Flash in the pan

The color orange

From puree to soufflé, these autumnal dishes are savory

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Orange foods taste good together. Maybe it’s my imagination or just a co-incidence. Or perhaps it’s the beta-caro-tene pigment found in all orange foods. But probably not because beta-carotene has no flavor. However, it is a precursor to Vitamin A, which is good for vision and will help you see that orange foods look good together. Plus, it’s autumn’s official color.

This all-orange dish includes carrots, squash, egg yolks, red chile and orange (the fruit). You can’t get much more orange than that. And it’s even better with ginger (an honorary orange food). The recipe is for a savory soufflé that puffs up like a cracked balloon in the oven. This is not your typical dessert soufflé, but one for the main course. I serve it drizzled with a tangy orange sauce.

This beta-carotene soufflé is several recipes in one. The first step is to make a beta-carotene puree, which doubles as a great soup. And the orange sauce I serve it with is useful in many ways. In addition to drizzling the orange sauce on the soufflé, you can use it to orange up the soup, as well as on roasted vegetables, fried chicken and anything else that could benefit from a sharp, overtly orange zing.

Beta-carotene Puree
This puree is the first step in making ginger soufflé, and it also makes a lovely autumn soup. Most winter squashes work here. My favorites are butternut, kabocha, sunshine and red kuri squash.

Makes 3 quarts. Whatever you don’t use for soup or soufflé can be frozen.

  • 1 winter squash (2-3 lbs)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled (about 12 oz)
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 5 leaves fresh sage
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 piece of ginger, about an inch on a side, grated
  • 1 tablespoon paprika or chile flakes 

More notes:
Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the squash in half from tip to stem. Scoop out the seeds and membranes. Peel the squash with a knife or a peeler. Then lay the cut sides down and cut half-inch slices from pole to pole. Make the slices as even as possible, like you’re slicing bread, so they cook evenly. Cut the carrots into rounds as thick as the squash slices.

(Tip: With thin, edible skinned squash like kabocha or sunshine, I toss the peels with salt and olive oil and bake them too. The skins cook quickly into a crispy treat that’s addictive as potato chips but with more carotene. I also bake the seeds.)

Toss the squash and carrot slices in two tablespoons of olive oil and cook them until they are thoroughly tender (about 30 minutes). The baked peels only take about seven minutes, and the seeds about 15.

While the squash and carrots are baking, sauté the onions, garlic and sage in the butter in the remainder of the olive oil on medium heat. Add the chicken stock, squash and carrots when the onions are translucent. Bring to a simmer, turn it off and let it cool.

After it’s cooled, add the ginger and paprika and puree them together.

To serve it as soup, add a splash of heavy cream and garnish with roasted seeds and/or peels.

Ginger Soufflé
This dish is an adaptation of a butternut squash soufflé recipe created by John McDonald, a wine writer for the Cape Gazette in Lewes, Delaware.

Makes four pint-sized soufflés (or two pints when puffed)

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons white flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup of Beta-carotene puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 

Preheat the oven to 450. Melt the but-ter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add the flour and whisk it together. Add the milk and cream and whisk them together. Add the puree and salt and whisk it again.

Separate the eggs. When the contents of the pan have cooled for 10 minutes, add a tablespoon of the mixture to the egg yolks and whisk it. Add another tablespoon and whisk it in. And another. Then add the rest of the orange mixture to the yolks and thoroughly mix.

Beat the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl until peaks form. Gently fold the stiff whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among four pint-sized buttered ramekins and bake until golden and well-risen (about 15 minutes). Drizzle with orange sauce, if using, and serve immediately. They will probably collapse as soufflés will do. But that won’t impact the flavor. 

Orange Sauce This orange sauce is based on what’s on the orange chicken found on the menu of your favorite Chinese restaurant.

  • 1/2 ounce garlic, minced or grated finely
  • 1/2 ounce ginger, peeled and minced or grated finely
  • Juice and zest two juicy oranges
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt 

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and puree. Pour it through a strainer into a saucepan. On medium heat, cook it down to about half the original volume.

With the colorful Michigan leaves blanketing the ground, this is the perfect time to enjoy these orange indulgences. 

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