The magic rise of the classic savory soufflé has lost some of its luster in today’s home kitchens.  But in the 1970s, along with another staple of French cuisine, the quiche, they were the ne plus ultra, helping to educate the American home cook in the ways of European cookery.

About a month ago I started making soufflés to serve as a light supper dish with a salad or as an accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken.  I wondered why it had gone out of favor?  Now I think of it as essential as mashed potatoes for a side dish.  You literally can whip up the soufflé mixture in minutes.

Cheese souffle

The formula is straightforward.  You need a solid base, usually a béchamel enriched with cheese, vegetable or fish.  Corn is a great addition as is crab meat or salmon.

The basic formula is 4 egg yolks and 5 whites, which are whipped until stiff peaks (don’t overbeat).  Though I’ve wondered why one can’t add that extra yolk in the separation from 5 eggs.  Next time I make a soufflé I will use the fifth yolk.  There are other recipes that use 6 whites and 4 yolks.

Some that I’ve made lately were real standouts. My favorite so far is a soufflé made with a puree of corn and bacon; another was devised using a sharp cheddar or gruyere with chives.  Since the corn season will be over soon, I’ve taken to using cheese as the main ingredient.

One recipe that I wanted to try was with Wensleydale, the cheese from York England that’s made with either cow’s milk or goat’s milk.  It’s a wonderful cheese–firm,  slightly crumbly, with overtones of honey and smoke.

The cheese is hard to find (if not impossible) in Greater Portland.  I tried Whole Foods, Aurora, The Cheese Iron and Rosemont.  Whole Foods had it with either blueberries or cranberries—those wouldn’t work. Cheese Iron has it during the holidays.  And  Bow Street Market in Freeport has a nice collection of English cheeses, including various kinds of Wensleydale, most of which are studded with fruit.  I wound up using a sharp cheddar for the soufflé, which worked beautifully.

Wensleydale cheese

Another cheese that I’ve tried in soufflés is Comté, the French raw milk cheese.  It’s like Gruyere but subtler.  Surprisingly, Hannaford stocks the cheese at a price per pound less than Whole Foods.

Corn and bacon souffle

For the soufflé dish, a 1-quart size will accommodate most recipes.  It should measure about 6 1/2 inches across and 3 inches deep. Another tip is to separate the eggs well before assembling the dish to allow the whites to come to room temperature.  The warmer whites will whip better and higher; add a pinch of cream of tartar after the whites become frothy when whipping.  This promotes a higher fluff. Set aside the yolks in another bowl to add when needed.

Wensleydale or Cheddar Cheese Soufflé

Yield: 2 to 4

Wensleydale or Cheddar Cheese Soufflé

Corn and bacon souffle

Ingredients

  • Butter
  • Grated Parmesan
  • 1 ounce (about 3 tablespoons) plain flour
  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) flour
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 4 ounces sharp Cheddar or Wensleydale, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • Pinch cream of tartar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Generously butter a 1-quart soufflé dish; lightly sprinkle grated Parmesan to coat the sides and bottom of the dish.
  3. Separate the eggs and set aside in respective bowls, a larger one for the whites, which will be beaten later. Let the whites warm for at least 15 minutes or longer before beating
  4. Melt the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan; add the flour and stir over low heat for several minutes until thoroughly blended.
  5. Gradually add one-third of the warmed milk, off the heat; stir well; return to heat and add the rest of the milk whisking to blend. Add the grated cheese and beat thoroughly until blended.
  6. Remove from heat, allowing the mixture to cool slightly. Beat the egg yolks. Add these to the cheese base. Beat thoroughly. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  7. White the whites until frothy. Add the pinch of cream of tartar and continue to beat until stiff, but do not overbeat. They should still look shiny.
  8. Stir in about a heaping tablespoon of the white to temper the base. Then gently fold the whites into the mixture until barely any white shows.
  9. Put into the prepared dish. Put in the lower third of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes until well puffed, set and firm (it might wiggle a bit but that’s all.
  10. Serve immediately. If you need to keep it for a while before serving it will stay puffed in a 200 degree oven for 15 minutes. You can also make the béchamel base well ahead of time, giving the whites a good hour to warm up.
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