FOR DINNER TONIGHT, why not make Souffle au Fromage? It’s easy! And, it’s unbelievably delicious. You can make it uniquely your own, too, by folding in fresh herbs from your garden or farmers’ market. I added onion-y chive blossom petals to the one pictured up top. Here’s the recipe for this fabulous French classic in six simple steps:
A souffle, if you’ve never made one, is little more than stiffly-beaten eggs whites folded into a thick white sauce, or “bechamel.” The egg whites expand as they heat, causing the batter rise up dramatically.
A buttered collar, made from a double-thickness of aluminum foil (one sheet folded over), keeps the souffle’s puffed top from tumbling over — and making a mess — in the oven. An ordinary pin holds the collar in place.
My bechamel is thickened with cornstarch, instead of the usual flour-and-butter roux. That’s because my partner is gluten-intolerant. (I want him to be able to enjoy my souffles, too.)
Chive Blossom Souffle
Ingredients for 4 servings
2 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup milk
3 Tbsp non-gmo cornstarch
Seasonings: 3 drops Tabasco sauce, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and a tiny pinch of nutmeg
1 Tbsp chive blossoms (petals only), or an equal amount of other fresh herbs
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites, warmed to room temperature
1 cup coarsely grated Swiss cheese (reserve 2 Tbsp for topping the souffle)
Necessary Equipment: a buttered, one-quart baking dish, approximately 6 inches wide, and 3 inches deep; aluminum foil; a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan; a wire whisk and a rubber spatula; an electric mixer (either hand-held or standing) for beating the egg whites
1. Toss the Parmesan cheese into the buttered dish; roll the dish around so the cheese coats bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Make the bechamel. Whisk together cornstarch and 1/4 cup milk; pour the remaining 3/4 cup milk into a saucepan, and heat until nearly boiling. Add the cornstarch solution to the hot milk, and briefly whisk until a thick, smooth sauce is achieved.
3. Off heat, whisk in the seasonings. Then, one-by-one, whisk in the egg yolks.
4. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff, shining peaks.
5. Scoop up a quarter of the egg whites, and quickly stir them into the bechamel sauce to lighten it. Then, make an opening in the bowl of egg whites, by pushing the whites gently to one side. Pour the bechamel into this opening. Using your rubber spatula, quickly but gently fold the egg whites into the sauce, alternating scoops of the spatula with sprinkles of Swiss cheese and the optional herbs. Don’t over-mix, or you’ll deflate your egg whites!
6. Baking – 35 minutes. Scoop the souffle mixture into the buttered dish, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, and attach the buttered collar with a pin. Then set the dish on the middle rack of the preheated 400-degree oven. Immediately lower the thermostat to 375-degrees, and bake for 35 minutes, or until the souffle puffs up and turns golden-brown. If a skewer inserted inserted straight down the souffle comes out clean, the souffle is definitely done. Remove from oven, and immediately remove the aluminum collar, being careful not to tear the top of the souffle.
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