Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New thing #40: Voilà! Soufflé

One of the things on my short list when I started this project was to channel my inner Julia Child and make a soufflé. I really want to be a better cook than I am, and this seemed like a nice challenge. I was tempted to make a chocolate soufflé, but I decided to stick to the classics instead. I had this recipe, and what better way to honor a traditional French dish than with a mixture of Italian and Swiss cheeses?

Senior was out of town, but both The Boy and The Girl were home on a weekday night. This is a rare occurrence and deserving of a special occasion meal. Unfortunately I didn’t have most of the key ingredients. I headed out to the grocery store, but I don’t seem to be physically able to enter a Kroger without filling a cart. By the time I got home it was after 8:00 pm and both had eaten. Undeterred, I got out my utensils, put on a fancy polka-dotted apron (really) and pre-heated the oven.

Soufflés are actually pretty easy to make! It’s basically a white sauce with cheese and eggs. My Food Network addiction finally paid off as I had no problem thickening my sauce, grating the cheese, separating and tempering egg yolks and beating egg whites into beautiful tall foamy peaks. Everything folded together nicely, and in less than 20 minutes I had six ramekins ready to go in the oven.

I reminisced while I cooked. My mother’s mother was a home economics teacher, but she was not the warm fuzzy type that liked to cook with her grandchildren. My strongest memory of her is being told to get my hair out of my face. Mom cooked to please my father, who felt that salt was the only necessary seasoning. Spaghetti sauce was a can of undiluted condensed tomato soup, salad dressing was defrosted lemonade concentrate, and casseroles were barely tolerated. Now, sometimes meals were more exciting. At least once a summer my dad would bring home live lobsters and we’d feast. On occasion we ate stuffed beef heart, venison stew, and roast duck. But a typical dinner at our house was plain meat, boiled potatoes and frozen vegetables all cooked into submission and served swimming in butter and salt. It's no wonder that exotic foods would become a passion in my adult life.

My creation
Since I’ve never eaten a soufflé, I had no idea how they should look on the inside or how they should taste. When the timer went off, I took one out of the oven to check for doneness. The Girl and I dug in our spoons, but the middle hadn’t set. She accused me of trying to give them salmonella, and The Boy refused to even try it. But after another five minutes they were done and beautifully tall. We admired the golden brown crust. We poked them and watched them deflate. We entertained ourselves by calling out "Ermahgerd! Serfler!!" The only part we didn’t really enjoy was eating them. 

Basically, a soufflé tastes like eggs. Hot, cheesy, kinda wet scrambled eggs. It would be a great choice for a Sunday brunch or as a light dinner with a salad and a glass of wine. It was not a great choice for college-age kids who had already filled up on cereal and Sweetarts, and were on their way out for the evening. Nevertheless, my inner Julia was satisfied.

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