I like to cook. Sometimes my daughter likes to eat.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Egg and Gruyere Custard, Sorrel and Potato Soup

I can't believe I haven't posted since November. Really?! There have been so many great recipe discoveries since then:

Dinner a Love Story's Sloppy Joes, Pork Chops with Mustardy Apples and Onions, and Roast Chicken with Brussels Sprouts (the last one so good that MZ requested it for her birthday dinner!)
Cook's Illustrated's Slow Cooker Lentil Soup
A Little Yumminess' Cheater's Tres Leches Cake
Roasted Leg of Lamb with this ridiculously good marinade
Dinner Files' Radicchio and Green Olive Salad (next time I'll add two minced oil-cured anchovies to the dressing)
Grilled chicken with Mark Bittman's Sauce au Chien

So it hasn't been lack of inspiration that kept me from posting, but pure unadultured business. I still haven't gotten all our holiday cards out, so really, I have no excuse for being here. But I don't want to forget these two recipes, two I've been fiddling with for quite a while and finally perfected.

Egg and Gruyere Custard
This started off as an Epicurious recipe, but it was so rich that only the most peppery acidic salad could get me through a slice. Plus it cried out for strata, for bread. This version, which I made this morning, was a keeper:

4-5 x 1.5" slices challah
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère (6 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped chives or scallions
4 ounces marscapone, ricotta or softened cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Lightly grease an oval casserole dish and fit bread into the bottom of the casserole. Whisk together the milk and marscapone till fairly smooth. Add the chives or scallions, 1/2 the cheese and nutmeg, stir and pour over the bread. Spread remaining cheese on top and allow to sit ~ 2o minutes or over night (if left overnight, the bread will practically melt into the egg mixture, a shorter soak will maintain a more layered custard).

Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes. The casserole will puff up and brown beautifully. Serve with a peppery salad and a bubbly wine.

Potato-Sorrel Soup
I've been making this soup for 21 years. Unbelievable! It's from The Greens Cook Book, the first volume from that venerable San Francisco establishment. I have a lot of favorites from this cookbook (from the classics -- the lentil salad, the Moroccan carrot salad -- to their own innovations -- Spicy Red Pepper Soup, Fettuccine with Saffron Butter, Spinach and Roasted Peppers, Eggplant Gratin with Saffron Custard, Chard and Saffron Tart, Tofu Salad, and their amazing Grilled Tofu), but this soup is an odd one. Made as the recipe dictates, with water, it is a dull, cloudy mess. Add some vegetable or chicken stock, and it comes alive. But add the Kitchn's Cheese Stock (made with parmagiana rinds) and it is truly remarkably delicious. Put a poached egg on it? I could practically eat it for every meal.

4 T butter
1 recipe cheese rind stock, plus additional vegetable stock to make 6.5 cups
3 leeks, white parts only (~8 oz), halved, rinsed and cut into 1/4"half-circles
4-6 oz sorrel leaves (~6-8 cups), stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 T salt
1.5 lbs red or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
4-6 eggs at room temperature

Melt the butter in the soup pot with 1/2 cup of water. Add leeks, sorrel and salt, cover and stew for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Remove lid and stir. The sorrel will have broken up and look somewhat slimy. It's okay.

Add the potatoes and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in cheese stock and additional liquid, turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Stir, lower heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

About 5 minutes before serving, poach an egg for each person eating. Taste the soup and adjust salt. Ladle soup into a bowl, top with a poached egg and a generous grinding of pepper, and serve.