Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 18 is...

Macadamia Cheese Souffle

3 yolks of large eggs
4 whites of large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5/8 cup finely chopped or grated gruyere cheese
3 tablespoons white wheat flour
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons finely chopped macadamia nuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)

Bring eggs and milk to room temperature.

Grease the inside of a 6-cup souffle dish with 1 teaspoon of the butter and then coat it with 1 teaspoon of the cheese (shake out and discard any cheese particles that do not stick). Cover and chill the prepared dish in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

(Thoroughly grease the inside of the dish, and especially the side walls, because without the butter lubricant, the souffle mixture will stick to the dish and not rise freely. Chilling the dish keeps the butter from melting prematurely and sliding to the bottom during baking.)

Separate the eggs (all four whites in one bowl; three egg yolks in the other).

Prepare a roux with remaining butter and flour, then incorporate milk. Stir in beaten egg yolks. Add remaining cheese and stir until melted. Add nuts. Season with salt and spices. Turn off burner, stir well, and let the sauce cool to, or near, lukewarm (115 degrees F.). This will take about 15 minutes. (To prevent yolks from curdling when you add them to the hot sauce, first warm them by mixing into them one or two tablespoons of the hot sauce. Once the eggs are in the sauce, keep the sauce comfortably below the simmering point. The finer the cheese is grated or chopped, the more quickly it will melt.)

Add cream of tartar to egg whites and beat.

Fold egg whites into lukewarm sauce. But first, lighten the sauce base by mixing into it about one-third of the beaten egg whites on top of the mixture. Using a rubber spatula, cut directly downward through the middle of the mixture. Scrape the spatula across the bottom and up the side of the bowl and repeat. Keep repeating until nearly all the beaten whites have been incorporated into the mixture. (If the sauce is too warm or too cold when you fold in the egg whites, your souffle will not inflate to its maximum volume. Do not fold for more than a minute. Your souffle will suffer less from having some lingering specks of white than it will from not having sufficient volume because it was excessively folded.)

With a delicate touch, spoon-pour the mixture into the chilled souffle dish. If you have beaten the egg whites properly and incorporated them carefully into the sauce, the mixture should almost reach the rim of the dish.

Place the souffle dish on a rack set just below the middle of the oven. Immediately turn down the oven thermostat to 375 degrees F. Without once opening the oven door, bake for 22 minutes (for a moist center) to 27 minutes (for a firmer but still moist center). Your souffle will have risen two to three inches and will have acquired an attractive golden brown crust. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Reserve a teaspoon of both the nuts and the cheese to sprinkle on top of the souffle mixture before it goes into the oven. Experiment with other cheeses, such as Emmentaler and Appenzeller. If freshly grated and used in a blend of milder cheese, Parmesan cheese can give your souffle pleasant zest.

Cheese is just one of numerous possible main ingredients. Should you incorporate meat, seafood, fruits, or vegetables and want to take precautions against having the food pieces settle during the baking period, consider chopping them fine or pureeing them. If your pieces are slightly larger -- which would be true of crab meat chunks -- construct souffle in three layers. First, place half of your souffle mixture in the dish, then add the star ingredient (being careful that the pieces do not touch the sides of the dish), and then cover with the remaining half of the souffle mixture.

If your main ingredient needs to be cooked, partially cook it before you add it to the souffle mixture. Otherwise, it will not be cooked enough by the time your souffle comes out of the oven.

Spices can also be varied, within reason, to suit your whims. Never make the same souffle twice -- do at least one thing differenly each time.

You can give your souffle a decorative dome. Using the end of a wooden spoon or a finger, make a half-inch-deep groove in your mixture, following the circumference of the dish, just before you place the souffle in the oven.

From: Adapted from Kitchen Science by Howard Hillman (Houghton Mifflin)