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Souffle… OH Souffle!

March 14, 2011

Friday night I made souffles.

Fact:

Souffle has just stepped up in my list of culinary mainstays from “nearly absent” to “HUGELY important.”

Fact:

Souffles make me swoon.

Also a fact:

Souffles make me eat way more than I should EVER eat in a single sitting.  But I justify it by reminding myself that they’re made up largely of air.  (Well, air dispersed inside beautiful, silky, buttery, cheesy goodness.)

Obviously, I’m talking about the world of savory souffles here (although if you’ve ever had a “cheesy” dessert souffle I’d be very interested to hear your review of it.)

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My introduction to the art of souffle-making this weekend can be attributed (once again) to my good friend Barefoot.  (Aka: Ina Garten)  She made a delectable-looking spinach and cheddar souffle on her show this week.  It had whole milk and butter and egg yolks… rich cheddar cheese and a pinch of nutmeg… a dash of cayenne and REAL parmesan cheese.  My husband and I watched the episode together, and as the show came to an end I sighed,

“I would just LOVE to try that souffle.”

So he asked me, “Why don’t you make it sometime?”

I was surprised that the thought simply hadn’t occurred to me.  And I responded that it was “not healthy and therefore, not the type of thing I like to make a habit of cooking for our regular meals.”

His response was something to effect of, “With that attitude you’re going to to live your life never really enjoying some of the awesome things it has to offer!”

And I thought to myself, “No siree, that will not be me… No way!  I’m a freaking food blogger! Delectable food is my passion!  No ham-quesadilla-eatin’ husband is going to tell me I don’t know how to enjoy my life and my food (and get away with it.)”

And the next night I made the souffle.

And I shall never look back to the pre-souffle days again.  I’m a woman forever changed.

~

So let’s make one!  I’m going to give you two recipes today.  I’ll show you the step-by-step for the Barefoot Contessa Cheddar/Spinach one, but I’ll also provide you with a print-out for the second souffle I made: Cornmeal Red Pepper (it was a huge crowd favorite.)

All souffles need one very important thing:

Eggs.

Lots of them.

At room temperature!  (Leave ALL your cold stuff out in the morning so its nice and lukewarm that evening when you cook.)

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The batter for the spinach cheddar souffle I will be showing you was thickened with a roux.  The batter for the cornmeal red pepper souffle was thickened with cornmeal.  Aside from that small difference, the technique is virtually the same.

Start by preparing all your ingredients because things begin to move quickly once the pan is on the stove.  First thing to do is prepare your souffle dish.  (This is a special Barefoot trick… and it produces an amazing result in both the taste and presentation of your souffle.)

Take some chunks of good, fresh Parmesan cheese…

And pulse them in a food processor…

until they are finely ground.  (The delicious smell this emits at this stage of the cooking is highly distracting.)

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Next, butter a 2-qt. souffle dish.

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And sprinkle the grated parmesan into the dish, tapping it along the sides to coat the entire dish.

(This texture along the sides of the dish helps the souffle to climb nice and tall.)

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From here, just set these aside and prep the rest of your ingredients.

Shred up the cheddar…

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Separate the eggs… (make sure you put the whites in a large enough bowl… you’ll be quadrupling their volume later.)

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And thaw, drain, squeeze, and dry your frozen spinach.

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Once everything is prepped, you’re ready to begin!  In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour to it, stirring to create a roux.  You’ll then add the milk and spices, whisking to combine.

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The roux will cause the mixture to thicken up pretty quickly.  You’re looking for it to coat the back of the spoon like this.  (It’ll just take a few minutes to get to this point, so keep stirring and don’t walk away.)

At this point, add in the cheeses and stir until they melt dreamily into the mixture.  Then take the pan off the heat and start adding the eggs yolks (one at a time.)   Use a wire whisk to beat the mixture rapidly as you add each egg yolk.  You don’t want them to have any time to curdle!

Once the egg yolks are thoroughly incorporated into the mixture you can add in the spinach and then transfer the batter to a mixing bowl.

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Set this aside for a moment and grab the bowl of egg whites you separated earlier.

Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of Cream of Tartar to the eggwhites (to stabilize them) and then grab a hand-mixer and rev it up!

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Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks…  (Yes, you caught me.  This is not the same bowl.  I had to steal this picture from another post because I forgot to snap one of what the egg whites should look like.  It happens.)

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Gradually fold the egg whites into the souffle batter with a rubber spatula.  The key is to do this in two or three additions so as not the deflate the egg whites too terribly.  If you fold gently and add the egg whites in 2 or 3 additions, the resulting batter will be very light and airy.

Another special Barefoot trick is to start with a 400-degree oven, but immediately decrease it to 375 once you’ve put the souffle inside.  (My theory on why she does this is that the oven loses heat when you open the door to put in the souffle so this technique gives you a perfect 375.  And obviously, if this is the case, one should come to the natural conclusion that opening the oven to peak during the baking would be a very bad idea.)

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And voila!  After 30-35 minutes in the oven, the souffles have climbed up up up the walls of the dishes and are a piping hot masterpiece just waiting to be eaten.  (By the way, don’t make them wait too long.  Souffles are meant to be served immediately.)

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Note:  You can probably tell that my spinach souffle did not rise nearly as high as my red pepper cornmeal souffle.  That’s because the red pepper cornmeal souffle makes much more than the spinach recipe makes.  Believe it or not, the spinach souffle batter didn’t even reach halfway up the dish when I first put it in the oven.

~

The spinach cheddar souffle was VERRRRY good.  It would be excellent for a brunch because it was very similar in taste to a quiche.  In texture, however, it was leagues ahead.  SO light, fluffy and silky!  I highly recommend it.  (I will say, though, that my dinner guests recommended I use about 3/4 a bag of spinach next time instead of the whole thing.  And I probably will.)

The BEST (absolute best) bites of the whole thing were the side-crust bites because they had that delicious dusting of Parmesan and butter. Yum yum yum!

~

But the real show-stopper (in my opinion) was this Red Pepper & Cornmeal Souffle.

I’m a big sucker for cheesy grits, and this had that perfect combo of flavors for me.  (How could it be bad?!?  With a whole cup of cheddar.)

(Please ignore my distasteful display of birth control pills in the background.  Oh, and there’s my wonderful dinner guest/sister patiently waiting for the photography to end so we can eat.)

~

Friend, take my husband’s words to heart and don’t let your life pass you by without making these souffles.  They’re a bit of work and the ingredients are high quality so its a bit of a splurge… but that’s the beauty of it!

If this is any indicator, the spinach souffle alone was meant to serve four and the red pepper one said it serves 8.  Well we ate ALL of both (“we” being me, my husband, my sister, and her boyfriend.)  And we enjoyed every luscious morsel and spent hours around the table just enjoying the night.

Enjoy these recipes!  Invite someone over for a dinner party this weekend 🙂

~Carissa

 

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Here are the handy printable versions:

Spinach and Cheddar Souffle- Ina Garten

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Red Pepper and Cornmeal Souffle (Adapted from Tastes of Home)

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

1 C. chopped, sweet red pepper

1/4 C. butter

3 C. whole milk

2/3 cup cornmeal

1 C. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 T. dried parsley

1 1/2 tsps salt (divided)

1/2 tsp. white pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 egg yolks, beaten

7 egg whites

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Directions:

In a large saucepan, sautee the onion and red pepper in butter until tender.  Add the milk, and bring to a boil.  Gradually whisk in the cornmeal, whisking continuously until thickened (2-4 minutes.)  Add the cheese, parsley, 1 tsp salt, and the pepper.  Add 2/3 C. of the cornmeal mixture to the egg yolks and beat well.  Then scrape the egg mixture back into the saucepan.

In a large separate mixing bowl, beat the eggwhites together with the cream of tartar and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt until stiff peaks form.  In two or three additions, fold the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture, taking care not to deflate the egg whites.

Transfer to a 2-qt. souffle dish (buttered and dusted with parmesan cheese.)  Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

 

 

 

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