Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rustic Cheese Souffle

I love cheese souffles. Before starting, I always think they are going to be a complete pain to make, and then surprised at how quickly the souffle gets into the oven. I also like using up all scraps of cheese found at the bottom of the cheese drawer.
I almost always make extra Bechamel or Cheese sauce to 1) tempt the kids to eat more broccoli 2) use it to top a moussaka or lasagna later in the week. Here is the description of the classic Bechamel from Herrings Dictionary of Classical and Modern Cookery.

Bechamel: white roux moistened with milk, seasoned with salt; a larded onion added, boiled, strained. May be improved with cream.

Here is the cheese sauce.
Mornay: Bechamel sauce beaten with butter, mixed with grated Parmesan and Swiss cheese. May be bound with egg yolks before butter is added.

Here is my recipe for Cheese Sauce.
This is the most time consuming element of the souffle. Having it on hand in the fridge can speed up getting dinner on the table.
Depending on what I am going to use the sauce for, I usually make it thicker than I would for pouring as it can always be thinned for a pouring sauce, but needs to be thicker for souffles and pouring over the top of casseroles like moussaka.

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk, plus extra for thinning later
1/2 an onion, with a bay leaf skewered to the outer skin with 2 cloves
a few pinches salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
white pepper to taste
a tiny pinch of cayenne or hot paprika
1 1/2 cups (or a little more) assorted cheese, with old cheddar being the highest proportion

1. In a medium sized, thick bottomed saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter and dump in the flour. Stir often until the flour mixture gets a sandy texture and lightens in colour.
2. Add the milk slowly while whisking continuously with a wire whisk. Continue stirring until with the whisk until sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and add the onion.
3. Let simmer on low for 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon often to keep the sauce from browning on the bottom. Taste the bechamel. You want to taste just a hint of onion and bay leaf and no trace of flour. Remove the onion if you are pleased with the flavour.
4. Add salt, pepper, cayenne or paprika and mustard to taste, keeping in mind that you still have the cheese to add. If I don't have old cheddar cheese I add a little extra mustard to punch up the flavour abit. Stir in the cheese with a wooden spoon. Use as soon as the cheese is melted.
Note: I don't always add the onion, bay leaf and clove - although I love the flavour, and I also love how the onion looks with the bay leaf attached to it. The reality is that I don't always have time for the extra step...well, in all honesty, its not only time, its just laziness. The souffle does not suffer from the lack of it.

Rustic Cheese Souffle
The rustic part just means dump the batter into any buttered and breadcrumbed oven proof container you can find. I have used saucepans, fry pans, bowls and in this case a low brimmed casserole.

1 cup cheese sauce, above
an extra handful of grated cheese scraps
4 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 375.
1. Stir the cheese scraps and egg yolks into the slightly cooled cheese sauce.
2. Beat the egg whites into soft peaks, (try not to beat them into crusty, dryish peaks, they don't fold in so nicely), then fold into the cheese sauce mixture. Using a balloon whisk which you may have used to beat the egg whites are an easy way to keep the souffle batter airy.
3. Pour into a generously buttered and breadcrumbed dish that can accommodate the rise of the souffle. It usually doubles in size before deflating when you plunge the serving spoon into the cumulus of egg.
Bake at 375 oven for about 20 to 35 minutes, depending on how deep your dish is. My shallow dish takes around 25 minutes. Eat right away.

The salad in the photo is Arugula, Caramelized Onions with Sage, Goat Cheese, Pecans and a Lemon Vinaigrette. It was really, really good! (the onions were leftovers)


Blogger Red said...

I have been scared into never -- ever! -- attempting a soufflé by seeing even top chefs on TV make them and have them collapse within seconds of coming out of the oven. And you know what? I don't think I've even ever had a soufflé to eat. Now, that must be remedied asap! Yours looks yummy...

9:19 AM  
Blogger mister anchovy said...

I will admit that I have never consumed a soufflé, or even seen one in the flesh. mea maxima culpa

1:47 PM  
Blogger Underground Baker said...

Just think of the souffle as a variation of scrambled eggs, since really, thats what it is.
Of course the french would have me bludgeoned for that comment.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Underground Baker said...

and its always going to fall, so what if it happens when it just comes out of the oven.
That indicates its not quite cooked, but it will still taste great and be a little creamier in texture. Nothing wrong with that!

8:55 AM  
Blogger Red said...

Sacre bleu! The majestic souffle a glorified version of scrambled eggs? Sarko and Carla Bruni would be horrified to hear it!

8:53 AM  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

This looks amazing! I haven't made a souffle since high school. Remember how we used to make them all the time? Now I am inspired...thanks for the recipe!

12:16 PM  

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