Friday, October 4, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Roquefort

Few things in the culinary world are as ethereal as the elusive souffle. Souffles were created in the late 18th century by Antoine Beauvilliers, author of L'Art du Cuisinier (aka., The Art of French Cookery) and owner of the famous Beauvilliers, which was the most famous and elegant restaurant in Paris at that time. Souffles, as well as other egg dishes, are very popular in French cuisine. Souffles are served as a course during a meal and are positively breathtaking to look at! So, why don't more people in America make souffles? Possibly because of the rumors that they are difficult, fall without warning, or have never even tasted one!

I've made many souffles over the years, and I yet to have one collapse. The most important thing to remember is to separate your eggs very carefully. There must not be any trace of shell. When cracking eggs, always whack them on a flat surface as opposed to the side of a bowl. It produces less shell shatter. The other and most important thing is to make sure there is absolutely NO yolk in the egg whites. The fat in the yolks will not allow your egg whites to hold their loft. As long as you separate your eggs properly, you too can make a perfect souffle! 

This recipe, from French Classics Made Easy by Richard Grausman, for "Roquefort Souffle" is my absolute favorite cheese souffle! It's like a Roquefort cloud and in my opinion the best souffle I've ever tasted! If you love Roquefort as much as I do, you can add an extra ounce of cheese, it will still turn out perfect and even more delicious! I would recommend starting the meal with a bowl of soup, like Cream of Asparagus or the like, then serve this fabulous souffle along with a baguette, mixed green salad adorned with pear slices and toasted walnuts and dressed in a nice French vinaigrette (recipe follows), and finishing with homemade chocolate truffles and a glass of champagne! It's a classic menu and not one you'll soon forget!


Roquefort Souffle

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as an entree.

Ingredients:

4-cup souffle mold
Butter and all-purpose flour, for souffle mold
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (not in the original recipe)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled (about 2/3 cup) (plus another ounce, if you like)
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees with the rack set in the lowest position. Liberally butter a 4-cup souffle mold and lightly dust with flour, tapping out any excess.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat. While the milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks and water together in a small bowl. Add the 3 tablespoons flour to the yolks and blend until smooth.

Before the milk boils, stir about 1/4 cup of it into the egg yolk mixture to thin it. When the remaining milk boils, add it and stir well.

Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and whisk rapidly over medium-high heat, whisking the bottom and sides of the pan until the mixture thickens and boils, about 30 seconds. (Turning the pan as you whisk helps you easily reach all areas of the pan.) Continue to whisk vigorously for 1 minute while the souffle base gently boils. It will become shiny and easier to stir.

Reduce the heat to medium and allow the souffle base to simmer while you stir in the mustard, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the cheese and mix well until it melts completely and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and cover.


In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.


Pour the warm souffle base into a large bowl. With a whisk, fold in one-third of the beaten egg whites to lighten it. With a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the remaining egg whites. Stop folding as soon as the mixture is blended: a little egg white may still be visible.


Pour the souffle mixture into the prepared mold, leveling the surface with your spatula. If any of the batter touches the rim of the mold, (mine didn't even come close) run your thumb around the rim to clean it off.


Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 425 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. (You can test for doneness by inserting a skewer or cake tester.) The souffle should rise 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the mold and brown on the top. Serve immediately!


French Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

*Additional ingredients that can be added are 1 garlic clove (halved and removed when the dressing has acquired the desired garlic flavor), chopped fresh herbs, chopped shallots, and chopped hard-cooked egg. To accompany the Roquefort souffle, I kept it simple and did not include any additional ingredients.

Directions:

In a small bowl or jar, mix the first five ingredients together. Add the oil and mix until all the ingredients are well blended and smooth. Blend well again just before using. Any leftover vinaigrette can be stored in the refrigerator for another delicately flavored green salad.

***You may also be interested in Giandua Souffles, a fabulous dessert and can be made ahead!

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