Today it is raining and thundering on the farm- a tornado warning in fact- the rain is a huge bonus for me because it cuts my work and worry load- not in half but it gives a bye on watering. Every farmer loves the rain. The chef in me really loves the rain- it gives me time to get into the farmhouse kitchen.
I bought an excess of organic eggs at the local farmers market and was wondering what to do with all of them- While I spend most of my time on the farm, I do love to travel. I will admit that I have a very soft spot for France and it is the one country that I have visited the most often. In my heart there is France.That is also true of my kitchen.
When I look at eggs-the chef in me believes that no one does them quite as exquisitely as the French- they have so many dishes based on this gift from nature- I felt like indulging myself this morning hence- Soufflé came to mind.
The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means “to blow up” or more loosely “puff up”—an apt description of what happens to this combination of custard and egg whites.
What a naughty treat for me – the texture is divine and the taste intense. Most cooks are too terrified to make this dish – The classic worry that it will fall. How many people can recall the last time that they ate a soufflé? Either Savoury or Sweet? I have not seen it on any restaurants- even in Paris it is hard to find.
I had not made a soufflé in years and I used to make it for my parents each and every time I visited – which was often. As they aged I needed to find ways to make them want to eat- Soufflés were a hit every time- for them I used crumbled blue cheese We always ate deeply flavored cheeses from all over the world. Some of them like Esrom and Tilsit just plain stunk – but I found out they tasted delicious-I devoured St. André and Gouda was another I loved. I grew to love Oka made by the monks and was sad when it was bought out and the quality deteriorated. Roquefort with jam on triscuits was dessert. Needless to say I am thrilled with the choice and availability to artisinal cheeses we can get today.
With eggs and Soufflé dish in hand I then found my old Cordon Bleu Recipe and grabbed the goats cheese cheddar and grana padano along with leeks that I harvested last year and started to cook.
This is a basic technique that once you are comfortable with it – you can make any flavour you would like. Another great thing about Soufflés is that all the ingredients are in your pantry – Who does not have eggs, cheese, milk or flour?
I must admit it does take some experience to execute this perfectly – but the real trick is to leave fear behind and just go for it. If you check out on-line recipes they are far more complicated that they need to be.
If you break into individual components it is not nearly as challenging.
You are making a white sauce or béchamel base and then adding flavour through cheese and seasonings (hence a Mornay sauce) just like Mac and Cheese – then adding separated eggs-you whip the eggs just as if you are making a meringue – Like the topping of pies and the method is much like making of the cakes. Now doesn’t that seem easier?
Some Chef Secrets:
- It helps if you have the right dish – 6 cup capacity with straight sides
- Use the best cheese- the more intense the flavor will be- so choose cheese with flavor
- If you coarsely grate the cheese it will ooze and taste delicious
- Add Dijon – you will be glad you did!
- Always use one for white than yolk for light texture
- Add leeks or some time of onion to heighten flavor
- I use panko to coat the soufflé dish it adds texture
- Do not over whip your whites
- Blend the final mixture softly but thoroughly
- Use a large stainless spoon to blend – it makes the job easier
Have your table set, your guests at it with fork in hand – A souffléwaits for no one.
Classic Cheese Soufflé–
Prepare the dish – Butter 6-cup (1 1/2-quart) soufflé dish. Add grated Parmesan cheese or panko and tilt dish, coating bottom and sides. Place on a baking sheet.
1-cup whole milk – it should be whole or even half and half
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely sliced leeks
3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1/4-teaspoon cayenne or to taste
1-teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper- white pepper if you have it on hand
4 large egg yolks, room temperature is best
5 large egg whites
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère, Parmesan or whatever hard cheese you have on hand (about 4 ounces)
Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté gently. Add flour and whisk until mixture begins to foam, about 3 minutes (do not allow mixture to brown). Pour in milk, whisking until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne. Let cool for a few minutes then add the egg yolks 1 at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Add Dijon mustard and the grated cheese and blend well. Scrape the soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm.
At this stage you can leave the base to use later if desired Cover and let stand at room temperature.
Using electric mixer beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm or room temperature soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites until thoroughly mixed and Transfer batter to prepared dish.
Use a small sharp knife and run a ring around the centre- this encourages the classic “hat” to form.
Place soufflé dish on a baking tray on the lowest rack of the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately. The centre should be slightly runny or as the French say “baveuse” which means drooling – it makes the sauce. If you prefer a firm soufflé cook it an additional 5 minutes.
I like to serve it with tomatoes and leeks or scallions served in a Dijon vinaigrette.
Chardonnay or Chablis are a perfect match.
Santé Chef Elizabeth