"Isn't it a lovely day (to be caught in the rain)?....
Winter cold has turned into winter rain and chill. To the bones. The anxiety of a possible mishap in our apartment sale aggravated by the basement flooding has added to the frosty atmosphere. It is time to find a little solace in the kitchen.
What can be more soothing than a soufflé? Warm, light as air, delicate with the rich, full flavor of gruyère and Parmesan cheeses. Add a green salad dressed with a tart vinaigrette, a loaf of fresh bread, a glass of wine, and settle in for the evening.
I love this recipe for Cheese Soufflé from The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas and it is the one I invariably turn to. More than just a simple cheese soufflé, it is jazzed up by the addition of Dijon mustard and spices and it always puffs up perfectly. Golden brown on top, creamy smooth inside. Why change something that is already perfect? This is sure to make me forget the hazards of the world outside and smile in the cozy, warm comfort of my home.
6 oz grated Swiss, Gruyère or Emmenthal cheese
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
6 egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
6 – 8 egg whites, preferably at room temperature (8 is ideal, but this has worked for me with only 6)
4 Tbs unsalted butter
4 Tbs flour
1 ½ cups warm milk
1/8 tsp cream of tartar - or – a few grains of salt and a drop or two lemon juice
1 ½ tsp prepared Dijon mustard
¼ tsp powdered garlic
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg
Freshly grated black pepper
Prepare a large soufflé dish by first generously buttering the bottom and sides. Then make a collar with aluminum foil by first pulling off a length of foil that will wrap around the circumference of the dish and overlap by several inches. Fold the foil in half lengthwise, wrap around the bowl and secure this collar tightly around the top of the bowl using kitchen/cooking string (to be honest, I first pin the collar with regular straight pins to make sure it is very tight and doesn’t move).
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Make a roux :
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour quickly and cook this thick roux for a couple of minutes, stirring vigorously with a whisk. Gradually pour in the warm milk and stir continuously with the whisk for a few minutes until you have a smooth, thick sauce.
Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the two cheeses and the seasonings (mustard, garlic, cayenne and black peppers and nutmeg).
Transfer this cheese mixture to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes. When the sauce is cooled somewhat, whisk or stir in the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring vigorously.
Put the egg whites in a separate bowl, either copper or plastic (egg whites slide on a glass surface, so whites whipped in a glass bowl never completely whip up, there is always liquid left on the bottom of the bowl. Copper and plastic both allow the whites to “grip onto” the surface and make for completely beaten whites), with the cream of tartar or a few grains of salt and a drop or two of lemon juice. Whip or beat until very stiff, holding their shape when beaters are lifted up.
Stir a third of the beaten egg whites into the cheese mixture. This will lighten the mixture which will allow you to fold in the rest of the whites without knocking out too much air.
Now carefully but completely fold in the rest of the whites in two or three batches, using a spatula or slotted spoon. When all the whites are folded and blended into the cheese mixture, carefully pile it into the prepared soufflé dish.
Slide the dish into the preheated oven (I place it on the bottom rack of the oven so the collar doesn’t touch the roof) and immediately turn the oven down to 375°F (190°C). Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until it is puffed up, a deep golden brown on top. Put your fingertips on the top of the soufflé and gently jiggle it. It should feel cooked through, if it needs a few more minutes it will feel like there is foam or liquid under the “hat”.
Gently remove the soufflé from the oven, cut the string and remove the collar. Serve immediately with a salad.
“…Let the rain pitter patter
But it really doesn't matter
If the skies are gray
Long as I can be with you it's a lovely day”
Go ahead ! Add this to your list of comfort foods.