November 15, 2010
Or for us mere mortals—cheese soufflé.
This month, Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website. Upon hearing the word “soufflé,” my mind instantly became filled with visions of 1960’s housewives making complicated, elaborate recipes to impress their guests and in-laws, which led me to—who else—Julia Child, the queen of cuisine, whose “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was released in 1961.
The minute I flipped to the soufflé section of her cookbook, a back story made its way into my mind and stayed there throughout the cooking process. Years ago, I imagine that there was an idealistic young girl, freshly out of high school or college, named Nancy. She’s a newlywed, having recently tied the knot with her high school sweetheart, the cute, but unremarkable, Johnny. Johnny’s just started making his way in the world, probably working at some sort of advertising firm, like the ones in “Mad Men.” Presently, Nancy’s attempts at culinary genius have been less than inspired, since she never really learned how to cook. Combined with a nagging mother-in-law, who calls every day to inquire about Nancy’s dinner plans for her dear boy, our girl is beginning to lose hope that she can become that perfect housewife that she so longs to be. Plus she has begun to develop a very unattractive eye twitch from dealing with Johnny’s mother.
Then, one day, she happens upon a book called “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Unlike the other trite little cookbooks that she received as wedding presents, in Julia Child’s guide Nancy finds clear, concise directions with how-to pictures and kitchen savvy tips. This was the book for her. As she faces an impending dinner party for her mother-in-law’s birthday, she knows just the recipe that would knock their socks off—soufflé. Soufflés are such a fantastical creation of impossible height and fluffyness, that Nancy is certain that her newly-acquired relatives will be deeply impressed.
With just her hefty cookbook and spunky determination, Nancy sets about making her soon-to-be signature dish.
She melts a bit of butter in a saucepan…
…and adds an equal amount of flour to make a roux…
…which she allows to gently cook over the flame.
To that, she adds some milk and gives it a good whisking, before also adding her seasonings.
For the final element of the base sauce, Nancy separates egg whites and yolks, setting the whites aside for later.
She stirs the yolks into the sauce and sets it aside.
Now comes the time for the stiffly-whipped egg whites to give her soufflé that gorgeous poof and light texture. To achieve this, Nancy whips up her previous egg whites, along with one more, with a bit of salt and cream of tartar until they’re good and solid.
To combine them with the sauce, she first plops a dollop in there and simply stirs it in.
To this lovely mixture, Nancy adds a blend of Gruyère and Swiss cheeses.
After stirring in the cheeses, it came time for some major egg white folding duty. First, Nancy adds all the rest of the whipped egg whites to the pot…
…and then she cuts her spoon right down the middle…
…bringing it down to the bottom of the pot, then sweeping it to the left, and bringing a scoop of the sauce over the top.
Cut down the middle.
Sweep and scoop.
Cut down the middle.
Sweep and scoop.
After a little bit of that—which was actually a rather calming respite from daunting soufflé-ness of it all—Nancy's filling looks something like this.
Finally, before she gingerly places it in the oven, Nancy butters a soufflé dish and coats it with Parmesan cheese…
…and then tops it with a sprinkling of both the Gruyère and Swiss cheeses.
After baking for about 25 minutes, Nancy’s soufflé is beautifully poofed and a joy to behold.
From there, it was only a matter of quickly carrying the soufflé to the table and embracing the applause of her adoring family. Suffice it to say, the fluffy treat is a hit. Even Johnny’s mother can only briefly scrunch her nose before being won over by the airy soufflé, with its hidden cheesy flavor permeating every bite.
Just to clarify, I am not Nancy. My mother is not Nancy. My grandmother is not Nancy. Nancy was not tragically lost in a zombie apocalypse shortly after the end of this story. There is really no meaning to this tale other than it’s what I always associate with soufflé and fancy recipes of all sorts.
I’m not going to be posting the recipe for this one just because you should own a copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Seriously. Go buy one now. It’s a beautiful cookbook and a piece of history.
Update: I felt mean for leaving you high and dry with no recipe, so here's a link to it on Epicurious.com. But still, I must insist that you get yourself a copy of the cookbook, too.
Ooooh, and before I forget, I must thank each and every one of you who weighed in on my boots vs. peep-toe shoe debacle for the Celtic Thunder concert! I did end up going with the boots and they were truly the better choice. They carried me through waiting in line outside Verizon Wireless Theater in the freezing cold, through sidewalks made wet by nearby fountains, and helped me to stand comfortably, albeit giddily, by the buses afterward.
Take a look! I got a picture with one of the guys, Ryan Kelly.
All in all, I can’t say enough good things about that concert. I’ve been to all three of their Houston shows over the past few years and they just get better and better. Unlike so many other artists, these guys actually sound better live than on a cd or dvd. Plus they always interact with the audience and make the show lots of fun, not to mention how great they treat their fans, with each one of them stopping by the buses to take pictures and sign autographs after the show.
They’re still on tour for another month, with a whole new Christmas addition to the show after Thanksgiving, so if you’re looking for a fun night out, I’d definitely recommend checking them out on YouTube or taking a peek at the tour dates on their website.