I Wanna Be Soufflated

For this assignment I decided to go way out of my normal cooking routine and truly challenge myself by making something I’ve never made or even tasted before.  A dish the French call the Soufflé.

I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by the idea at first.  Before this assignment, the idea of making a soufflé had never even crossed my mind.  To me, a soufflé was a myth, a dish too fancy to attempt to make without a culinary institute diploma.  But with every new dish I make the first time, I once again realized it was untrue and that anyone is capable of making any dish they set their mind to; and for me the soufflé was no different.

When green media took a class trip to the library with the idea of checking out a cookbook, although it wasn’t required, I wanted to use this as another opportunity to make something I’ve never cook/baked or even assembled before. I started browsing and looking through all types of cookbooks.  I went through cookbooks about Thai, Spanish and Italian cuisine, but none of them seemed to have what I was looking for.  I was about to leave the library and try again the next day until I came across a cookbook that caught my attention.  I noticed a brown hen on the cover of a vintage-looking book, I opened it and read the first line, “Nature endowed the world with a miraculous culinary ingredient-the egg.” I knew the cookbook was mine. (Until return date on May 8th, thanks Gleeson Library!)

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The title of the book Egg Cookery: Omelets, Soufflés, Quiches, Crepes and Other Egg Dishes by Lou Seibart Pappas was truly a calling. Without even realizing it, this was the cookbook I have been waiting my whole life for.  Eggs are one of the top five ingredients I love to cook with.  When I flipped through and saw the soufflé section, I knew I wanted to be soufflated.

I left the library nervous and excited at the same time.  Like I mentioned earlier, I was a bit fearful about the soufflé. So the first thing I did before even reading the recipe thoroughly was look up soufflé on the Internet.  I of course ran into someone who is always ready and willing to show me how to cook a French dish in the most comprehensible manner, Julia Child.  I watched a youtube video on Child on how to make a cheese soufflé.  After 28 minutes of observing and learning, I knew I was ready to take on this recipe.  Julia Child helped reinforce my kitchen confidence.

Before deciding what ingredients I needed I first had to make sure I had the right materials.  I went through all my kitchen supplies and realized that I didn’t have the proper dish for baking a soufflé.  Buying a dish wasn’t an option so I decided to e-mail Michael and try checking out the St.Cyprian Kitchen to see what was hidden in the back pantry. I arrived at the kitchen the following day to fetch my things from Free Community Dinner Night and hopefully retrieve the perfect soufflé baking dish.  I made my way to the pantry, searched, and found the perfect glass baking dish.  I asked for Michael’s approval and he said I was allowed to borrow it until the next day!  On the way out I was remembering Child’s soufflé tips.  One of them being to make a foil-collar for the soufflé before it goes into the oven.  Luckily I remembered and took about 1”1/2’ of aluminum foil for the collar from St.Cyprian’s too. I was putting the term Community Kitchen to use in a different way.

After making sure I had all the materials, I than had to make sure I had all the right ingredients.  I decided to make a traditional cheese soufflé using the Basic Vegetable Souffle, spinach version, but ironically without the spinach.  For my first try, I wanted to make something as basic as possible.  So I went to my favorite local grocer Haight Street Market where I bought all my ingredients including Bavarian Emmentaler cheese and Clover-Stornetta eggs.  Haight Street Market always has exactly what I need.

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When I arrived home from Haight Street Market and began to make the soufflé, I remembered that this recipe called for whisking egg whites until “stiff.”  I have definitely beaten egg whites with an eggbeater before but have never done it by hand.  Man was I in for a surprise.  After I prepared the cornstarch-thickened sauce, I began to vigorously whisk all six egg whites. After about 5 minutes of enthusiastic egg whisking with still no sign of stiffness, I realized it was going to take longer than I thought.  Finally after about fifteen minutes the eggs became quite stiff.  Whisking eggs by hand was by far the most intense arm workout I’ve ever done. And I thought creaming sugar with butter by hand was bad…

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When I finished whisking the egg whites and finally got to the right consistency (I was so proud of myself) I folded the egg whites into the cornstarch sauce with egg yolk and cheese.  I folded in the exact way Julia Child showed me how in her cooking lesson video.  I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without her.

Basic Vegetable Soufflé, Spinach Version (Mine has no spinach and nutmeg)

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons, cornstarch blended with

3 tablespoons water

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 teaspoons butter

1 large bunch (approximately 1 pound),

finely chopped

6 eggs, separated

¾ cup of grated Swiss or Gruyere Cheese

Heat milk in a saucepan until scalded; add cornstarch mixture and stir over heat until thickened.  Stir in salt and nutmeg and set aside.  Sauté onion in butter until glazed.  Add spinach and cook until heated through (still slightly crips); drain off any liquid.  Place spinach and egg yolks in a blender container and puree until spinach is finely minced.  Stir spinach mixture into the cornstarch-thickened sauce.  Mix in all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese.  Butter a 2-quart soufflé dish with a foil collar, coat lightly with remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese and turn soufflé into dish.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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The only adjustments I made to the recipe was no spinach and nutmeg, besides that, I actually went exactly by the book, which also surprisingly only called for 2 teaspoons of butter.  Next time, I would like to try Child’s recipe because she uses 1 1/2 cups of butter instead (yummmmm).

Although I was nervous at first, I’m glad I stuck with the recipe. Thanks to The Egg Cookery cookbook, this assignment and Julia Child, I overcame my fear of making a soufflé! Who knows what I’ll make next?

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