The Bonfire of the Vanities…

April 16th, 2010

“The dessert was apricot souffle, prepared individually, for each diner, in a stout little crock of the Normandy sort, with borders au rustaud painted by hand near the rim.  Rich desserts were back in fashion this season.  The sort of dessert that showed you were conscious of calories and cholesterol, all the berries and melon balls with a dollops of sherbet, had become just a bit Middle America.  On top of that, to be able to serve twenty-four individual souffles was a tour de force.  It required quite the kitchen and staff and a half.”

Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, p. 363

The Bonfire of the Vanities explores the political, racial and social tension in 1980s New York City.  Wolfe writes with a similar style to Henry James by focusing more on the internal workings of his characters as opposed to the dialogue and interaction of characters.  I loved it.  All the characters are miserable people and yet you are enthralled by the imagery and surprising plot.  I highly recommend it!  The above passage comes from a scene right before the main character’s life begins to completely unravel.  I liked the use of souffle in this moment to both emphasize the falseness of society but also to highlight his demise or quick fall, much like a souffle.

I made this apricot souffle to submit to Simona and Lisa’s Novel Food Event. (Round up here and here). I decided to try it with the brie just to change it up a little.  Overall, I liked it a lot.  I think I would increase the brie though in the future.  I also realize the irony of making an Alice Waters recipe to illustrate a book passage that is so pretentious… Enjoy!

Apricot-Brie Souffle
(adapted from Alice Waters via Mental Masala)

1/4 cup good quality, not too chunky apricot jam
1/4 cup brie- without the rind (1/8 for bottom of ramekins, 1/8 to melt with the apricot jam)
1 egg yolk
3 egg whites
2 ramekins with 1 cup capacity each

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Butter and breadcrumb the ramekins.  Put the extra brie in the bottom of the ramekins.
3. Combine the jam and brie over low heat until just melted. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then when cool to touch mix with the egg yolk in a large bowl.
4. In a sparkling clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry (the bowl must be very clean because fat severely inhibits the formation of egg foam).
5. Gently fold the egg whites into the jam/yolk base.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dishes. For the best visual effect, fill the dishes all the way to the top.
7. Place the ramekins directly into the oven, or place on a baking sheet to prevent drips from falling onto the oven floor.
8. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F. Bake for 18-20 minutes (until risen and golden on top). I have been having some issues with my oven temp which is why they came out burned.

IRELAND: PART II and a recipe

August 11th, 2008

The thing I miss most about traveling and moving happens to be the lack of time and often space to cook. When I returned from Ireland, I couldn’t wait to get all floury again and I made Challah. With the some leftovers and the “starting to go stale” challah, I made a really good brie and balsamic onion sandwich that I chowed down as I packed. Now for the rest of Ireland…
Off I went to Galway, a fun, university town on the Western Coast. I spent my days roaming around the town, falling asleep by the river and doing a bit of shopping. I had two fabulous meals…One day for lunch, I stumbled into Anton’s Cafe, a cute and artsy cafe. Craving avocado, I decided on the Smoked Bacon, Avocado & Beef Tomato with Red Onion Marmalade sandwich. It was very good. A few days later, I had a lovely dinner at Ard Bia. This cute restaurant sits on the river near the Spanish Arch. It is like walking into the dinning room of your favorite artsy, bohemian and eclectic friend. Nothing traditionally matched but all the tables and decoration created a welcoming and comforting atmosphere. I had to wait for a moment as the servers finished writing down the menu on the blackboard, which was then placed in a chair next to me so I could decide what to order. I chose a seared white fish fillet with lentils and a fresh summer salad. It was a wonderful meal. They even had fennel and pomegranate seeds in the salad…yummy!
During one of my days in Galway, I took a day trip around the Connemera…a beautiful part of Ireland with mountains, hills and ponies. We went to this Franciscan Abbey and the Kylemore Abbey (below). The countryside was gorgeous!
After Galway, I went back to Dublin for a few days. I went shopping, got my haircut and saw a great art exhibit at Chester Beatty Library and Gallery of Oriental Art. I saw this cake in the window of the cafe, Leon, and like every good foodie…I stopped in for a slice. Although the picture is quite blurry, I think it speaks for itself. Yum!
That kind of sums up the highlights of my trip…The best part of my trip though, which I can not show you in pictures, was the many different people I met. I stayed in hostels and every night I would meet a new crew of people from Germany, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland…and the list goes on. Often, we would go sit at the pub together, meet the locals and listen to the music. These people made my trip very fun and interesting. I have many memories and new friends that I will not forget.

Brie and Balsamic Onion Challah Sandwich

2 slices of Challah
Balsamic Caramelized Onions (Jennifer’s recipe)
1/2 Vidalia Onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 slices of brie
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1. Peel the Onion and cut in half. Slice the onions into strips.
2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sautéed the onions moving the onions around with a spatula until they soften and brown.
3. Drizzle the onions with the balsamic vinegar and mix with a spatula.
4. Cover the pan and stir occasionally until the onions have caramelized. Season with salt and pepper. Move to a dish.
5. In the same pan, toast the bread and melt the brie on both sides. Sprinkle with the Italian Seasonings.
6. Top with the onions and eat.

P.S. For more photos from Ireland, check out my flickr.

Ginny makes…toast

February 6th, 2008

I have trouble with toast. Toast is very difficult. You have to watch it all the time or it burns up.

-Julia Child

When I was in kindergarten, after school one day, I really wanted toast. My mother, busy with my 3 year old sister and newborn brother, told me to put the bread in the toaster and push down the button. When it popped up, it would be ready. I listened to her instructions but when the bread came up it was not toasted enough for me (I like my bread toasted to the point of almost being burnt). I asked my mom about what to do and she said to change the dial to a higher setting. So I tried again. The next thing I knew, black smoke was billowing out of our house, our neighbor was running across the street wanting to know if he needed to call the fire department, and my poor toast had turned into ashes. I had committed one of my first culinary mistakes by toasting the same bread twice.

Although, I still like my bread toasted to the verge of burnt. I haven’t burnt bread quite that bad since. One of my favorite new sandwiches, Chicken-Thyme-Pear-Brie, I made up one day on a whim because I had some pears about to go bad and some chicken. My roommate keeps asking when I am going to make it again and when it will appear on the blog. So here we go… Although, to be truthful, this one is made with swiss because it is what I have at home. I like it with Brie more but Swiss is a decent substitute.

Chicken-Thyme-Pear-Brie Sandwich

Makes two sandwiches.

4 slices of bread
1 chicken breast
3 tablespoon white worcestershire sauce
1 pear
1 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoon butter
brie (or swiss), sliced

1. Marinate the chicken in the worcestershire sauce for a least 2 hours and up to a day beforehand.
2. Grill the chicken until cooked through.
3. Slice the pear into strips around the core.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a frying pan over medium heat until melted.
5. Cook the pear in the butter until softened and beginning to brown.
6. Sprinkle with thyme and mix to cover. Season with salt and pepper.

In a toaster oven:
7. Place the slices of bread in the toaster oven. Put slices of cheese on two of the slices of bread. Toast the bread to your desired toastedness and the cheese melts.

On the stove:
7. Heat the other tablespoon of butter in a frying pan and tilt the pan to move the butter over the frying pan. Place the bread on the frying pan. Put slices of cheese on two of the slices of bread. Toast the bread to your desired toastedness and the cheese melts.

8. Remove from the toaster oven/frying pan. Place slices of chicken on the bread with the cheese, top with the pears and then cover with the other piece of bread.
9. Slice and eat! yummy!

P.S. Don’t have/like Brie or Swiss? Add any cheese that you like or have around. Play with new combinations and see what you come up with