Stiff peaks.

We haven’t had a food post for a while, have we? Here it is, Fat Tuesday, so let’s have one. What’s For Dinner used to be a common topic here at NN.C, as you old-timers can attest. Occasionally I get an e-mail: Nance, what’s for dinner lately? I’m out of ideas. Well, I am, too. My cooking took a turn when we moved here, and a) we could no longer count on Alan’s presence at the dinner table, given the vicissitudes of morning newspaper production schedules; and b) Kate stubbornly refused to grow out of her toddler tastes, and continued to eat maybe seven foods. I decided life was too short to worry too much about this nonsense, and made a sandwich. FTW.

I think maybe I just needed to walk in the wilderness for a while, because lately I’ve been making my way back. It occurs to me that unless I want to put on five pounds a year indefinitely, ultimately ending up on one of those electric scooters at the grocery store, I should change my ways. The Mark Bittman book is illuminating a new path. I’m trying to simplify, un-process, give meat a detour more often than not and cook a bit healthier, but at the end of the day I want a little reward for all those whole grains and fresh fruit during the day.

So last night I decided butter is proof of God’s love, and decided to show the proper gratitude. I made a spinach soufflé and some oven-roasted potatoes with rosemary from our own bush, struggling through winter in the sunny window. And you know what? It was goooood:

Husband, in background, finds Field & Stream more interesting.

People are terrified of soufflés, and for no good reason. They’re much easier than you think, not nearly as tricky as you’ve been led to believe. If you can beat egg whites and fold them, you too can have a lovely entree consisting mainly of air. Truth be told, I prefer my soufflés of chocolate and for dessert, but for a light supper, it’s hard to beat ’em. Maybe with a little mushroom sauce over the top. Next time.

And while we’re on the subject of pleasures and indulgences, let me recommend the second book on the nightstand at the moment, Laura Lippman’s “Hardly Knew Her.” I know Ms. L has written short fiction before, but this is the first I’ve read of it, and I have to say, I’m impressed. These stories are wry and noir-y, concerned with a corner of crime fiction that rarely gets its full measure of attention — troublesome women. And not just the femme fatale in the fitted suit and veiled hat, either, but far more interesting ones, soulless party girls and over-the-hill sexpots and gold-diggers deprived of their full measure of gold. Oh, and the suburban prostitute-masquerading-as-a-lobbyist, and also the one who screws her contractor to get the little extras out of a home reno, and…you get the idea. Read and enjoy.

Pals, I have a whole list of supplemental readings I was going to post for comment, most on the decline of newspapers and some suggestions for saving them (or their newsrooms), but as I started to do so I realized I have utterly lost my enthusiasm for the discussion. Maybe it’s just today, on this fine, sunny, cold morning that still holds the promise of spring. Or maybe I’ve reached my limit. Anyway, not today. Today is a day for Mardi Gras beads and jelly doughnuts and last splurges before 40 days of Lent. (An agnostic though I may be, I retain the cultural patterns of my Catholic upbringing.) Can we muster some bloggage? Perhaps:

You couldn’t go to the Oscar parties, but Hank and his colleague Amy could, and bring you a full report. It doesn’t sound like that much fun:

Barward, we are thrust against the hardened chest of Gerard Butler (King Leonidas from “300”). Thrust again. Thrust once more. We can’t help it, buddy — we are being pushed from behind by . . . Oliver Stone and his Just for Men eyebrows. It’s a manwich. For some reason, Butler decides to go find his grog someplace else.

One minute these guys are all bluster and go-ahead-knock-it-off, the next they turn into pants-wetting, weak-kneed pansies: Rick Santelli vs. his imagination.

Sean Penn doesn’t need screenwriters — he comes up with his own killer lines, and at parties, no less.

And with that, I’m off. Go make yourself a soufflé.

Posted at 9:10 am in Media, Popculch, Same ol' same ol', Uncategorized |

35 responses to “Stiff peaks.”

  1. Jolene said on February 24, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Gorgeous, Nancy. Am fantasizing about the aroma of the rosemary potatoes. A pleasure.

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  2. brian stouder said on February 24, 2009 at 9:44 am

    What Jolene said! That souffle picture is flat-out racey!

    Last night Pam wasn’t feeling the best (dentist said possible cracked tooth beneath a crown*; nothing to do but wait, for now) so I became the supper-meister.

    At one point I had all 4 burners going on the stove top: Pan-fried steak (Food Network/Rachel Ray taught me this!), vermicelli from a box, green beans from a can, and pancakes (that’s what our 10 year old wanted, and my job was to make her happy) –

    and everyone ended up happy! The surprise was that the kiddos wiped out the green beans and the vermicelli; I thought a fair portion of the pasta would land in the trash…although Grant pointed out that I didn’t do the green beans the right way (mom adds bits of bacon…but I was out of burners)

    Anyway, other than doing the dishes, it was fun

    *raising the question: just what DID they do las weekend? “What goes on in Jackson, MI, STAYS in Jackson MI”, eh?

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  3. Randy said on February 24, 2009 at 9:45 am


    From noticing your nightstand books, I picked up my first Lippman (a Tess Monaghan) a couple years back. I’ve been reading her, quite out of order, since then. Just finished “To The Power Of Three”, really good stuff.

    On her website, she indicated she might retire Tess, and the NYT story published over the last few months might be her swan song… or, she might change her mind. I wonder how authors decide when it’s time to pack in the series that put them on the map. I wonder too, how much influence the publisher would have over that decision?

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  4. brian stouder said on February 24, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Randy – ditto. I read To the Power of Three a month ago; I got Hardly Knew Her for Christmas, and as I read To the power of Three, I was struck by a very strong parallel with a central bit of the plot of that book, with one of the short stories.

    Hardly Knew Her is definitely good stuff, even despite that characters named ‘Brian’ pop up in several stories (with various spellings), and they’re ALL no-goodnicks!

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  5. del said on February 24, 2009 at 9:55 am

    C’mon. That souffle was photoshopped wasn’t it?

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  6. Dorothy said on February 24, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Might we have the recipe to this scrumptious creation??? Pleeeeezzzzeee??

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  7. brian stouder said on February 24, 2009 at 10:26 am

    …readings I was going to post for comment, most on the decline of newspapers and some suggestions for saving them (or their newsrooms)

    Somehow, this article is part of that discussion (if not the answer)

    If the New York Post was my paper, I’d not have run that monkey cartoon. On the other hand, if you’re gonna be a muck raker, then for God’s sake get on with it!!

    They could have effectively defended that image by pointing out how past presidents have been lampooned as gorillas (and pigs and dogs and snakes and so on); and if a furor ensued, they’d have all the more muck to rake, and papers to sell

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  8. Dwight said on February 24, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Ah yes, if you can’t beat their message, just smear them and call them names. Parse for any combination of words that can be pulled out of context, and if you can’t find the damning words, heck, don’t let that stop you. Edit them in.

    With Mr. Emmanuel as Chief of Staff, Mr. Santelli should be more concerned about a return to Old Skool vindictiveness. The big pansy. Why would he worry about his reputation being smeared by such honorable men like Rahm? Why would he question the vindictiveness of an ideology in which former “journalists” advocate “grinding these folks into the soil, then sowing the soil with salt and maybe irradiating it for good measure?”

    Sure, people say harsh, intolerant stuff sometimes, but they’re JUUUUUST KEEEEEEEDING!

    What a crybaby. What a whiner that Santelli is. Frickin’ pansy.

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  9. harrison said on February 24, 2009 at 11:03 am

    santelli. what an asshole.

    if shows that every loudmouth bully is also a sniveling coward.

    fuck him fuck him fuck THEM ALL!

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  10. brian stouder said on February 24, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Best thing about Nance’s Sun link to the Sean Penn tidbit is the link you find THERE, for an article asking why there isn’t an Oscar for best nude actor

    (not safe for work – although the stiff peaks of Nance’s souffle gives Penelope Cruz’s sculpted breasts a run for their money!)

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  11. LA Mary said on February 24, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Still keeping with the new years resolution of no meat at least three days a week, we’ve done souffles, frittatas, all manner of egg dishes. The winner so far was the broccoli, green onion and aged gouda frittata with a bottom crust of potatoes. We had a fennel, orange and black olive salad on the side. What I’m discovering is how really cheap eating like this can be. You don’t need huge hunks of cheese, and the last time I bought eggs, they had a buy one get one free deal on the boxes of 18 large eggs. I got 36 eggs for 2.50.
    I still have not gone into any extensive tofu cooking. I put it in soups sometimes, but I haven’t had great luck with it in the past in anything else. It’s not terrible, but it’s not anything. It’s just stuff. We used to get a stir fried vegetable and tofu dish at a now defunct Chinese takeout in South Pasadena. My kids loved that stuff when they were little. They called it “soft chicken” which I didn’t bother correcting. I need to get my tofu to nicely browned but not crumbling state they managed.

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  12. nancy said on February 24, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Dorothy, the recipe is from the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and I wouldn’t dare reproduce it here — it’s one of those “talky” recipes that would take me half a day to retype.


    As this blog points out, a souffle is basically a thick bechamel sauce, with the main ingredient stirred in, then folded into beaten egg whites. The presentation is what wows people, and for that you need a real souffle dish, plus — this is CRUCIAL — a buttered “collar” of foil or parchment, so it can climb up, not run over, and look all fluffy and brown when it’s set.

    Both Shirley Corriher and Mark Bittman point out that an unbaked souffle mix is much sturdier than you think, and that you can make them ahead and refrigerate them. You sacrifice a little height, but not as much as you’d think.

    (This was not one of those souffles, however. The height astonished even me.)

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  13. Sue said on February 24, 2009 at 11:34 am

    My first two vegetarian cookbooks were “Laurel’s Kitchen” and “The Vegetarian Epicure”. (“Diet for a Small Planet” doesn’t count.) Laurel’s Kitchen didn’t do anything that wasn’t whole wheat, and Epicure featured recipes like “Parsleyed Eggs on the Half Shell” wherein you were required to peel a hard-boiled egg in such a way that you ended up with an intact half-shell. Two ends of a wide spectrum, for sure. Both great books, but I find myself using Epicure way more often than Laurel these days. Hmmm… speaking of eggs, tonight I think I’ll do the artichoke cheese puff (from Epicure Book II, I think), a coward’s souffle. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  14. Catherine said on February 24, 2009 at 11:41 am

    The souffle is ab fab! I too have almost given up on real cooking on weeknights. The moment when everybody praised my chicken pot pies (TJ’s, frozen) as the best meal they’d had all month may have been the final straw. Weekends are another story; I made my first Mark Bittman recipe this weekend, a yellow shrimp curry from the Splendid Table’s online recipe search. It was scrumptious, made we want to go buy the book. And put an addition on the house for the too-many cookbooks.

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  15. Laura said on February 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Your souffle makes me weep, as we live in a egg-free household.

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  16. whitebeard said on February 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    This Doonesbury cartoon popped up on Automotive News magazine’s website today as Gary Trudeau pulled no punches in these desperate times for auto dealers and big SUVs
    When times are this bad you have to laugh or cry, your choice.

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  17. Hoosier said on February 24, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    …cook a bit healthier…
    Was your cooking sick before, or did you mean cook a bit more healthfully? I’m not a wordsmith, I’m just say’n…

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  18. Gasman said on February 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    You might seem a tad more credible if your citations were from sources slightly less rabid than the Media Research Center. They are the self described “Leader in Documenting, Exposing and Neutralizing Liberal Media Bias.” That old “liberal media bias” is at least a 40 year old canard that has never been supported by the facts. The level of right wing media bias is still nearly as great as its high water mark during W’s two terms.

    It is highly ironic that your first citation is fomenting outrage over allegedly doctored footage of a FoxNews personality. This seems kind of like being outraged that a “mean black man” said something defamatory about the KKK. Oh, the horror! We all know of the exceedingly high journalistic standards practiced at Fox. They have gotten their marching orders/talking points from the GOP since their inception. Yet, you convey outrage that someone treated FoxNews unfairly.

    Fox engages in the highly unethical practice of altering transcripts of their programming to make the “news” conform to their political beliefs. Thanks to YouTube, there are easily documented discrepancies between what Fox’s doctored transcripts report and the actual footage that originally aired on Fox. This Orwellian specter is straight out of 1984 and the Ministry of Truth. What justification can there be for engaging in such blatantly politically biased lying? Far from being an isolated practice, this level of mendacity seems to be the coin of the realm in this Moral Lilliput, inhabited exclusively by conservative Republicans. Sadly, these “corrected” transcripts are often picked up verbatim by other transcript sources such as Burrell’s and gain a sort of quasi legitimacy via further dissemination.

    If the far right wing zealots of the Republican Party cannot make an argument without lying, it seems to imply that they know their own ideas to be bankrupt. Without the ginned up lies and the chorus of bloviators to twist and distort, they know that they cannot compete in the marketplace of free ideas. If FoxNews is truly “fair and balanced,” why do they need to retroactively rewrite the “news” to comply with their master’s ideology?

    Your next link is to, whose roster of pundits includes such intellectual giants as Dick Morris, Michael Reagan, Paul Weyrich, Dr. Laura, David Limbaugh, John Stossel, and Pat Boone. It is an enterprise funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, who has been bankrolling the right wing echo chamber for decades. When confronted with factual errors, Newsmax has also engaged in altering the record to avoid responsibility for for its obvious mistakes.

    Give us legitimate, believable stories and sources and maybe we will take you seriously. Step out of the echo chamber for a while. I think the lack of oxygen in there is impairing your judgement.

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  19. LA Mary said on February 24, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I’ve looked at the photo too many times. I need to get the souffle dish out of the back of the cabinet.

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  20. Dexter said on February 24, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I searched for the souffle scene from “Henry and June” but alas, all I could find was this…”I wanted to give you more…”

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  21. basset said on February 24, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    ahh, Nance, you don’t have a sister, do you? maybe a little older? and single?

    souffles on a weeknight… this must be an alternate reality or something.

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  22. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Making a soufflé is no biggie, it’s just that most of us (Nancy) can’t get them to come out level on top. At home, no one cares and it gets cut into pretty quickly, so a sloping soufflé — eh [implied Gallic shrug].

    Easier than a quiche where you make your own crust, a little harder than making a good quiche with store-bought crust, which is my usual mid-week slack off.

    (I think my soufflé dish is full of hot-pads and coasters up above the fridge.)

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  23. brian stouder said on February 24, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Here’s a little ditty that has created some buzz in Fort Wayne. It’s Hitler again, this time in Mayor Henry’s shoes, facing the tall challenges presented by Harrison Square…pretty funny Ft Wayne humor all through it (had to laugh out loud when the person who subtitled this includes an angry shout as to why Rachel Blakeman hasn’t been fired yet, and the video switches to the women outside the meeting)

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  24. Connie said on February 24, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    The souffle is gorgeous. I love spinach – when someone else cooks it. Our efforts to reduce our fat intake have put an end to frittatas, quiches, etc.

    My guy has been working every Saturday, and I have been entertaining myself with more home cooking than I had done in years. Last Saturday it was French Onion soup with homemade croutons. My new favorite cooking page is Pioneer Woman Cooks, . Best recipe so far was the Roma tomatoes stuffed with a ricotta herb filling, topped with bread crumbs and baked. Mmm mmm good.

    My lunch today was deadly. Rubber chicken at the Columbia Club with an assortment of state legislators, followed by the three hour plus drive home from Indy.

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  25. beb said on February 24, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I’m sorry, I can’t see eating baked foam. If I’m going to eat something made from eggs and cream let it be quiche.

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  26. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 24, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Ah, Columbia Club chicken. I treasure my first memory of eating there, with a jacket and tie from the club closet discreetly draped on the chair behind me — i was student lobbyist from Undue Purversity, down for a Commission on Higher Ed meeting, and was carried along in a gaggle of lobbyist scum (yes, me included, clueless or no) to the grey stone rectitude of the Columbia Club, where i swear an elderly gentleman told me about the torchlight rally out front when he was a boy to celebrate the nomination of Benjamin Harrison. (He would have had to be 108, but maybe? I dunno.)

    I’ll bet you aren’t still required to wear a jacket and tie or dress now, or are you, Connie? I had the made-to-order omelet, where i freaked out the poor fellow making them by saying “Hi” and asking him how his day was going. Apparently that was not the norm in 1981. The pre-remodeled Statehouse was an amazing rabbit warren on half-floor offices back then.

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  27. MichaelG said on February 24, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    I agree that Julia Child’s recipe is the best. I’ve used it for thirty years. A little attention and care and Nancy’s success will be yours. You can put anything (within reason) in a soufflé. I like to use pepper jack for the cheese – lends a touch of warm. Sometimes I throw chopped shallots into the roux while it’s cooking. I’ve made it with salmon, asparagus, ham, whatever. It’s a great user of leftovers. Just stick with the proportions. Sometimes it will come out flat without the beautiful hat that crowns Nancy’s soufflé. So what? It’ll still taste great and next time it’ll look great as well. Go for it. A simple salad with a vinaigrette, some crusty French bread and a nice white wine. Yum. Leftovers are good for lunch the next day.

    The Speech: Tears of hope feel so much better than tears of rage.

    I couldn’t hang around for Jindal’s rebuttal. Any bets on whether he and Sanford, Crist and the other numb nuts Republican governors take the money? The Republican Governor of California has made it clear that he’ll be happy to take their share if they don’t want it.

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  28. brian stouder said on February 24, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Up ’til tonight, I thought Bobby Jindal was going to be a serious national player going forward; but his post-Obama speech wasn’t even 50% of what Governor Palin (for example) could have done.

    At least to me, it looks like the Jindal souffle is a deflated affair….and woe unto even his prospects in Louisiana if he turns away one dime of stimulus money, if any of it would help the dikes, levees, and public safety agencies in New Orleans (especially considering the multiple shootings at the Mardi Gras parades today)

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  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 24, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Wow, Jindal sounded much better on the White House driveway. He just kind of fell droningly flat. (But i hate, in a bipartisan way, the whole [Blank] response thing. Let it go, argue tomorrow on Morning Joe — winning an election means you get first dibs on people’s thinking.)

    Don’t forget to go have your forehead smeared tomorrow am, for all Catholics, Lutherans, and liturgically minded Methodists. If year old palm frond ash was thought to be a wrinkle reducer, imagine the lines of people to hear “Ashes thou art, and to ashes you shall return.”

    It’d be downright popular. Pax vobiscum, y’all.

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  30. Jolene said on February 24, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Cruising around the Internets just s little, I saw that the reactions to Bobby Jindal reported here are widely shared. One evening doesn’t a campaign make, but he didn’t enhance his presidential prospects tonight, which is fine w/ me. I also found him unpleasant on Meet the Press yesterday.

    MichaelG, Charlie Crist of Florida is among the Repub governors who’ve said he’s more than happy to take whatever benefits are due his state under the terms of the stimulus legislation. There are some technicalities related to unemployment compensation laws in other states, but they can be worked out. Yesterday, Obama chided these folks for complaining about a 5% (or less) problem as if it were the whole program.

    Your dinner menu sounds terrific.

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  31. moe99 said on February 25, 2009 at 12:03 am

    The correct phrasing for tomorrow’s festivities is (from my Catholic High School in Rochester, MN where I spent just one year):

    “Asses to asses and bust to bust.”

    Off to walk the dogs after a long night chairing my first worship committee meeting in at least 12 years.

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  32. Dexter said on February 25, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Charismatic Old Man Ken Cockrel , who died young, would have had a better chance than the duller sonny , but Dave Bing has an excellent chance to become Detroit’s next mayor. To see what type of stock Jr. Cockrel sprung from, it’s just fascinating to read a short bio on Ken Cockrel, Sr. He’s been dead nearly 20 years and nobody’s forgotten him yet.

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  33. Dexter said on February 25, 2009 at 12:53 am

    We can recognize moe99 today…she’ll be the one with the smudge on her forehead.

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  34. moe99 said on February 25, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Dexter: hmm…presbyterians (the denomination to which I’ve belonged the past 18 years) don’t do that ashes thing much.

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  35. Connie said on February 25, 2009 at 6:22 am

    I grew up in the Protestant Dutch part of Michigan and knew absolutely nothing about Catholicism when I went off to Michigan State. I remember my Ash Wednesday bewilderment, and finally asking someone why all these people were coming to dinner with dirt on their faces.

    Jeff(tmmo) there is a sign in the Columbia Club lobby regarding appropriate dress, but there wasn’t actually any inspection of our group of 170 librarians and a couple dozen legislators. All the legislators wore suits and ties. At least the men.

    Moe99: Lourdes?

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