Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Blue Cheese Soufflés
When you make a soufflé, do you use a complex, nuanced method that is as sensitive to subtle changes in behavior as an eleven-year-old girl courting her first boyfriend? Are your laborious creations puffing and golden one day, but heavy and sunken the next? If you have a soufflé recipe that puts you through such paces, I would like to see a copy because I have come to believe that no such thing actually exists.
The only soufflé I ever had as a kid was in a nice French restaurant in Southern California where I grew up. We had to order it at the beginning of the meal, and the waiter made much of presenting it to us at its airy zenith and drizzling it ceremoniously with chocolate sauce. I thought soufflé-making was the pinnacle of culinary achievement, one that I might reach someday if I became a glamorous hostess with all the time in the world to practice my art or all the money to hire a private chef to practice it for me.
Then I got older and slightly wiser, thanks to watching Sara Moulton make soufflés time and again on her old show, Cooking Live. As long as I didn’t scramble the yolks and remembered to fold in the egg whites ever so gently, according to Sara, I could do this.
My first time was individual raspberry soufflés dusted with confectioner’s sugar, made for Valentine’s Day. They were perfect, delicious and so easy I thought I’d cheated. What about all those liars whining that making a good soufflé is equivalent to successfully navigating one’s way through The Temple of Doom?
Now, I love to make soufflés, and even though the whiners are wrong, I still feel like a chic domestic goddess when I pull them out of the oven. This blue cheese soufflé has become my favorite. I have been making it for a couple years, usually at the holidays, because it makes a festive meal seem that much more special. I love it with steak, but this time we served it with an arugula salad as one in a series of small plates. With its light, tender texture and bites of melting, mellowed blue cheese, this soufflé is even better than you think it’s going to be. Use the best blue cheese you can get, whether you prefer Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Cabrales or an American blue.
This dish is even accomodating enough to bake unattended for 25 minutes while you grill a steak or toss together a salad. As long as you took the time to fold in those egg whites ever so gently, you will be sitting down to one of the most elegant dishes ever to grace your table. And once the last bite is gone, you will be exceedingly anxious to do it again.
Blue Cheese Soufflés
Adapted from Tyler Florence for Food Network. Makes enough for 6-6oz. ramekins, 4-8oz. ramekins or a 2 quart soufflé dish. The 8oz. versions may take slightly longer to bake. I have also divided the recipe in half successfully when I want to make just 2 or 3 individual soufflés.
3 tblsp. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing ramekins
2-3 tblsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tblsp. all-purpose flour
1 c. milk (I use 2%)
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
½ tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tsp. dry mustard powder
6 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
5 egg whites
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the ramekins by rubbing the insides all over with butter. Divide the Parmigiano among the ramekins, holding them sideways and spinning them around to get the cheese to adhere to the sides. This gives the soufflé something to cling to.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. When it is completely melted and the foam subsides, add the flour as you whisk constantly to form a smooth béchamel sauce. Cook for about two minutes, whisking constantly, to remove the raw flour taste. Slowly add the milk as you continue to whisk until incorporated and slightly thickened. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Whisk a small dollop of the hot butter-flour mixture into the egg yolks so they don’t cook when you add them to the saucepan. Now add the tempered yolks to your saucepan, whisking to incorporate. Add the salt, pepper and dry mustard. Whisk in the blue cheese.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the saucepan and gently fold them into the cheesy mixture with a spatula. Add the remaining whites in two more additions, folding them in gently. It is not necessary to fully incorporate the egg whites. Since the goal of folding is to preserve as much of their volume as possible, it is okay to see small bits of whites in the mixture. Divide the soufflé mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins. Bake, directly on your oven rack, for 25 minutes. The tops should form golden brown, jagged plateaus and the centers should jiggle ever so slightly. For the most beautiful presentation, serve immediately.
at 7:45 PM