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HOME COOK : A Lot of Hot Air for Supper

June 04, 1992|MARION CUNNINGHAM

Last night I made a cheese souffle. I was hungry and I didn't have a lot of food on hand, just a few eggs, some tired pieces of cheese, a cucumber, some lettuce and some slices of rather stale bread. Not a promising array.

But the souffle turned out to be a golden cloud-like creation, so airy you'd think it would never satisfy anyone's hunger, but actually quite filling.

Souffles may be French by birth, but I made mine an American citizen by using Cheddar cheese. The important thing to remember is that the only way to prevent a souffle from falling is to serve it immediately. Be sure to get everyone to the table before the souffle comes out of the oven.

A cheese souffle needs only a very plain crisp green salad to make it complete. The salad dressing should be slightly tart, and lightly applied to the greens.

The last touch to round out the souffle supper and make it entirely American is slices of rusk. Put those stale slices of bread into a 250-degree oven for about 30 minutes and they become crisp and dry. Rusk, which was popular in early America, is nothing more complicated than a piece of bread or roll that has been baked twice. Prepare these early.

Hard Ginger Cakes and apple slices would be a fitting end to this supper. In the 19th Century, hard ginger cakes were called ginger cookies and soft ginger cakes were known as gingerbread. This recipe makes a highly spiced ginger cookie. If you are lucky enough to have some crystallized ginger on hand, it will enhance the ginger flavor and texture.

CHEESE SOUFFLE

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded sharp Cheddar or white Vermont Cheddar cheese, or mixture of both

1/4 cup butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/4 cups hot milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon or more cayenne pepper, optional

4 egg yolks

6 egg whites

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons cheese over bottom and around sides of buttered 1 1/2-quart straight-sided souffle dish.

Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and cook gently 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add hot milk and continue to cook over low heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring until thick and smooth. Add salt, remaining 1 cup cheese and, if desired, cayenne pepper. Blend cheese in thoroughly (sauce should be thick).

Beat 3 tablespoons hot cheese mixture into egg yolks, then return to saucepan, stirring 1 minute over low heat. Remove and pour into large bowl. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Stir 1/4 of whites into cheese sauce, then fold in remaining whites.

Spoon into souffle dish. Bake on middle rack of 350-degree oven about 35 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

375 calories; 729 mg sodium; 342 mg cholesterol; 29 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 19 grams protein; 0.01 gram fiber.

Note: Be sure to taste saltiness of cheese and cut back on salt if necessary.

HARD GINGER CAKES

2 cups flour

1 cup brown sugar, packed

5 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 cup chopped crystallized ginger, optional

Combine flour, brown sugar, ginger, baking soda and salt in mixing bowl. Stir until well mixed. Add butter and mix until very well blended. (It is best to use your hands, but fork will do. Just be sure butter covers dry ingredients.)

Press mixture into ungreased 8-inch square baking pan, about 1/2-inch thick or little thinner. Bake at 325 degrees about 45 minutes or until cookies look nicely golden. Remove from oven and cut into finger-size bars, about 1/2x2 inches. Cool in pan. Remove from pan and store bars in airtight container. Makes 64 cookies.

Each cookie contains about:

43 calories; 38 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.02 gram fiber.

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