Soufflés are one of those culinary challenges that many cooks shy away from. Accounts of this impressive, but very delicate dish deflating as soon as it’s out of the oven have made it seem to be more trouble than it’s worth to prepare. Although definitely a little trickier than a southern classic like fried chicken, I found that with some patience and attention to detail, this French classic is very “do-able” and a great way to turn a regular dinner into something special. Not to mention that soufflés can be prepared as either a savory entrée or a sweet dessert.
For my blue cheese soufflé, I used a recipe from Ina Garten that I found on www.foodnetwork.com. Many of you have probably seen her show, The Barefoot Contessa on The Food Network. If not, you should definitely try to catch an episode or two. Her recipes range from simple to advanced, are easy to follow and the results are always delicious. The recipe starts with a basic light roux, which is combined with eggs and milk to make the custard base. After the flavoring ingredients (cheese, chocolate, etc) are added to the custard, it’s combined with whipped egg whites to give the dish its signature volume.
Regardless of the recipe you use, here are a few lessons learned from my experiment: To make sure your soufflé rises well, coat the soufflé dish with butter and something to help it climb the sides of the dish, like grated parmesan cheese or sugar, depending on the savory/sweet direction you’ve chosen. Also, make sure to add cream of tartar to the egg whites before you start whipping them. This helps to stabilize the whites and makes them a little more forgiving when folding into the custard. Finally, don’t open the oven door until the minimum cooking time has passed. I was really tempted and thought that the top would burn before the timer went off, but it’s important to make sure that the soufflé is fully cooked and set without being dry.
I hope you guys will try out this delicious, flexible dish for your next dinner, brunch or dessert. How about with a glass of Tuesday wine? Next up…A Southern Boy’s First Croissant. Keep your fingers crossed ya’ll.Reporting from the front porch swing, Mark D.