into the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for approximately ten minutes, or until the souffles are puffy and golden brown on top.
Top with sifted powdered sugar and serve immediately.
- Manchego with Quince Paste
- Bucatini in a Spicy Tomato Sauce with Crisped Pancetta (Fine Cooking #60, November 2003, p. 98c)
- Sauteed Fennel & Red Onion with Arugula (Fine Cooking #62, January 2004, p. 48)
- Butter Lettuce with Poppy Seed & Tarragon CrÃ¨me FraÃ®che Dressing (Fine Cooking #86, June 2007, p. 48)
- Lemon Curd Souffle
Wine: Copain 2007 Wetzel Vineyard (Anderson Valley, California). Great wine – we had three bottles, and drank them all!