Maman's Cheese Soufflé From Jacques Pépin

December 17, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Kate Buckens.
Author Notes

If the intimidation of making a soufflé has kept you away, it's time to change that: This recipe is the easiest soufflé you'll meet. This unusual recipe from Jacques Pepin's maman (which just means "mom" in French) is one you might have heard of—it's made the rounds for decades, and its genius is all thanks to a simple miscommunication.

Unlike traditional French soufflés that call for separating the eggs, adding the yolks to the white sauce, beating the egg whites till stiff, and gently folding them in, this recipe has you beat the eggs straight into the sauce. When Jacques' mother was newly married at seventeen, no one told her the eggs needed to be separated—and it worked! The results are slightly less airy, but some might argue they're even more delicious.

The brilliance of this move, in addition to ease, is that it means you can make the whole thing well ahead of time. Let the mixture hang out at room temperature for a couple hours, or in the fridge for a day. When you're ready to bake, heat your oven and go. As mentioned in The Washington Post, this recipe is also built to adapt. Use Gruyère, cheddar, or other cheeses. Switch up chives for another herb. Or make the soufflés in individual ramekins and customize the toppings. As Pépin's daughter Claudine writes, “We usually serve it as a first course, but we love it for brunch and meatless dinners as well.”

Jacques Pepin's maman's cheese soufflé is simple and comforting enough for a weeknight meal, yet impressive enough for a dinner party or holiday feast. Recipe slightly adapted from The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2003). —Genius Recipes

Watch This Recipe
Maman's Cheese Soufflé From Jacques Pépin
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus additional to butter a 5- to 6-cup gratin dish
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 extra-large eggs (or 6 large ones)
  • 2 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese, preferably Gruyère (about 6 ounces), plus three more optional slices for garnish (roughly 2-inch by 3-inch)
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives
In This Recipe
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Butter a 5- to 6-cup gratin dish, sprinkle the bottom and sides with half the Parmesan, and set it aside. Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and mix it in well with a whisk. Cook for 10 seconds, add the cold milk in one stroke and mix it in with a whisk. Keep stirring with the whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to a strong boil, about 2 minutes. It should be thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in the salt and pepper.
  2. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat well with a fork. After about 10 minutes, the white sauce should be cool enough to proceed. Moving quickly, add the eggs, cheese and the chives to the sauce, and mix well to combine. Pour into the buttered gratin dish and cook immediately, or set aside until ready to cook. If setting aside for a few hours, the soufflé can remain outside at room temperature. If assembling a day ahead, refrigerate and bring back to room temperature before baking.
  3. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and arrange the 3 slices of Gruyère in a circle in the center, if using. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until puffy and well browned on top. Although it will stay inflated for quite awhile, it is best served immediately.

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Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore.