Beef ragout , cheese soufflé, Pie and pudding “en flambe”
We’ll prepare and serve with flair, a culinary cabaret!
You’re alone and you’re scared,
But the banquet’s all prepared.
No one’s gloomy or complaining
While the flatware’s entertaining.
We tell jokes, I do tricks
With my fellow candlesticks
And it’s all in perfect taste– that you can bet!
Come on and lift your glass
You’ve won your own free pass to
Be our guest, be our guest, be our guest!
— Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Luscious Cheese soufflé. Ahhhh– I can still remember, as a child, putting on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and watching, spellbound, while the characters prepared an incredible feast for Belle, while her eyes shone with anticipation and pleasure. I could almost taste and smell the banquet being prepared, and I always wanted to try those dishes with the exotic sounding names– beef ragout, cheese soufflé . . . pudding en flambe . . . just what WERE those magical dishes? Anything that sounded so beautiful, even just saying the words, had to be incredible. I just knew it.
Soufflés are incredibly versatile. You can make them savory or sweet, accent them with fruit or fresh herbs, and craft their flavors to be complex or simple, by accenting various ingredients and tastes. The best part is that you can make them ahead and refrigerate them, ready to pop into the oven when you get home from work. That means that you can set pillowy–soft, incredibly fun individual cheese soufflés in front of your family in 20 minutes after you step through the door, pair them with a green salad, and dinner is served. You super-parent, you. So let’s take the words of a childhood song and turn it into reality. Try the gray stuff– it’s delicious. And it is. Oooh, it is.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Cheese Soufflé with Garlic and Thyme
(adapted from The Kitchn)
3 egg yolks
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
4 tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Butter and Parmesan cheese for dusting baking ramekins
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, so it will be nice and hot when your soufflés are ready to bake, as they need to go into the oven immediately. Also, prepare your baking ramekins by buttering the dishes and dusting them with parmesan cheese. Over low heat, simmer butter and minced garlic until garlic is fragrant (about 4 minutes). Stir in flour and seasonings and then add in milk, little by little, whisking as you add. Cook liquid over medium low heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture thickens to the consistency of gravy. Add in cheese and stir until cheese has melted. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool slightly. Temper egg yolks by mixing 1/4 cup of the warm cheese mixture into the yolks, in a separate bowl. Gradually add the yolk mixture into the cheese, whisking constantly as you do. Meanwhile, with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until mixture forms stiff peaks. Add about 1/2 cup of the egg white to your cheese mixture and whisk it in, to “lighten” the mixture enough so that it will be foldable. Fold the egg white into the cheese mixture, gently, until the ingredients are combined. Fill your prepared ramekins and smooth the tops of the soufflés. Wipe the mouths of the dishes so that no extra egg stops the soufflés from rising. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Do not crack the oven, even to check their progress, or the little darlings will fall and deflate. After 20 minutes, you may open the oven, and if they aren’t golden brown, let them bake a few more minutes. Serve immediately.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
To start with, let’s start with the key component of the best French cooking . . . BUTTER!!! 🙂 Melt your butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add in your minced garlic and let the two tango in there, for a few minutes. The butter will absorb all that delicious garlic flavor, and you will reap the benefits. You’re welcome.
Also, go ahead and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Soufflés have to go right into the oven when they’re ready, so you want the oven ready to receive all that goodness. 😉
While we’re talking prep, let’s also get our ramekins ready. Butter your ramekins inside– I used a paper towel and smeared the butter around inside. Smear the sides and bottom really well, being sure to get all the crevices.
When you’re finished buttering, dust the inside with parmesan cheese. This buttery, cheesy layer will be like a little unexpected layer of magic in your finished product 😉
By now, your butter should have simmered for several minutes, and it should be feelin’ all that garlic lovin’. Go ahead and add your flour, salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir them in there and form a nice paste.
Slowly add your milk, stirring well and scraping the bottom. Keep adding milk and stirring. Think deep thoughts.
Once you get all the milk stirred in, it helps to switch to a whisk. It just makes it easier to thicken the mixture without getting lumps in there. Heat the mixture and whisk, occasionally, being sure you scrape all corners of the pan so no flour sticks in there. As the mixture heats, it will thicken. You want it to be about the thickness of gravy, so keep whisking and heating until you get to that point, and when it gets there, you can turn the heat off.
Add in your shredded cheese (I used a mixture of provolone and mozzarella cheese, but you can use whatever kind you like) and stir. Even though the pan is off the heat, it should still be warm enough to melt that delicious cheese into oozing goo in no time.
While your cheese is at the sauna having a spa day, get your egg whites going. Whipped egg whites are the secret ingredient in soufflés– they are the magical “lift” that gives them that glorious little soar for a few fleeting minutes out of the oven. They are the wind beneath soufflé wings. They are the air bubbles that pump hope into the whole ‘shebang and give it the power to defy gravity for a few moments. It’s a beautiful thing.
Take your 6 egg whites and your 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar and whip the whites with the whisk attachment of your mixer. This process takes about 8-10 minutes, so let those whites whip while your cheese is melting. You’re such a multi-tasker. I love working with you.
Let’s check on that cheese. Ooooh . . . it’s looking delicious and melty! YUM. Please let someone banish me to an island where my punishment is to eat cheese for the rest of my life. That would be such . . . punishment. (Cough, cough). Let that cheese sit there, off the heat, until your egg whites have formed stiff peaks. This means that you can lift the whisk out of the egg whites, and the “point” of egg white won’t bend at all– it will stand straight up like your toddler’s hair when he wakes up in the morning. 😉
While the whisk is doing the tango with those egg whites, let’s temper our egg yolks. WHAT?? Take our eggs’ TEMPERATURE? No– not “temperature”– “temper.” Tempering the eggs just means to kind of ease the cold yolks into the hot sauce. If you just throw the eggs in there, they will scramble. Eeeewww. We want a thick, velvety sauce, so we need to ease those yolks in, gradually. To do this, take about 1/4 cup of your hot cheese sauce and stir it into the yolks, in a separate bowl. This raises the temperature of the yolks, a little bit, without shocking them into scrambling. Now, whisking constantly, slowly drizzle your egg yolks into the cheese mixture. Keep stirring and adding slowly, and before you know it, all those yolks will have danced their way into the sauce, and there won’t be a scrambled egg in sight. You’re so smart.
By now, the egg whites have probably reached stiff peaks, so let’s take about 1/2 cup of egg white (eh– a big ‘ole plop of the spatula works just fine– just take a guesstimate) and whisk that into the cheese/yolk mixture. This is called “lightening” the cheese mixture. We want to make it a little fluffier so that we can fold in the rest of the whites. I like to add my cheese to a big bowl and then gently fold in the egg white in 3 separate “adds.” If you try to add all the egg white at once, you will probably have to stir it so hard to get everything combined that you will deflate the egg whites. If you add the egg white in thirds, and fold in after each addition, it’s much easier. Folding just means that you kind of scrape your spatula around and under the mixture, rather than just stirring it. Wrapping the ingredients around and around themselves keeps the egg whites fluffy and gives you kind of a cheese whipped cream/fluffy looking creation. Don’t overmix– fold just until the ingredients are combined and you don’t see separate colors (mine in the picture isn’t finished yet– I just wanted to show you what it looked like to fold in ingredients).
When your ingredients are nicely incorporated, go ahead and gently spoon the mixture into your prepared ramekins. Use a table knife to smooth the top of the soufflé, and then use a paper towel or moist kitchen towel to wipe off the rim of the cup so that you don’t get any baked edges stopping the soufflé from rising. Put the soufflés right into your 400 degree oven that you were clever enough to preheat before we began this whole process (you brainiac, you!). Let them in there for 20 minutes. Now, this is important. Are you listening? Are you sure?
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OPEN YOUR OVEN DURING THIS 20 MINUTES!!!!
I’m serious. Don’t crack it to see if they look good. Don’t open it for a second to rotate your pans. Don’t say, “My oven light is broken. I just need a quick peek.” Don’t do it. Don’t pass Go. Don’t collect $200. Just say NO.
You see, heat gives the egg whites that magical lift that soufflés need to become big, fluffy, gorgeous creations. If the cold air hits these babies, the romance is all over, and the spell is broken. In fact, soufflés are best eaten right out of the oven, because, like Cinderella’s spell that was over at the last stroke of midnight, soufflés can defy gravity for just a few minutes, once the heat’s magic is gone. Even a perfectly made soufflé will start to slowly sink as soon as it is taken from the oven. It’s so weird to watch them ever so slowly sink down and deflate. They don’t completely deflate, but the egg whites can only do so much, and you want to keep the oven closed to give the brave little guys every chance to rise as high as they can before the spell breaks.
Every oven is a little different, but after 20 minutes, they should be past the danger zone, and you can take a peek. If they aren’t golden brown, give them 2-3 more minutes. Just don’t overbake them. They should be gorgeously puffed up and golden brown when they are perfectly done.
Serve them immediately, because, as I said, the spell lasts only a few minutes. However, if life happens and the kids aren’t sitting or your husband forgot that he left his cell phone in the car . . . they will still taste amazing, even if they are a little deflated. But make sure you appreciate them in all their lifted up, high-flying glory, before the beauty begins to fade.
Look at those gorgeous, fluffy tops of cheesy loveliness. Aren’t they gorgeous? Sigh.
You can actually assemble these soufflés the night before, cover them with plastic wrap, and pop them in the oven when it is preheated. There is nothing like a hot, effervescently light, cheesy dish to warm heart and soul on a cold winter evening. Pair these little beauties with a green salad, and dinner is served. And even if your family is late to dinner and the soufflés deflate a little bit, they will still be delicious. I mean, who would turn down a cloud made out of cheese?
Not my people.
Because you did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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