December 4th, 2010

Spinach Souffle, simply

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Dramatic, but daunting. The ideas we have about souffles, these grand poofs, these amazing gastronomic feats of egg magic, are indeed lofty. Unreachable. With the risk of failure seeming so great (oh no! deflated! defeated!) souffles are the stuff of the Cordon Bleu, the men in towering toques, reserved for the creme-de-la-creme.

Why bother?

But making a souffle is really not as mysterious or difficult or time-consuming as you might believe. Mais non, mes cheres. A French woman assured me of this.

A mother of three, Francoise has lived in many places around the world, due to her husband’s job. During her two years in Nashville, Francoise worked with us in the Culinary Arts Center at Second Harvest. We had fun cooking together, and I would ask her about the kinds of meals that she liked to make for her family. I was stunned when she told me that a favorite dinner was cheese souffle.

“It is so simple, my daughter often makes it,” she said.

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Her daughter was fourteen at the time.

Noting my wide eyes and dropped jaw, she smiled. “I’ll give you the recipe.”

Inspired by Francoise (and her daughter!), I made her cheese souffle. It was a dream, and all negative thoughts about the dish vanished.

Today, I had some fresh spinach from the market, and a lone leek snatched from Gigi’s garden. I also had a small piece of Comte’, an artisanal cheese crafted in the Jura Mountains of France. It is similar to Gruyere, but creamier. It was one of Francoise’s favorites; when I saw the cheese at the store yesterday, it made me think of her. And, Souffles!

A souffle recipe is very adaptable, and with a little preparation, you can transform kitchen staples–eggs, butter, milk, cheese–into something savory and cloudlike.

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The flavor base of all souffles is a roux, expanded with milk into a thick white sauce, or bechamel. To this, you add whatever vegetable saute or puree you would like. As I write this now, I’m imagining a roasted artichoke souffle or puree of asparagus, come spring. Hmmm.

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Once you’ve created your base, it’s time for egg magic! Beating the yolks into the cooled bechamel mix helps form a rich custard. And beating the whites into soft wavy peaks is the trick to expanding that custard into a cloud.

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A light hand is needed for folding the whites and custard together, but it does not have to be perfectly mixed. Some traces of white are bound to remain–it’s not a big deal.

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Do remember to have the oven preheated. And, you’ll enjoy the crust made from the breadcrumbs and grated parmesan on the sides and bottom of the souffle. When it’s time to serve, be sure to scoop out some of the soft interior with the crusty edges.

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Francoise also told me, “You must wait for the souffle, but it will not wait for you.” Patience is a factor, and yes, the souffle is best enjoyed right out the oven. But, no worries gathering everyone to the table. They will be eager to see your triumph, and dig their spoons into the savory ethers.

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SPINACH SOUFFLE with LEEKS and COMTE’ CHEESE
4 Eggs, separated
4 Tablespoons Butter, plus 1 Tablespoon Butter
2 T. grated Parmesan
2 T. Breadcrumbs
1 Leek, sliced
1 clove Garlic, minced
4 T. All Purpose Flour
1 cup 2% Milk
2 c. chopped fresh Spinach leaves
1/2 c. shredded Comte or Gruyere cheese
1/4 t. each Salt and Pepper
pinch Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 2 qt. souffle dish or casserole with 1 T. (or so) butter, and dust with grated parmesan and breadcrumbs.

In a saucepan, melt 4 T. butter. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Saute leeks and garlic for two minutes, until soft and translucent. Stir in flour and cook the mixture like a roux.

Slowly pour in the milk, and continue cooking until it becomes a thick, glossy white sauce. Stir in spinach and cook until the it is collapsed throughout the mixture.

Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Allow to cool somewhat before beating in the egg yolks, one at a time.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. The whites should be stiff, but smooth, pliable—not chunky or granular. ( This happens if they are overbeaten.)

Add a couple of dollops of whites to the spinach mixture to lighten it.
Then, using a spatula, fold the spinach mixture back into the remaining whites in a gentle circular motion, until well incorporated.
(It’s okay if a few streaks or tiny lumps of white remain.)

Spoon into prepared souffle dish and bake in the center of the over for about 30 minutes.

Serve immediately! Serves 4.

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Posted in Breakfast, Casseroles, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Recipes

25 Responses to “Spinach Souffle, simply”
  1. Katie@Cozydelicious Says:

    Your souffle is beautiful! It’s true… souffle freaks me out! For no good reason I’m terrified of making them. But I need to face my fear!

  2. Kath Says:

    It is true, I am always a bit nervous about making souffles, but once attempted they always taste good, even if they don’t rise as majestically as hoped. Yours looks delicious and I think I will give it a go.

  3. Barbara Says:

    What a fabulous souffle! I make a cheese souffle that’s wonderful, but have never tried spinach. Everyone loves spinach in my house too. This is a must try for me!

  4. Faith Says:

    Now that is a truly beautiful souffle! The addition of spinach makes is absolutely perfect and I love the comte in there!

  5. blackbookkitchendiaries Says:

    What a perfect looking souffle. Cannot wait to try this out. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Beth Says:

    Simple? If you say so! It certainly looks delicious.

  7. marci mayer Says:

    we are making it now. It is about to go in the oven. I cannot wait to take a bite.

  8. My Little Expat Kitchen Says:

    I don’t know if I could call making a souffle an easy task but you certainly make it look easy Nancy. It looks amazing! I have to try that Comte cheese.
    Magda

  9. Tracy Says:

    There is nothing more endearing than a fallen souffle. This looks delicious (an understatement).

  10. Michele Napoli Says:

    What a gorgeous souffle–a perfect supper. And you sure make it look easy!

  11. Karen Says:

    This is the most beautiful spinach souffle I’ve ever seen, Nancy! So simple and yet so sophisticated. I’d love to have this for dinner tonight. :-)

  12. chocolate freckles Says:

    Love spinach souffle.. when it starts raising is so exciting!! hahahaha

  13. Juliana Says:

    Oh! Your souffle looks delicious with spinach, so light and fluffy…what a great meal. Great pictures as well :-)

  14. nancy Says:

    Gorgeous! Oh, how I love souffles, especially of the savory variety. The combination of spinach and comte sounds perfect. Merci to you and Francoise!

  15. FOODESSA Says:

    It’s always a treat to come visit you Nancy.
    For some reason, I felt in this post that I could have been right by your side learning how to make this scrumptious treat. It must be your photos…or is it the way you express yourself. Anyhow, enough of the mushiness…this post was one of my favourites ;o)

    BTW…I have yet to tackle the soufflé. ;o))
    I get the feeling this one will be my very first savoury try.

    Flavourful wishes and a fab day,
    Claudia

  16. dsquareds Says:

    Good things come to those who wait

    dsquared shirts

    - shakwandee5ha

  17. foodonfifth.com, Teresa Blackburn Says:

    That looks like the perfect meal. I have made a few souffles and you are so right about them being easy & simple. I think, as Americans, we just assume anything “French” is over-the-top and will be difficult or take to much time, but how wrong we are on this.
    Thanks for making me think about souffles again. Lovely post. Teresa

  18. deeba Says:

    Oh yes, good food matters; and this is the most delicious souffle I have seen. The post is beautifully written as well… gorgeous!

  19. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Oh, Nancy, it is perfect!

  20. Tammy Says:

    How beautiful is that? I adore egg dishes and especially those with greens. I have so many greens on hand right now that I may have to attempt a variation on this one.

  21. Sook Says:

    Mmmm I want to make this for brunch on Christmas day! :)

  22. mark Says:

    Alot easier than volume i by Julia Childs. And easier clean up.

  23. Joyti Says:

    I’ve only made two types of souffles (raspberry rose and orange vodka)…but a savory souffle sounds delectable! And looks pretty good too :)

  24. Ingrid Says:

    I don’t know if this would be easy….but it looks great!

  25. Kristi Wright Says:

    I just found your site and I am so glad that I did. Your recipes are wonderful and I cannot wait to try this one.



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