This past week, I dove into a culinary wormhole that transported me into the magical, mystical world of French Souffle. Ready to take on a challenge, I started with a relatively complex dish, or what may seem like a complicated dish to the untrained eye – the cheese souffle. While reading one of my favorite bloggers, renowned French pastry chef and author, David Lebovitz, I came across amazing cheese souffle and I had just to try it out. Just reading the recipe made nostalgia for the good time I had at the Plumed Horse, the first Michelin star restaurant I dined at. From the ambiance to the service, to the attention to detail to the flavors and plating, everything blew me away. The experience of going to a secluded place in a bustling downtown with dim lighting, and a tablecloth so soft that you could wrap yourself in it was transcendent. More than anything, what made this experience memorable was the food. As appetizers, we had this whimsical mozzarella-balls-on-a-stick dusted with herbs and bursting with flavor. The main dish was a meltingly tender lamb plated with a streak of earthy sauce, umami-rich with the flavors of mushrooms and coffee, and a hint peppery fresh arugula. But the star of the night was the souffle. The perfect French technique produced a light and airy souffle, with a crispy pepper and parmesan crust and cloud-like interior. When I saw the souffle recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog, the experience came rushing back to me in all its glory, and I knew this had to be my next project.
About the Souffle:
Souffle has a difficult reputation for being a fancy, technically complicated dish that only the most trained chefs can execute. But in reality, it is just a baked mixture of bechamel and egg whites. The key to whisking the egg whites is not really in any technique but rather in the timing and preparation of your mise en place. With this recipe, everything happens in rapid succession, there is never a moment where any of your ingredients are resting. I made the mistake of not measuring and placing all my ingredients, so it was an intense hour of flying around the kitchen finding ingredients and cutting and measuring. Even with my messy approach, I never once was at a loss at how to execute a step, or looking for an ingredient that we didn’t have. The beauty of this dish lies in the simplicity of the ingredients and the beautiful end result. All the dish required were some pots and pans, an oven, cheese, butter, milk, basic seasonings, eggs, and some herbs (chives!) and spices (nutmeg! Or paprika, if you like!) to add flavor. Crack them, whisk them, fold them, mix them, bake them, and an about hour later, you have the lightest most incredible dish you have ever tasted.
- Have everything prepared from placing the eggs on your counter to your grating your cheese.
- When whisking the egg whites, make sure they form stiff peaks and are nice and fluffy. They should have a texture similar to foam.
- The bechamel mixture should be slightly thick, not too runny and it should not clump up.
- If you like the souffle runny in the middle, bake it for 22-23 minutes. If you like the center firmer, bake it for around 27-28 minutes.