Beautiful Food by Gary V. Powell

“Monica? Hey, there. James, here, returning your call. Well, you probably recognized my voice, or, maybe not. It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

    “Got your message about the rack of lamb and goat-cheese soufflé. A little surprised seeing how that was our dish, wasn’t it? Just kidding, hope all is well. Sorry to leave this on voicemail, but the recipe is too long to text, and it appears you’ve changed your e-mail. Here goes!

    “First, I recommend free-range, grass-fed domestic lamb. Australian lamb is smaller, and to my taste a little gamey. No slight intended to your Australian soccer player. I’m sure he’s large enough and tastes just fine. Oh, come on, you thought Celeste wouldn’t gush on that?

    “Anyway, sounds like a nice fellow. I’m happy for you. No, seriously, I couldn’t be happier.

    “As for the rub, well, there’s the rub. Oh, boy! Whew. Well, the rub is a house secret, but because I know I can trust you, I’m willing to share. Use a food processor—like the one I must have misplaced about the time you moved out—to make a paste. Combine Panko breadcrumbs, three cloves of garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and herbs.

 

    “Absolutely use fresh herbs—you’ll have to buy them unless you’ve started gardening. Unlikely, I know, because you were never the outdoorsy type and didn’t get into that farm to fork thingy. Supporting local farmers, minimizing your carbon footprint--not your deal, was it? Look, it won’t make a difference in your lifetime, but it could make a difference in your children’s lives, assuming you find the right person to have children with, which I admit I probably wasn’t.

    “Anywho, I prefer rosemary, parsley, and savory. Season with Kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Here’s the secret—pulse with anchovies. Weird, I know. But you have to trust me on the anchovies. Too many, and the lamb’s fishy. Too few, and the dish is under-seasoned.

    “Use your best judgment.

    “I mean, your instincts will tell you to leave out the anchovies all together, but that would be cheating. Not that I’m saying you would cheat, of course. It’s just that honesty in all matters is the best policy, isn’t it?

    “After rubbing your meat—oh my, sorry, I know, I know—warm to room temp before searing in a nonreactive pan. If you don’t know what nonreactive means, ask your soccer player. Celeste says he’s really quite bright and good looking, too. Fitter than me, that’s for sure. Bad knees, though.

    “After searing, roast at four hundred degrees—thirty minutes for medium rare. Remove from the oven, cover in foil, and allow your meat to rest.

    “Very important, resting the meat. Keeps it juicy. By the way, saying juicy reminds me of that dive Juicy Lucy’s down the coast—had the best crab cakes, ever. Remember? Have you been back since the last time we were there? Got a little ugly, as I recall, but I apologized for that. Anyway, the cocktail sauce was to die for. Lucy made her own horseradish, you know.

    “Next, the soufflé. I’m sure you’ll recall the chef at Noveau!, who compared soufflés to poems, suggesting one should discard the first one thousand of both. Not that your soufflé won’t be perfect, or that your poetry sucks. I never said that. Never. But, just in case, maybe you should have a Plan B. How about shrimp on the barbie?

    “Ok, that was mean but, seriously, maybe you guys should just go to Outback.

    “So, the soufflé. Make the base, starting with a roux of equal parts butter and flour. Add milk, stirring constantly. When the mixture thickens, reduce heat and crumble in a log of pur chèvre. You could use a flavored goat cheese, herbs and garlic, but I prefer goat cheese made exclusively from goat’s milk. No extra ingredients. Monogamous cheese, faithful cheese, if you will. The kind of cheese that doesn’t fuck around, know what I’m saying?

    “Refrigerate.

    “Now, using the technique I taught you, separate the whites from the yolks of six eggs. Okay, okay, but remember that time we made our own pasta—fettuccine, I’m pretty sure—and we needed three eggs and two egg yolks. You stood over the sink, and I embraced you from behind while demonstrating the separation technique. We actually got a little carried away, me rubbing up against your bum, flour everywhere. But, be honest, how many times have you done it while sitting on a six burner range? I mean, what a hoot.

    “Yeah, well, probably shouldn’t have brought that up.

    “Next, whip the egg whites into a turgid froth. I’m talking stiff peaks. Stiff, I say, stiff. Now, fold those stiffies into the base. Avoid too much air, fill ramekins to three-quarters, and bake twenty minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately, before the soufflé deflates.

    “Let’s face it, deflation is to be avoided. Deflation disappoints as much as an uninvited guest or ingredient, not that I ever had a problem with deflation, as you well know. Quite the opposite really, I suppose.

    “Well, on to the sauce. The sauce makes the dish. Unfortunately, my Madeira-veal-demi-glace reduction is complicated, and we’re running short on time. Use shallots not onions. De-glaze. Add stock and wine. Reduce and strain. Add butter—ice cold butter. Swirl. Avoid overheating, or the sauce will break. Messy.

    “Shit, you and Soccer Boy are on your own with the sauce.

    “OMG, I’m so sorry, Apologies. Really, I shouldn’t call him that.

    “Finally, the wine. I’d recommend that zesty Zinfindel we discovered in Napa, except it would be heartless of you to share it with another man. Your poem about that wine, despite the many rejections, was your best effort.

    “Okay, let’s be honest, I loved that poem. I’d have published that poem, unlike the thirty-two editors who turned it down. Thirty-two, right? Or was it, thirty-five?

    “One last thing. Absolutely, don’t forget…Shit, shit, shit. I hate that. I hate it when I’m about to be cut off. You know what, I’ll call back, or maybe not.

    “Anyway, bon appetit. 

    No, really, best wishes.

    “OK, see you around. Bye, now. Have a nice day.” 


Gary V. Powell’s work has appeared most recently in Best New Writing 2015, MadHat Lit, and Gravel Magazine. A former lawyer, he’d rather make love than fight, cook rather than eat, and write rather than read. His first collection of previously-published stories and flash is available athttp://www.authorgaryvpowell.com/beyond-redemption/