The Trick That Makes Soufflés an Easy Weeknight Meal

One “mistake” made the finicky soufflé into something cheesy and delicious.
The Trick That Makes Soufflés an Easy Weeknight Meal
Bechamel, a famous French white sauce, made by cooking flour and butter together, before whisking in milk. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Tribune News Service
12/2/2023
Updated:
1/11/2024
0:00
By Meredith Deeds From Star Tribune

Yes, sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, and sometimes mothers are the mother of invention. Such is the case with this Easy Cheddar, Bacon and Scallion Soufflé, a recipe inspired by French chef Jacques Pépin’s mother, who accidentally streamlined one of France’s most iconic dishes.

As a young bride who was an inexperienced cook, but fearless in the kitchen, she wanted to make her new husband his favorite dish. And while she didn’t know exactly how a cheese soufflé came together, she did know its basic components were béchamel, cheese and eggs.

The traditional version, painstakingly labored over by French chefs in fancy kitchens for a couple hundred years or so, starts with the béchamel, the famous French white sauce, made by cooking flour and butter together, before whisking in milk. A copious amount of cheese (usually Gruyère) is added to the sauce, along with egg yolks, before the mixture is gently folded into perfectly whipped egg whites.

Whipped egg whites elevate the soufflé to lofty heights in a hot oven and are typically thought to be a key element in soufflé making. Fortunately, Jacques’ mother missed the memo and simply whisked in the whole eggs, along with the cheese, into the béchamel.

While ignorance is bliss, in this case, it was also delicious. Her “soufflé,” while slightly less high-rising and airy, did indeed rise and its cheesy-eggy flavor became a Pepin family favorite.

The beauty of this technique is that it can be made in advance, with no worry that the whipped whites will deflate, and baked off the minute the oven gets hot, taking the last-minute stress out of making a soufflé.

It’s also highly adaptable, as you can swap out the cheese and add additional flavors, as I’ve done by using a sharp Cheddar and mixing in cooked and crumbled bacon, along with sliced green onions.

You can make these in individual ramekins (although the bake time would likely be reduced) and serve as a first course to an elegant meal, or, as is my preference, bake it in a larger gratin, soufflé or even casserole dish and serve, alongside a crisp green salad, as a main dish.

Easy Cheddar and Bacon Soufflé

Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from a famous Jacques Pépin recipe, this quick version of a classic French dish doesn’t call for separating eggs or whipping egg whites, but still delivers on the lighter-than-air soufflé experience. From Meredith Deeds.

Ingredients

• 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus additional to butter a 6-cup gratin dish

• 4 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, divided

• 6 tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 2 c. whole milk

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 5 large eggs

• 10 oz. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 1/2 c.)

• 4 slices cooked and crumbled bacon

• 1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 6-cup gratin or baking dish and coat with 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan.

Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk until well combined. Cook, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil and is thick and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the salt and pepper. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a medium bowl until well combined. Gradually whisk eggs, cheese, bacon and green onions into cooled white sauce until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan over the top. Bake until puffy and lightly browned on top, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately.

To make ahead: Pépin’s recipes allow for the soufflé to be assembled and stand, covered, at room temperature 2 to 3 hours before baking. It can also be assembled, covered and refrigerated up to 1 day before baking. Allow mixture to come to room temperature before baking.

Copyright 2023 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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