Be our guest! Be our guest! Put our service to the test. Tie your apron ‘round your neck, cherie, and we’ll provide the rest. Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes. They can sing, they can dance. After all, Miss, this is France. Beef ragout, cheese soufflé, pie and pudding “en flambe”. We’ll prepare and serve with flair, a culinary cabaret!” Lumière & Chorus, Beauty & the Beast.
Who doesn’t remember Belle’s first dinner in the Beast’s castle? Lumière’s menu was on target. A soufflé announces itself. Élégance at its most high-brow.
When I think of myself, élégance and high-brow don’t come to mind. I met this week’s recipe choice, however, with a feeling of determination and a “What the hell?” attitude, more my style. With Dorie’s pushing, prodding and reminder, “There’s nothing complicated about the dish, although there are three things you should know,” ringing in my ears, I triumphed.
Dorie’s recipe, to my mind, is a classic, using techniques most of us already have in our culinary skill set. Although mine are a bit rusty, it wasn’t hard to put the soufflé together. Nerve-racking, yes. Difficult, no.
A savory souffle usually begins with a béchamel sauce, enriched with egg yolks. The egg whites are later whipped and folded in, to lighten the mixture. For the cheese, I chose a 8-ounce chunk of well-aged gruyère and grated it, easily and to perfection, in my food processor.
I initially introduced one-third of the whipped whites into the béchamel sauce, and then delicately folded in the rest. That step is difficult for those of us who tend to be heavy-handed. I was careful, also, to delicately turn the batter into a soufflé dish coated with butter and bread crumbs.
Since a soufflé is baked at high heat and must be “left alone” to rise, I waited 25 minutes before opening the oven, sliding a piece of aluminum foil over the top to prevent further browning. (If you recall, I am currently in a rental home with a temperamental oven.) After a total of 40 minutes, it was well-risen, firm to the touch and jiggly at the center. Although it had browned more than I would have liked, it did not affect the taste. In fact, I loved the crusty topping.
All we really needed to make this dinner complete was two spoons! Knowing Dorie would probably disapprove, I added roasted asparagus, the first picking purchased at the local farmer’s market, threw a warmed baguette on the table, and poured Harmonie, a Paso Robles white table wine. This is a lovely, light blend of Chardonnary, White Reisling and Muscat Canelli produced by Harmony Cellars, a small winery on California’s central coast. Perfect We even enjoyed it for breakfast the next morning with croissants and raspberry jam. Warmed leftovers, even better!
Once again, Dorie was right in saying, “Really, the soufflé should be ashamed of itself, scaring off cooks for no good reason! There’s nothing complicated about the dish.” To see how other Doristas fared with their own soufflé drama, go to http://www.frenchfridayswithdorie.com/ Oh, about Dorie’s three secrets to souffle perfection? Buy her book: “Around my French Table, more than 300 recipes from my home to yours”. (Page 150.) It costs about the same price as a pound of the cave-aged gruyére I used in this recipe.