“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.” -Julia Child
In the last few months, I have become more interested in gourmet cooking at home, and recently become slightly obsessed with Julia Child. I’ve read through most of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as The French Chef, and I’m about to start her autobiography, My Life in France. This woman was awesome. She brought true gourmet techniques to the everyday kitchen. In Mastering the Art, she detailed a whopping thirteen pages of explicit instructions on the egg soufflé…
Soufflé. To many home cooks, it is a term synonymous with “headache.” Actually, the word comes from the French verb souffler, which means “to puff up.” In simple terms, a soufflé is basically a flavor base combined with fluffy egg whites, turned into a mold then baked until puffed and brown. Like many self-described “foodies,” I’m an avid watched of Bravo’s Top Chef, so I was completely appalled when this season’s contestants were completely illiterate in the language of soufflé-making. After watching their failed attempts on the fluffy dish, I decided that I must learn how to perfect the infamous kitchen disaster. Coincidentally, this month’s Bon Appétit published a quaint article on soufflé techniques, and advised readers that everyone should attempt the dish – it’s really not as hard as one imagines.
So I rolled up my sleeves and attempted JC’s cheese soufflé. After so much build up, fear and anticipation, I finally decided to just make that freaking soufflé. And… it really wasn’t that hard. It actually turned out beautifully – nice and puffy, golden and delicious. I picked out some nice Gruyère cheese from the market and used fresh organic eggs. I halved the recipe and served it alongside a simple Caprese salad… Délicieux! My only fault was that I did not have my camera ready as soon as the soufflé came out of the oven… so it looks a little sunken in this picture, but I swear it was huge when it initially came out!
Here’s Bon Appetit’s recipe, adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking:
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
(about 4 ounces)
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400F. Butter 6-cup (1 1/2-quart) soufflé dish. Add Parmesan cheese and tilt dish, coating bottom and sides. Warm milk in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming.
Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until mixture begins to foam and loses raw taste, about 3 minutes (do not allow mixture to brown). Remove saucepan from heat; let stand 1 minute. Pour in warm milk, whisking until smooth. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in paprika, salt, and nutmeg. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. Scrape soufflébase into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.
Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm or room temperature soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions while gradually sprinkling in Gruyère cheese. Transfer batter to prepared dish.
Place dish in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately.