Thursday, May 29, 2008

Goat Cheese Souffle & Tomato Soup

Souffle is really my idea of a glorified omelet. It takes a few extra steps but it is really worth the effort for a simple tasty meal. I found a recipe online for this souffle a few weeks ago and decided to finally try it on Saturday night.

What appealed to me about the recipe is that I almost always have broccoli and goat cheese handy. I set my oven to 375 degrees and prepared my souffle dish. The recipe called for just coating it with a cooking spray but I have had more success in the past with oiling and flouring the dish. You just put a scant tablespoon of oil or butter in the dish and use a paper towel to coat the pan - taking care to get the corners. Then take a bit of flour (about 2 tablespoons) and carefully move the dish around to get the flour to coat all the surfaces; gently tap out any excess. Set this aside so it is ready to be filled with the batter and placed in the oven.

Next I washed and set up my broccoli (approximately 1 1/2 cups) to steam. I didn't chop it just yet as I want my florets to stay intact while they steam. I will chop them just before I add them to the batter. (The recipe calls for you to steam the broccoli in the microwave the only reason that I don't do this is personal preference. I almost never use my microwave except to melt butter and heat up leftovers.)

Next I set up my ingredients for the cheese sauce base. It is a good idea to have everything measured and set up since a cheese sauce requires immediate action on each step. My biggest problem with putting together a cheese sauce is that it almost never fails that Luis wants my attention suddenly when I am cooking one. I hate telling someone to hold that thought but dinner is at stake so sometimes you just have to. I add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to my saucepan. Then I measure out 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour; 1 1/4 cup of milk (I use skim milk because that is the only kind that I buy); and in a third small dish I measure out 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary (in this case I used fresh rosemary so about 1/2 tsp).

Before I start the sauce, I carefully crumble my 1/2 cup of goat cheese (you can substitute any type of cheese but goat cheese and rosemary compliment each other well). I also set up my eggs; I take five large eggs and carefully separate the yolks and egg whites. I will need all five of the egg whites but only three of the yolks for this recipe. (I put the two extra yolks in the fridge in case I find some use for them in the next day or so.)

Finally, with everything set up, I am ready to get the show started. My final check is to determine when our dinner guest is arriving because souffle needs to be served immediately. It is one of those dishes that looks amazing coming out of the oven and then quickly deflates. I turn the burner under the butter and oil to medium-high heat. When it starts to sizzle, I add the flour and quickly whisk it in for about a minute. I don't want it to get too dark but I do want it to lightly brown. Then I add the milk and whisk it quickly to prevent lumps and finally add the mustard, salt and rosemary. I let this cook - whisking constantly - until the sauce begins to thicken. The consistency should be somewhat creamy - the idea being if you were to pour this over pasta it would coat the pasta nicely; it would be neither watery nor gloppy.

Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the stove top. Immediately add the goat cheese and three eggs yolks and whisk them in until the cheese is melted. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl as you will be adding the eggs whites in the final step.

Now your egg whites should be started with an electric hand mixer; set the mixer in the bowl and turn on the high. Whisk the eggs whites until they start to form soft peaks. Turn off the mixer and add a 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. (Cream of Tartar is optional but it helps give your whites a bit of an advantage; it helps stabilize the egg whites and give a bit more volume when whisking them.) Now continue whisking the whites until the peaks of egg whites are very stiff. Using a spatula, gently add about half the whites to the cheese sauce and fold in. Next add the broccoli and the remaining egg whites and continue folding in the mixture until there are no more foamy white streaks. Pour this mixture into the prepared souffle dish and put it into the pre-heated oven. Cook for about 30 minutes (if using individual ramekins cook for about 20 minutes). When cooked it should looked very puffed and have a nicely browned crown. Serve immediately.

Now that the souffle is cooking, I am going to start on the soup. I am making a simple, tomato puree soup. I get the following ingredients handy: one tablespoon of butter; 1/4 cup diced onion; 1/4 cup diced celery (optional if you simply don't have it but can be missed); one tablespoon of all-purpose flour; 2 cups of beef broth; 2 cans of chopped tomatoes (with juice); 1 teaspoon of sugar; 1-2 teaspoons of dried basil (double if using fresh); and salt and pepper to taste. In a pot, I heat the butter over medium-high heat and when it starts sizzling I add the onion and celery to saute them. When the onion starts to get translucent, I add the flour and stir to coat the cooked onion and celery. Then I add the beef broth and stir it all quickly to prevent lumps of flour from forming. Then I add the tomatoes, basil, sugar and salt and pepper. I cook for at least 20 minutes; remove it from the stove and puree it using an inverted hand mixer. If you have croutons, you can float a few in the soup when serving to add a bit of crunch.

The souffle came out beautifully but by the time I got the camera it was already starting to deflate so it wasn't worth the picture. Next time I will take the shot while it is still in the oven...

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