The Food of Love
I’m an opinionated guy and I have some firm opinions on the subject of weddings. After all, I’ve been an usher countless times, and an attendee at friends and family-members “I dos” more often than I can count.
When it comes to receptions, I prefer the real deal, no seated multi-course dinners for me. They tend to strain the resources of some venues, and the meal arrives at your place lukewarm. I do appreciate a glorified hors d’oeuvre gala, with lots of waitstaff passing the trays and—depending on the number of guests—at least two bars on each side of the room (lawn, patio, what have you.) A family dinner can follow a reception, of course.
The Happy Couple Settles Down
As a newlywed, once you are truly settled and your honeymoon dainties are back in the drawer, you two will be heading for the kitchen and cooking. You’ll soon tire of the ramen noodle/dorm food routine and you might want to start having friends and family over—particularly if you hope to show off the plates, cutlery, pots, and pans you were fortunate to receive as wedding gifts. Fortunately, help is available at your bookstore on how to pull off a simple meal and add to the bounty already in your kitchen. And there is a welcome tutorial on how to stock the pantry shelves. The folks at Martha Stewart’s Living have just published The Newlywed Kitchen. Its 300 pages are filled with sage advice (and thyme, and rosemary, and basil—okay, I’ll stop) that Martha has been doling out in her books and magazines for years.
Another book has crossed my kitchen counter that I quite enjoyed reading and so might you. The Newlywed Cookbook is written by a newlywed, Sarah Copeland, who is involved with crafting the content of many a Food Network feature. Check your bookstore; go online if you must. It was published in 2012 by The Chronicle Publishers, and I can give it a two-word review right up front: “a knockout.” The subhead reads: “Fresh Ideas and Modern Recipes for Cooking With and For Each Other.” The oversize book’s 290 pages more than fulfill this promise. In fact, the first sixty-eight pages and two chapters, “Stocking the Pantry,” and “The Seasonal Kitchen,” are filled with ideas on how and what a couple might want in their kitchen. Any reader, newlywed or otherwise, will learn quite a bit perusing these pages. Then the recipe-laden chapters roll out, with the 130 recipes grouped under these titles: Brunch; Little Meals (“take good care of each other” is the subtext here); Supper (simple meals); Comfort Food; Date Night (romantic meals for each other); Vegetables; Embellishments (snacks, sauces and sips); Gatherings (feasts for family and friends); Indulgences (sweets); Escapes (camp re cooking, pretty picnics, and portable parties).
I can’t remember ever seeing that last category in a bridal-themed book. Girl and Boy Scout manuals maybe. It seems Sarah had fun writing this. And wait until you see the color photographs. The talented photographer had fun, too. They are simply smashing. The recipes are probably what you came for, and here is one example from the book.
Two-for-Two Cheese Soufflé
As author/newlywed Sarah says in her headnote: “There is nothing cozier than a cheese soufflé for two. Light a candle, bring the dish to the table with two forks and a herb-y salad for two, and let the world melt away.” Her recommended sip? “An American brown ale.” I’ll drink to that.
- 1⁄2 c. finely grated aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus 2 oz. for topping
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature plus more for buttering and brushing
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- Pinch of nutmeg (preferably fresh grated)
- 3⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- 3⁄4 c. whole milk
- 1 small garlic clove, skinned and minced
- 3⁄4 c. grated semi-hard cheese such as Manchego or Gruyere
- 3 large eggs, separated (easily done through your fingers)
- 1⁄2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Place the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-cup soufflé mold and sprinkle with the Parmesan to coat completely all the way to the top. Shake any excess cheese into a bowl and reserve. Put the mold in the freezer to chill. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low. Whisk in the flour, the nutmeg, and the salt. Whisking constantly, cook the our without browning for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk and garlic and continue to cook, whisking at a low simmer until the mixture is smooth and thick, like pudding, about five minutes. Stir in the Manchego or Gruyere and any leftover Parmigiana and cook, stirring, until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolks, one at a time. Continue stirring vigorously with a rubber spatula to cool. Whisk the egg whites and lemon juice in a spotless medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium high until they just hold a soft peak. The key is not to overwhip the whites, which would give your soufflé a cloudy instead of creamy consistency. Fold one-fourth of the whites into the cheese mixture with a rubber spatula, carefully turning the bowl until the whites are streaked throughout. Add the remaining whites and fold in but don’t overmix, which can deflate the whites. Transfer the batter to the chilled mold and scatter that 2 teaspoons of Parmigiano over the top. Place the dish on a baking sheet and set in the oven. Decrease the oven temperature to 325-degrees and bake until the soufflé is golden, puffed and set, but just a touch wobbly inside, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately.