Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Quick and Easy Chocolate Soufflé

I took a cooking lesson awhile ago at Atelier Guy Martin in Paris and learned to make an amazingly easy but delicious chocolate soufflé, which contains no egg yolks and only about an ounce of butter per serving. It can be made in advance, held in the fridge during dinner, and then baked for just 15 minutes, more or less, while you are on the salad course. (I adapted this recipe to make Bobby Jay's (Almost Healthy) Caramelized Banana and Chocolate Soufflé -- see my post of April 17, 2009.)

Click more for the recipe.

Bobby Jay
Chocolate Soufflé Atelier Guy Martin

For 4 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes


150g (5.35 oz) granulated sugar
275 g (10 oz) egg whites
120 g (4.3 oz) butter
225 g (8 oz) chocolate (60-70%)
20 cl (.85 cups) raspberry coulis (optional)


Preheat oven to 410º F.

Soften butter. Generously butter and sugar 4 individual soufflé dishes.

Melt chocolate and remaining butter together in a bain-marie.

Beat egg whites until frothy. Add 75g sugar and beat until firm peaks. Gently fold the whites into the melted chocolate.

Fill the soufflé dishes and level by running a spatula across the tops.

Bake the soufflés for 8 minutes. Check for doneness with a skewer or cake tester and return to oven for a couple more minutes if necessary.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and (optional) open the soufflés with a spoon and add raspberry coulis.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Julie and Julia - The Movie

Saw Julie and Julia last night and really enjoyed it. As expected, Meryl Streep was an absolutely perfect Julia Child, and Stanley Tucci was also excellent as her husband Paul. The lesser plot about Julie Powell (ably played by Amy Adams), the young secretary/blogger who decides to cook all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, was better than I had expected based on the reviews. Indeed, I think it was essential to prevent the "main" Julia story from becoming a mere bio-pic.

The movie is an exuberant celebration of food and eating, cooking and writing about it. But it also makes the point that cooking for others (and it always is for others) is essentially an act of sharing. Both Julia and Julie cooked out of love for their husbands and friends (and in Julia's case the entire American public), not just to find something to do. To me, this is the film's real message and what makes it so poignant.

I have read and enjoyed both of the books that the film is based on, and found the movie to be true to the books, but, especially as regards the Julia story, to be much more; the food photography and styling are superb, Paris is at it most lovely, and Streep's Julia is more alive than the one on the page.

A must-see for anyone who reads this blog.

Bobby Jay

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tutti a Tavola with Lidia Bastianich

I have a confession: I love Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.

She is a great restauranteur, cookbook author and television cooking teacher. She has a charming, welcoming manner without a trace of arrogance.

In 1998, PBS offered Lidia her own cooking show, which became Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen. She has been a fixture in the PBS cooking show lineups ever since, hosting two additional television series, Lidia's Family Table (still in reruns around the U.S.) and Lidia's Italy, launched in April 2007. Lidia closes out every episode with a heartfelt invitation to join her and her family for a meal, "Tutti a tavola a mangiare" (Italian for "Everyone to the table to eat").

To accompany her various television series, Lidia has authored several cookbooks:

La Cucina di Lidia
Lidia's Family Table
Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen
Lidia's Italian Table
Lidia's Italy
They are very good and inspiring. The one I know best is Lidia's Italy, which is organized by geographic region and contains interesting recipes that you won't easily find elsewhere. I would also recommend this as a travel book to people about to go to Italy; advance knowledge of a region's cuisine will make for a more rewarding culinary experience.

Lidia's restaurants are among New York's best. Felidia is consistently excellent, featuring the best food of her native Istria (now part of Croatia), as well as other regions. Del Posto, which she founded with Mario Batali, is one of the best restaurants in New York. I haven't been to Becco, which she owns with her son Joseph, in years, so I can't comment on it.

Bobby Jay

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Excellent Barbecue . . . and All That Jazz

As a counterpoint to the great meals described in my last post, my wife and I went to the Jazz Standard tonight for great jazz (Steve Kuhn, Steve Swallow and Al Foster) and good eats. Usually, the food at jazz clubs is to be avoided unless necessary to satisfy a minimum charge. The Jazz Standard is different: there is a music charge but no minimum, probably because the drinks are good and the food is better than good.

The Jazz Standard is downstairs from Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke, with which it shares a kitchen. Ribs come in all varieties - smoked Memphis baby backs, Kansas City-style spare ribs and Texas-style salt and pepper beef beef ribs. There is a really smoky smoked chicken, fine burgers and excellent (so I'm told) macaroni and cheese. The home-made potato chips are totally addictive and the smoked buffalo wings are almost as good. Tonight my wife actually had a very healthful veggie burger tonight -- not something you'd dare to try at most jazz clubs -- and it was not bad at all.

Of course a jazz club is only as good as the music, and the Jazz Standard is first-rate. Check it out at www.jazzstandard.com.

Bobby Jay

Two Great New York Meals

Lucky me! This week I took my wife to Chanterelle for our anniversary and she took me and another couple to Daniel for my birthday.

Chanterelle has long been our "go-to" restaurant for special events. We took the restaurant over for my father's 70th birthday, and then again for my wife's 50th: both marvelous events. And numerous anniversaries, birthdays and Valentine's Days.

Our recent meal was one of the best we have had there. We had the tasting menu, which started with assorted sashimi for me (and a surprisingly delicious tomato consommé for my wife who can't eat raw fish), then zucchini blossoms stuffed with chicken and truffles, grilled cobia with a smoked corn coulis, aiguilletes of loin of lamb with rosemary and polenta fries, and finally vanilla brioche with cherry compote, chocolate sauce and port ice cream for dessert (although my wife selected a chocolate tart from the menu). Not to mention innumerable amuse-bouches at the beginning and mignardises at the end. The only problem with the tasting menu is that you have to pass up the signature seafood sausage, which is quite simply the best I have ever encountered and indeed one of the best things I have ever eaten. A bargain at $95, although the wine list is very, very, very high-priced. They charge $50 for corkage, though, so buy yourself a nice bottle of wine and enjoy it there.
Daniel is not a restaurant we frequent, although we do go fairly often to Cafe Boulud and the wonderful Bar Boulud near Lincoln Center. We had a sensational six-course tasting menu that included some amazing dishes, perhaps most notably: rabbit "porchetta" with chorizo, red snapper ceviche, kataifi crusted red mullet, whole dorade "à la plancha," bacon and foie gras stuffed squab breast, lamb chop or veal three ways. Two of us had dietary issues, the others did not, so there were two different menus. I have named the dish that I thought was the better of the two for each course, having split almost all the dishes with my wife. A cheese platter and two different duos of fruit and chocolate desserts followed, with mignardises too numerous to mention. This was a special event with its own custom menu, so it cannot be duplicated without a lot of effort (and expense). However, the level of cuisine was truly impressive and we will go back again on the "ordinary" track.

As I said at the outset, lucky me!

Bobby Jay