Haute Cuisine: The Soufflé
Here at the gallery, we Huffingtons pretty much love all of life’s little sensory feasts: art (of course), food, wine, travel, good cashmere sweaters, an excellent novel and the Sunday edition of the New York Times.
We all like to eat and we like to cook, too. So, on a recent cold, wet and windy March night (I think it was a Tuesday), I heard my phone telling me I had a text. Sure enough, it was from Linda, who had just sent me a photo of the most delicious and mouth-wateringly beautiful savory soufflés she had literally just whipped up. It didn’t hurt that Linda has a true gift for presentation, so the ramekins were properly crusty and brown and looked extremely professional.
“I literally made these in thirty seconds” she wrote and rattled off the short little list of ingredients she’d used. Not surprisingly, the report the next day: every morsel devoured by her cute family of manly boys.
“The idea to make these soufflés came one night recently, when Jack, my 17-year-old son (and French student) told me he needed extra credit in French class. We made these yummy soufflés and shared them with the rest of the family. We added a salad with mustard and tarragon vinaigrette, a baguette et voila! Of course, my husband and I added a delicious little Muscadet vin to our meal. (the Huffingtons: we all got an A!)”
A couple of days later, on a Friday, I was racking my brain for a little special something to end our favorite Friday night tradition: the house date (this entails a nicely-cooked meal, a great bottle of wine, a favorite playlist on the Ipod, maybe a current movie release on DVD and absolutely no driving, waiting for a table, mediocre service, etc., etc.) I thought of our cute Linda and her pretty soufflés and quickly consulted chocolate soufflés in an old favorite cookbook, “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman. I was delighted to find, next to the entry, a little drawing I had a long time ago of some cute little soufflé dishes we have (white, handled and very Francais) and the cooking time for the perfect soufflé. A quick scan of the pantry showed that I had the simple list of ingredients: good chocolate, cream, eggs and vanilla – and just like that, the soufflés were easily put together and popped in the oven.
I pulled them out 28 minutes later and they were gorgeous! Beautifully puffed, spilling over the sides of the dishes and a little bit of steam rising from the top…it almost seemed a shame to gently pull the center open and pour a little warm crème anglaise into it. But, believe me, it wasn’t that tragic and, after plenty of appreciative oohs and ahhs, the chocolate soufflés were heartily consumed – and they truly were hmmmm, hmmmm good!
Linda’s Black Olive and Basil Soufflés (perfect for a rainy, cold night or any other time)
from “Soufflés, Sweet and Savory”
- 5T butter
- 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2c. all purpose flour
- 1 1/3c. milk
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1/4c. pitted black olives, sliced (I used a couple spoonfuls of tapenade)
- 4 T. chopped basil
- salt and freshly ground pepper-coated cherry tomatoes, to serve.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
1. Grease 4 small 4 inch diameter x2.5″ deep soufflé dishes with some butter, then sprinkle w/ 3T. of the Parmesan.
2. Melt the remaining butter in pan, stir in flour, cook for 1 min. Mix in milk, gradually, and bring to boil, stirring until thickened and smooth
3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining Parmesan and the eggs yolks, then the olives or tapenade and some salt and pepper. Cover to cool
4. Beat egg whites into stiff, moist -looking peaks. Fold a large spoonful into the cooled sauce, along with the chopped basil, to loosen the mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
5. Pour the mixture into the soufflé dishes and bake for 15-20 minutes until well-risen. The tops should be browned, with a slight wobble to the centers. Serve immediately with the roasted tomatoes.
Meg’s Chocolate Soufflés and Crème Anglaise (from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)
Says Mark Bittman:
“If you undercook this soufflé slightly, it will remain moist in the middle and need no sauce. If you cook it until it is completely dry, serve with Crème Anglaise, whipped cream or any light sauce. You can prepare the soufflé, through Step 3, hours in advance. Refrigerate the sauce. About an hour before you’re ready to serve the soufflé, bring the sauce and the whites to room temperature. Beat the whites as you preheat the oven and finish the soufflé.
Makes 4-6 servings
Time: About 1 hour, largely unattended
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon for greasing the soufflé dish
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus some for dusting the soufflé dish
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 eggs, separated
- Pinch salt
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting.
1. Use 1 teaspoon of the butter to grease a 2-quart soufflé dish or other deep baking dish, such as a Corningware-type dish. (If you want to make individual soufflés, use a little more butter and grease four 1 ½ to 2-cup ramekins.) Sprinkle the dish with sugar and invert it to remove excess sugar. Set aside and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat with the 1/3 cup sugar. In a small saucepan, heat the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. When the foam begins to subside, stir in the flour. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the butter flour mixture darkens, about 3 minutes.
3. Stir in the milk, a little bit at a time, using a whisk. It will be quite thick; stir in the chocolate and remove from heat. Let cook for 5 minutes. Beat the egg yolks and stir in. (The recipe can be prepared a few hours in advance up to this point; cool, wrap well and refrigerate.)
4. Beat the egg whites with the salt until very stiff but still glossy. Stir a good spoonful of them thoroughly into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites, using a rubber spatula or your hand. Transfer to the prepared soufflé mold and bake until the center is set, or nearly so, 30 to 40 minutes (15 to 25 minutes for individual soufflés.) Dust with confections’ sugar and serve immediately.”
Crème Anglaise (or Vanilla Custard Sauce)
Makes about 2 cups
Time: 15 to 30 minutes
A fine sauce for plain cakes, fruit or any time you want a sweet sauce for dessert.
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups milk
- 3 egg yolks, or 2 whole eggs
- ½ cup sugar
1. If you’re using the vanilla bean, heat the milk and the bean together in a small saucepan until the milk steams. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove the bean (you can rinse it off, wrap it in foil and use it again if you like). If you’re not using the bean, just heat the milk.
2. Use an electric mixer or whisk to beat the egg yolks or eggs and sugar together until pale yellow and thick. Slowly add the hot milk, stirring all the while.
3. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over very low heat, stirring, until it reaches 175 to 180 degrees, or is slightly thickened; do not boil. (There will be a thick coating on the back of a spoon, one that will hold the outline of your finger after you pass it through.) Remove from heat and pour into a bowl (if the mixture seems lumpy, strain it into the bowl), stir in the vanilla extract if using. Cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to a day; or right away.
L. & M.