Attempting a complicated new recipe in your pajamas really takes the element of danger out of the equation. And, since no hungy guests are waiting, you worry less about your efforts resulting in something edible.
But it’s always nice when it does.
This past Sunday, my husband and I decided to make our first souffle. We purchased a classic white mold and the ingredients we needed Saturday. Through the very thoughtful gift of a reader who despaired at my ever remembering to buy sparkling wine, we also had mimosa makings.
We decided to keep it fairly simple — a proscuitto and Gruyere souffle seemed to fit the bill.
Basically, a souffle is all about:
-white sauce (Bechamel, if you feel fancy)
-perfectly whipped egg whites
-not drinking more than two mimosas while assembling ingredients
White sauce is pretty straightforward. I’ve made it dozens of times, because, gulp, we like chipped beef on toast. There, guilty pleasure revealed.
Whipping the egg whites was easy with the stand mixer, even though I know chefs everywhere would recoil in horror at the idea.
But here’s my take. Work with what you’ve got. There are no Michelin stars on the line. You are basically doing a chemistry experiment. If it goes wrong, take notes, and try it a different way next time. So we chopped and stirred and sipped and whisked. And what we ended up with was a velvety smooth, beautifully browned ham and egg dish that actually filled me up until supper time eight hours later. Now that’s a successful experiment. Though next time, I would add some Dijon mustard to the sauce…
Ham and Gruyere Souffle
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Coat an 8-cup souffle mold with softened butter
Dust inside thoroughly with 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs and set aside
1 Tbps. salted butter
2 Tbsp. minced shallots
1 1/2 cup Bechamel Sauce
1 1/4 cups packed grated Gruyere chees
3/4 cup diced proscuitto
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
pinch of red pepper
pinch of nutmeg
8 large eggs, separated
Melt the butter in a small pan and saute the shallots, just until soft and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
Make Bechemal sauce:
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/4 of an onion
1 bay leave
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground nutmeg
3 Tbsp. salted butter
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
Bring the milk, onion, bay leaf, cloves and nutmeg to gentle simmer over low heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. With a spoon, remove skim that forms on top.
Meanwhile, in a larger saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, then stir in flour. Stir until smooth, and cook about three minutes, until it is bubbly and smells nutty. Don’t let it brown.
Remove the onion and bay leaf from the milk and pour the milk slowly into the butter/flour mixture, whisking constantly to break up lumps. Simmer the mixture over low heat 5-8 minutes, until it thickens.
Stir in sauted shallots, Gruyere, proscuitto, peppers and nutmeg.
Pour the sauce into a large mixing bowl to quicken its cooling time. It needs to be near room temperature when you add the egg yolks so it doesn’t instantly hard-cook them.
While the sauce is cooling, place the 8 egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Make sure the bowl is clean and completely dry. Whisk whites until they form stiff peaks, but are still shiny. You don’t want to dry them out.
When sauce has cooled, beat in egg yolks, one at a time.
Add a large spoonful of beaten egg whites to the sauce and stir it in gently. This helps lighten the sauce so it won’t deflate the remaining whites.
Add the rest of the egg whites and stir just enough to incorporate them into sauce.
Pour mixture into mold and flatten top with a spoon. Using your thumb, make a one-inch groove (up to the first joint of your thumb) in the mixture all around the perimeter of the mold. This helps the souffle rise evenly. And if you’re lucky enough to get it to rise above the rim, you’ll have that distinctive souffle ridge.
Place souffle in oven and bake 40-45 minutes.