Sunday, May 15, 2005


Last night, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I spent an evening of Wretched Excess with our friends Wylie and Janet. You could call it “Meet the Meatles Redux.”

Wylie’s idea of “Dinner for Four” is to smoke an entire beef tenderloin. And as if that were not enough, he had prepared a pile of sliced, barbecued beef brisket…just in case. All of which was washed down by copious amounts of fine McManis Family Vineyards California cabernet. And I do mean copious. SWMBO and Janet were downright tipsy by evening’s end, and I was glad I had slacked off in the Wine-Consumption Department early enough so that we could get home safely.

Did I mention the appetizer? Softball-sized crab cakes, sautéed in butter and served with a tasty rémoulade? No? OK, then. How ’bout the salad, a perfect wedge of iceberg lettuce, smothered in bleu cheese crumbles and vinaigrette? Sweet potatoes, kissed by a blend of butter and maple syrup? Asparagus with sauce Hollandaise? Mushrooms, sautéed in butter?

Meaty, meaty goodness.

Yes, we had all this and more. A veritabobble Groaning Board of goodies.

For dessert, I pulled out one of my favorite Maida Heatter recipes: Torte Soufflé au Chocolat. It’s a scary-sounding, Frenchy sort of name for what is essentially a dense, flourless chocolate cake.

In case you want your own Torte, here’s how to make one:
Torte Soufflé au Chocolat

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Cut a round of parchment paper or wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan and put it in…then butter the paper. Dust with flour and shake out any excess.

4 oz unsweetened chocolate
5 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1¼ sticks butter
7 large or extra-large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
1¼ cups plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/3 cup Cointreau (Maida Heatter specifies Grand Marnier, but I prefer the more bitter Cointreau for this cake)

Break or chop the chocolates into small chunks. In a double boiler over hot (not boiling) water, or on low power in a microwave oven, melt the chocolates together with the butter. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Reserve ¼ cup of the sugar. In an electric mixer at high speed, beat the egg yolks together with the remaining sugar about five minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. On low speed, add in the Cointreau and then the melted chocolate (which should be tepid by now). Beat to mix, then transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites and salt until the whites begin to hold a shape. Gradually add in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, then continue beating until the whites form soft peaks. Don’t beat the crap out of ’em – you do not want the egg whites to be too stiff.

Now, working quickly, stir about a cup of the whites into the chocolate mixture. Now, using your (clean!) hand or a large rubber spatula, fold in about 1/3 of the remaining whites. Then fold in the rest of the whites.

Turn the batter out into your prepared pan and level the mixture. Stick it in the oven for one hour, then turn the temperature down to 250°F and bake for 30 more minutes.

Maida says to turn off the heat and let the cake cool in the oven, but you really don’t have to. Once the cake is cool, remove the sides of the pan, cover with a plate, invert, and peel off the parchment or wax paper. Now invert onto a serving plate.

The cake will not look pretty, resembling either a collapsed soufflé or a round brownie. But that’s OK. Dust it with confectioner’s sugar if you wish, and serve it with a liberal slug of Schlag:

Beat 2 cups of ice-cold whipping cream or heavy cream with ½ cup confectioner’s sugar and 1½ tsp vanilla extract until soft peaks form. As with the egg whites, you don’t want this stuff to get too stiff: it’s supposed to taste like whipped cream, not butter.

I think this cake tastes even better the second day. Hell, it tastes good any day.

Did I say this was a Truly Beefy Weekend? Yes, I did.

As if trying to do major damage to a whole tenderloin last night was not enough, today I’m cooking Beef Brisket for 120 people.

Yum. Now, where’s the Maalox?

[Postscript: 45 pounds of brisket (plus hamburgers, hot dogs, etc., etc.), enough for 150 people - and 185 show up. Yowza!]

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