She Said; She Said

Written by contributing writer Jacqueline Twa and Stay-At-Home-Chef

JACQUELINE TWA: I have to admit that I am a food television junkie.

I love to watch it any time…anywhere. In fact, I once told my editor that I thought watching the Food Network was like watching soft porn. She quoted me on that comment without naming me – now I am outing myself.

As part of my addiction to food television, I became deeply immersed in the MasterChef show this past summer. I love the idea that someone who does not cook professionally can compete in this arena!

Confession? I often fantasize about standing in that studio sweating it out to win some fabulous prize and to raise my brow at Gordon Ramsey’s comments. The brow raise? Practiced daily. I also have to admit that I have a secret (well not so secret now I guess) crush on Joe Bastianichbut the skinny Joe; not the Elvis version.

In my fantasies no detail is too small when it comes to envisioning each challenge and how I would prepare every dish. Of course in my mind I win each challenge with my flamboyant culinary skills, and not only do I look slim and youthful in every shot but Gordon keeps telling me over and over how I am ‘da bomb’. However, all fantasies came to a screeching halt during the one episode challengers were asked to create a soufflé.

Although I had a basic idea of how to make a soufflé, I had actually never made one. Oh the shame. The gourmet gauntlet had been thrown down and I had no choice; I would have to master the soufflé.

Now I have many friends that I consider to be great cooks – I like to mentally categorize them as my “Foodie Friends”. One of my dearest foodie buddies, is none other than my editor Jasmine (Stay-At-Home-Chef). Jasmine and I share a passion for food and a passion for our families. She is my touch stone on all things food. Spending time with her is always filled with fun and laughter! I have to keep reminding myself that she is over 15 years my junior. It just feels like she has been in my life as a trusted girlfriend forever.

Back to soufflés.

I called Jasmine up and asked if she had ever made a soufflé before.

Dramatic pause.

The answer? Nope! So with our heads hung low in foodie shame, we agreed to get together and conquer the art of making a soufflé.

The day we cooked together in Jasmine’s warm and inviting kitchen with her gorgeous daughters running about was magic. There is something about peering through the window of the oven – wondering if our soufflés would rise and meet our expectations – that reminded me of Christmas morning as a kid.

In short? Our soufflés were an unqualified success. Now keep in mind that our little guinea pigs were 5 and 3 years of age! Leave it to a food blogger to not only have her kids eating soufflés at such a tender age but to give us decent feedback!

So, the final step in my imaginary quest for food supremacy was done and another item checked off my bucket list – or ramekin list in this case!

Next up, I compete in my imaginary triathlon without breaking a sweat!


STAY-AT-HOME-CHEF: When my dear friend and contributing writer Jacqueline Twa called me up and demanded to know if I’d ever made soufflés, I knew the gig was up. My cover as a ‘foodie’ was about to be blown apart. Why? The truth was that I had never made a soufflé.

In my mind, soufflés were only attempted by true professionals with a minimum of 500 years’ experience in a highly coveted culinary institution. Their reputation for collapsing immediately after removal from the oven is the main reason why I have never attempted them before. And who can blame me?! I figured they were stereotyped as hair pullingly difficult for a reason. So I stayed away.

Until now.

When Jax responded to my confession by saying that she had never made a soufflé either, I began to feel better. When she suggested the two of us get together and give these fickle custard and egg white concoctions a try, I felt way better.

We decided to make both a sweet and savoury soufflé. Savoury wise we opted for Ina Garten’s Blue Cheese Soufflé. It is fairly straightforward (am I allowed to use the word ‘straightforward’ when describing soufflés?!) but be warned there are lots of steps. We ended up rereading the recipe numerous times just to make sure we hadn’t gotten off track amid all of our culinary nattering. And let me tell ya staying focused was no small feat! When Jax and I get together and talk food it’s like watching a high intensity sport. In fact, a friend once told me she likes to just sit and observe the two of us in dialogue!

For our sweet soufflé, we ended up going the chocolate route with a recipe by Real Epicurean. Immediately we were struck by the fact that there were a lot less steps and ingredients involved compared to Ina’s recipe. Being complete food nerds, we quickly became excited to see if the results would be markedly different too.

Soufflés are made from two basic components, specifically a French crème pâtissière base (flavoured cream sauce) and egg whites beaten into a meringue. The base provides the flavour while the egg whites create that fabulous lift.

While a successful soufflé should emerge from the oven gloriously fluffy and puffy, it will fall after 5-10 minutes so don’t worry if this happens! Both our savoury and sweet experiments rose beautifully (check out our in oven picture…we were extremely proud of our babies!)

The Blue Cheese was definitely our favourite (not surprisingly our little taste testers preferred the chocolate). Greasing the ramekins and sprinkling with parmesan cheese prior to adding the soufflé batter, resulted in this amazing crust that was salty and crisp. The blue cheese tasted wonderful and in no way did its strong flavour dominate the dish. The texture itself was perfect; light as air and lovely and rich.

The chocolate soufflés were also a hit, although I felt there was something lacking in the flavour department that left it a little one dimensional. Some cinnamon or a sprinkle of sea salt would have been fantastic, or even a pinch of chili pepper for a little burst of heat. Being lactose intolerant, poor Jax had to leave the tasting part up to me and the girls.

All in all our cooking adventure was chalked up as a great success. Hmmm…wonder what our next culinary Kilimanjaro will involve. Suggestions?!