Herb and Cheese Souffle


On Wednesday I wanted something delicious and easy for lunch with friends and did not feel like running to the market. Lunch was was going to have to come from ingredients I could find in the house. A cheese and herb souffle seemed like the most satisfying and efficient recipe to tackle. While many people are intimidated by souffles and scared to see them fall unceremoniously when removed from the oven, they really aren’t all that complicated or difficult. They are however that delicious and well worth the small amount of time needed. The whole thing was less then an hour from start to finish.

You need to make sure you keep a few things straight though:

1) When whipping egg whites make sure that there is not a trace of yolk, fat or oil. Fat of any kind will prevent the yolks from thickening when whipped and you will have to throw them out and start again. Don’t use a plastic bowl, they retain trace amounts of fat.

2) Once your whites begin to stiffen don’t overdo it. Whip them until they begin to peak and become slightly shiny. If they firm up too much they will break down and become watery and clumpy. You’ll have to throw them out and start again.

3) Last but not least, when you mix your whites into the souffle base, do so gently. The fluffy, light texture of the souffle depends on the airiness of the egg whites. By roughly mixing them in you will lose the air and deflate your eggs. If you have a flat, heavy mixture your souffle will not rise properly. Which sort of defeats the purpose.

A few years ago I experimented with Vegetarianism. I really enjoyed it, found cooking to be very satisfying and have never felt better. I lapsed, which happens when you live in the carnivore capital of the world and began to eat meat again. I rarely look back. I did however become a great fan of Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, a thorough source for those leaning away from meat or simply looking for some satisfying yet simple vegetarian recipes

Bittman’s Herb and Cheese souffle is a great primer on the medium and an easy base with which to work as you become more comfortable with the process and creative in your own cooking.

Herb and Cheese Souffle (serves 4 to 6 people)

4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed until hot to the touch
6 eggs, separated
Salt and Pepper
Dash of cayenne or 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 large handful mixed herbs: tarragon, parsley & basil (or your choice) finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 2-quart souffle dish

Put the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. When the foam subsides, stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture darkens (about 3 minutes). Turn the heat down and whisk in the milk, a bit at a time, until thick. Let mixture cool and then beat in the egg yolks, salt, pepper, cayenne and cheese.

Use an electric mixer and whisk egg whites until peaks begin to form and whites shine. Do not over whip. Fully combine 1/3 of the egg whites into souffle base so as to lighten the color. Gently fold in the remaining whites using a rubber spatula or your hands. Be sure not to over mix. Transfer to your prepared dish and cook for 30 minutes. Test the center with a skewer, it should be moist not wet.

Serve immediately.