Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cooking 101–Spinach and Cheese Soufflé

How do we take our life back and shift it toward the direction we want it to go? It can certainly be done, but when others are dependent on our efforts and responsibilities, we must make the shift gradually or we will disrupt not only our own life, but the lives of many others. I have wanted to be a writer since I was in the fourth grade, but I listened to too many other people giving me “good advice.” I figure that if I don’t start now, I’ll never have enough time left to establish myself as a writer.
After today I will report my own saga as I begin the journey of becoming a writer. I’ll log it in this blog under the title of Life 101 and hereafter all my philosophical musings will be recorded there.

I made a spinach and cheese soufflé for lunch today. It worked perfect and I realized what I had done wrong on the previous two soufflés that caused them to flop. That first soufflé I made, the cheese soufflé, turned out great while the other two failed and I really made them the same, other than ingredients. The problem was that I had made a whole recipe for the first one, since that was our entire meal, and a half recipe for the other two, since that was our dessert and a whole recipe would have been too much. Soufflé doesn’t keep.
The problem isn’t making half a recipe, however, that should work out just fine. The problem was that I had baked the two smaller soufflés in the same size of dish that I baked the first one in. And that is a problem. Okay, so now those of you who are already real cooks are laughing your heads off. But, you see, I don’t have a soufflé mold, so I was using one of our pottery mixing bowls which is pretty much straight sided. It’s a little taller that it needs to be, but, measuring 7” diameter across the top and being 4 1/2” tall, it works rather well for a six-cup soufflé.
The soufflé was really quite good, so I’ll give you my recipe, which (I admit) is a variation on Julia’s recipe.
Now I still don’t know if a fruit-based sauce will work in a soufflé, so I’ll have to experiment with that one again. I plan on making a chocolate soufflé this weekend when Lori and Dawn come over for an early turkey dinner before they join Ben and me for our traditional autumn picnic under the aspens (which this year will just be a light snack, or maybe another dessert, and a bottle of wine).
On to the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease your mold or baking dish (straight sided or slightly tapered, but not wider than seven inches at the top and at least three and a half inches tall) with butter. Do not use melted butter, since you cannot coat the dish heavily enough and your soufflé will stick to the sides and collapse. Smear a teaspoon or so of butter with your bare, washed, fingers to be sure to coat the dish thoroughly and thickly. Set aside.

One tablespoon butter
A handful of fresh spinach leaves
2 Tablespoons of onion, finely diced
In a saucepan, sauté the spinach leaves and onion in the butter until the onions are browned and the moisture from the spinach has evaporated. Set aside.
Make a sauce with:
3 Tablespoons of butter
3 Tablespoons of flour
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir for a minute or so. Stir in:
1 Cup milk
Add the spinach and onion, bring to a boil and stir until very thick. Set off heat and add:
4 egg yolks
Add them one at a time and thoroughly stir in before adding the next one. Set the mixture aside.
Add one more egg white to the other egg whites for a total of:
5 egg whites
If you’re feeling vigorous, you can whip the whites by hand with a wire whip, otherwise whip them with an electric mixer making sure you’re whipping all the whites thoroughly and not leaving some only partially whipped around the edges. When the whites begin to look fluffy, add:
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Whip until the whites are shiny and stiff enough that when you lift the beaters up and sideways the peaks don’t curl. Don’t overbeat or the whites lose their loft. If you do overbeat and the whites look grainy and the sheen becomes dull, then add another white, stir in and whip just until you have shiny, stiff peaks.
Scoop a big spoonful of the fluffed whites onto the sauce, add:
1 Cup grated cheese (I used a mix of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, but you need a mostly strong, flavorful mix of cheeses)
Stir the big spoonful of egg whites and cheese into the sauce, then pile the rest of the whites on top and, with a rubber spatula, cut into the center and quickly fold the whites into the sauce. Do not over-fold, which will deflate your egg whites and soufflé is all about being fluffy. Don’t spend more than a minute folding in the eggs and if you have some bits unblended that’s better than deflating your soufflé.
Scoop the mixture into your baking dish and set in the middle of the oven. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees. (I forgot to do this and had a well-browned soufflé. We both actually really liked it that way, but then we both like burnt cookies, too.)
Bake for thirty to thirty five minutes, a few minutes longer than it takes to brown the top. Do not underbake or the soufflé will quickly collapse. In general, soufflés will begin to collapse several minutes after removing them from the oven, so they should be served as soon as you take them out.
Ta Da! Not so bad, huh? The keys to success are to have the right size of baking dishEmbarrassed smile, don’t have an excess amount of sauce or a runny sauce, and make sure your egg whites are fluffed properly.

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