Gary and I have been thinking all things French since we returned from our amazing trip to Paris earlier this summer. We were helping celebrate a very special birthday earlier this month so with our French influence we opted to start our dinner with puffy cheese, spinach and herb souffle paired with a light salad of mixed greens with delicate Parmesan crisps. Never backing down from a challenge, I did 9 individual souffles for our guests instead of making one big one….which meant timing had to be more precise than ever because getting 9 perfectly puffed souffle out of the kitchen before a single one even started to think about falling is no easy task. Happily, they all made it to the table, light, fluffy and perfectly puffed, paired with a vinegar and Dijon filled green salad topped with one of Gary’s perfect crisps. Don’t let the souffle intimidate though, just watch your clock, be careful with your ingredients and know, that even if it does fall, the eggy dish will still be delicious! We served this with a simply stunning bottle of 2008 Hanzell Chardonnay from Sonoma. We had been holding it for something special and it was the absolute perfect pairing.
Cheddar and Herb Souffle with Greens and Parmesan Crisps
Ingredients for the Souffle (for 9):
9 large egg yolks, whisked
10 large egg whites
2 cups milk, warm but not boiling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the ramekins
6 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
Splash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, we used sharp cheddar
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for dusting the ramekins
3 tablespoons chopped fresh soft herbs, we used thyme, parsley, cilantro and basil
4 ounces frozen spinach, cooked and squeezed completely dry and chopped
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the salad:
12 ounces mixed baby greens
1 clove minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepperSprinkle Parmesan cheese
For the crisps:
5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
*a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper
Grease 9 four ounce ramekins with softened butter and dust the inside with grated parmesan cheese. Place on a baking sheet and set aside until ready to fill. Heat milk in a sauce pan over low heat to scald but not boil. In a separate pot heat the butter over medium heat then add the flour stirring constantly. Cook for 3-4 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste then pour in the milk, whisking constantly to avoid any lumps. Season with about 1/2 tablespoon each salt and pepper, the red pepper flakes, mustard and splash of Worcestershire sauce. Turn the heat off.
Add a bit of the milk mixture to the eggs, whisking to incorporate to temper the eggs, then add the eggs into the bechamel milk mixture, whisking to incorporate completely. Add the cheese, whisking to incorporate, then the herbs and spinach. Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Add the whites to either a standing mixer or mixing bowl with a pinch of salt and the cream of tartar. Using an electric mixer start off slowly mixing the whites for 1 minute, then increase to the next level for another minute, then take to full speed, whipping the egg whites until stiff, fluffy and glossy, but not completely hard.
Fold two heaping spoonfuls into the cheese mixture, stirring to incorporate. Then, carefully, add the remaining egg whites, just folding them into the mixture gently enough to incorporate without deflating the whites. Using a ladle or large spoon fill the ramekins with the souffle mix then carefully run a spatula around the inside of the rim to help ensure they will rise evenly.
Place in a 400 degree oven and shut the door. Reduce the heat immediately to 375 and bake for 20 minutes with the oven door shut (check on them through an oven window, but do not open the door.) Carefully remove from the oven and serve immediately with a light green salad.
For the salad:
Add the lemon juice, vinegar and garlic to a small mason jar and shake to incorporate. Leave for about 10 minutes, then add the Dijon, oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Shake to incorporate then refrigerate until ready to use. Add the zest and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese to the greens and toss to incorporate. Then drizzle on about 1/2 of the dressing and toss. If you need more dressing drizzle a bit at a time to the consistency you like (I don’t like a heavily dressed salad, so make to your taste.) Serve topped with a crisp with the souffle.
For the crisps: Make these ahead of time so they have time to harden and set as you are making the souffle.
Pre-heat the oven to 350. Place the silicone pad or parchment paper on a baking sheet and make a 1 1/2 inch wide x 6 inch long strip down the pad, then repeat across the pad leaving about 2 inches in-between each crisp. Use 1/2 ounce of cheese for each crisp so you will make 10 total (1 for you to test as well as 9 to serve.) Bake for about 6 minutes until the cheese has melted and the crisps are starting to turn a golden color. Remove from the oven and let sit for 2 minutes, then carefully remove from the pad with a spatula. Lay on paper towels to help absorb any grease from the cheese. Set aside until ready to serve.