My mom is a great cook. She was a Home Economics major in college in the 50's. Growing up I was fed perfectly balanced meals and homemade baked goods when I got home from school. My clothes were always pressed and adorable (she made most of them) and she knew (still knows) how to make a dollar go farther. Our dinner plates were reflective not only of the relevant food groups but also by color because a colorful plate was a nutritious plate. (Think about all the "beige" foods we eat today - she is a smart lady.)
When I was little, I can remember one of the staples in her food repertoire was Cheese Souffle. I thought everyone ate cheese souffles on Tuesday nights. There wasn't anything fancy about it. It is just eggs, leftover cheese, and milk - almost every kitchen has those ingredients on any given night. I was recently at my Mom's house over the holiday and we were talking about her Cheese Souffle and how long it had been since either of us had made one. I will give you three guesses what I made for breakfast on New Year's Day...1,2,3!
Yup, Cheese Souffle!
Let's demystify this allusive little gem.
Eggs - room temperature eggs are preferable. You need to separate the yolks from the whites and not have ANY yolk in the whites at all or the whites won't be the right consistency. Tovolo Yolk Out can assist you quite nicely for this task.
Milk - I prefer 2% or whole milk.
Cheese - ok here is where your creativity comes in. My mom always used whatever we had leftover in the refrigerator. You can use whatever you like. I think using multiple cheeses is more interesting and flavorful but if cheddar is what you prefer than cheddar it is! For the souffle in the picture, I used 1 part cheddar, 1/2 part Gruyere, and 1/2 part sheep's milk cheese with black truffles.
First you make a roux - half butter, half flour.
Then add milk and bring to a boil. It will begin to thicken and kind of look like paste. Meanwhile whip the egg whites until they come to stiff but not dry peaks and set aside.
Temper your egg yolks. This means adding a few tablespoons of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks and DO NOT STOP whisking! If you do the eggs will cook too quickly and scramble. Add the egg yolk mixture back to the rest of the milk mixture in the pan and continue to stir. Remove from heat and add the cheese and stir until melted and incorporated.
Now, take about 1/3 of the egg white and stir it into the cheese love.
Then gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the cheese mixture. I used Tovolo's New Flex-Core Spatula! More on that another time - shhh, it's a secret...
Pour the batter into a well buttered Souffle dish and smooth out the top. If you are REALLY fancy, take your spatula or a knife and lightly draw a circle on the top. This will be the part that rises up further than the rest, called a top hat. Not necessary at all but kind of looks cool.
I know it sounds like many steps but it comes together really fast and it will be so light and fluffy in your mouth that you won't remember why you were ever intimidated by eggs, milk, and a little cheese! YUM!
Here is the recipe:
3 T butter
3 T all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup milk
4 eggs separated
1 cup shredded cheese (Cheddar, Gruyere, Swiss - all good cheese choices)
Preheat over to 450 degrees. In a 1 quart pan over medium heat, melt butter. To make a roux, stir in flour, salt, and spices and cook until mixture bubbles. Continuously stir for 1 minute. (This cooks the flour so it does not leave a chalky taste - also helps create flavor.) Remove from heat. With a whisk, stir continuously while adding the milk. Return to heat and cook, until sauce boils and thickens to the consistency of thick paste. Turn off heat.
Lightly beat egg yolks. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the sauce into the yolks and stir until the sauce has been incorporated. (This is tempering the eggs.) Stir egg yolk mixture back into the sauce. Stir in cheese until it melts and set aside.
Beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft, moist peaks form. Fold about 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the sauce mixture. Then add the sauce to the rest of the egg whites. Gently fold sauce and egg whites together.
Pour into a well-buttered 1 1/2 quart souffle dish.
Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees and then reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes more. You are looking for the top to be golden and the center to jiggle just a little bit. When you check for doneness, be quick about it so that the oven temperature doesn't drop much - that will sink your beautiful souffle! Take a picture of this beauty and then serve immediately. (I make everyone gather around and look at it before we dig in. )