Did you know I am a closet cook? Yep, sometimes when I am all by myself I practice stuff that I'm not good at, like souffles. About a month ago my friend The Corinthian Column, an art collector, put me to shame with a gorgeous blue cheese souffle that he posted on his site. Well! Little did he know that souffles have always been my Achilles heel and just the thought of having to make one makes me weak at the knees.
When I was learning to cook, souffles were the domain of the great French chefs. When my mother came back from her lessons at the Cordon Bleu, she could make two things that I know of...French Onion soup and a cheese souffle. To watch her set up for tackling a souffle was like watching a general plan strategy for an important battle. That kind of put a damper for me but I knew that if I ever wanted to be a real cook, sooner or later I would have to make a decent souffle. Not spectacular...just decent.
Throughtout my cooking career, every time I tackled a new recipe it was never good enough in my eyes. The more I tried, the more disappointed I became, so I stopped. That is, until a couple of days ago. Going through one of the French cookbooks at Barnes & Noble, this recipe caught my eye mainly beause it was for a small souffle; secondly, because it was so simple...well, even a caveman could do it; and third because it was by none other than Francoise Bernard the grande dame of French popular cuisine.
I quickly jotted down the ingredients in a piece of paper, together with the oven temperature and the time and off I went to conquer the beast. The result...well I don't need to tell you, just look for yourself. As for the taste...as good as any souffle I've had in France or at La Grenouille where they serve it with a cheese sauce on the side (we'll tackle this later).
The recipe is really for two and was made in two 5 inch souffle dishes, buttered and coated with grated Gruyere cheese.
Oven Temperature 350 degrees for 25 minutes
First make a cup of bechamel with 2 TB. butter, 2TB flour and 1 cup of milk. Melt the butter, add the flour cook for a minute and add 1 cup of hot whole milk. Cook until it almost comes to a boil. The sauce will be nice and thick.
Add 3/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese to the sauce, salt and pepper. I added a little cayenne pepper also.
Separate 3 eggs and add the yolks to the bechamel sauce. Mix well.
With a portable mixer*, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks. Make sure you beat well or souffle won't rise. With a wooden spoon take some of the whites and incorporate into the sauce and then fold the rest carefully so as not to deflate. Don't do this too much, it's okay if you have some patches of white "clouds".
Fill the two souffle molds leaving about 1/2 inch at the top. I inserted a finger in one and went around the rim. I didn't do it with the second and it really didn't make a difference. Place in the preheated oven.
Pour yourself a glass of rose and mix a simple green salad. By the time you are finished, your souffle will be done.
The moral of the story...When making a souffle, don't over think it!
Note: Do not open that door! turn the light on and watch to your heart's content. When you see that it looks like mine, you have conquered the beast!
*It is better to beat this small quantity of egg whites with a portable mixer, if you have one.