Dish 7: Parmesan and Gruyère Soufflé

Contents Intro Prepping the Dish Cooking the Dish Overall Impressions Final Word Recipe Intro
I have a schedule for each of my 26 dishes that I keep posted on my freezer door. Within that list there are five “fixed” dishes, ones that I wanted to make during specific weeks for specific reasons. Each of the five were chosen for the specific week as opposed to me selecting the dishes and then picking five for those weeks.

That brings us to yesterday. I knew what I was making yesterday needed to be perfection, a landing right down the numbers on the center-line to borrow an expression from the aviation world. Katie was out of the apartment for the weekend visiting friends from college and was slated to return in the evening. This worked to my advantage for two reasons: it gave me the entire kitchen to myself, but most importantly, and the reason this was a fixed dish, yesterday was Katie’s birthday and nothing says “I love you” quite like a surprise dinner for you after a driving back from Rochester.

Like me, Katie loves cheese, so I knew I wanted to do something with cheese. If you look at my first post that lists all 26 dishes, you’ll see one of the dishes is a cheese platter. A cheese platter as part of a 26 dishes cooking adventure?!?! HAHAHA, no way! This was just a placeholder for the real dish: parmesan and gruyere soufflé.

I’d made soufflé once previously, but chocolate – not cheese – and it turned out brilliantly. This was the perfect combination of straightforward ingredients, few steps, and the promise of elegance. Promise being the operative word given the finickiness of these dishes, but it was worth the risk for the reward.
Prepping the Dish
I wanted to time this so I’d be pulling it out of the oven when or a few minutes before Katie came home. An hour and fourteen minutes before she arrived, I left the cool confines of my room and ventured out into hot a humid kitchen to start prepping. Since I had the entire apartment to myself and I knew I had a 30-35 minute bake time ahead of me, there would be plenty of inactive cook time to clean dishes. Therefore, I took every ingredient I was going to use and put it into its own container, a true mise en place victory that made me relaxed and more confident in the success of the dish.
An awfully crowded islandWhites and yolks separated
As you can see, many dishes, plates, and pieces of cooking equipment were called into service for this meal, but had it not been for this mise, I would’ve been a hot mess literally and metaphorically. Given the flow of making the dish, this kind of setup will make the cooking process so much easier.
Cooking the Dish
With all the ingredients set up and ready to go, the cooking process was straightforward and easy. In simple terms, the dish calls for making a roux-based cheese sauce; adding egg yolks to that after the sauce has cooled and thickened slightly; taking the whites from those separated yolks and whipping them until stiff peaks form; then adding the cheese sauce to the whites and beating (not folding) it all together. 

It was that last step that really attracted me to this recipe. I don’t have a lot of experience folding egg whites so I don’t trust myself enough to know what I’m doing in that department. The ability to have a stand mixer do everything for me was yet another part of the recipe that made me relaxed and confident in the dishes outcome being a successful one.

Having placed everything inside a greased, parmesan-covered soufflé pan and into the oven, all I could do was wait – and hope!
Overall Impressions
As everything was coming together, I became aware that my timing would be slightly off and I’d have to tell my girlfriend, who’d been driving for 6:45 with nothing but snack food that even though she was starving, and even though it was her birthday, she’d need to wait a little longer to eat because I had something cooking for her.

Sure enough, she walked in only five minutes into a 30 minute bake. Compounding matters, I wasn’t able to cleanup everything, but did leave some cheese and parsley on a cutting board to pass off as a quick “cheese plate” snack in case she was hungry. 

Facing this surprising reality, she became immediately humorously frustrated at me, a combination of a long drive and a strong desire for a pizza manifesting itself, but she indulged me. Then the problems began. I’m a really bad liar and Katie’s really good at calling my bluffs. I’ve tried to surprise her two previous times: one worked out amazingly, the other she called two hours before I could spring it. Back in the kitchen, she asked me what I was making, and I said it’s a surprise. “Good job, Kev,” I said to myself, “you tell her!” The next words out of her mouth were “Is it a soufflé?” Thinking fast, I laughed it off and said “No, of course not. Why would you think that? It could be a cake,” to which she responded almost immediately, “You can’t make a cake.” A fair and accurate observation. I reassured her to just trust me and not worry about it.

With about ten minutes to go, she walked over to the pantry and I knew exactly what she was doing: She was going to see if the soufflé dish was there. Recognizing its absence, she immediately knew it was a soufflé, at which point I came clean. I felt better, but only briefly. Katie asked me if it was the America’s Test Kitchen’s parmesan and gruyere soufflé. Very surprised, I responded it was, and Katie then told me she made it previously. Turns out that the little bit of (Gruyère) cheese I left on the cutting board was a big clue. So I wasn’t able to get the dish out on time for her arrival, and it turned out to be one she previously made. Sigh. Thankfully for me, she enjoyed it the first time, was excited for it this time, and appreciated the effort on my part. So with less than ten minutes to go, and having nothing go as I planned, I could only hope the dish turned out okay.

The timer dinged, I opened the oven, and this is what I saw:
To say I was happy with what I saw would be an understatement! The recipe called for putting the remaining tablespoon of parm on top of everything before baking it. I had at least two tablespoons left for the cause which gladly found a home – and it shows. An instant-read thermometer showed everything had cooked inside, a reality confirmed as we spooned it onto plates, and with that it was time to dig in.

The first bite was delicious and liberating. Cheesy, earthy, and a great crust, it was everything I hoped it would be and I immediately felt at east about everything. Katie, who really liked the dish this time around, had the brilliant idea to toast up some homemade sourdough bread for those pieces that didn’t have a piece of the crust with it. Even though it was close to 8 PM by the time we finally ate, it was absolutely worth the wait. We went to bed full, but satisfied having had a great meal.

Final Word
In a word, this dish is rewarding. If you take the time for your mise en place, you’ll be rewarded with an easier cooking process. And if you’re not intimidated by making a soufflé, you’ll be rewarded with a hearty, visually stunning dish that’s as impressive of a dessert as you can find.

But the greatest reward is being able to share this dish with someone else, which brings me to a final closing thought: The only thing worse than having the thermometer in the living room say it was 80 degrees inside with 71% humidity (who doesn’t like an indoor rainforest climate?!)  was then preheating an oven 350 degrees! True love makes people do crazy things like that, and I regret nothing about my decision because it was worth delivering a dish Katie enjoyed. But I think true love is also lending a hand and helping out. Point in case: when I got back from the gym this morning, all those plates, bowls, dishes, and everything else in that first picture I’d washed the night before and left to dry were put away by Katie – on a Monday morning before work after she had Friday off no less! True love in the form of making a soufflé in the dog days of August, and true love putting away everything used to make and eat it. #relaitonshipgoal achieved! With that, happy birthday (again), Katie – I love you!

Parmesan and Gruyère Soufflé
Time: 35 minutes Serves: 3-4
Ingredients 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup) 1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon paprika 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper ⅛ teaspoon white pepper Pinch ground nutmeg 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 1/3 cups whole milk 6 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups) 6 large eggs, separated 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar Directions
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8-inch round (2-quart) soufflé dish with vegetable oil spray, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan.

2. Combine flour, paprika, salt, cayenne, white pepper, and nutmeg in bowl. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour mixture and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk and bring to simmer. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and smooth, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and whisk in Gruyère and 5 tablespoons Parmesan until melted and smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes, then whisk in egg yolks and 1 1/2 teaspoons parsley.

3. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cheese mixture and continue to whip until fully combined, about 15 seconds.

4. Pour mixture into prepared dish and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Bake until risen above rim, top is deep golden brown, and interior registers 170 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon parsley and serve immediately.