I remember the first time Soizic, my apartment mate in Rennes said she was going to make a cheese soufflé. It was a dark winter evening and there was nothing much in the kitchen for us to make for dinner. Both of us were feeling too lazy or too tired to run out to the store for something substantial, so Soizic said, “Oh, I’ll just make a cheese soufflé.”
Just? Clearly, this woman had not been brought up on the seventies sitcoms (The Brady Bunch and Bewitched are the two that come immediately to mind). There, soufflés in the oven provided the plot tension for episodes whose central gags were loud noises that inevitably made the puffy concoctions go flat as a pancake. She’d never watched and re-watched and studied Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, whose culinary progress from failing miserably at her first soufflé (forgetting to turn the oven on) to offering to whip up one for Humphrey Bogart with eggs and saltine crackers epitomizes her cordon bleu training in Paris. Nope, Soizic had no hang-ups about soufflés. They were just what you made when there was nothing in the house to eat but eggs and cheese. By the time she’d finished making dinner that night, my hang-ups were gone as well. Serves 4
4 oz./100 g. butter
1/2 cup/75 g. all-purpose flour
2 cups/500 ml. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 eggs, separated
2 cups/125 g. grated Gruyère or Emmenthaler cheese
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Butter a 6-cup soufflé dish.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon, one minute, or until no lumps remain. Add milk and continue to cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, or until the sauce is thick. Remove from heat, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk in egg yolks and fold in cheese. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into white sauce with a spatula. Transfer to prepared soufflé dish and bake 30-40 minutes, or until soufflé is puffy and golden brown on top. Serve immediately with a green salad.