As I think I have made clear in my posts thus far, food for me is inherently connected to family.
My favorite Sunday afternoons have been spent in the kitchen making a dish with my mother, who understands and cooks French food particularly well. This past Sunday, while I was visiting LA, she took me slowly through each step of her souffle recipe, which is based on Julia Child’s from her famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Because it has a reputation for being difficult and error-prone, souffle is not typically my type of dish. It’s fussy. You don’t throw together a souffle. In other words, I wouldn’t and couldn’t have made it were it not for the step-by-step instruction and maternal support.
The main concern is the rising of the egg, flour, and cheese mixture. If it doesn’t rise properly, it’s ruined. It collapses. If you use ingredients that are too heavy-even cheese that isn’t lightly grated enough-the weight holds down the souffle and acts like an unwelcome anchor. A successful souffle achieves a light, airy texture and melts in your mouth. Ours, which was pretty simple in that besides the main ingredients it added only white cheddar cheese and a few spices, tasted like a salty, cloud-like omelette with lightly browned edges and sides. I’m going to work on making this on my own, but in the meantime I encourage you to try it out. It is easier than I originally thought, and the results were very satisfying. This is not a modern dish, but it is certainly worth reviving.
ADAPTED FROM MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING BY JULIA CHILD
For the sauce part of this recipe-a basic bechamel sauce-it is best to use a double boiler, but we made our own by putting a smaller saucepan in to a bigger one filled with water. That way the butter and flour mixture melts because of the hot water but doesn’t burn.
Preparing the Dish
Finely grated Parmesan cheese
For the Soufflé Sauce Base
A 6-cup souffle mold(basically a gigantic ramekin)
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
2 shakes of Mrs. Dash
A pinch of nutmeg, salt, and pepper
For the Soufflé
5 egg whites
4 egg yolks
1 cup of cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Butter the inside of the souffle dish and sprinkle with a healthy amount of Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs on the bottom and sides so that the souffle doesn't stick.
3. Melt butter entirely over moderate heat (in your double boiler or makeshift one), then add flour and stir together until it is cooked but NOT browned. Then, add hot milk, whisking it in until it thickens.
4. Add spices and stir. Remove from heat, and beat the yolks into the sauce with a wisk.
5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt with an electric mixer until they are light and frothy. Until they stand up in peaks, as my mom says.
6. Fold in 3 heaping tablespoons of the frothy egg whites into the white sauce, then carefully fold in the cheese and the rest of the egg whites. Do this delicately so that the egg whites don't collapse.
7. Pour the mixture in your buttered and breaded souffle dish, and bake for 25-30 minutes.
8. Serve immediately.