Monday, September 17, 2012

Easy Cheese Souffle

Sorry for the hiatus.  We have been keeping busy making this little kitty feel welcome in our home.  Meet the most docile, patient, loving cat I have ever seen in my life.  As a surprise to me, Paul left work early last Tuesday and adopted this little guy for me.  I had fallen in love with this cat during a routine trip to the Humane Society with Matthew.  Apparently, nobody wanted this sweet kitty because he is polydactyl, possessing two extra toes on each of his two front paws.  I, however, find this minor genetic defect to be absolutely adorable.  Paul saw how much I loved him and decided it was high time we had a pet.  We have named him Reilly (short for O'Reilly...because he has green eyes and thus must be IRISH) and he has fit in splendidly thus far.  He likes to perch on the toy box upstairs in the play room while Matthew tinkers with various toys.  They are great pals.


As much as I love my new kitty, I really want to share this recipe for a simple, easy cheese souffle.  Cheese souffles make me swoon.  Chocolate souffle are delicious and certainly have their place as a fancy finish to an elaborate meal, but a perfectly executed cheese souffle will truly make me drool.  Paul has never liked the sound of souffles.  He has had a couple of dessert varieties and has determined that they simply bring back horrible, painful memories of eating mousse, his mortal dessert enemy.

The guy is crazy.  Mousse is delicious.  And he seems to love it when we use it as a filling in his favorite cake ever.

Nevertheless, he has always turned up his nose at a cheese souffle.  Even without ever having tried one.  In his mind, it would have the taste and texture of a savory mousse - and that would be a very awful thing to endure.

When Paul is out on a business trip and too far away to be offended by the presence of anything leavened with egg whites, I will make a cheese souffle for Matthew and myself.  Matthew loves them and greedily gobbles his portion (and sometimes mine!) as if he has not eaten in days.

Well, Paul has not been taking too many business trips lately and my desire for a warm, cheesy souffle began to really bug me.  I decided that Paul and his picky palate will just have to deal...we were going to have a souffle for dinner.

The method for making a cheese souffle is so simplistic that I have the recipe memorized.  However, I do love to play around with different cheeses and seasonings.  This time, I chose a delicious New York sharp cheddar and paired it with some ground mustard and paprika.  Another favorite variation is Gruyere and a teeny bit of nutmeg.  Divine!

The souffle rose beautifully (even though my new souffle dish was a bit large for the recipe) and the moment of truth arrived when Paul cut into it and gingerly removed a portion for himself.  He took a bite, hesitated, and then looked at me with a rapture and said:  "This is amazing!"  He ate about 3/4 of the souffle and then began eyeing Matthew's portion.

And thus, Paul was converted into a true lover of the simple cheese souffle.

Served with a simple green salad, this is an awesome, easy dinner.

Cheese Souffle
adapted from America's Test Kitchen

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into half-inch chunks, plus extra for coating dish
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated (divided use)
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sharp cheddar (but Gruyere, Swiss, and Gouda are amazing)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1-2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 large eggs, separated
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Set oven rack to middle level. If desired, before preheating, add a pizza stone to help support the soufflé dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Thoroughly butter inside of 2-quart soufflé dish, then coat evenly with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and set aside.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour; cook until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring to simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and smooth, about 1 minute.

Remove from heat, whisk in cheddar, salt, pepper, paprika, and dry mustard. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks until completely incorporated, and set aside.

Using electric mixer, whip egg whites in separate bowl on medium-low speed until opaque and frothy, about 30 seconds. Add cream of tartar, and increase speed to medium-high. Continue to whip, watching carefully, until thick and forming stiff peaks, about 2 1/2 minutes.

Working with 1/4 of whipped egg whites at a time, gently fold them into the yolk mixture until almost no white streaks remain (a few are ok). Gently pour mixture into prepared soufflé dish and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until top is nicely browned and center jiggles slightly (an instant-read thermometer inserted through the side of the soufflé top should register 170 degrees).

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