I have been working with meringues a lot lately. At work they are in high demand, probably because they are gluten free, and just about everyone is catching a ride on that train. I have also been trying to revive the Marjolaine, an antiquated dessert that I adore. (It was invented by Fernand Point, chef of Restaurant de la Pyramide, France’s first three-star restaurant, and training ground for many of the biggest names in French culinary arts.)
I’ll post the Marjolaine recipe later, though, because right now I am craving savory (as often happens at the end of a day at the bakery). Luckily there is a meringue-based recipe that is not anything like sweet. The cheese soufflé. If you happen to be trying to improve your culinary skills, the soufflé is a stepping-stone to greatness. It’s really very easy, but still wildly impressive.
This is the basic cheese version, but you can adjust it anyway you like, from the type of cheese you choose to the incorporation of floating garnish, such as fresh chopped herbs, diced ham, nuts, spinach, wild mushrooms—whatever you can concoct in that creative mind of yours.
When serving, take your soufflé dish directly from the oven to the table and set it on a napkin-lined saucer, just like the big boys do.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons bread or all-purpose flour
1-1/3 cup milk, boiling
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 eggs, separated
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Lightly coat the inside of six 8-ounce soufflé cups with melted butter. Next sprinkle Parmesan cheese into the cups on top of the butter and swirl it around to coat, tapping out excess.
- In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir until all is absorbed. Cook for 2 minutes, and do not allow to brown. This is a roux.
- Remove from heat and slowly add boiling milk, whisking vigorously. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg, and return to heat, whisking for another minute until thick. Cool slightly, then whisk in yolks.
- With a hand-held or standing electric mixer (or a whisk and sturdy forearm), whip the egg whites and pinch of salt to stiff peaks. Fold a spoonful of stiff whites into the roux mixture. Stir in cheese, then fold in remaining whites. Fill soufflé cups to the rim with batter, and set them on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the center of the oven, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately.
Once you’ve mastered the cheese soufflé, try replacing the cheese with melted dark chocolate. Use sugar instead of parmesan cheese to coat the soufflé dish, and add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the whipping whites.