Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Culinary Eggs-Periment

I've never made, nor for that matter, have I ever eaten a souffle. Reading various recipes over the years, they always seemed doomed for disaster. Have we all not heard of the harried cook making a special supper of a souffle for his/her company and it falling before it ever reaches the table? Additionally, it is something that has to be timed so that your guests are seated and ready when the main event comes out of the oven. A souffle awaits no one.

Since one of my goals of this cooking blog is to venture out and try new (and sometimes scary) recipes, now is as good a time as any to try my hand at the classic cheese souffle. I searched through a few of my cookbooks and have decided to go for the recipe included in Julia Child's very complete and thorough The Way To Cook cookbook. Since Julia's recipe is so detailed and there are so many souffle recipes available, I am not going to write out this recipe today.

One of the things I like about the idea of a cheese souffle is that the ingredients are so very simple: eggs, milk, cheese, butter, a few seasonings, lots of air and voila, an impressive dish. I was able to obtain local eggs, milk and wonderful Tillamook extra sharp cheddar cheese, thus practicing my utilization of local products for the majority of this recipe.

In reading this particular recipe, the process seems quite simple. I made a bechamel sauce and when thickened, added the seasonings then the 4 egg yolks after the sauce had cooled a few minutes. I whisked each one individually until well incorporated.

This stood for a few minutes while I got out the much beloved Kitchenaide mixer (Thanks my darling man, The Husband, for the best gift you ever gave me) and beat 5 egg whites until stiff, shiny peaks formed. In everything I've read about souffles, this is a key step. Apparently if the whites are overbeaten, it will result in a dry, tough souffle. The next step was to fold the sauce mixture into the whites. I took a large dollop of the whites and stirred them into the sauce to lighten the mixture, then gently folded the sauce into the rest of the whites using the classic folding method of cutting through the mixture in the middle, going down to the bottom and repeating until everything was well incorporated. The grated cheese was also folded in a handful at a time. The key to this process is to not overfold and deflate the volume of the whites.

This mixture was poured into my prepared dish which I buttered and dusted with 2 Tbsp of parmesan cheese. I then attached a greased aluminum foil collar around the dish using straight pins in order to create a method for the souffle to rise above the top of the dish without collapsing on itself.

The oven was preheated to 400 degrees and when I put the souffle in, I turned it down to 375 degrees where it baked for 25 minutes. Accoring to the instructions, it is imperative that the oven door is not open during the first 20 minutes of cooking or the souffle will deflate like a man in a cold shower.

The souffle actually needed 30 minutes in my oven but it turned out just fine. It was very tasty, airy, perfectly seasoned and most cheesy. It was served with asparagus, tomatoes dressed with a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, crusty french bread and a glass of sauvignon blanc. Though it was a fine dinner, it may be awhile before I attempt again, as it was a lot of work and, call me a redneck if you will, scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese are just as good with far less effort. I'm glad I gave it a whirl and now I can check that off my list of things to do before I die!


Whack Patti said...

You're freakin' me out man! It looks just yummy! I hope you will some day make it for me. You know, they have ovens in the assisted living complex. I want one right now for if a half a pound of fudge wasn't enough. Many thanks for the wonderful day! Good food and most of all the best of friend!

Simple Simon said...

I would love to make you a souffle in the assisted living complex. The good thing is that if I forget to turn off my oven, perhaps they will be set up so they shut off automatically after two hours. It was a most excellent day indeed with my dear, dear friend of forty years. Can you believe it?

Demi said...

Good words.