Three years ago I woke up on Valentine’s Day, a Sunday, and grabbed my copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which had spent the better part of a year next to my bedside. Deciding it was high time I learned to make a soufflé, I turned to the chapter on entrées and luncheon dishes.
This recipe is a shining example of Julia’s genius as a teacher and a writer. She breaks it down into three parts – sauce, flavor base and egg whites for leavening – that make soufflés not only simple, but easy to remember. Julia also praises the value of a copper bowl for whisking egg whites, which, she claims, increases the volume by a third.
I dressed and headed to the kitchen while Jason showered. When he came down to the breakfast table he found not only a beautiful, puffy, golden soufflé, but a vase filled with hand-arranged, white flowers.
Jason handed me a folded piece of paper. It unfolded to reveal an order receipt for a copper whisking bowl. I fell in love all over again.*
*With Jason. Not the bowl.
Julia Child’s Soufflé Recipe
That morning my first soufflé was flavored with Manchego cheese and jamón Serrano, both Spanish, that we had in the cheese drawer. Here is the recipe below, adapted from Julia Child. Forget all of your fears, soufflés are really quite simple. I have never had one fall in the oven, and entertain of brings lots of big boys stomping around our kitchen. By your second soufflé you’ll have it in the oven within 25 minutes, and served, with a vinaigrette-dressed salad, within an hour.
- 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, unbleached
- 1 cup milk, whole
- White pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- 4 large egg yolks
- 5 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese*
- 1/2 cup diced jamón Serrano*
*You can substitute about 1 cup of cheese and just about anything else you want. Try bacon, sautéed mushrooms, fresh corn, smoked or cooked salmon etc…
- Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Butter the inside of a 2 qt soufflé dish. Add grated parmesan and turn dish to coat, reserving extra cheese.
- Make the béchamel sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 2-3 minutes being careful not to brown the roux. You are cooking the raw flavor out of the flour. When ready, it will smell pleasantly sharp.
- Off the heat, add the milk all at once and whisk vigorously to avoid lumps.
- Return the sauce to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes until it thickens. The sauce will be very thick. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and a pinch each of cayenne pepper and nutmeg.
- Stir the egg yolks, one at a time, into the sauce.
- Next whisk the egg whites, in a copper bowl if you have one, or a freshly cleaned bowl, until they support their own weight on the whisk.
- In a large bowl, stir together the béchamel sauce with the cheese and jamón. Stir in 1/4 of the stiff egg whites. This lightens the mixture so you lose less volume folding in the remaining three quarters of the egg white.
- Gently fold in the remaining three quarters of the egg white, until only a few white streaks remain. Transfer the mixture to the prepared soufflé dish, smooth out the top with an offset spatula (or the rubber one that’s already dirty from folding) and sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Do not open the oven for the first 20 or so. the soufflé is done when the top is golden brown and moves slightly in the middle when shaken. I prefer mine still wet in the center. Serve immediately. Warn your guests ahead of time.