“You purchased this item on November 30, 2010.” — informed me Amazon when I found the book I was going to mention in this posting. I couldn’t believe it. I lived in Texas for 7 years before I really discovered Tex-Mex… I mean, I ate Tex-Mex food from time to time here and there, but never truly enjoyed it. It was sort of blind and random tasting with assumptions based on mediocre quality of my inexperienced picks. Then I discovered amazing fajitas. Tex-Mex cuisine got my serious attention! I started reading Rob Walsh’s books, and, of course, found Nuevo Tex-Mex.
In Nuevo Tex-Mex, Texan chef David Garrido’s hip and innovative recipes are presented by Texan food writer Robb Walsh with lots of humor and attitude, all photographed in vivid color and spectacular style by Texan photographer Manny Rodriguez.
Today, I probably would agree with some reviewers that the recipes in this book are somewhat simplified, but back than I was charmed and inspired. I still believe that for those, who’ve never been to Central Texas, this book represents the beauty of local food. That’s why many of my friends all over the world have this book as my gift.
Three years ago, I celebrated my birthday at Garrido’s. All invited were dining there for the first time. I helped my friends to choose from the menu. When there was a time to order dessert, I told them about chef David’s Pastel de Calabaza with Lemon Crema, paired with Sister Creek Muscat Canelli. After my passionate introduction, all my guests decided they wanted it. I turned to our smiling waiter and said cheerfully: “8 Pastel de Calabaza! And the recipe!” I was joking about the recipe, of course. Why on Earth chef David would share the recipe with me? To my surprise, soon our waiter was back with Pastel de Calabaza, David Garrido’s business card, and his promise to email me the recipe.
Over the next 2 years, I tried to make Pastel de Calabaza at home 6 times. I couldn’t get it right. It was never as light and spongy as in Garrido’s. Chef David and I exchanged a few emails, he tried to help me, but no matter how closely I followed his instructions, the result was too moist and too heavy. Well, I am not David Garrido, not even close, I thought, and gave up.
In 2014 Chef David closed his restaurant. My cravings for his food were not easily obliged any more. It was time to come back to the stubborn zucchini soufflé and I finally made my own version of Pastel de Calabaza.
Every time I taste this delicate and elegant dessert I can’t believe it is made of ordinary zucchini. Look at the color! The younger and smaller zucchinis you use, the higher the ratio of dark green skin and the more vivid green your soufflé is. Be patient. Just like other soufflés, this one needs to be cooled very slowly. You have to give it a lot of time to set by reducing the temperature gradually and by keeping it refrigerated for a few hours before reheating and serving.
The recipe below is for 12 cut portions. If you want to cook and serve it already portioned in ramekins, adjust timing accordingly.
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Line a square cake pan (8"x8") with parchment paper. Use 4"-wide parchment paper for the sides. Your soufflé will rise and than set down. Oil parchment sides lightly so it can slide easier. If you cake pan has a removable bottom, cover it with foil.
Prepare a larger pan. Place prepped cake pan inside and fill it with cold water 2" deep. (This will show you how much water you need to boil for the bath and whether you cake pan is really waterproof.) Boil measured water in a separate pan and reserve.
for zucchini cream
Wash and cut zucchinis to 1" long. In a sauce pan, cover them with cold water, bring to boiling, reduce the heat to minimum, and simmer until soft, for about 2-3 minutes. Strain water. Blend hot to puree consistency.
Mix and whisk milk, egg yolks, flour, salt, and sugar (for zucchini cream ingredients). Add 1/2 cup of hot zucchini puree and whisk. Add the rest of zucchini puree, 1/3 at a time, whisking every portion. At the end the temperature of you mix will be about 50C.
Add cubes soft butter and whisk to emulsify it.
Mix egg whites and sugar in a bowl of mixer. Immerse it into a hot water (bain-marie) and slowly whisk egg whites until sugar dissolves and the temperature is about 105F.
Whip a stiff meringue. Adding egg white powder (dry egg whites) make meringue more stable.
In a separate bowl, mix and sift flour and baking powder (for batter ingredients).
Pour zucchini cream into a large bowl. Add 1/3 of meringue and whisk it. Add flour and baking powder mix, whisk it. This is the time when the double action baking powder is activated for the first time when it meets water. Your mixture becomes foamy and it is easier now to fold the rest of the meringue. Now, replace your whisk with silicon spatula. Using silicon spatula, fold the meringue, 1/2 at a time.
Transfer the batter into the pan, shake lightly to distribute it evenly. Open the oven, slide the middle rack 1/3 out, place your larger pan on it and fill it with boiling water. Place you cake pan inside and carefully slide the rack back inside the oven.
Time for baking depends on volume of the batter. For W8xW8xH4", it is about 1.5 hours. Turn the heat off, when the top is golden brown and the center of soufflé is just set (doesn't move when slightly shaken).
Keep soufflé in closed oven for another 45 minutes. Open the oven door, keep it in for another 45 minutes. If it is still warm to the touch, keep it in room temperature for another 45 minutes. Refrigerated for at least 6 hours before removing from the pan. After that you can cut it to portions.
It is nice served cold. It is even better when served warm. Do not skip on cold whipped with lemon zest crema Mexicana or whipped cream! They meant to be paired. Garnish with fresh mint. Perfect with Sister Creek Muscat Canelli.