An Elegant Soufflé Is Easier Than You Think!
Soufflés often intimidate home cooks because of their mystique as being in the realm of French chefs and accomplished cooks. In fact, they are quite simple if executed with confidence and care. No one need know how easy they are. Let them be amazed as you lift it triumphantly from the oven with a smug “don’t you wish you were me” look on your face.
A key to success with any soufflé is attentiveness to how you handle the ingredients. The roux must be constantly whisked to make sure it doesn’t scorch and the warm milk added slowly to avoid clumping. Egg yolks can curdle if mixed too quickly with warm ingredients and whites can lose their loftiness (and hence their ability to lift the soufflé) if beaten too long or too roughly. Take your time, handle with care and you will be rewarded with a beautiful soufflé.
The simplicity of a cheese soufflé belies just how amazingly complex it can taste. For me, the perfect Sunday lunch is a light, airy cheese soufflé, some good smoked salmon, a simple arugula salad and, of course, a bottle (or two!) of chilled white wine. A satisfying, sophisticated and delicious start to a lazy afternoon!
Simple and Delicious Cheese Soufflé
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch ramekin and place it in the freezer.
Make a roux by melting 4 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan followed by ¼ cup flour, a generous dash of salt and some cayenne pepper. Stir constantly over medium low heat until the roux turns light brown. Slowly stir in 1½ cups of warm milk until it is fully incorporated. Add ½ pound of grated sharp cheddar cheese (be sure to get a quality brand), stirring until just melted. Remove the cheese sauce from heat.
Separate 6 eggs and slightly beat the yolks in a bowl, reserving the egg whites. Stir a small amount of warm cheese sauce into the egg yolks until smooth, then slowly incorporate all the yolks into the cheese sauce. Let cool slightly.
In a large copper bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (if using a glass bowl, add a pinch of cream of tartar or lemon juice to the whites when they become frothy).
Fold a bit of the cheese sauce into the egg whites to incorporate, then very gently fold the rest of the mixture in. Pour into the chilled ramekin, place in the center of the oven and cook about 40 minutes (no peeking lest the oven temperature drops!) until a nice “top hat” forms and a knife comes cleanly out of the center. Present the soufflé to your guests the minute it comes out of the oven as it will quickly fall a bit. Serve immediately, scraping the browned bits from around the outside of the ramekin to mix with the soft center.
Serves 2 as a main course
Wine pairing: A white French Chablis (the soufflé ingredients are cheap, so splurge on the wine!)