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08/06/2009

Julia Childs' Cheese Soufflé

Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home

From the book "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" we get this wonderfully light and cheesey souffle' recipe. For those readers unfamiliar with souffle' here is a brief description. A soufflé is a light, fluffy, baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert. The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means "to blow up" or more loosely "puff up" which is exactly what happens to this combination of custard and egg whites. Really, you have to try one to understand the goodness and this is a great recipe to start with.

I suppose my mind was drawn to this recipe with all of the media surrounding the opening of the new motion picture, "Julie & Julia." The movie based on two true life stories revolves around a frustrated temp secretary Julie Powell (Amy Adams) whom embarks on a year-long culinary quest to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She chronicles her trials and tribulations in a blog that catches on with the food crowd. The film also covers the years Child (Meryl Streep) and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) spent in Paris during the 1940s and 1950s, when he was a foreign diplomat who was eventually investigated by Senator Joseph McCarthy for alleged communist ties.

Anyway, I found this recipe delightful and hope that the movie also measures up, bon appétit!


Serves: 6 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Room temperature butter (about 1 tablespoon), for greasing mold and collar

2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

4 tablespoons butter

4 1/2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups hot milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Grating of nutmeg

6 large egg yolks

7 large egg whites

5 ounces Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

Arrange oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Butter a 6 or 8 cup souffle mold and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the bottom and sides. Cut a length of parchment paper or foil long enough to wrap around the mold with a 2-inch overlap. Fold the sheet in half lengthwise for a 6- to 8-inch band, and butter it well on one side.

To prepare the béchamel, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a smooth paste. Cook for about 2 minutes without allowing it to color.

Remove the pan from the heat, let it cool a moment, stirring, then pour in all of the hot milk at once, whisking rapidly to blend. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat, stirring and clearing the sides of the pan with the whisk.

Cook for 2 minutes, whisking, as the béchamel bubbles slowly and becomes as thick as mayonnaise. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the salt, pepper, paprika and nutmeg.

One at a time, whisk in the egg yolks.

In a large, perfectly clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they're stiff.

Scoop one-quarter of the egg whites into the béchamel and whisk into the warm sauce to lighten it. Then scrape about one-third of the lightened sauce back over the egg whites in the mixing bowl and sprinkle on a good handful of the grated Gruyere cheese. Fold in the sauce and cheese by rapidly cutting down to the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then drawing the beaten whites up from the bottom and sides, and turning them over into the sauce blend.

When almost blended, fold in half of the rest of the sauce and Gruyere cheese, then the remaining sauce and cheese. Work rapidly, and do not over-blend.

Scrape the soufflé mixture into the mold. Smooth the top, wrap the parchment band, buttered side in, around the mold to form a tight collar, rising 3 or 4 inches above the top. Fasten at the overlap with 2 straight pins. (The unbaked soufflé can stand at room temperature for about 30 to 45 minutes, away from drafts.)

When ready to bake, place the soufflé on the rack in the lower third of the preheated oven.

Bake the soufflé for 45 minutes or more, until it has puffed about 2 inches into the collar and the top is nicely browned and slightly firm to the touch.

To check whether it is done, open the oven quickly and plunge a long skewer into the side of the puff; withdraw it and close the oven. If the skewer has moist bits of soufflé clinging to it, your soufflé will be creamy inside (and may not hold its height); serve now if you like it that way, or bake for a few more minutes. If the skewer is almost clean, the soufflé is more set and will maintain its puffiness better.

As soon as the soufflé has been removed from the oven, withdraw the pins and unwrap the collar. Immediately bring it to the table.

To serve, hold your serving fork and spoon back-to-back and plunge them into the crust to pull it apart. Spoon out portions that include some of the crusty sides and top, as well as the soft center.

Sources:
"Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" by Julia Child and Jacques Pépin
Detroit Free Press Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen

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