Friday, November 8, 2013

Light as Air

Julia Child said it best: "The souffle is the egg at its most magnificent. How glorious it is when borne to the table, its head rising dramatically out of its dish, and swaying voluptuously as it is set down." Wow!

If the very suggestion of making a souffle makes you shudder, I would ask that you reconsider and try it sometime. I've made a few and seriously think they are not difficult.

I once intended to make a spinach and cheese souffle only to find that my spinach was beyond its expiration date. Scrambling through the rest of my veggie bins, I discovered zucchini I had purchased at the farmer's market so I used it instead, grating it so it would require no pre-cooking. It worked out just fine and was so delicious. It was actually easier, I think. With spinach, you have to make sure to REALLY squeeze out all the water from it so you don't end up with a soggy soufflé. You don't have that same problem with zucchini. But, should you wish to use to spinach instead, just substitute "spinach" in the recipe below where it lists "zucchini".

My souffle dish is small because I usually only feed 2 people, and the recipe I use is for a slightly larger dish, but instead of adjusting the recipe down for a small quantity, I leave it as is and just put on a collar, allowing it to "puff up" well past the top of the dish. This photo shows what a collar should look like.

You can use foil but I find parchment or wax paper work well. I just wrap a long piece around the dish and tape it in place, making sure to butter the inside (melted butter smears so much easier), so that as the souffle rises, it won't stick to the collar and be ripped off later when the collar is removed. The collar should stick up out of the dish by about 3-4". Dust the paper after buttering it with a little grated Parmesan cheese. This helps it slide up the sides.

A souffle is a wonderful thing to make for lunch or for dinner. Serve it alongside a simple salad with vinaigrette dressing and you have a meal. I adapted Julia Child's recipe from her book Kitchen Wisdom.
Here, my final product. Let's hurry and eat - it's deflating!

Zucchini Souffle

For the vegetable:
1 Tbsp. minced shallots or green onion
1Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup grated fresh zucchini
1/4 tsp. salt
5 egg whites
a pinch of salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

For the soufflé sauce base:
1 tsp. butter
1 Tbsp. grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour (use rice flour or other light flour if you're avoiding gluten)
1 cup boiling milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
pinch of nutmeg
4 egg yolks

Butter the soufflé mold and collar and sprinkle with Parmesan. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Measure out your other ingredients.

Cook the shallots or onions for a moment in the butter. Add zucchini and salt, and stir over moderately high heat for several minutes to evaporate as much moisture as possible from the zucchini. Remove from heat.

Prepare the soufflé sauce base: Melt the butter in the saucepan. Stir in the flour with a wooden spatula or spoon and cook over moderate heat until butter and flour foam together for two minutes without browning. Remove from heat; when mixture has stopped bubbling, pour in all the boiling milk at once. Beat vigorously with a wire whip until blended. Beat in the seasonings. Return to moderately high heat and boil, stirring with the wire whip, for one minute. Sauce will be very thick.

Remove from heat. Immediately start to separate the eggs. Drop the white into the egg white bowl, and the yolk into the center of the hot sauce. Beat the yolk into the sauce with the wire whip. Continue in the same manner with the rest of the eggs.

After the egg yolks have been beaten in, stir in the zucchini. Correct seasoning.

Beat the egg whites and salt until stiff. Stir one fourth of them into the sauce. Stir in all but a tablespoon of the cheese. Fold in the rest of the egg whites and turn mixture into prepared mold. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and set on a rack in the middle level of preheated oven. Turn heat down to 375 degrees and bake for 2S to 30 minutes.


1/3 cup finely minced cooked ham
Cook the ham with the butter and shallots for a moment before adding the veg.

¼ lb. finely minced mushrooms
1 Tb butter
Salt and pepper
A handful at a time, twist the mushrooms in the corner of a towel to extract their juice. Sauté in the butter for 5 minutes or so until the mushroom pieces begin to separate from one another. Season to taste. Stir them into the soufflé mixture with the spinach.

Other vegetable soufflés
These are all done in exactly the same manner as the zucchini soufflé. Use ¾ cup of cooked vegetables, finely diced or puréed, such as mushrooms, broccoli, artichoke hearts, or asparagus tips.

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