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Soufflé au Fromage

Do you have an abundance of eggs? Do you have something to celebrate? Is it Meatless Monday? Will you have at least 2 other people to eat a meal with?  If so, may I recommend making a soufflé? This cloudy puff of eggs, cheese, and air makes a dazzling showstopper.  In fact, if you ever happen to end up at my house for brunch, you will probably be served this very thing. This is my brunch party trick. But even if you're not having company, and it's just the family - I guarantee they'll feel pretty special when you pull this baby out of the oven and slide it onto the table.

I've made many, many soufflés, and yet I've only ever followed Julia Child's recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  It was so spectacular the first time I tried it, I've never looked back. I know what you're thinking - soufflé?  Moi?  Really?? I promise you there is nothing difficult about this. As my mother said, when at 16 I expressed doubt that I would ever be able to drive a car, "Caarin, for heaven's sake, if I can do it, you can do it!"  She was right. 

A tip from Julia if you do decide to take the soufflé challenge - whoops, did I say challenge?  Let's call it the soufflé adventure.  Room temperature egg whites mount more voluminously than chilled egg whites.  If you are pressed for time, separate your eggs and leave the egg whites out for at least 15 minutes before you start whipping.  Adding cream of tartar and a pinch of salt will help stabilize them.  

I have made this with the classic gruyere (most often) and also with 1/2 blue cheese & 1/2 gruyere, and goat cheese.  It is lovely with s handful of finely chopped herbs (although you might want to leave out the nutmeg if you add them).  Once you get the hang of it, you can play around with ingredients.  It's a very versatile dish.

Soufflé au Fromage

Adapted from Master the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child

INGREDIENTS - proportions are given for 6-cup and 8-cup molds  

6-cup soufflé mold - serves 3-4

2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus enough to butter soufflé mold

3 tbsp all purpose flour

1 cup whole milk, boiling slightly

4 large egg yolks

3/4 cup gruyere 

5 egg whites

1 tbsp Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of grated nutmeg

8-cup soufflé mold - serves 4-6

3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus enough to butter soufflé mold

4 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups whole milk, boiling slightly

6 large eggs yolks

1 1/4 cup gruyere

7  egg whites

1 tbsp Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400º.  

Measure out all of your ingredients. Butter the inside of soufflé mold and sprinkle with 1 tbsp parmesan cheese. Separate eggs, putting egg whites into the bottom of stand mixer or bowl for whipping.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook over moderate heat until butter and flour foam together for 2 minutes without browning.  Remove from heat; when mixture has stopped bubbling, pour all the boiling milk at once.  Beat vigorously with a wire whip until blended.  Beat in the seasonings.  Return over moderately high heat and boil, stirring with the wire whip, for 1 minute.  Sauce will be very thick.  

Remove from heat. Drop the egg yolks one at a time into the center of the sauce and incorporate with the wire whip.   Using a hand or stand mixer with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites.  Start on slow speed as they begin to foam; gradually increase your speed and when the whites are softly foaming, in 1 minute, add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and a big pinch of salt.  Gradually increase the speed to high for another minute or 2 until you have stiff shining peaks (when you lift the whip out of the egg whites, the peak stands, it does not flop).  Do not over beat.

Using a rubber spatula, Stir a big spoonful (about 1/4) of egg whites into the sauce to lighten it.  Stir in all but a a tbsp of cheese. Delicately fold in the rest of the egg whites.  Be careful not to overfold. It is better to leave a few unblended patches than to deflate the egg whites.

Turn the soufflé mixture into the prepared mold, which should be about three quarters full.  Tap bottom of mold lightly on the counter and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Set on a rack in middle level of preheated oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375º.  Do NOT open oven door. Just walk away. Make a salad while you let the it bake and do it's magic for 35 minutes. The soufflé will have puffed about 2-3 inches over the rim of the mold, and the top will be nicely browned.  Serve at once.

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