Summer is speeding by! I have been super busy with traveling, visitors and summer fun. I am also beginning to pick herbs and vegetables from the garden as well as starting to get shares from our CSA (community support agriculture) program with a local organic farm. We have enjoyed the plentitude of spinach along with garlic scapes, herbs and scallions. One of the recipes mentioned in our CSA newsletter is spinach soufflé. For me, soufflés bring to mind a 1950’s housewife in a dress and heels trying to serve some difficult to make dish to impress her guests. I am not sure if I am alone in this conceptualization but there it is. I did not try soufflés for the longest time because I thought they were demanding and fussy. In truth they are pretty simple, versatile and delicious.
I made a spinach soufflé based on past experience along with an adjusted garlic infusion inspired by the CSA recipe.
Spinach soufflé is a good “company” meal because it has the potential to be well received by most vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. I made it for a mixed group of diners the other night. They were all 20-somethings and included some hungry meat loving guys and a vegetarian. The soufflé was a great hit!! Everyone really loved the light, fluffy, velvety texture, crisp outer crust and savory richness.
One of the keys to good soufflé is careful handling of eggs. Follow the directions below such as bringing the eggs to room temp and carefully separating the whites--no yolk allowed! Start whites whipping on low and increase speed to high. Be gentle with the whipped whites and fold, don't stir. Also, remember food safety. Wash the eggs and your hands. The eggs I get in my CSA are pretty safe since the chickens roam free-- not just free range but actually living out in the fields with school bus coops. Yet even these require a good washing.
One of the fears of soufflé makers is that the soufflé will “fall”. As soufflés cool they do tend to lose some of their billowy goodness. Although they may not be quite as beautifully puffy, they are still as tasty and look pretty good. The best way to prevent puff loss is to serve them immediately when they are done. For this dinner, I had to hold them in a warm oven for about 5 minutes due to a late arrival. They almost made it fully puffed but one collapsed a bit as it was being served yet it still was met with ohhh’s and ahhh’s.
Next time, I am going to try a dessert soufflé.
By Denise Around 5 servings
6 large eggs, room temperature (separated as 5 large egg yolks, 6 large egg whites)
1/2 cup cream or half & half
1 TBSP olive oil
Infusion-3-4 garlic cloves ,smashed a few bunches of fresh herbs lightly chopped (thyme, marjoram, chives, basil, rosemary—whatever you like) or 1-2 tsp dried herbs ( thyme, majoram are good choices) ½ tsp cayenne pepper, ¼- ½ tsp nutmeg, generous pinch of red chili pepper flakes, salt, pepper to taste ( this should be very flavorful)
1 very large bunch of spinach
4 TBSP butter, unsalted, plus extra for pan
4 ½ TBSP flour
1 ¼ cup milk
½ tsp cream of tartar and pinch of salt
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
¾ - 1 cup sharp cheddar or swiss cheese, grated
1. In sauce pan or skillet, heat olive oil and add garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the rest of infusion spice. Stir in cream or ½ & ½ and heat on low till it reaches very low boil. Turn off heat and let this sit for 20 or 30 minutes. You may make ahead and refrigerate.
2. Preheat the oven 375 degrees. Butter one 9-10 cup round or oval baking or soufflé dish or two smaller dishes (4-5 cup) or 4-5 individual sized ( about 2 cups). I think the best are deep and round. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
3.Clean a very large bunch spinach (or two smaller ones), do not dry it. Remove stems. Pour a bit of olive oil in large skillet and heat on low. Add spinach and cook for a minute or two till well wilted. Drain and place back on cutting board to chop up.
4. Separate whites and yolks of eggs. Best way is to wash eggs well and crack in half. Pour white out into bowl while transferring yolk to other half. Pour back and forth, carefully that NO yolk spills into the whites. Once white is all in bowl, put yolk in a separate bowl. If the yolk breaks into white, thoroughly remove with a spoon—no Yolk in whites at all. It is okay to get white in the yolk bowl though. Be sure to put the extra yolk (we use one less yolk than whites) in separate bowl for other use. Eggs should be room temperature.
5. Melt butter in skillet and stir in flour and cook 1-2 minutes. Whisk in milk and cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes or so till thickening. Add cheese and a bit of salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add spinach, cream infusion, egg yolks and set aside.
6. Place egg whites, cream of tartar and pinch of salt in large bowl of mixer and begin beating on low. After one minute, increase to medium speed and after another minute increase to high and continue beating until peaks are forming and whites are glossy and light. You want the peaks to be just firm but not dry or over whipped. Be gentle with this from here on. No hitting the side of the bowl or jarring. A key to good soufflé is light, fluffy yet firm egg whites.
7. Take out ¼ or so of the whites and mix them into the spinach/yolk mixture to lighten it. Very delicately fold the rest of the whites in and gently fold.
8. Put this into prepared pan(s) and smooth the top. If you want you can use the side of the spatula to make a circle in the top which makes the pouff nicer.
8. Place gently in the middle of oven. Bake about 30-32 minutes for a large pan 28 for medium and 22 for smaller pans. Check only about 5 minutes before it should be done. Get everyone seated while soufflé is in the oven and then take it out to table immediately.
Serve with green salad, bread or muffins and fruit.
Lower calorie version_ you can make this with 6 whites and only 4 yolks and skip the cream infusion, just add some herbs to the flour butter mixture. Reduce cheese by half and add more spice, salt and pepper.
Dinner by Denise 2011. All rights reserved. Denise Birdsall