By Paul Partica and Kirsten Carbone
I knew it was getting close to my deadline for the next Ink article, but having just been the lucky recipient of a total knee replacement and finding this a good excuse to be lazy, I thought I would ask my friend and marketing consultant Kirsten Carbone to help in writing an article for me. So, this said, why not choose a subject I know nothing about. Here are Kirsten’s words on the topic:
When Paul asked if I would write a column while he recuperated from knee-replacement surgery, I thought of soufflés. I have been reluctant to take one on in my own kitchen, believing it to be one of those mystical culinary feats better left to the pros. The idea of dense components like eggs and cheese becoming airy and lifted has always been little daunting to me. So I asked my friend Chef Amanda Cushman to help. As a culinary instructor of 30 years, her job is to ease fear in the kitchen and make the art of cooking fun. Here are Chef Amanda’s tips for a great savory soufflé:
Separating the Eggs
It is important that the eggs separate cleanly. The best way to do this is with room temperature eggs. It is simply easier when they are not cold. Chef Amanda recommends separating them into your hand. Although messy, the whites will slip through your fingers easily while the yoke remains intact.
Three bowls are also advised – one for the whites, one for the yokes, and a third to separate the eggs over. This way, if one of the eggs does not separate well, you will not lose the entire batch.
Start with the Base Mixture
The base is really everything but the beaten egg whites. The key here is no lumps, so whisk constantly during this process for a smooth batter. The base here uses Gruyere, one of my favorite melting cheeses. But most cheeses will work well in a savory soufflé. Vlaaskas, goat and cheddar are some great choices that come to mind. Just remember to include the same amount – 6 ounces.
This is really the most time-intensive part of the process so if you will be serving your soufflé to dinner guests, make it ahead of time. Amanda says that the base can be made up to one day ahead.
Beat the Egg Whites
This is the delicate part. Beat egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. They will first become frothy, then foamy and stiff. At this point, you want to stop beating or you may end up with dry, over-beaten eggs. (Dryness is when beaten whites separate in the bowl.)
You will get the best success with a clean stainless steel or glass bowl. Amanda does not advise using plastic bowls as they can harbor traces of grease or fat, which impedes whites from getting stiff.
Combining the Mixtures
Once the egg whites are beaten, incorporate them into the base mixture. Work delicately. Start by adding about 1/3 of the meringue into the base and stir until completely combined. This is called lightening the base mixture. Then, add a little more of the stiff egg whites at a time and fold gently into the base. To fold, bring the spoon up from the bottom of the bowl and carefully turn over repeatedly until all is integrated. The idea is to keep as much lift in the mixture as possible.
Amanda says that the myth about opening the oven while a soufflé bakes is not so. Once in the oven, the mixture is hardier than most think. Don’t hesitate to test for readiness by inserting a long skewer in the center. A small amount of batter means the soufflé is done.
Once out of the oven, you will want to head directly to the table and eat it within 20 minutes. The recipe below makes a decadent casserole. I’m ready to tackle another one, and I hope you’ll give it a try, too.
Butter, room temperature, for greasing the ramekin
2 Tbls. grated Parmigiano Reggiano
3 Tbls. unsalted butter
3 Tbls. flour
1 tsp. dry mustard (optional)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1-1/3 cups milk, hot
4 large egg yolks (2 1/2 ounces by weight)
6 ounces gruyere or cheddar, grated
5 egg whites plus 1 Tbls water (5 1/2 ounces by weight plus 1/2 ounce water)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Grease an 8-inch soufflé ramekin with the softened butter. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and roll around the dish to cover the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine the flour, dry mustard, garlic powder, and salt in a small bowl. In a small saucepan melt the butter and whisk in the flour mixture. Cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the hot milk and turn the heat to high. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove from the heat.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks to a creamy consistency. Temper the yolks into the milk mixture, constantly whisking. Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Whisk until incorporated.
- Using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until glossy and firm. Add 1/4 of the mixture to the cheese base. Continue to add the whites by thirds, folding very gently.
- Pour the mixture into the soufflé dish filling it to 1/2-inch from the top. Place on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve immediately.