There was a time when the idea of making a soufflé was the farthest thought from my mind. Just seeing the words "eggs, separated" was enough to ward me off. But I've since discovered the truth about soufflés: their reputation for being disaster-prone and finicky is undeserved. They puff up reliably, stay puffed up even when you open the oven door, and pay-off is unparalleled. There's nothing like having a big puffy soufflé all to yourself. And after you've dug in and greedily enjoyed the entire thing, you don't even get that painful "eyes bigger than stomach" regret.
Myth: You have to use a special soufflé dish, build a collar around the dish, prepare the entire dish just before serving, or keep the oven door closed the whole time.
Reality: Forget about all that fussiness. The most important thing in achieving puffiness is incorporating a lot of air into the soufflé batter. The egg whites need to be beaten until they are stiff and shiny and then gently folded into the base.
There are lots of different kinds of soufflé recipes, but for the sake of simplicity, I'm sticking with a basic and versatile savory formula here. It's one you can easily adapt in your kitchen:
Base (béchamel + egg yolks + "mix-in" additions) + Beaten egg whites =
To find out what's really important when it comes to making a savory soufflé, see the slideshow. And for a few examples of soufflés that use the béchamel-base formula, read on below.
Some Soufflé Variations
The starting point for these soufflé variations was a recipe for cheese soufflé in James Peterson's Baking. For the béchamel, I used 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons flour, and 3/4 cup milk. In each version, I used 4 yolks to enrich the base and 7 egg whites beaten with a pinch of salt and cream of tartar. They all serve four. The differences are in the "mix-in" part of the formula.
By the way, I think these soufflé's are great without an accompanying sauce, but if you'd like you could simply add a dollop of crème fraiche to yours.
I cooked 1/4 cup of minced shallots and a tablespoon of chopped fresh sage in the butter that went into the béchamel. The "mix-in" was made with 2/3 cup pumpkin (or other squash) puree, 1 tablespoon pulverized amaretti cookies, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, 1 tablespoon of bourbon, a few gratings of nutmeg, 1/2 + teaspoon of Kosher salt, and a few turns of black pepper. After buttering the baking dish, I dusted it with about a tablespoon of ground amaretti cookies.
I pureed 3/4 cup cooked and well-drained spinach with 1/4 cup of cooked, chopped leeks and 2 tablespoons sour cream. To that, I added 2 tablespoons dry sherry, 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, and a little nutmeg and black pepper.
Cheese and Fines Herbes Soufflé
I blended 1 cup (about 4 ounces) very well packed grated cheese (Emmentaler, Gruyere, or Comté) into the base along with 1 tablespoon Kirschwasser, 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard powder. As I folded in the egg whites, I sprinkled in the herbs: a tablespoon each of minced fresh parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil.
About the author: Kumiko writes the blog Recipe Interrupted. She believes that having a few cooking techniques under your belt can help make home cooking creative and easy, and is excited to share these basics here on her regular column Technique of the Week. A graduate of Brown University, the Institute of Culinary Education, and a mother of two hungry girls, Kumiko is always trying to keep her Brooklyn kitchen smelling of something good.