Indian Summer! The sky was so warm today… with barely a breeze… and the sun glinted off the already reddening canopy of leaves overhead. It’s PERFECT here in New England right now. This is why I live here… the weather, *and* the local purveyors of provisions – whether they be local farmers or our local Whole Foods – which offer me perfectly purple farm-fresh beets or incomparable Icelandic lamb leg, butterflied just for me by my butcher. And, last but best, our own garden’s tender swiss chard – picked from this basket:
This was tonight’s bounty from “the lower 40,” as we like to think of them (read: about 40 sq ft of raised bed gardens downstairs in our three-family home’s wee backyard). These are Clayton’s tomatoes, chives, chard, and rhubarb. Tonight we’ll use the chard and chives.
Chives are so very different from scallions – their flavor is so delicate, so earthy oniony herbaceous. I love them, like, unnaturally.
Beets. Beautiful beets. I seriously didn’t start eating these babies until just recently, but I am totally in love with them. Their texture, natural complex sweetness, the syrupy richness of their juice, how unique and remarkable they are… damn they’re gorgeous! I trim their stalks to a short 1/2″, scrub them thoroughly, place them on two layers of aluminum foil, douse them with EVOO, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. I wrap them up tightly in one foil packet, and set aside. They’ll take an hour to roast, as will my soufflé, so I’ll put them into Little Red all at the same time.
To make the chard soufflé, which I must credit to Food & Wine’s Alex Roberts, more or less:
I remove the stems and spines from my chard, cut it into strips, and wash it thoroughly. I then blanch it in well salted boiling water for a few moments before draining it, cooling it, and chopping it.
Make a bechamel sauce by melting 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat, then whisking 2 tablespoons of flour into the melted butter until thoroughly incorporated. Add 2 cups of half and half in a slender stream, whisking well continually, until boiling and slightly thickened (which may take a few moments — it did for me).
See how the sauce is sticking to the sides of my pan, and you can just see the streaking of my whisk through the surface? That’s thickening nicely.
Add some sea salt, cracked black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to your bechamel and mix well.
This cheese was displayed along with the twice-as-priced Parmigiano-Reggiano, and – linguistically speaking, at least – it had almost the same name, so I snagged it. It ended up being the perfect choice for my chard soufflé. It was nutty, peppery, slightly melty, but still crumbly and richly textured.
I add about a cup of my grated cheese and the yolks of three large eggs to my hot bechamel, which I’ve moved to a bowl, and I mix well.
I add my blanched, drained, and chopped chard to my sauce, and mix well.
I whip the whites of my three eggs incredibly well in a bowl, until they forms stiff peaks. I then add the whites to my veg, one third at a time, by folding each layer together thoroughly between each addition.
I scrape my chard egg batter into two well buttered ceramic ramikens, then drag my finger along the inner rim to swipe a clean edge. These babies, and my foil packet of beets, go into a fully pre-heated high-heat Little Red, and I walk away for an hour.
It’s a beautiful night.
After 45 minutes or so, I add two cups of balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and begin to reduce it to a syrup. This will top my beets, ala That Jew Can Cook, from whom I drew my inspiration.
At the hour mark, my soufflés have begin to rise and brown. Oh my, but I am so excited about these!
Clayton moves them to the back of the grill, and slaps my butterflied lamb leg — which has been marinating for the last hour in EVOO, tarragon vinegar, fennel salt, cracked black pepper, and crushed garlic — on the hot grill. He also removes the package of beets…
… which are perfectly roasted. I let them cool for a few moments, before cutting them into perfect triangles. I do the same with some goat feta I’ve got, and I drizzle the whole set up with…
my warm balsamic glaze, which I’ve transfered to a bottle waiting in a cold water bath to cool.
After 15 minutes with the skin side down, Clayton is ready to flip the lamb. The soufflés are still just hanging out.
See how beautifully charred the skin is? Perfect! Another 8 minutes on this side and the thickest parts are cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the thinner parts still have a lovely tinge of pink.
Delicately crispy skin, tender juicy gamey flesh, all topped with cool Greek yoghurt and a few leaves of fresh tarragon.
My soufflés are fluffy and absolutely the most ideal shade of golden brown. They are moist in the center, with a fresh buttery chard flavor, and a subtle salt cheese undertone. They’d pop perfectly out of their ramekins, if I wanted to set them free, but the ceramic holds the heat in, keeping my soufflés at just the right state, all through dinner.
Tender roasted right angles of bloody red beets and almost obelisks of stark white feta, studded with crushed walnuts, dotted with chopped chives, and dabbled with thick sweet balsamic glaze and EVOO. Alongside the luscious lamb and surreal souffle, this is a dinner of incredible beauty, unequivocal elegance, and fantastic flavor.