Psych out

Feb. 18, 2014 @ 10:34 AM

At the Matthews house, it’s not even a question.  We are true-blue Dukies.

Unfortunately, my fandom is heavily colored by my general dorkiness. As much as I dream about meeting Coach K, I’m also petrified that the opportunity would turn me into a full-on stalker, and I would spend my twilight years in the state pen. So, it’s probably best that I’ve never run into the great man.

When The Kid was born I was going through a Bobby Hurley phase. I just thought that adorable kid was the bee’s knees.

But my favorite Blue Devil of all time is J.J. Redick.  He has a truck-load of talent and an admirable work ethic. But what really sets him apart and both amazes and humbles me is his attitude on the court.

Each time he goes up for a shot, I get this crazy feeling. It’s like in his head, he’s never missed a basket. Not once. It’s not arrogance, but confidence, in its purest sense.

Petey often talks about setting oneself up for failure. If you think there’s a possibility of failure in something you attempt, you will make failure happen. I think he and J.J. have a lot in common.

I make this one dish for Petey that he really loves, carrot soufflé. It’s simple to prepare, impressive looking, and really delicious, even for folks who aren’t big carrot fans.

And almost since the very first time I tried out the recipe I’ve had trouble with it. It’s not a problematic dish. I just do something dumb, and screw it up. 

One time I forgot the sugar. Inedible.

I keep a pizza stone in my oven, that way it’s always handy, and it helps to keep the oven temp steady and holds the heat longer. One night for some reason I decided it was a great idea to set the soufflé on it to bake. While it cooked it separated into multi-hued strata that would have fascinated a geologist. Frightening, and inedible.

Last week I prepared it, put it in the oven, and realized I’d forgotten the sour cream.  Luckily I remembered minutes into the baking, so I poured the mix into a bowl, washed out the dish, whisked in the missing ingredient, re-greased the casserole dish, and slid it back in the oven. It actually turned out OK.

Petey really enjoyed it, as he always does, when I get it right.


Carrot Soufflé

1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced into similar sized rounds

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Pinch of pepper

2 tablespoons vanilla (or one vanilla bean)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Cook carrots in boiling water with 1 tablespoon of the vanilla (or the scraped pod, reserving the vanilla caviar to mix into the soufflé) and 1/8 teaspoon of the nutmeg in a large saucepan for 20 to 24 minutes or until tender. Drain, and let cool.

Process cooked carrots and eggs in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Add sugar and remaining ingredients; process until fully mixed. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish.

Bake at 350° for 55 to 60 minutes or until very lightly browned and just set.

Makes 6 servings

The problem now is that I think I’m cursed. While I’m pooping around in the kitchen, putting together a nice dinner, instead of enjoying the process, and having a good time, there’s a tiny whispering demon in my brain, wondering what fresh hell I will visit upon this yummy side dish to turn it into a catastrophic failure. I just end up psyching myself out.

I really need to kick that darn kitchen Lucifer out of my head and out of my house. I’ve been cooking long enough to have confidence in my abilities, even to turn out a flawless carrot soufflé. 

The instant I start giving in to fear and assume the worst, I doom the entire endeavor. If I approach it with joy and confidence, I will turn out an impeccable product.

I’m sure Petey and J.J. would agree.

Thanks for your time.

Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is