“I NEED A BLOWTORCH!” I wailed, watching a second set of slightly overcooked marshmallows puff up like little brown blowfish as I pulled them from the oven, just in time for them to turn pimply and collapse upon themselves.
“That,” said my husband – who was standing on a chair in the hallway, soothing the smoke detector by fanning it with a dish towel – “is the last thing you need.”
Gelatin-puffed sugar and heat are fickle bedfellows, as anyone who has sat fireside and watched their perfect coal-roasted golden-brown marshmallow suddenly sprout blisters and slide off the end of their roasting stick knows.
So I don’t know why I became so attached to the beguiling idea of toasted marshmallows atop Purple Yam Soup for Thanksgiving dinner this year. Everything was done. The turkey and stuffing camped on the counter under tents of foil; the cranberries waited patiently, a serving spoon sticking out of their jellied mass like a lever ready to be pulled.
Everything was done…except for the damn marshmallows. And while we should have been sitting down to eat, I was nearing tears over the failed execution of toasted sugar and gelatin, inching a bit closer to the proverbial ledge with every shriek from the smoke detector. After all, I had made a similar soup last year, complete with the same tricky topping, and it hadn’t been this difficult. (Had it?)
I brushed the sweat from my forehead with the back of my oven mitt and stuck the third batch of marshmallows under the broiler, leaving the door propped open. I didn’t take my eyes off of them as I ladled the soup in to bowls – miraculously, without any spillage. The marshmallows started to come alive: at first it was barely perceptible, their faint swelling as subtle as the breathing belly of a sleeping kitty. Their soft edges melted away as they morphed from cylinders to domes. A blush of golden color appeared first on the crown, then spread outward, deepening as it traveled to a toasty brown.
“HONEY IT’S TIME TO EAT!” I barked. “LIKE NOW!” I yanked the pan from the oven, grabbed a spatula, and began prying the toasted marshmallows from the pan, desperate to transfer them to the soup bowls before their precious window of perfect done-ness slammed shut and they deflated – again.
(As an aside, purple yams are really purple.)
“I’m sorry; I was a total bitch a minute ago,” I apologized to my husband as we savored our first spoonfuls.
“But this is really good,” he said.
And it was. The hot marshmallow innards melted into the creamy yam soup, adding a toasty sweetness, while their “shells” provided a delicious burned-sugar crunch – perfectly complemented by the salty pistachios and butter-fried sage.
Thanksgiving 2011 Lesson One: Cooking with fussy, extremely time-and-heat-sensitive ingredients might not be the best idea in the midst of a hectic holiday meal. Unless you enjoy the sound of your smoke detector.
Thanksgiving 2011 Lesson Two: But sometimes it’s totally worth it.
Thanksgiving 2011 Lesson Three: I really do need a blowtorch. (Santa?)
Happy Black Friday!