One of the best things about contributing to this blog is that I’ve been forced to think about the process of cooking more than ever. Because I want to share great stuff with all of you, it also means I’ve been experimenting a lot and cooking things I’d never attempted before.
In writing and in cooking, experimenting beyond the comfort zone gives lots of exciting opportunities to rise to the occasion or to just fall flat on my face. While the first is definitely more fun, both are educational. No rough draft is perfect. No experimental recipe is perfect. But even if I’m not great at a particular task the first time around, learning new things in either realm is a true joy. And falling isn’t so bad if you have a really good trampoline under you.
To this end, I’ve been working the last couple months on soufflés. While I hear these can be terrifying to many home cooks who fear last-minute collapse, I say it’s nothing to get worked up about. Soufflés are fun, impressive, and tasty. And if one or two fall, they still taste good. Plus, if you practice on your family a few times before serving one to company, they won’t complain.
Today’s soufflé features ham and cheese and is a little denser than some, but it’s still fluffy enough to make the tongue tingle. (I have pictures from two attempts.)
Then, after the main recipe, as a bonus recipe, you get the result of a mistake. While trying to whip the whites for the ham and cheese soufflé, I had some missteps, so I started over; however, since I didn’t want to be wasteful, I experimented again. The result is what I call “Poor Man’s Stovetop Soufflé.” It’s a layered skillet dish that takes less time and technique than a traditional soufflé, but it still looks and tastes like a special treat—even if it’s not a high riser.
Ham and Cheese Soufflé
1/4 cup flour
1 1/3 cups warm milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (plus a bit for coating)
3/4 finely chopped ham
1st attempt, higher and darker
3/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Butter a 2-quart soufflé dish and sprinkle with parmesan.
2. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup butter. Add flour and whisk until mixture starts to foam (2 or 3 minutes). Meanwhile heat milk in a pot over medium high heat until warm. Into flour mixture, stir warm milk, salt, and oregano. Turn heat up to medium high until sauce boils and thickens (~3 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in cayenne, garlic, and black pepper.
3. Add egg yolks one at a time, whisking to blend each. Once mixture is smooth, stir in both cheeses and ham.
4. In a large bowl beat (whisk if possible) egg whites and cream of tartar on high with mixer until stiff but moist peaks form. Gently fold ¼ of the whites at a time into the yolk/cheese mixture until blended.
2nd attempt, more uniform but lower
5. Pour the batter into the soufflé dish. If the dish is more than three quarters full, you can use a foil collar to prevent spillage.
6. Bake in a 375° oven until top is puffed and golden to deep brown and center doesn’t jiggle much when moved, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve right away. (Resist the urge to open the oven until you’re pretty sure the soufflé is done.)
(Note: can be done in several smaller soufflé dishes instead. Like with the large pan, make sure not to overfill. Cook time will be less, ~18-20 minutes.)
*Bonus Recipe*—Poor Man’s Stovetop Soufflé
6 large eggs, separated
½ teaspoon cream of tarter
1 cup milk
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup finely chopped ham
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
paprika (to sprinkle on top)
Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy with stiff, moist peaks. Set aside. Generously butter or spray a medium-size skillet (I used cast iron) and put on stove. Preheat burner on medium heat.
While pan is heating, whisk egg yolks, milk, and seasonings. Mix in ham and cheese.
Pour yolk mixture into pan, cook for one minute. Pour egg whites on top, lower to medium low heat, and cover pan. Cook for a few minutes until eggs are cooked through. (I used a knife in the center to check.) Sprinkle with paprika and pepper and serve in wedges.