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This is the easiest cheese soufflé ever thanks to a genius (accidental) shortcut from Jacques Pépin's mom.
"When my mother got married," says Jacques, "she was seventeen and my father was twenty-two. She did not know how to cook, but my father liked cheese soufflé, so my mother graciously obliged. She had never made a soufflé before, but a friend told her that it consisted of a white sauce (béchamel), grated cheese, and eggs – a cinch! To the béchamel, that staple of the French home cook, she added her grated Swiss cheese and then cracked and added one egg after another to the mixture, stirred it well, poured it into a gratin dish, and baked it in the oven. Voilà! No one had told her that the eggs should be separated, with the yolks added to the base sauce and the whites whipped to a firm consistency and then gently folded into the mixture. Ignorance is bliss, and in this case it was indeed: the soufflé rose to a golden height and became a family favorite. This is a great recipe that can be assembled hours or even a day ahead, and although it is slightly less airy than a standard soufflé, it is delicious."
Adapted from The Apprentice: My Life In The Kitchen by Jacques Pépin. Copyright © 2015 by Jacques Pépin. Used with permission by Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Preheat oven to 400˚F with a rack positioned in the middle.
Butter a 6-cup gratin dish, and set it aside. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add the flour, and mix it in well with a whisk. Cook for 10 seconds, add the milk in one stroke, and mix it in with a whisk. Keep stirring with the whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to a strong boil, which will take about 2 minutes. It should be thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in the salt and pepper. Allow about 10 minutes for the white sauce to cool.
Meanwhile, break the eggs into a bowl, and beat well with a fork. Add the eggs, swiss cheese, and the chives to the cooled sauce, and mix well to combine. Pour into the buttered gratin dish, add a sprinkle of parmigiano-reggiano on top, and cook immediately on the middle rack or set aside until ready to cook.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the soufflé is puffy and well browned on top. Although it will stay inflated for quite a while, it is best served immediately.