How many of you tremble at just the thought of making a soufflé?
I know, I know….I used to too.
But you know what? Of all the things in this world that you might legitimately fear, making a soufflé shouldn't be one of them. Really…. all the stories you've heard about having to tip-toe around the oven, or the need to speak in whispers when a soufflé is baking are all ridiculous. I'm not sure who started these nasty rumours, but I guarantee you that with just a little attention paid to timing, you too can deliver delicious and ethereally light soufflés to the table without breaking a sweat.
A delicious wedge of Jarlsberg I won from my friend Greg at SippitySup
I mention timing, because not paying attention to your timing when making a soufflé is the one thing that will trip you up if you're not careful. Why? For two reasons really. You see, a soufflé gets its name from the French verb souffler, which means "to blow up", or "to puff up" , and in the case of a culinary soufflé, what causes it to puff up is the addition of whipped egg whites to a flavored béchamel base. As whipped egg whites are rather fragile little things, you need to treat them with care and expediency. Once you gently incorporate the whipped whites into the béchamel base, you need to quickly get the soufflés into the oven to cook. If you let them languish on the counter while you paint your nails or run off to do laundry, the whites will deflate and you'll be left aprés cooking with dense little egg pots as opposed to light and fluffy soufflés.
You'll revisit your concern for timing when the soufflés come out of the oven. Soufflés need to be served as soon as they emerge from the oven in order that they are enjoyed at their maximum peak of puffiness. Within a minute or two at room temperature, they will start to deflate slightly, and while they will continue to taste amazing, you'll lose some of the dramatic effect that make soufflés so special.
That said, if disaster should strike at the moment your soufflés are pulled from the oven, and you need
to run to the kid's bathroom with a plunger in order to unclog an overflowing toilet, don't despair and think all your effort wasted. When you return to the kitchen your soufflés will still be there, perhaps a bit deflated and not quite so proud looking as they were when you pulled them from the hot oven, but they will taste terrific all the same. In fact, last night Boris and I made these in eight ramekins but only needed to feed six. The other two were wrapped and refrigerated, destined for a 45 second stint in the microwave today, one my wife enjoyed for breakfast, the other I just snarfed down for lunch….still delicious.
For this recipe, we used up the last of our chard from the garden, and tossed in a cup of delicious Jarlsberg cheese that I had recently won in a giveaway. To this flavor base we added some shallot, garlic, red pepper flakes and fresh tarragon, and in the end enjoyed some really outstanding soufflés. At 25 minutes of cooking time, they were perfectly set at the edges, but still trembling in the middle, light, but deeply flavorful.
A note on the amount of rise you can expect of your soufflé. Generally speaking, savory soufflés don't enjoy as tall a rise as sweet ones due to the fact that most savories incorporate some rather dense ingredients. In our case here, the addition of copious amounts of chard, and a cup full of cheese makes for a heavier mix than what you would typically find in a higher rising dessert soufflé that has little more than some fruit pureé added to the base. I mention this because I don't want you to be disappointed, or think you've screwed up somehow when your savory soufflé doesn't rise inches above the rim of your ramekins, it's not supposed to.
So don't be afraid, go forth and soufflé, you know you want to.
Chard and Jarlsberg Soufflé
- 6 tablespoons butter (plus extra for buttering the ramekins)
- breadcrumbs for lining the ramekins
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese
- 3 large egg yolks
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup finely minced shallot
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
- 12-14 ounces of trimmed, washed and chopped chard (approx. 2 large bunches)
- 1 -1/2 tablespoons finely minced fresh tarragon
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 425℉ and place an empty sheet pan on a low rack to heat.
- In a medium saucepan, create a béchamel sauce by first melting 3 tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat. Stir in the flour until blended. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring the béchamel to a boil over medium- high heat, whisking constantly until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until the béchamel is very thick, about 12-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the béchamel to a large bowl and, while it is still hot, whisk in the grated Jarlsberg and egg yolks. Cover and reserve.
- In a large skillet, cook the shallots in the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter until translucent, then add the garlic and sauté for about a minute more. Add the Swiss chard, one handful at a time, and cook over medium heat until the leaves are wilted, about 2 minutes per handful. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the red pepper flakes. Stir to incorporate.
- Transfer the chard to a colander to cool, then squeeze dry. Coarsely chop the chard and add it to the béchamel along with the minced fresh tarragon.
- Butter 8 - 6 ounce ramekins (or an 8-cup ceramic soufflé dish) then dust the inside of each one with breadcrumbs, knocking out any excess. Set the ramekins aside.
- In a large stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of Cream of Tartar until firm peaks form. Stir one-third of the beaten whites into the chard-béchamel mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Spoon the batter into the prepared dishes and run your thumb around the inside of the rim to help the soufflé rise evenly.
- Place the ramekins on the heated sheet tray and immediately lower the oven temperature to 350℉. Bake until the soufflés rise and are just golden on top and slightly soft in the center, about 25 minutes for small ramekins (55 minutes to an hour for a single large one).
- Remove from the oven and serve right away with a simple green salad and a loaf of warm, crusty bread.