It Takes More Than Just Me

Dearest Rachel –

I mentioned last night about how I needed to get this written down in some way. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to find the book in which this recipe is written, and it is one of those few responsibilities I have with regards to cooking as part of our family traditions.

It’s also a project that requires the efforts of more than one person. You should recall the times spent buttering bread and cubing cheese in order to put this together. It really was a family project for the three of us, because it takes more than just me to do it.

And while you’re no longer here to help us assemble it, Daniel and I have done our part to keep the tradition going, putting our Christmas brunch dish together (and yes, I’m fully aware that the recipe itself is actually called an Easter brunch soufflé, but hey, we have it when it have it) for it to be served this morning.

In fairness, we did most of the work last night after dinner at the folks’ place. We kind of have to, as the milk and the egg mixture has to settle its way into the bread overnight.

Back in the day, we used to stay overnight there, and the task would take the three of us well into the evening (although part of that was because we would spend a good chunk of the evening finishing up wrapping presents – that process was something we tended to procrastinate on, and we also tended to have to deal with more presents back in the day). You, especially, liked to be able to wake up where we were going to spend Christmas. And I think the folks were fine with it, even if we did live but three miles away, and could as easily drive over first thing in the morning – which we eventually started to do these last few years, as it became clear that they were no longer able to support our nocturnal lifestyle under the same roof.

Since that wasn’t going to be possible this year (or any year hereafter), we determined that we would just need to put everything together at the folks’ place – if for no other reason than they had the recipe, and we don’t – or if we do (did?), I seem to have misplaced it, which might as well not be there, if I can’t find it when we need it.

So here’s the walk-through, so I can refer to it in future.

We would always start by buttering twelve slices of bread…

Daniel absolutely slathered the slices with butter, which is probably just as well. At least this way, both sides get coated.

…cubing something substantially north of half a pound of cheese; I took a picture of the pile, but it was so blurry, I had to dispose of it. At least the picture of the sausage came out reasonably well.

The recipe calls for eight strips of bacon; like with the cheese, it always seemed to be far too little. Had to get two boxes of breakfast sausage to assemble what I consider a suitable amount.

Once everything is cut up, everything is put together in a 9×13 pan – thank heavens that Mom still has a Pyrex pan, as we donated ours to Goodwill, thinking that we wouldn’t need it (after all, it’s just the two of us – when would we ever need a full-size casserole pan?).

So we layer the bread in, butter side down…
…add the cheese, making sure that it’s scattered evenly throughout…
…and then do the same with the sausage.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the eggs – which is weird, considering that this is supposed to be a soufflé. Eggs are the whole thing in that, aren’t they?

To be fair, I was breaking the eggs while Daniel was buttering the bread. Note that it wasn’t my best work, but one of the eggs had an inner skin that kept everything contained even after I’d practically peeled half the shell away. At least it doesn’t make any difference to the flavor or texture.
Then you whisk in a whole quart of milk – at which point it gets to be something of a pain, especially since I’m used to the up-and-down motion of your French whisk as opposed to the side-to-side, circular motion of Mom’s more standard whisk.
But once it’s whisked to satisfaction, pour the eggs and milk (I left out the salt; I figure there’s enough in the meat) over everything else in the pan, and stick it in the fridge for the night.

By this time, it was getting on toward eight o’clock, and Daniel decided to head home (he’d driven from the house, whereas I had come from church last night, so we were in separate cars). Both Mom and Dad commented about how well we worked together assembling this; I’d like to think you would have been pleased to see it, too. I know you and he would work together much better than him and me, but it was gratifying to hear all the same.

I didn’t know whether we would be needed to show up early in the morning in order to put the dish in the oven; given that it’s meant to bake at 325° – 350° for an hour and a half, that would mean getting to their house before eight in the morning, and as Daniel hadn’t been up until eleven yesterday, that might have been too much to ask of him. Still, I did wake him shortly after eight, so as to get him to change and wash up before heading out. He was a little groggy at first, but he at least got to it in fairly short order.

He’s a long way from those childhood days of wanting to get to the presents and all that. I think we all are, by now.

Sure enough, the pan was already in the over by the time we arrived.

The screen on the oven door makes it hard to see, but you can tell it’s in there. And of course, this being a soufflé, I’m not about to open the oven door. I may not know much about cooking, but I’m not that stupid.

We hung about for an hour or so – even starting to wonder about Jenn and her family (they had been the ones to set the time that we would meet – 9:30 – and yet with five minutes left, they still hadn’t shown up), when the doorbell rang and the timer went off almost at the same time.

The dish came out looking all puffy, and golden brown, with no burn marks at all. Must’ve been all that butter Daniel put on it.
Although it wasn’t much later that the whole thing fell down rather noticeably. It was still tasty, though.

I will admit, it seems a little odd to make and serve for a family that doesn’t necessarily enjoy it – Jenn’s husband Bill doesn’t eat eggs, and their son Will cannot abide cheese (which has baffled us all his life – who doesn’t like cheese?), and of course Dad really can’t eat much of anything yet. Some traditions are persisted in, I suppose, regardless of whether they make sense.

At least the kids seemed to like all the confections I brought back from Basel and Amsterdam.

After handing out (and unwrapping) the presents, and breaking into the Christmas crackers, Jenn and her family had to leave; Bill’s extended family comes over every Christmas, and while there are fewer people attending this year than usual (and Daniel had entertained thoughts of going over and spending time watching Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures with his cousin Joanna), the folks have made arrangements for dinner here that hopefully, we will enjoy. So for now, I’ll let you go, and thank you for the times we’ve spent putting this dish together in the past, along with reassurances that ‘we’ve got this’ going forward.

The kids did leave behind one of the tissue paper crowns from their crackers for you, though. Hope you like it.

Take care, honey. I love you. Merry Christmas, and leave us a place at the table.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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