In all the years I've been cooking (that would be somewhere around 23 or 24), I'd never made a souffle before last night. I'm not sure what took me so long. It's not that I was actively scared of souffles or anything. They just seemed like the kind of thing that other people made.
Now, that's going to change. Because last night I made a souffle that convinced me that I too am a person who can make souffles. It's very satisfying. Because it's green garlic season, and because I have a nice supply of chives in my garden at home, I decided to try Melissa Clark's recipe for a souffle using both of them. (When I moved into the house, there was an herb garden partly established here, but over the years, I've been ripping it out. It's not that I'm opposed to herbs by any means. But what was here didn't really feel like a functional herb garden that I would use--all that Greek oregano and creeping thyme and some dying sage. The chives are the exception to this. I was delighted to find them here, and they're the only perennial herb I reliably use. I'm planning to get a bay plant, though--somehow, I like the idea of fresh bay leaves. (And I'm going to try to resist naming it Jason, even if the Red Sox left fielder (Jason Bay, of course) keeps hitting up a storm as he's been doing this season.) )
Anyway, I'm pleased to report that this souffle behaved exactly as it was supposed to. The bechamel thickened on schedule, and the egg whites obediently rose into peaks. I had no Gruyere in the house so used Manchego instead, and that was very tasty. (I always poke around in the leftover-ends-of-cheese bin at Whole Foods (they have a nicer name for it) because I like to buy little chunks of different kinds of cheeses I might not fork out a lot of money for otherwise. If I didn't do this, I would mostly just have extra sharp cheddar and parmesan in the house, so it's nice to have some options.) And even though Alex closed the door rather heavily when he came in, which made me immediately run to the oven and turn on the light to see if the souffle had fallen, it puffed up and turned brown as promised. (And then started slumping almost immediately afterwards, but I've heard that 's just the way it is with souffles, and I didn't take it personally.) The garlicky flavor is mellow--present, but not overwhelming--and the whole thing was just very tasty. Slightly time consuming compared to, say, a frittata, but worth it.
A note about the serving size. Melissa Clark says this will give you six servings. This might be true if you're having the souffle as part of a (much) larger meal. In Alex's words, "Well, if you also had a big pile of mashed potatoes and a cheeseburger, it might serve 6." If you're only planning to eat the souffle with some toast or a salad (or even both), plan on it feeding 2-3 fairly hungry people. Seeing the 6 servings thing, I'd contemplated halving the recipe, so I was very glad I made the whole thing. And I'm even more glad that there's one remaining square for me to eat for lunch. (Alex started picking at it when we were done, and I took it away from him and gave him the container of rhubarb-ginger jam/compote instead.)
And now that I have one souffle under my (metaphorical) belt, I'm already thinking about what the next one might be--lemon? corn? chocolate--and wondering if a souffle pan should be my next kitchen purchase.
Green Garlic and Chive Soufflé With Gruyère
Time: 50 minutes
5 tablespoons butter, more for pan (I used 4 tablespoons and couldn't tell the difference--I might cut this down a bit further next time.)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
2 fat bulbs green garlic, root and green parts trimmed, outer layer removed
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (I used 1%, and it was fine.)
2 sprigs thyme
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus a pinch
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
4 egg yolks and 6 egg whites
2/3 cup grated Gruyère (or other similar hard cheese)
1/4 cup chopped chives.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2-quart gratin dish and sprinkle bottom and sides with Parmesan. Using a sharp knife or food processor, mince garlic.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan and let cook for 1 minute. Add flour and cook, whisking, until mixture is pale golden, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk and thyme sprigs, and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick and smooth, about 2 minutes longer.
3. Turn off heat and whisk in salt, pepper and nutmeg. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in egg yolks, one at a time. Whisk in minced garlic, cheese and chives.
4. In a mixer, whip egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Using a spatula, fold a third of the whites into yolk mixture to lighten it, then fold in remaining whites, taking care not to overmix. As you fold, pluck out and discard thyme sprigs.
5. Spread mixture in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until golden brown and puffed, 20 to 25 minutes.