It has been a long time….
It has been a long time since I have cooked a Cheese Soufflé. I used to make them all the time, back in the early 1980’s. I married my husband Dan, in 1979, and the early 1980’s were all about home making, and learning how to cook. While “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” a two-volume French cookbook written by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle, was published by Knopf in 1961 (Volume 1) and 1970 (Volume 2), I did not discover these tomes of cookery until early in my marriage. I used them mostly to cook a chicken or a turkey, and to make soufflés. For me, making a soufflé was like Columbus discovering America. The magic of the airy egg whites, causing this dish to rise up and present itself beautifully, made me want to cook it in it’s many variations over and over again. Not only were there cheese soufflés, but vegetable soufflés, and dessert soufflés, too. I would invite friends over for dinner parties, in order to present my soufflés, fresh out of the oven. I felt like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a top hat, and our dinner guests appreciated the theater of it all.
Alice Waters on the Soufflé ….
In her cookbook, “The Art of Simple Food,” Alice Waters describes this dish beautifully in her introduction to Soufflés:
“Dramatic, puffy, and feather light, with quivering gilded caps, soufflés are surrounded by an aura of culinary mystery. Surprisingly, beneath the mystery lies a rather simple, but ingenious, dish. In a basic soufflé, a simple white sauce made of flour, butter, and milk is enriched with egg yolks; a flavoring element such as cheese (or fruit or liqueur for a dessert soufflé) is added; and the mixture is lightened with egg whites beaten to many times their original volume. The air trapped in the egg whites expands in the heat of the oven, puffing up the soufflé even more. The only critical point is that a soufflé should be sped to the table the moment it’s finished baking. Out of the oven, a steaming soufflé cools quickly and loses its triumphant height.”
Dear Reader, I can attest to the fact that you don’t want to tarry, and serve your guests a soufflé that has fallen. Think, deflated football.
Connect with your inner child, and make a Cheese Soufflé with me….
Recently, there was an article in the New York Times by Jeff Gordinier, about Eric Ripert, the chef at Le Bernardin. He was promoting his memoir, entitled “32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line.” During the interview, Mr. Ripert ordered a cheese soufflé, among other things, and commented thusly about the soufflé:
“To me, there’s something magical about soufflé,” he said. “To this day, when I see a soufflé rising, I’m mesmerized. I’m just like a kid again.””
….””Everything is in this soufflé, for me,” he said. “It warms your body. It warms your soul at the same time.”
Reading this article about Ripert made me remember my own joy at making soufflés, and that it had been a long time since I had made one.
Long Long Long, by George Harrison, and sung by The Beatles on the White Album….
Thinking of how it has been a long, long, long time, since I had made a soufflé, makes me think of the song, “Long Long Long,” and it plays inside my head as I cook away.
Long Long Long by George Harrison (link to this song, sung by The Beatles, and from the White Album).
It’s been a long, long, long time
How could I ever have lost you
When I loved you?
It took a long, long, long time
Now I’m so happy I found you
How I love you
So many tears I was searching
So many tears I was wasting, oh oh
Now I can see you be you
How can I ever misplace you?
How I want you
Oh, I love you
You know that I need you
Oh, I love you
Do not let the richness of the Cheese Soufflé, scare you….
To quote further from the New York Times article about Eric Ripert:
“When it comes to food, he feels no impulse to hold back.
“Why would I?” he said. “I cannot eat and think about restriction. When I eat, I eat. I do not understand the idea of guilty pleasure. It’s all about pleasure.””
And so dear reader, do try this recipe, and enjoy!
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- salt and fresh-ground pepper, a pinch of cayenne, and only the leaves from 1 thyme sprig
- 4 eggs
- ¾ cup grated Gruyere and ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
- butter for buttering your baking dish
- Pre-heat your own to 400 degrees F.
- In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 5 tablespoons of butter.
- Stir in 3 tablespoons of flour and cook for 2 minutes.
- Slowly, and little by little, whisk in 1 cup of milk.
- Season the béchamel with the spices.
- Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring.
- Remove from heat, and cool slightly.
- Separate 4 eggs.
- Stir yolks into the white sauce, and add the grated cheeses.
- Taste for salt, and adjust, as it should be slightly salty to make up for the unsalted whites, to be added later.
- Butter your baking dish or dishes.
- Beat the egg whites into moist firm peaks.
- Stir one third of the whites into the soufflé base.
- Gently fold the base into the rest of the egg whites. Take care not to deflate them.
- Pour mixture into the buttered dish(es).
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (20-25 minutes for ramekins). Bake until puffed and golden, but still soft in the center and juggle when shaken gently.
- For a variation, evenly sprinkle fine breadcrumbs or finely grated Parmesan cheese onto the buttered inside of the dish, before pouring the mixture into the baking dish(es).