Feb 19, 2013
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

I had a friend over for dinner this past Saturday.  We talked about a bunch of different things we could make for dinner, but it came down to Laura (the friend) would make a barley risotto dish she’d been wanting to try for a while, and I would do something to accompany the risotto, with her help (she asked if she could spend time in the kitchen with me so she could ‘learn from the expert’).  When I asked her what she’d like to make, her immediate & rather animated response was ‘a SOUFFLE!!!’  

Yikes!  I was thinking roasted vegetables, or maybe a salad…even some type of simple dessert.  Definitely NOT thinking soufflé!  I’ve made them, but it’s been about 26 years-since I was in the Escoffier Room kitchen at CIA-just one class before graduation.  The E Room kitchen chef instructor was a stereotypical old-school European chef. I won’t go into gory details, but suffice it to say I was scarred for life by his screaming at me that if I put too much salt in the chocolate soufflé, he would make sure I never set foot in his kitchen again (I think he MAY have been joking…but it was hard to tell with him screaming at me & his face turning from red to purple).  Since I did graduate (and have the diploma to prove it), the seasoning of the chocolate soufflé was good, and I was able (tho not necessarily willing) to set foot in his kitchen the next day…and the next…and the next…

I think most people think of chefs as ‘experts’ who never fail, or who never have a dish that isn’t perfect…or edible.    I’m here to tell you that we probably mess up just as much as the next person (well, may not quite as much-we do have a good bit more practice-hopefully!)  The difference between a chef, or professional cook, and an inexperienced cook is that we know how to fix our mistakes. We can taste a dish & determine what it needs to make it truly excellent.  Except for baking…baking you have one shot, and if you mess it up, either you throw it out & start over, or mix the mess together & call it something totally different (maybe for my next blog post I’ll tell you the story of my first black forest cake…which was actually served as ‘Krumel Krugen’. Not sure my spelling is correct-it’s the name, given by our German exchange student, to the mess  after it slid off the plate, onto the counter, and a spatula was used to scrape it into a bowl.  Topped with copious amounts of whipped cream to cover the fact that it looked like it had been hit by a train, it ended up being rather tasty!).

But I digress…this is the story of the chocolate soufflé from this past weekend.  I looked online for a recipe suitable for 2 people.  It seemed rather easy…much more so than I remembered it being.  I even had all the ingredients already, except for 3 ounces of great quality bittersweet chocolate.  We gathered our mise en place, read our recipe & dove in.  The mixture looked pretty good as it was being gently spooned into the pre-buttered & sugared ramekins.  We set the time for 18 minutes & went back to the living room to play cards, so we wouldn’t be tempted to open the oven door & peek before the timer went off.  When the timer did go off, we opened the oven door to the sight of two beautiful chocolate soufflés.  They were incredible!  Light, airy, super chocolatey & delicious!  It appeared that my soufflé demon had been exorcised!  Thanks for pushing me to make them, Laura!