Sometimes I think our relationship to the food we make mid-week is akin to a romance with a long-term lover.
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We like the comfort factor, the familiarity, the consistent place it has at our table. But we dream of spicing it up a bit, making the old somehow new. We introduce red pepper flakes. We grill instead of broil, broil instead of fry, toss a trendy new outfit of juniper berries or artisanal relish on a chicken breast, a mustard-sauce hat on some fish, and feel this will sufficiently infuse our daily dining routines with the exciting sense of the new.
But sometimes I think instead of gussying up our existing sources of sustenance, we need to rethink the entire plate. Enter the soufflé.
In my mind, a soufflé is not a week night meal. It is something slightly fancy, a little daring (Will it rise, or fall like so much drywall in my oven?) and just a bit too 1987 dinner party to really make sense on a Monday night.
Of course like almost everything I assume (except that I won’t like a movie with Steven Seagal, I’m always right about that), I am easily proven wrong. In fact, other than making sure you have a really nice cheese on hand and grating it up, what really is there to a soufflé? You butter your dish, you cook up a nice custard thing, whip some egg whites and voilà -- dinner for four!
I embarked on the lovely Simple Cheese Souffle before I even noticed it was written by KelseyTheNaptimeChef. When I realized she was the author, however, I immediately became excited. This is a woman who tries to design recipes around her child’s nap schedule, so you know things are going to be easy and straightforward.
This recipe is no exception. There is really nothing to this except to make sure that you don’t scorch your egg and milk mixture, which you won’t, and to use patience in getting those whites to a lovely stiff peak. The whole thing took me about 10 minutes to whip up, and another 35 minutes in the oven, which leaves plenty of time to make a nice big salad, dig around in the back of the fridge for a bottle of white and set the table. (I think maybe I also sent an ill-advised email to someone. Who remembers?)
I experienced a bit of panic when my soufflé did not become a lovely cheesy top hat, but I think this is because my soufflé dish is 8 inches, not 7 as Kelsey advised. That was okay; it emerged that lovely nutty color that cheese takes on when properly cooked, and offered that divine, slightly resistant stretch and tang that a good soufflé often does.
My children stared at their plates for a moment, wondering who this new visitor was. But as we played our nightly dinner games, I noticed they would take a pause now and then. They didn’t want to be torn from their delicious hot morsel on the plate for too long.
1. Preheat oven to 400. Butter a 7" souffle dish and then toss finely grated parmesan cheese over the butter.
2. Using a whisk, or an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Then, in a separate bowl, beat the yolks until they are smooth.
3. Melt the butter over low-heat. Add the flour to melted butter and blend with a whisk. Add the milk and keep stirring the mixture until it is thickened and smooth. Bring to a boil and then remove it from the heat.
4. Once the mixture is off the heat add in the cheese and egg yolks. Then, fold the stiff egg whites into the white sauce and pour the completed mixture into the buttered souffle dish.
5. Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes, or until the souffle has risen and set (it is no longer watery looking in the center and the edges are slightly browned). Serve immediately and enjoy.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).