We all remember those episodes of bad sitcoms where a character would be making a soufflé and insist that everyone stay quiet in the kitchen lest their precious prize collapse. Then, of course, an Urkel or a Punky would knock over a tray of pots and pans, the soufflé-maker would cry out and hilarity would ensue. This is how most Americans perceived soufflé, as a disaster waiting to happen. And most people, I’d wager, still think of it that way–which is why, perhaps, so many of you requested soufflé as the next technique I tackle in my Tuesday Techniques.
But, as Michael Ruhlman writes in his “Elements of Cooking”, “Soufflés are less fragile and difficult than their reputation suggests.”
Banking on this, I decided that I’d make a soufflé for lunch after going to the gym this morning (instead of dangling a carrot in front of my treadmill, I dangled an imaginary cheese soufflé).
The recipe I chose wasn’t from Jacques Pepin’s book (though he has a recipe for lobster soufflé I may try in the near future) but from my favorite, Ina Garten, and her “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook. I trust Ina–her recipes almost always come out–so I figured that for a dish as daunting and intimidating as soufflé, hers would be the recipe to use.
And boy, am I glad I did. Was it difficult? Not at all: it just involves lots of dirty dishes, broken eggs and self-control (especially in the not peeking in the oven department). I bought a large soufflé dish on Monday in preparation for making this; I think having a large soufflé dish is smart because instead of figuring out how many portions you can eat, you just make a big giant portion and dish yourself out however much you want. [For this recipe, the dish should hold 8 cups and it should be 7 1/2 inches in diameter X 3 1/4 inches deep.]
Here’s what you need to make it…
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 cup scalded milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
4 extra-large egg yolks at room temperature
3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped
5 extra-large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
And here are Ina’s instructions…
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter the inside of an 8-cup soufflé dish and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat.
With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg.
Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.
Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.
Stir in the Roquefort and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.
Whisk one quarter of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest.
Pour into the soufflé dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the soufflé rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven.
Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don’t peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.
Here’s what I saw when I finally opened the oven…
What a feeling to see that your soufflé has risen! It’s one of the great kitchen highs. I removed it from the oven and called Craig in to behold my accomplishment.
“Wow,” said Craig giving it a once-over. “Smells good too.”
But it was when he dug his fork into the portion I put on his plate (along with some salad) that his eyes really lit up.
“Mmmmmmm,” he sang out. “This is so good! This is one of the best things you’ve ever cooked!”
Isn’t it fascinating that a dish with such a long, dusty history can still dazzle when it comes out of the oven? This is like a cross between a cheese puff, a pancake, and an omelet. The Roquefort really gives it complex flavor and the Parmesan rounds it out. Along with a salad (dressed simply with olive oil and vinegar), a better lunch can’t be had.
And that, my friends, is this week’s Tuesday Technique. What would you like to see next?