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A souffle for Easter brunch

March 31, 2009|By CINDY SUTTER

Consider making a souffle for an Easter brunch.

But first, you may need to get over any fears about making a souffle in the first place.

I'm no chef, but making a souffle is just not that hard. It's the kind of thing that was once in the repertoire of even average cooks. My mom used to make a souffle with canned salmon, for heaven's sake.

The first thing is to make sure your oven is the temperature it says it is. Ovens are often wildly off, so before you attempt anything delicate, buy a $5 oven thermometer and test yours.

That said, the rest is straightforward and not at all mysterious. You melt butter in a saucepan or double boiler, whisk in flour and cook a minute or two until the mixture is a light golden or "blond." You have now made a roux. You whisk in milk and continue whisking until the mixture is thick and add gruyere or another cheese of your choice, and seasonings -- a little nutmeg is nice -- whisking until the cheese is melted into the sauce.

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Next in are egg yolks, whisked until incorporated. I used to add very thinly sliced mushrooms and chives, enough for flavor, but not enough to weigh down the whole enterprise. You may use a combination of herbs and shallots, spinach, arugula -- whatever strikes your fancy. You then beat egg whites until stiff, fold them in, pour the mixture in the pan and bake. Yep, that's it.

No doubt a true top chef would think of any number of embellishments that are beyond my creative capacity, but at least I can handle the basics.

Serve your souffle with roasted asparagus and a lovely green salad.

CHEESE SOUFFLE



3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into half-inch chunks, plus extra for coating dish
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (divided use)
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded (may substitute cheddar, Swiss or Gouda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Set oven rack to middle level. If desired, before preheating, add a pizza stone to help support the souffle dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Thoroughly butter the inside of a 2-quart souffle dish, then coat evenly with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan; set aside.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour; cook until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring to simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and smooth, about 1 minute.

Remove from heat, whisk in Gruyere, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks until completely incorporated, and set aside.

Using electric mixer, whip egg whites in separate bowl on medium-low speed until opaque and frothy, about 30 seconds. Add cream of tartar, and increase speed to medium-high. Continue to whip, watching carefully, until thick and forming stiff peaks, about 2-1/2 minutes.

Working with 1/4 of whipped egg whites at a time, gently fold them into the yolk mixture until almost no white streaks remain (a few are OK). Gently pour mixture into prepared souffle dish and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until top is nicely browned and center jiggles slightly, or when instant-read thermometer inserted through the side of the souffle top registers 170 degrees.

Serve immediately. Makes 3 or 4 servings.

Source: "The Best International Recipe," by editors of Cook's Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen)

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