A Puff of Air
Recently I was asked to share my favorite easy, kid-friendly supper. The question was posed during a Q and A after a talk I gave on healthy kid eating, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I was less than truthful. Mumbling the answer, knowing that the real answer would make me look crazy or worse, pretentious, I responded Macaroni and Cheese.
While I have a terrific Mac and Cheese recipe, using whole wheat pasta, a mix of cheeses and a secret ingredient, there are two many bowls and too much mess for this to be considered easy.
My, or more accurately, our, favorite easy family dinner? Souffle.
Okay, before you click the the “x” button at the left top of your screen, let me explain.
A few years ago, I had introduced a family tradition to our household. According to my mom’s personal folklore, I was in charge of planning and preparing dinner once a week from the time that I was four. So when Thor crossed this threshold in February 2008, we tried to institute this task. Of course, I think my mom must have been much better organized than I. Week 1 was terrific. We made Mac and Cheese (and a giant mess). I was energized, Thor was excited, momentum was with us. Then week two came, quicker than I expected. Tuesday is really the same day each week? I peered into the fridge – no meat, few veggies (at least ones that Thor would let pass his lips). But we did have cheese and eggs.
Now, I’ve told this story several times and when I get to this point, many friends surmise that we prepare omelets for dinner – a perfectly respectable meal as long as your husband doesn’t have some weird egg allergy. He can eat eggs cooked into cakes, cookies, breads, and even casseroles, but not straight up.
With this in the back of my head, I thought I would give the souffle a go. Yes, it can be pretty eggy, but that protein is so stretched out by the puff of air that I thought it had to have a better impact on Mike’s system. It was a huge success, Thor loved it – we even have a video of said souffle and what has become it’s theme music. And so, this is how souffle became my family’s go-to meal.
Regardless of its fancy French name and its temperamental reputation, souffle is a cinch to prepare requiring really only two things:
An electric mixer (You don’t need a fancy stand mixer – though it helps, a hand mixer works pretty well too).
The wherewithal not to peek once it’s in the oven.
With these two, a few eggs, some cheese, perhaps even some spinach, broccoli or other soft vegetable, you too can impress your friends and family. The following recipe is a popular way to use up crumbles of blue cheese in our house.
Blue Cheese Souffle
Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe in Barefoot in Paris
Serves 3-4 depending on appetite and size
4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon for the dish
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, heated to 110 degrees on the stove or in a microwave
pinch nutmeg, cayenne
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
5 large eggs, separated
3 ounces blue cheese, chopped
pinch of cream of tartar
METHODS: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 4-quart souffle dish with 1 tablespoon butter and dust with 1 tablespoons parmesan cheese. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining butter over medium heat until the foam subsides. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes stirring. Whisk in hot milk until smooth and cook stirring for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolks one by one. Add salt, spices, remaining parmesan and blue cheeses and stir until relatively smooth (there will likely still be small chunks of blue cheese). Cool slightly while beating the egg whites. Put the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer, a beat on low speed until frothy, approximately one minute. Add cream of tartar and increase the speed to high and let it go until the whites hold a stiff peak when the beater is lifted. Incorporate a 1/3 of the egg whites into the sauce base by folding very gently. Add the remaining egg whites, combining quickly and softly. Scrape the batter into the prepared dish. Place in the center of the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375. Bake for approximately 45 minutes.