February 21, 2012

Gruyere and Speck Souffle

I have seen so many cooking shows and books and articles telling me not to be scared of souffle.  And I'm not one to back away from a challenge, especially in the kitchen.  I read a whole bunch of recipes and articles until I figured out what I wanted my souffle to be, picked up a set of baby ramekins, and dove right in!

This souffle contains gruyere cheese, asparagus, and speck ham.  Speck is kind of like prosciutto, but has a pronounced flavor of juniper berries.  You can even see the pieces of juniper berries still in the slices.  I had gotten sick of prosciutto (yes, I realize how ridiculous I am) and wanted to try something new.

Not Prosciutto!
The most important technique in souffle construction is tempering, which is the slow addition of one substance into another substance to make the two more equal.  In this case, the hot thickened milk will be added slowly to the beaten egg yolks to bring them up to temperature before adding it all to the hot milk, avoiding scrambled eggs.  Another example is thoroughly incorporating one quarter of the fluffy egg whites to the thick souffle base to lighten the texture and allow for easier addition of the rest of the whites.  These are crucial steps to ensure a light souffle without chewy bits of egg yolk.

So here it goes, guys . . . Nervous?

Gruyere and Speck Souffle
4 tbsp unsalted butter + butter for brushing the ramekins
2 tbsp parmesan cheese for dusting the ramekins
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk, warmed
1/2 tsp salt, pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
6 large eggs, separated
6 oz shredded gruyere cheese
2 oz speck
2 oz of asaparagus - blanched and cut into ~1 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (Egg white insurance)

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Butter the ramekins and then sprinkle the inside with the parmesan cheese.  This technique allows the souffle to "climb" the walls of the ramekin and add a little salty bite to the edge.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Whisk in the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and allow the butter-flour roux to cook for about 2 minutes, until it is slightly darker in color

Over low heat whisk in the milk until the mixture is smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes.  Add the Off of the heat, whisk the 6 egg yolks until creamy.  Temper the egg yolks by adding a little of the thickened milk mixture, then add the rest of the yolks slowly into the milk.  Let this cool off of the stove before adding the cheese, speck and blanched asparagus.  This is called the souffle base.  The base can be made a day in advanced, refrigerated and covered with plastic wrap directly touching the base to avoid a "skin" on top.

Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the egg whites (with the cream of tartar) in a separate bowl on medium-high until frothy.  Then, increase the speed to high until glossy firm peaks form.

Add about a 1/4 of the egg whites into the souffle base to lighten the texture.  Fold the remaining egg whites in gently with a rubber spatula in 3 batches.  Do not worry about completely mixing the whites in, there will be some variations in texture.

Pour the souffle mixture into the prepared ramekins, up until a 1/2 inch below the rim.  Bake in the bottom 1/3 of your oven for 20 minutes, until the souffles just set as puffy and golden brown.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR UNTIL IT IS DONE!  

See?  Not so hard!  The way I see it, this recipe is versatile as long as you maintain the same total weight of all things that I added, 10 ounces.  If you want it super cheesy, all cheese.  Bacon purist?  Crumble in 2 ounces instead of the speck.  You could even change up the spice(s) added to the roux to change the flavor profile.  Get in your kitchen and experiment, that's the way I learned how to make a souffle!

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