In which it takes me a very long time to get to the point, the point being soufflé.

This was going to be a post about blackberries, because we’re right smack in the middle of a DIY revolution and I’m calling myself a revolutionary because I’ve never been cool and I thought this – this – might be my chance. I was going to pick the berries, and then preserve them elegantly with plums and other berries and Christmas spices, which is a thing I discovered in England (at the Queen’s grocer, no less) and give them to everyone at the holidays, which I believe is the pinnacle of DIY … that is, inflicting crap you made on people at Christmas under the guise of caring even though they know you’re actually just cheap.

Pickers.Anyway. This was going to be a post about blackberries, but it isn’t.

And let me show you why:

Sharp.Prickles. No, thorns. I was expecting a magical time where fat little blackberries would pop right off the plant into my palm, all juicy and lovely, just begging me to turn them into blackberry sorbet and Christmas jam. Instead, the berries were mostly red, and the black ones were almost all hidden behind skin-shredding barbs, almost all of them out of my reach. I think we gave it a solid 40 minutes before Grace was all, “Can we go home now?”

Stupid little jerks.And so we piled into James’ car and headed back home, a little disgruntled. Revolution isn’t supposed to be so prickly, I thought. I didn’t pick enough to do much with, so I turned them begrudgingly into clean-out-the-crisper jam. Which might be my best jam of the season, as it turns out, but I didn’t write it down so I can’t tell you about it until I reconstruct the recipe. Next year.

The surprise of the morning, the thing I’ve been dawdling at telling you about, was the soufflé. One can’t participate in any sort of revolution without a rich breakfast.

I am not sure how one finds himself in his third decade without so much as a taste of soufflé, but neither Grace nor James had ever made or consumed soufflé ever before, not even once. Le shock! Which leads me to believe that there are others. And I hope to correct that.

Soufflé is a kind of fluffy egg cloud filled with cheese, held up by butter and cream, and flavoured with any of many spices, the combination of which makes your kitchen smell like France. Not the sewery smells that unhappy tourists report, of course, but the France of my, and perhaps your imagination. Eggs and cheese. Melting. Fluffy. Clouds. That’s all the introduction I needed.

This recipe was adapted by Molly Wizenberg from Julia Child, and I’ve since adapted it a bit further. Recipes are not things to just read and obey – they are suggestions, and if you have no gruyere but you have gouda, don’t go out and buy a different sort of cheese. And if you feel like cumin seeds? Add those too. Hate nutmeg? Omit it then. This is a dish you can make entirely out of things you already have on hand. And breakfast should never be any more complicated than that.

Classic Cheese Soufflé

(Serves four to six as a main course.)

  • 2 tbsp. finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated gouda cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Butter a six-cup (1 1/2-quart) soufflé dish. I used my Corningware dish that looks like a giant ramekin. I think that’s what’s meant by a soufflé dish. Round. It should be round. Add Parmesan cheese, coating the bottom and sides. Don’t worry if it doesn’t get everywhere.

Warm milk in small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming.

At the same time, melt the butter in larger saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk for about 3 minutes, until it is golden and doughy. Do not let it brown. Remove from heat and let stand for one minute. Pour in warm milk, whisking until smooth. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, another three minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in paprika, cumin, salt, and nutmeg. Add egg yolks one at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. Scrape soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. I made this part ahead, and then went fussed about with the music for a little while, and bothered Nick.

Beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into soufflé base, so that the mixture begins to look airy, and the colour is lighter. Fold in 1/2 the remaining whites while gradually adding cheese, then fold the remaining whites into the batter. Do not stir. If you stir it, you’ll break it.

Pour batter into your buttered dish.

Place dish in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately. People will be excited that you’ve placed this in front of them.

CHEESE CLOUD!Serve with a vegetable. I grilled some fresh pattypan squash (toss halved squash in olive oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper, grill six to eight minutes per side) instead of frying up hash browns because it’s summer squash season.

Cute.

Breakfasty.A little bread and jam is nice too, and bacon makes everything better, so don’t forget that. All in all, an excellent start to the day, even if the day made us bleed. Note to self: Just buy blackberries. And definitely, DEFINITELY make soufflé.

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2 thoughts on “In which it takes me a very long time to get to the point, the point being soufflé.

  1. I love souffle. My father made it every Christmas. And I love blackberries and Molly Wizenberg and Julia Child and a good revolution. Although I have to say that it’s not very revolutionary-ish to kind of “brag” about going to the Queen’s grocer, like you’re all cool and everything and practically her best friend. Just sayin’. Remember the little people.

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