“The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.” – James Beard, American chef and food writer
For a long time I knew two things about soufflés: 1. they are French; 2. they are likely to break your heart.
They come out of the oven full of steam and beauty and then quickly deflate, dashing all hope of impressing your guests. They will seem exotic and beautiful, then pretend not to speak English to make you feel foolish. They are considered a finicky dish prone to failure, thus scaring off plenty of cooks.
I don’t know the details, but I remember my mom’s story about laboring over a soufflé for guests, only to be thwarted while it was cooling. She swore them off. And thus, the fear was passed on to the next generation.
BUT– my stalwart American Flyover eaters, we shan’t be shaken from our quest. Even by the French.
We’re going to prove the skeptics (and my mom) wrong and create a soufflé. I found this recipe in my Barefoot in Paris cookbook by Ina Garten and it seemed straightforward and delicious. Also, it had tips and detailed instructions, which will be vital in this crusade.
My trust accomplices for this mission
You start by making a sauce on the stove top with butter and flour, slowly add in hot milk, salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and pepper. Now remove from heat and whisk in egg yolks one at a time. Whew- we’re already on the heat, off the heat, on again.
Technical term: peaks that stand on their own.
Now the cheeses, Parmesan and Blue, get added and everything goes in a 2nd bowl.
Next a step most of us recognize: beating egg whites. Do this with your mixer until they make lovely peaks. Note that the recipe says “glossy” peaks. I’m not sure how to judge glossiness in food. I usually just go for peaks-that-stand-on-their-own.
Folding in egg whites...with a certain je ne sais quoi.
Now take these lovely French peaks and slowly fold them in with the cheese/egg/seasoning mixture gently. This part was sort of amazing…I mean, I could feel how light everything was getting as I was mixing it together. There is undoubtedly a sexy French word for this phenomenon.
Now spoon this into a soufflé dish that’s been buttered and sprinkled with Parmesan. Take your spatula and draw a ring in the mixture on the top of the soufflé. This helps it to rise as well as form that little puff on the top that makes it look, oh-so soufflé.
Then into the 375° oven for 35 minutes. This part is CRITICAL. Even more critical than knowing how to say “without ketchup” while in France. Ok, here goes: DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. DON’T DO IT. No, not even a peek.
Turn on your oven light and make sure nothing has turned en flambé, but otherwise leave it alone. The steam in the oven is vital to your success and opening the door releases all of it. So leave it alone and wait. If you were French, now is when you would have a cigarette.
Nothing on fire...no reason to open the door.
After about 35 minutes the soufflé will be brown on top and puffed up. When you take it out, make sure people are watching, because, my god is it beautiful.
Like an impressionist painting you can eat.
Serve it with a big spoon and enjoy. Other than cotton candy, it will be the lightest thing you have ever eaten. I think I squealed, “It’s like eating buttery cheese air!”.
Handsome Husband and I ate the souffle with nothing but a glass of white wine. Which may be part of the reason we ended up with this:
Vivé la France!
xoxo Flyover Foodie
p.s. Lest you be concerned, I adore the country of France and its lovely, snobbish people and devotion to food. The Flyover Household has great memories in France and just this week we were scheming a way to get back there!