Corn souffle...why don't I make souffles more often?!!
- Carb Lover
I enjoy the aroma of food cooking nearly as much as eating it. It's hard to beat the smell of a Zuni chicken roasting in the oven (it smells like caramel corn, I swear), but tonight came pretty damn close. You see, I made the savory corn souffle that's pictured below, all fluffy, creamy, steamy, dreamy. The smell wafting through my little house is incredible right now...aaah...and has hypnotized me to share the recipe w/ you cooking hounds.
First, if you've never made a souffle, fear not. I don't understand why it has a fussy reputation. It's quite simple, and I haven't made a souffle in years. If you don't have a proper souffle dish, fear not. I don't either. I used an 8" springform pan.
Now that excuses are set aside, let me give you the original recipe that comes from Saveur (July/Aug 96). The recipe was provided by Cafe Jacqueline in SF, famous for their souffles. I've made this exact recipe before, and it's fantastic; however, I made modifications this time based on what I had on hand and increased amounts by 1/3-1/2 (except for fat) to fit the larger pan. I'll note those modifications in parentheses.
Serves 2 generously; my version serves 3-4
5 TB butter, unsalted
3/4 c. grated gruyere (I used 1/4 c. parmesan; 1/3 c. goat cheese crumbles)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. fresh corn kernels (I used 1.5 c. frozen organic corn)
1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced (I used 1/2 tsp. madras curry powder)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper (I used black)
2.5 TB flour (I used 3 TB)
3/4 c. warm milk (I used 1 c.)
3 eggs, separated, at room temp. (I used about 4 yolks and 6 whites)
1. Preheat oven to 450F. Butter souffle dish (6.5"W X 2.5"H) or springform pan. Sprinkle w/ 1/4 c. gruyere or parmesan.
2. Melt 2 TB butter in skillet over med. heat. Saute garlic til fragrant, then add corn and ginger (or curry powder). Stir til corn softens, about 2-4 min. Remove from heat and season w/ S&P.
3. Melt 2 TB butter over med. heat. Add flour and stir constantly w/ wooden spoon for about 2 min. but don't brown. Remove from heat and whisk in half of milk. Return to heat and add rest of milk. Stir constantly til sauce gets very thick, about 2 min. Season w/ S&P, transfer to large bowl, and whisk in egg yolks. Make sure to season generously, since this will also flavor egg whites.
4. Beat egg whites in nonreactive bowl til stiff peaks. Add one scoop of whites to yolk mixture to lighten. Then slowly fold yolk mixture into whites, being careful to not deflate. Also sprinkle on corn and remaining cheese and incorporate. Do not overmix.
5. Spoon into souffle dish or springform. Make sure oven rack is low enough (I baked in lower third). Bake til souffle is browned on top, 18-22 min. Serve immediately. Mine could have gone darker on top, but it was still good and I don't like the insides to dry out.
Nothing smells much better than this heavenly combo of bechamel, butter, eggs, cheese, corn, and curry. I love corn and curry together and thought the subtle tang from the mild goat cheese had a nice cooling effect. Fresh corn would have been better, but frozen ensures that I can make this year round. Now that I'm on a souffle kick, what are your favorite SAVORY combinations (not really interested in sweets)?
Souffles are actually quite easy to make, and fairly indestructible. They really ought to be part of any semi-serious cook's repertoire.
They are also the cheapest glamour meal you'll ever make: if you are of limited means, knowing how to make a souffle will more than compensate for lack of lux food items!
A couple of general suggestions (based on experience) about souffles:
1. It really makes a difference to have all ingredients, utensils and equipment lined up at the ready (a mise-en-place, if you will).
2. You can prepare many souffles in advance (actually a few hours ahead, if you don't have heavy ingredients like corn that might sink in the batter). Have an appetizer course ready for guests and, when all guests have arrived, pop the prepped souffle into the preheated oven to bake. Serve immediately when done.
3. As for equipment, I made my very first souffle in a LOAF PAN! It was still wonderful. However, many recipes recommend that you put an aluminum pie plate underneath the souffle baking container, to reduce the immediate heat impact on the bottom of the souffle and focus initial heat on the sides, to raise the souffle a bit more.
One general problem with souffle recipes is that they are not easily extrapolated for different amounts of servings (eg, you have a recipe for four servings but want to do six). I ended up creating a spreadsheet for four different basic cheese souffles sizes that I now refer to anytime I want to make one. Makes assembling the mise-en-place a breeze instead of a headache.
re: Karl S.
Thanks for your comments, Karl. Wow, your spreadsheet is a great idea. I was wondering how to increase the amounts. My guesstimations seemed to work ok, but I remember the original one being a tad fluffier. Would you mind emailing me your spreadsheet, or at least sharing how you went about calculating proportions? Thanks.
Also had a few questions since the recipe wasn't that detailed:
1. Is it correct to grease the entire container (sides and all) and dust cheese around the entire container? I did this and believe it helps rising.
2. When you prep souffle ahead of time, do you just keep at room temp. til baking?
3. What are your favorite savory combos? Thanks!
re: Carb Lover
I will try to remember to do this when I return home.
To answer your short questions:
3. I just love cheese, mushrooms or finely prepared vegetables (I don't like coarse ingredients because they are likely to sink and they also mar the sublime texture of a souffle according to my palate).
Stop posting those pictures before lunch time!! I had the best corn pudding last week from an Amish market. I wanted a recipe for that, but maybe I'll try this instead this weekend. Thanks for the idea.
re: Eva and Ziv
Not really, no fancy dinner for a Thurs. night. This was the centerpiece, so we ate alot of it! I served some steamed veggies w/ a pat of butter on the side. I think a side salad w/ some sliced apples and shaved fennel would be lovely.
People often think of souffles as "fancy food", but they can be made any night of the week using basic pantry ingredients most people have on hand. I'd rather have a souffle than an omelette or frittata for dinner...
re: Carb Lover
This is really true -- I once made an onion souffle when I was flat broke and needed to serve something at a potluck I was hosting. Since I couldn't afford to buy special ingredients, I looked at the staples I had on hand. It was onion with rosemary, IIRC.
Another fabulous savory souffle was a bacon blue cheese souffle I made for brunch once.
re: Ruth Lafler
I am a big fan of soufflés too, but tend to make sweet rather than savory ones (the sweet ones seem easier to me), and am not confident enough (yet) to just improvise one. Those two you mention sound delicious. It's a lot to ask, but would you consider posting recipes? Or at least one? Please?