Adventures in soufflé, with soup on the side

Jé had been telling me for literally years that he was going to make me a cheese soufflé. It was one of his first promises, along with a strawberry pie (that I still haven’t tasted yet). Yesterday, before we went grocery shopping, the traditional question of “what should we eat this week?” was put on the table. I requested a soufflé.

We went to the store and got everything we needed, along with a nice big head of cauliflower. I’d been wanting to dive into soup season for awhile now, and decided that cauliflower and cumin soup would be the perfect start to the winter. When we got home we were hungry. Something about the cold, about the changing of the seasons, made our light lunch not quite stretch into evening as it usually does. Luckily, we needed to start early, as a soufflé takes a bit of time to prepare.

I decided to leave the reins to my better half, because it was, after all, his recipe. I couldn’t help but watch him, spying on him, making sure he did everything just right, and giving him advice. A soufflé is not, contrary to popular belief, complicated to make. It involves very few ingredients, but each step is capital and long, giving your arms a good workout with all of the constant stirring and whisking.

I must say that I was quite disappointed with the final result. It was good, but not that good. The end didn’t justify the means for me, but it was fun to do nonetheless. The cauliflower soup, however, was divine, and ultra simple to make. Both recipes are found below.

Comté and gruyère soufflé

Ingredients:
50 g butter
50 g flour
75 cl of milk
2 T crème fraîche or heavy cream
5 eggs + one extra white
1/4 C grated gruère
1/4 C grated comté
1 pinch of nutmeg
Generous serving of salt and pepper

Start by making the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan on low heat. Once it’s completely liquified, sift in the flour, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Continue stirring until the mixture starts to foam slightly; once this happens, add in the milk all at once and up the heat (to medium-high). Now comes the workout. Whisk this sauce until it thickens considerably, anywhere from 5-10 minutes. This is your béchamel.

Turn of the heat and add in your nutmeg, salt, pepper and cheese. Give it a good stir and go take care of your eggs. Separate the egg whites from the yolks, incorporating each yolk into the béchamel (one by one, mixing well after each addition). Make sure the bowl you use for your egg whites is clean and dry. Once all of your yolks are incorporated, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. Adding a pinch of salt of a few drops of lemon juice will help them form. You should also take your eggs out of the fridge about 30 minutes before beating them.

Once the whites have formed stiff peaks, gradually incorporate them into the mixture of béchamel and delicious cheese (being careful not to stir too much, and proceeding by 1-2 large spoonfuls of egg whites at a time). Once the whites are incorporated, that’s it! Generously butter your ramekins or your baking dish, and fill it up with this mixture, leaving at least 1 inch (maybe even 2) of space between the mixture and the top of the dish. Your oven should be at 400°. Let the soufflé cook for 20-25 minutes (a little less if you’re using ramekins), and whatever you do, don’t open the oven door for the first 20 minutes of cooking time! Once the soufflé has risen considerably and the top is golden, it’s probably done. You’ll know for sure once you open the oven and stick a knife in; if it’s clean, you’re ready to eat!

Cream of cauliflower and cumin soup

Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed
1/4 C butter
2 T crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/2 C milk
1 1/2 C of stock (vegetable or chicken)
2 T of cumin
Generous serving of salt and pepper

Blanch your cauliflower for about five minutes (discard the stems). Drain the excess water and sauté the cauliflower in a large pan with the butter, until it starts to brown, about five minutes more. Add salt and pepper. Once your cauliflower is ready, add the stock and the cumin and let the mixture boil for about 15 minutes.

Once the cauliflower is well cooked through, transfer to a bowl or mixer. Add your milk, a little at a time, and blend (this soup is meant to be creamy, so don’t hesitate to spend a few minutes on this step). Once the soup is well blended, stir in the crème fraîche and adjust the seasoning, if need be. You can reheat the soup before serving if it isn’t hot enough. Serve with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper for a little color, if you like it spicy.

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