Sunday, January 13, 2008

persimmon and corn soufflé; californio dreamin' part two

Jan. 12th, 1864
Dear Uncle Garner,

I find myself thinking of you again, as you are the relative that I confide my "new world" produce experiences with; this occasion I made a Kakee soufflé. A "what was that my dear?" you are probably mouthing as reading this. Well, that is right Uncle, a Kakee! It is really a form of a persimmon, somewhat like the ones encountered on my trip through the Ohio River valley, some twenty years or so ago, only this time much larger and easier to deal with if, if I may say so. Anyway, the manner in which these "simmons" (as some call them) came into my kitchen is that an Asian man in the neighborhood, hunched over and hardly able to see toward the horizon (from years of Railroad work I hear, not his current farming ventures) has taken it upon himself to introduce me to these bizarre orange fruits. Upon receiving them, I was in a quandry as to what to call them since he pressed a basket of them into my hand and then proceeded to sneeze. I promptly said "bless you" and placed the gift on the counter. He gave me a look of confusion and began saying over and over what he must have said when I thought he sneezed, with each repetition slower, making a point in pronouncing each syllable sharply: "Ha - Chee - Ya." Seeing my reaction, he quickly smiled, grabbed my hand and began squeezing it as though I were his child, then with a little shrug of his shoulder he spoke in a very reassuring tone and laughingly said "Ka - Kee." I smiled back and repeated: "Kakee!" I can't say why exactly, as both words sat wrong on my english speaking tongue, but I found I preferred Kakee.

I find this new fruit most delectable and very sweet, but with a pudding like consistency that is much too soft for me for wanting to eat out of hand as one would an apple. Maybe making a true pudding with it would be splendid? I had been wanting sweets of late, but my last sack of sugar has been empty for months. Luckily, some relations returning from an area drained by el rio de los reyes had recently given us several jars of honey. I have put this on my corn meal pudding lately, and even spooned it onto toasted pieces of wheat bread. But when I received the Kakee and found I wouldn't be eating much of them uncooked, I thought of combining them with the honey to make a pudding of sorts. With this thought in mind I immediately spoke with my neighbor, a Mrs. DuBois, who seems to have quite the mastery in her own kitchen. She informed me that she had no idea what this "slimey orange pulp in a skin" was, but in a pinch I could at the very least make a soufflé. She then explained how it involves separating eggs and treating the respective parts with the utmost care and attention, yielding divine results both sweet or savory she assures me. The texture of it she described as something we know to be a bread pudding. I was intrigued and made up my mind to try my hand at one. Thus was born the persimmon and cornmeal soufflé.........

now, back to today, or more realistically, two days ago:

So there I was. Staring in the freezer at two cups of frozen orange pulp labeled Hachiya. We had a lot of eggs, a jar of honey on the counter and I was feeling adventurous. I did a search for "persimmon soufflé" and was disappointed with the results. I figured, sheee-iiiit, as a food blogger, I can do something about this. Post a little something, label it accordingly and in the near future, if enough traffic comes my way you will soon be able to use this search phrase and come directly here. Consider it a form of direct action that involves no regard for demographic and whether this recipe is fit for the masses to read on paper. I said to myself: "Self, I will run an experiment. Can little 'ol Monkey Wrangler, use all local ingredients (within 200 miles for this experiment), make a yummy dessert AND have immediate effect on the internet search for persimmon soufflé?" The answer, we shall find out is up to you, the reader.

I had some fun last year about this time, using the voice of a deceased relative, who 140+ years ago lived here as a Californio. It was fun to imagine myself in their shoes with trying to make sense of the "local" ingredients and having to make do in order to feed the family. With the ingredients I chose for this post, I soon realized that this was another great candidate for a similar experiment. All local ingredients, likely available in this part of California mid last century, and made by hand. So here goes nothing.

Have you ever made a soufflé?

They are really much easier than they sound. If you are at all familiar with what an egg can do for you in the kitchen then there really ain't too much mystery about them. Another way to say that is that if you understand the physics and chemistry involved with eggs, this should be easy peasy. I started the whole thing off by taking out my eggs and setting them on the counter to get to room temperature. I gathered up the whole grain products, tasted a spoonful of the honey for calibration purposes, and put my Hachiya pulp in a pot to cook just a touch and then press through a sieve. With everything assembled, I separated the eggs, turned on the oven, and prepped my dish for the fluff.

After much arm breaking whisking, rue making, pudding flop-plopping and the like the experiment was closer to reality. With the fluff carefully placed in the dish and its stiff paper collar in place, I loaded it into the 400 degree oven and hoped for the best. This was a first for many ingredients in a soufflé here at the monkey ranch: sweetened with honey; whole grain wheat and corn used; and pectin thickened persimmon pulp. This was most certainly uncharted territory, that was maybe, just maybe, soon to be charted. Searchable that is.

It worked, it worked!

Well, it wasn't the lightest, fluffiest cloud of egg ever, but considering it was a heavy recipe to begin with, I was most pleased with the results. If you consider yourself a whole grain lover, this is just the thing for you. If you don't, you'd probably think someone just handed you a scoop of bread pudding that must have had some corn bread and graham flour in it.

Well, thank you dear readers for getting through this post. If you are feeling adventurous and really like persimmons, give this a try some time.........

californio kaki n' corn soufflé:

2 cups persimmon pulp
4 large eggs
1/2 c honey
1/2 c cornmeal
1/3 c butter
2 T whole wheat flour
pinch of salt

remove eggs from the fridge at least one hour before doing anything. put the pulp in a pan and cook over medium heat until it plops. remove and press through a sieve into a small bowl. separate the eggs. heat the butter in two quart pot and add the butter, whisking it over medium heat until it bubbles and begins to brown slightly. add the pulp and the cornmeal and stir most vigorously. temper the egg yolks in and cook for another few minutes until a light boil is achieved. set aside and cool to near room temperature. while this is cooling, preheat the oven to 'round fer-hunnerd degrees. prepare your soufflé-appropriate dish and beat the egg whites to a medium peak. casually fold the egg whites into the now tepid persimmon and cornmeal pudding of sorts until almost completely combined. gently and of course still quite casually, guide this mixture into the dish and put into the oven. try not to giggle the oven too much when you first peek at the thing at around 15 minutes into the cooking. somewhere around 20-25 minutes in, the desired brownness will occur and the middle won't be all wiggly-jiggly. remove from the oven and try some before giving to anyone else.........

Hopefully it looks something like this. If not, all I can say is that maybe you should try a real tried and true recipe from a professional! Although I doubt they would make this version, let alone publish something about it, for fear of losing some readers and thus money.

Still, I couldn't find a persimmon soufflé recipe and did something about it. Or so I think, let me know.

Later 'taters! Catch you soon!


K & S said...

would have never thought to make a souffle with kaki :) great idea!

Callipygia said...

I think this sounds mighty fine...could also imagine a few marshmallows hanging about the top (which might break the local rule). I think uncle Garner would be proud! Wishing you and your family a splendid year.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Sorry Kat and Calli, but I've been experiencing dechnical tificulties you might say........

Kat: You simply have to try your hand at kaki in a souffle. Besides, all that pectin from the kaki is just bound to help it keep it's shape.

Callipygia: Oooh, marshmallows. Actually there just might be a way to make them semi-local by making them myself. Yeah, that's the ticket! It certainly sounds worth the experiment. Now if I only had that thing called time......

Erica said...

Hello stranger,

I'm usually much more of a recipe searcher than a blog fact this may be my first blog comment ever.
Anyways, just had to tell you that I too did a search for persimmon recipes tonight to use up a box of yummy orange goo from the fridge...I too found some boring bread recipes and nothing gooey and yummy. Then I thought, ah ha! I'll search for persimmon souffle...and guess what my friend: you made the top of the google list. And there still isn't much else but you....
I'm off to warm up the eggs. Thanks for the post! _e

Monkey Wrangler said...

Erica: Awesome! Thanks for letting me know about the search results and your interest in the recipe. If you could, let me know how it turns out since I haven't heard of any other soul being brave enough to give it a try.

Thanks for coming by the monkey ranch!