Ruth Reichl’s “Tender at the Bone” is one of the most interesting and delectable books that you will ever read. A combination autobiography and cookbook, Reich’s memoir of her growing up years is a delicious combination that is hard to put down.
As a cook and journalist, author Reichl has impressive credentials. As a young woman, this naturally gifted cook worked every restaurant job available. Eventually, armed with a BA in sociology (honors!), she established a professional catering career while living as a semi-hippie. Then, as sometimes happens in life, she morphed into a renowned restaurant critic through pure blind luck. Even more interesting was that she started at the top of the food chain. Beginning at the Los Angeles Times, she moved on to The New York Times and then became editor-in-chief at Gourmet magazine .
“Tender at the Bone,” is her first book, published in 1999. It landed at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, as did her “Comfort Me With Apples,” published in 2001. I just got around to reading “Tender” and am already salivating at the prospects of digging into “Apples.”
Her first book is almost impossible to put down for two reasons. First, her descriptions of her crazy upbringing and wild youth are page-turners. Reichl’s mother (a manic-depressive) was an interesting person but a dangerous cook, prone to using rotten food. For this reason, her daughter was forced into cooking to literally keep the family from being poisoned. Later, cooking became a source of joy and an outlet for her creative energies.
The following recipes would be wonderful as desserts for your Easter dinner. Coming out of the dead of winter, dishes featuring berries or lemons seem to shout “Lighten up!” They add that special touch that says spring is just around the corner.
The berry tart recipe is attributed to a time when Reichl worked as a camp counselor on a small island off the Atlantic coast of France. The lemon soufflé´ recipe came from the La Belle Aurure in Paris, where her family had dinner one Christmas. Its only drawback is that it must be prepared at the last minute. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Remember this: a soufflé prepared in advance will be a sunken soufflé!
1-1/2 cups sifted flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ pound sweet butter
2 tablespoons cream
1 egg yolk
Put flour and sugar into a bowl. Cut the butter into small squares and add to mixture. Toss with your fingers until butter is coated with flour; rub until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
Add cream to egg yolk and pour into flour mixture. Mix lightly with a fork until pastry holds together in a small ball. If not moist enough, add a tablespoon or so of water to bring it together.
Sprinkle flour across a counter and place pastry on flour. Push the dough with the heel of your hand until it has all been worked through. Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in refrigerator 3 hours.
Remove and allow to warm for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle more flour onto counter. Flatten ball into a disk and roll out into an 11-inch circle. Fit gently into 8 or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press into pan gently, being careful not to stretch the dough; trim off edges and put into freezer until firm.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line tart shell with foil and fill with dried beans. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans; cook 4-5 minutes more until golden.
Remove from oven and allow to cool while making filling.
¼ cup blanched almonds
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups raspberries
Put almonds and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in food processor and grind to a fine powder. Cream butter with remaining sugar. Add egg yolks, stirring until smooth. Add ground almond mixture and vanilla.
Spread almond cream into bottom of baked tart shell. Carefully cover the tart with 2 cups of raspberries. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar; bake at 350° F. for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 hours.
Just before serving, cover the top of the tart with remaining 2 cups berries. If you like, melt 2 tablespoons currant jam with 1 tablespoon of water in a pan; allow to cool. Brush the glaze over the berries.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
¼ cup milk
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 425° F.
Separate eggs carefully. If there is the tiniest bit of yolk in the whites they will not beat properly. Separate them thoroughly and put the whites into an extremely clean dry bowl. You will need all of the whites but only 4 yolks. Eggs are easiest to separate when cold but easier to beat at room temperature, so do this step first to allow the yolks to warm up.
Butter a 1-1/2 quart soufflé mold very well. Throw in a handful of sugar and shake the soufflé´ dish until it has a thin coating of sugar. Shake out excess. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the flour and whisk until well blended. Slowly stir in milk. Cook, stirring, until the mixture has almost reached the boiling point and has become thick and smooth.
Add lemon juice and sugar and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat, add vanilla and cool slightly.
Add 4 egg yolks, one at a time, beating to incorporate each one before adding the next. Add lemon rind, then return the pan to the stove and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more over medium heat. Remove and let cool.
Add a pinch of salt to the 6 egg whites and beat with a clean beater until they form soft peaks. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the sauce, then carefully fold in the rest.
Pour into the soufflé´ mold and set on the middle rack of the oven. Turn heat down to 400° and bake 25-30 minutes or until the top is nicely browned and the soufflé´ has risen about 2 inches over the top of the dish.
Serve immediately. Serves 4-6