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Cheese Soufflee

Few dishes have the elegance of a hot soufflee. The fluffy baked foam of egg and flavorings has the reputation of being very difficult to make, but really, only two parts of the preparation are unusual. First, you need straight-sided soufflee dishes, specifically made for that purpose, and useful for almost nothing else. (And hard to stack in your cupboard, to boot.) I recommend four-inch-diameter soufflee dishes. Second, you need to hang around keeping your eyes on the things as they bake. It’s not as all-consuming as making a roux, but nearly so.

While most cheese soufflees involve Cheddar cheese, I find the superb melting qualities of Fontina work better, balanced with the tanginess of Pecorino Romano.

  • 1/4 cup very finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbs. flour
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, loosely packed
  • 8 oz. Fontina cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 8 large egg whites, completely free of yolk
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. With your fingers, apply a thin film of softened butter to the insides of the soufflee dishes. Spoon some of the finely-grated Romano cheese into each dish. Cover with your hand and shake until the insides of the dish are coated with the cheese. Set the dishes in the refrigerator while you carry on.

2. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, and allow to cook until it stops bubbling. Combine the Creole seasoning, salt and flour, and add to the butter. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir with a wooden spoon until it becomes a blond roux.

3. Add the chicken stock and milk. Whisk until the mixture thickens, and continue to whisk until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat.

4. Beat the egg yolks with a whisk or electric mixer until they become thick and much lighter in color. Whisk this, a little at a time, until the eggs disappear into the sauce.

5. Add all the remaining Romano cheese and the Fontina cheese to the sauce. Stir with a whisk until completely smooth. (If necessary to finish the melting, turn the heat back on low. Turn it off again after the cheese is melted in.)

6. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until peaks form. Gently stir about a third of the beaten whites into the cheese mixture with a rubber spatula. When blended, fold in the rest of the egg whites with the spatula. (A few streaks are okay).

7. Remove the soufflee dishes from the refrigerator. Load in the cheese mixture into each one, leaving about a quarter of an inch from the top.

8. Cut pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil wide enough to wrap around and overlap the soufflee dishes, and fold them over. Tightly wrap them around the tops of the dishes, with most of the paper above the top of the dish. Tape it in place with masking tape.

9. Bake the soufflees in the preheated 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until browned on top. Under no circumstances should you open the oven door for the first 15 minutes.

10. Get everyone at the table as the soufflees come out of the oven. Remove the paper collars, and serve them immediately in their dishes atop plates.This is especially good for lunch with a small salad of baby greens and vinaigrette on the side.

Serves six.

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