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Souffle Magic: Hints for Easy Preparation of the Gourmet Dish : Recipe Variations for the French Specialty Numerous

May 30, 1985

Now that summer is almost here, there are many reasons to have a party--as congratulations to that special graduate or to salute your favorite bride-to-be. For perfect party fare why not whip up a light, airy souffle? Served as the sumptuous entree or as the sinfully sweet grand finale, a souffle is a versatile culinary masterpiece that is a lot easier to make than you think.

But if you've been shying away from making this impressive French specialty, read on for some useful hints that will set you on the road to souffle magic.

With so many uses for the puffy gourmet dish, it's not surprising that recipe variations are numerous. In savory souffles, pureed, shredded or finely chopped vegetables, meats and cheeses are added for taste. Liqueur, chocolate and fruit are typical sweet flavorings.

Ideas for Baking in Saucepan

Baking a souffle doesn't require a fancy French container. The recipes here suggest some unique ideas for baking the ingredients in a saucepan and even in soup cups when there are just two of you. Otherwise, any oven-proof, straight-sided casserole or baking dish will do. Whichever dish you choose, it should not be buttered or greased because this hinders the souffle's ability to rise. If a recipe calls for a buttered dish it must also be dusted with fine dry bread crumbs, cornmeal, sugar or grated Parmesan cheese.

Size of the dish is important, though. If the souffle mixture reaches to within one-half inch of the top, a collar or a larger dish is required. To make a collar, fold a sheet of heavy foil three times to make a four-inch-wide, triple-thickness band long enough to go around the dish and extend two inches above the top. Butter and dust the band, then fasten with string making sure collar extends two inches above the top. After baking, quickly but gently remove the collar before serving to give this dish the charm it's popular for.

Preparing Egg Mixture

The next step, certainly among the most difficult, is preparing the egg mixture. For best results, separate the eggs when they are cold, then set the whites aside to warm to room temperature while preparing the egg yolk mixture. To achieve maximum volume from beaten egg whites, be sure to use a clean glass or metal bowl and beaters because any speck of fat or egg yolk in the whites will prevent stiff peaks from forming.

Be sure also to beat the egg whites only until they no longer slip when the bowl is tilted slightly. Gently but thoroughly fold the yolk and white mixtures together and place in a prepared dish. To test the doneness of your souffle, carefully move the oven rack back and forth.

To serve this dish, gently break the top crust into portions with two forks placed back to back, then lightly spoon out center, making sure to include some of the top and side with each portion.

BASIC SOUFFLE

Butter or margarine

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs or grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

4 eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup finely chopped frozen vegetables, thawed and drained

1/2 cup shredded cheese or finely chopped cooked poultry or seafood

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, Italian herbs or other seasoning of choice

Butter bottom and sides of 1 1/2- to 2-quart souffle dish. Dust with bread crumbs and set aside. In saucepan over medium heat melt 1/4 cup butter. Stir in flour and salt until smooth. Stir in milk and cook, stirring, until sauce comes to boil and thickens. Remove sauce from heat and set aside to cool.

In large mixing bowl beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Stir egg yolks, chopped vegetables, shredded cheese and seasoning into sauce until well blended. Gently but thoroughly fold vegetable mixture into egg whites. Turn souffle mixture into prepared dish and bake at 350 degrees 30 to 40 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned. Souffle is done if it shakes when oven rack is gently moved back and forth. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

GRAND MARNIER SOUFFLE

Butter or margarine

Sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

4 eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur

Grated peel of 1 orange

Powdered sugar, optional

Whipped cream, optional

Butter 1 1/2- to 2-quart souffle dish or casserole. Dust with sugar and set aside. In medium saucepan over medium heat melt 3 tablespoons butter. Blend in flour and salt. Cook and stir until mixture is smooth and bubbly, then stir in milk all at once. Cook and stir until mixture boils and is smooth and thickened. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

In large mixing bowl beat egg whites with cream of tartar at high speed until foamy. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until sugar is dissolved and soft peaks form. (Rub small amount of meringue between thumb and forefinger to be sure sugar is dissolved.) Blend egg yolks into reserved sauce with liqueur and orange peel. Gently but thoroughly fold yolk mixture into egg whites.

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