For Holland America’s master chef, ‘fun’ is the main ingredient
By Johanna Jainchill
It seemed an almost inexcusable offense that I used the wrong hand mixer attachment to whip egg whites into a meringue, but Rudi Sodamin showed me nothing but kindness.
Holland America Line’s longtime master chef, affectionately known as Chef Rudi, is beloved by Holland America Line’s fan base. When he agreed to do a cooking class with me, I knew his charm, enhanced by his Austrian accent, would add to what I expected to be a great experience.
Chef Rudi didn’t disappoint, and he reminded me to smile as much as possible: “some fun,” he said, is the most important ingredient in the kitchen.
The Salzburger Nockerln we made is a famous Austrian dessert, he said, and “the most favorite recipe” in Rudi’s Sel de Mer, his namesake restaurant on Holland America ships.
“It’s a kind of a souffle,” he said. “Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.”
I wasn’t as confident as he appeared to be. After all, he’s a master chef. And in the kitchen, desserts are not my thing, especially ones that call for ingredients like cream of tartar.
“I’ll do my best,” I told him.
During our lesson, Chef Rudi tried to inspire me to, like a real chef, not focus too much on the recipe.
“Recipes are only guidelines, as my mother always said,” he explained. “Use your imagination.”
Unfortunately, my imagination led me to pick up the wrong beater for my hand mixer. But once Chef Rudi figured out why my egg whites looked like, well, beaten egg whites and not meringue, and I got the right accessory on, I felt he was right: I could do this.
And when we got to a critical ingredient — Grand Marnier — Chef Rudi advised me “you can drink some, and put some in the recipe.” It was at that moment that I knew we were both on the same page.
Chef Rudi said he has made a least 1,000 Salzburger Nockerlns. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out,” he said. “The temperature and technique needs to be right. It’s a science.” Even altitude can impact the egg white’s ability to stiffen, he said.
Stiffen it did, and the meringue was ready to go into the 425-degree oven.
“Now we make three beautiful mountains,” of the meringue, he said, later explaining that the hundreds-year-old recipe was originally inspired by the mountains of Salzburg. Mine looked more like a jagged hillside. “Looking good!” he said, with a big the thumbs up.
During the global cruise pause, Holland America leaned into its culinary offerings to engage with its past guests. The line shares culinary experiences and recipes in videos and blog posts on its social channels and through its [email protected] emails to fans. Chef Rudi, for example, demonstrated another Austrian classic for fans to celebrate National Wiener Schnitzel Day.
After only seven minutes, it was time to take out the finished product. Against all odds, I have to say: It looked and tasted really good.
Rudi Sodamin’s Salzburger Nockerln
Serves 4 - 6
- 6 Tbsp. butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
- 1/4 cup orange marmalade or seedless raspberry preserves
- 4 Tbsp. Grand Marnier
- 8 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp. twice-sifted flour confectioner’s sugar for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425˚F.
- Butter 2 quart gratin dish or 7-by-11 inch baking dish.
- In a small saucepan, combine the butter, marmalade, and Grand Marnier.
- Stir until the butter is melted and everything is combined.
- Spread the mixture onto the buttered gratin dish and set aside.
- In the very clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites.
- Place the gratin dish in the oven to warm up, while you beat the egg whites. Be sure not to burn the marmalade mixture.
- Beat the egg whites on medium speed, until frothy--about 30 seconds.
- Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat on medium while you slowly add the sugar.
- Continue to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks until they are broken and smooth.
- Gently fold the egg yolks into the egg whites while simultaneously sprinkling the flour over the mixture as you fold. This process should take no more than 10 seconds and it is helpful to have someone sprinkle the flour for you.
- Carefully remove the hot gratin dish from the oven and spoon 3 equal mounds of soufflé mixture into the gratin dish.
- Immediately return the dish to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Do not open the oven door until the soufflé is ready to be removed. The soufflé should be puffed and golden.
- Immediately dust with the confectioners’ sugar and serve right away.