"ach du liebe zeit!"
“Ach Du Liebe Zeit!”
A phrase often heard from my mother, and repeated with glee by my children as a favorite “Oma-ism” (quotes from their Oma — the German word for Grandma). Interestingly, Darryl already knew and frequently used his own adaptation of the very same phrase — “Ach Du lieber!” basically, the same thing — an expression of dismay, concern, or worry; strongly suggesting disapproval.
—A phrase that, honestly, would have been appropriate for our Christmas dinner — Haddock with Braised Cabbage & Orange Polenta* followed by Almost Blood Orange Soufflé with Crème Anglaise.
I began the first task of making the reduction for the soufflé early enough, around 10:30 am. I set the juice in a heavy bottom pot on the stove to simmer. It required regular checking, and check it regularly I did. During this time, I also whipped up a quick Crème Anglaise, which, had I read the complete recipe carefully earlier, was suggested to be served with it. Luckily, I had all ingredients on hand, as well as enough time. When the reduction was down to about a half a cup it became considerably thicker. This was the crucial moment when I should have given it 100% of my attention, but it wasn’t to be; instead, I got sucked into a WordPress morass while moving my blog over to my shiny new domain. So impatient! I couldn’t wait to fly solo, but pay for my patience I did. The charred remains of the reduction threatened permanent damage to the pot, but fortunately Katia was able to save it. I’ve heard that when you fall off the horse it’s best to jump right back in the saddle. I immediately proceeded with reduction number two, acknowledging my frustration, but thankful I had started early enough. Or so I thought.
My next problem was that the reduction had to be interrupted to make the tomato emulsion. Because I was now hurrying, I did not let it reduce as much as it should have, resulting in an emulsion that could have been a little thicker. The orange polenta, on the other hand, turned out a little too thick. I should have added more liquids when there was still time, but now I had to keep my eye on the almost finished orange-black cherry reduction as well, and I had yet to cook the fish. I chose one of my regular, copper-bottom heavy pans to make the fish. Wrong choice. The skin stuck to the bottom and I learned another lesson: use non-stick pans when cooking fish to preserve crispiness and integrity of the skin! I tend to use non-stick pans very sparingly – for most dishes I prefer my cast iron or copper bottom pans, but here it would have been the better choice.
Right after dinner, I started assembling the soufflé, originally timed to be an hour after dinner to allow for some time between a big, festive dinner and rich dessert. This is where proper equipment would have made a world of difference. I had two choices — small ramekins or big ramekins —but medium ramekins were called for. I made do with what we had, but the larger size of the three ramekins I used changed the required oven time by quite a bit. The shallower dish fared the best. Despite the somewhat jigglyness of the soufflé in the larger ramekins, the taste was smooth and gently sweet and the texture moist and flavorful.
Alas and alack, I am happy to report the entrée and the dessert were a huge success. Darryl and Katia were forgiving, sympathetic, and patient (unlike me!). This was fortunate, because of the final lesson I needed to learn: timing. The reduction SNAFU caused our dinner to be late — the main course was served at 9:30 pm, and dessert at 11:00 pm! (We usually eat about 3-4 hours earlier.)
In my defense, another factor in the mistiming was my insistence on spending at least part of the day enjoying a quiet time with my daughter Katia and with Darryl. We played a game in the afternoon (Munchkin), which contributed to the delay.
You could say it was a perfect storm of errors — all my fault—and all highly correctable. Live and learn! The lessons I learned are to practice patience, vigilance, and careful planning. Always anticipate that an ambitious recipe which requires so much coordination will take longer than expected.
Thankfully, by the time we all sat down to dinner, we were rewarded by subtle, delightful, well blended flavors, and a perfectly cooked fish!
Sigrun’s Sustainable Kitchen’s New Year’s Resolution:
PPP – Proper Prior Preparation, coined by Chef Joey as relating to the kitchen. My future PPP list will consist of:
- Read all recipes and calculate time needed for each
- Check which tasks can be done side by side and which require sole focus
- Ensure that correct equipment and all ingredients are on hand
- Always expect the unexpected and allow for extra time
- Don’t work on blog WHILE cooking, one or the other will suffer!
* adapted from Laurent Tourondel’s Fresh from the Market cookbook: Crispy Red Snapper with Braised Cabbage & Orange Polenta and Blood Orange Soufflés —thank you David!