27 May 2010

Lighter Than Air

In the pantheon of cookbook writers, everyone talks about Julia Child and everyone talks about Irma Rombauer (though she usually just gets called "Joy"). Your personal pantheon probably includes others - the utilitarian Mark Bittman, the idiosyncratic Tessa Kiros, the scholarly Elizabeth David. For me, one of the books that has permanent shelf space is Craig Claiborne, also known as the New York Times Cookbook. It's less frou-frou than Julia, more elegant than Joy. My copy falls open to page 488 because that's our go-to waffle recipe. When I want to make a gingerbread house, I add some extra flour to the recipe for gingerbread men that's on page 579. And Craig, not Julia, taught me how to make a souffle. Well, my mother probably helped, but it's Craig's recipe that I turn to when I need to make a cheese souffle.

And you know what? It's easy and delicious and you probably have all of the ingredients you need. Because I have a family of three people and a smallish souffle dish, I scaled the recipe down to fit my dish, and because I'm nice, I'm giving you both sets of measurements. Make one. Serve it up with a salad. You can make it on a school night, and your six year old will probably even eat it - because really? It's not much more than fancy eggs.

For a 2 quart dish For a 1 1/2 quart dish
4 T. butter (1/2 stick) 3 T. butter
1/4 cup flour 3 T. flour
1 1/2 cups milk 1 1/8 cups milk (9 ounces)
Salt Salt
Worcestershire sauce Worcestershire sauce
Cayenne pepper Cayenne pepper
1/2 pound grated cheddar* 3/8 pound grated cheddar*
4 eggs, separated 3 eggs, separated

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Make a white sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and stir with a wire whisk until blended. Meanwhile, warm the milk**, then add it all at once to the flour/butter mix, stirring vigorously. Season to taste with salt, Worcestershire and cayenne.
3. Take pan off heat and let cool for a couple of minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time and cool.
4. Beat the egg whites until they stand in peaks. Cut and fold the egg whites into the cheese sauce (you can do this in the saucepan). Put your nice light fluffy stuff into the souffle dish you chose at the beginning and bake for 30-45 minutes. You don't have to grease the dish, but I like to butter it and then sprinkle it with grated parmesan.

*You have no cheddar? Use swiss, or gouda, or pepper jack, or whatever you have. Or a mix. I'm easy. But I think you might want to avoid Velveeta.

**Or don't. Instructions for a white sauce or a béchamel usually tell you to scald or heat or warm the milk. I tend towards the lazy, so I don't always bother and it's not been a problem.


1A said...


Funny thing about Velveeta. A long time ago in a land far away ... Tallahassee, about 15 years ago ... I happened to mention to a coworker that my husband made his own mac & cheese. With Velveeta. She couldn't believe a Scandihoovian would ever use Velveeta for anything. Yep. He still does when he makes his mac & cheese for the kids.

Probably wouldn't use it for a souffle, though. ;)

Unknown said...

Souffles scare me...also, my oven is currently taking a sabbatical that I did not pre-approve. I will squirrel this away in the back of my brain for a time when the oven and I are on more friendly terms. As much as I love cheese I should really know how to whip into a fluffy cake.

Julia said...

I love cheese souffle, because it's one of those dishes that allows you to feel rich even on a scant budget.

Furrow said...

Mmmm. That looks so good. Why have I never made a cheese souffle? However, a six year old might eat that, but what've you got that a 2 year old will eat? I wonder what would happen if I threw some gummie bears on top.

S said...

That is my very, very, very, very, very favorite thing to eat. And for me it comes tied in with wonderful memories of my grandmother, so it's all good.


Inna said...

sounds delicious!

My favorite baking cookbook is The Weekend Baker, it has my go to ginger bread cookie and lemon poppy seed bread recipes.

Mental P Mama said...

Ummm. I can make a fast trip down the Parkway the next time you make one of those puppies;)

ozma said...

Yes. I definitely have this one!

I have the old one--Early edition. It's like the purist Craig.

AND I CAN EAT THIS. It's is ovo-lacto veg. WOO!

I need to expand my veg cookbook. Mira whatshername is the gold standard there. I've got the Moosewood. I've got a very '90s cookbook library. I basically stopped cooking in the '90s is why.

mayberry said...

I think I have the ingredients ... but no souffle dish. We have EVERY other kitchen gizmo and gadget and pot and pan. But not one of those!

shrink on the couch said...

I don't think I've ever had cheese souffle. Is that lame, or what? Now that we've got chickens in our backyard, I think it's time I tried it, don't you?

Patois42 said...

Oh, nice. Now, if only I had a souffle pan. Pot? Dish?

Anonymous said...

I think I could do this.

What about the "no stomping around the house while the souffle is in the oven" rule? That could be a problem.

FreshHell said...

My pantheon includes all the Moosewood cookbooks and other vegetarian ones. I have Joy because it's chock full of good basic information, esp cake/cookie/bread recipes. I don't have Julia. Or Craig.

Liz Miller said...

Now it's clear that I need to get that cookbook.

BTW, Erma's time and temp on her Madeleine recipe is too long and too hot.

Dora said...

Ooooh, that's gorgeous! And I have that cookbook.

Souffles aren't really that hard. You just have to fold the egg whites in gently and make sure your oven light works so you can check it without opening the oven door.

Janet said...

that looks delicious! And for some strange reason, I was thinking of velveeta this morning...thinking of melting some on an english muffin with pizza sauce. What is wrong with me??!