Thursday, February 19, 2015

#6 - Asparagus Soufflé

Well, I did it.  I made my first soufflé.  I’m not gonna lie, I was kind of nervous.  I got even more nervous when The Hubs informed me that his mom made soufflé all the time.  Yikes… those are big shoes to fill!

I was surprised to find out that there are some fancy words used in making soufflé.  There’s béchamel, a white sauce made from a butter and flour (a roux  in fancy talk) and milk. Béchamel is known as “the mother sauce” of classic French cuisine.  There’s also a bain marie (pronounced: bah-marie).  It’s basically a hot-water bath and it’s used to create a gentle and uniform heat around the soufflé as it bakes. (Head hurting yet?  Don’t let the big words scare ya!).

Bain marie
There are several steps involved in making a soufflé.  It’s rare that I follow a recipe exactly as it’s written, but I didn't want to stray too far with this one.  The only changes I made from the original recipe was that I used lemon thyme because that’s what I had just planted in my herb garden, and I forgot to pick up some shallots so I used yellow onion instead.  The recipe called for sprinkling the extra breadcrumbs on top of the soufflé.  I did, but I don’t know if I’d do it that way again. I also realized that I didn't have 6 8-ounce ramekins and had to use 3 16-ounce ramekins.  That meant adjusting the cooking time, also known as winging it.  I think it turned out just fine. The soufflé didn't puff up as much as I thought it would (might have had something to do with my egg whites or the ramekins), but it tasted fantastic! My mom is bringing some ramekins on her next visit so I see more soufflé in my future!

Asparagus Soufflé
·         Prep time: 10 minutes
·         Cook time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
·         Yield: Makes 6 individual soufflés.

·         1 lb asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
·         Salt
·         1/4 cup chopped shallots (onion works too)
·         1 clove garlic, chopped
·         1 teaspoon fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme), chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
·         4 Tbsp unsalted butter
·         1/2 cup finely ground dry bread crumbs
·         3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
·         1 1/4 cup whole milk
·         1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
·         Pinch dry ground mustard
·         Pinch ground cumin
·         Freshly ground black pepper
·         1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese 
·         3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
·         5 egg whites
·         6 8-ounce ramekins

1 Bring salted water to a boil (1 teaspoon of salt for every quart of water) and blanch asparagus for 2 minutes . Drain. Rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Set aside to cool.
2 Melt 1 Tbsp butter in saucepan on medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme. Cook gently until soft, but do not let brown. About 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3 Purée asparagus and shallot mixture in blender. You’ll need 1 1/4 cups of purée for the soufflés.
4 Butter your ramekins and coat well with the bread crumbs, reserving any leftover bread crumbs.
5 Over medium-low heat, melt 3 Tbsp butter in a medium sized saucepan. Whisk in the flour into the butter, continue to stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Do not let brown. Gradually add the milk to the mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the nutmeg, cumin, mustard, and fresh ground black pepper. Lower the heat to low and let cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (This is your “béchamel”.)
6 After 15 minutes, remove the béchamel from the heat and stir in the cheese. Combine the béchamel and the asparagus mixture in a large mixing bowl. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings. The soufflé base should be well-seasoned. Stir in the egg yolks until well combined.
At this point you can make ahead the soufflé mixture. Refrigerate to store for up to two days. Return to room temperature before proceeding.
7 Preheat oven to 400°F.
8 Prepare a water bath (a bain marie). You’ll need a 9x12 baking dish with at least 2 inch sides and some boiling water.
9 Next, add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and using a mixer, beat the egg whites to firm but soft peaks. (Make sure there are no traces of egg yolk or shell in your egg whites before starting.) Do not over-beat or you’ll get stiff peaks that are dry, somewhat reminiscent of styrofoam.
10 Using a rubber spatula, fold in one quarter of the egg whites into the asparagus mixture, then the remaining three-quarters. Use a light touch to keep from deflating the egg whites.
11 Fill ramekins with the mixture up to a quarter-inch from the top. Place the ramekins in the bain marie baking dish and put the baking dish on the middle rack in the oven. Pour boiling water into the baking dish around the ramekins until the water comes up halfway the sides of the ramekins. 
11 Bake for 10 minutes at 400°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for about 15 minutes more, until puffed up and golden brown. Don't open the oven door until the soufflé is just about done, or it may fall.

You can serve the soufflés immediately.  If you are going to serve them later, let the soufflés sit in the bain marie for 15 minutes. Then run a sharp knife around the edges and invert the individual soufflés to a buttered baking sheet. Cool to room temperature, wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Return to room temperature before re-heating. Heat oven to 400°F and bake the soufflés on a buttered baking sheet, not in ramekins, for 7-8 minutes, and serve.

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

(#6 of 52)

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