Adapted from a recipe of Jacques Pepin

Jacque Pepin says, “When my mother got married, she was seventeen and my father was twenty-two. She did not know how to cook, except for a few simple dishes that she had learned from her mother. Yet she was willing and fearless. My father liked cheese souffle, so my mother graciously obliged. She had never made a souffle before, but a friend told her that it consisted of a white sauce (bechamel), grated cheese, and eggs ? a cinch! To the bechamel, that staple of the French home cook, she added her grated Swiss cheese and then cracked and added one egg after another to the mixture, stirred it well, poured it into a gratin dish, and baked it in the oven. Viola! No one had told her that the eggs should be separated, with the yolks added to the base sauce and the whites whipped to a firm consistency and then gently folded into the mixture. Ignorance is bliss, and in this case it was indeed: the souffle rose to a golden height and become a family favorite. This is a great recipe: it can be assembled hours or even a day ahead, and although it is slightly less airy than a standard souffle, it is delicious.”

It is critical to get your guests to the table before you pull the souffle out of the oven, as the drama of a souffle is fleeting.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 T. unsalted butter, plus more to butter a 6-cup gratin dish
  • 6 T. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. cold whole milk
  • 1/2 t. French sea salt
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 extra-large eggs
  • 2 1/3 c. Gruyere cheese or crumbled blue cheese
  • 3 T. minced fresh chive blades

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter a 6-cup gratin dish, and set it aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour, and mix it in well with a whisk. Cook for 10 seconds, and add the milk in 1 stroke, and mix it in with a whisk. Keep stirring with the whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to a strong boil, which will take about 2 minutes. It should be thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in the salt and pepper. Allow about 10 minutes for the white sauce to cool.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a bowl, and beat well with a fork. Add the eggs, the cheese and the chives to the cooled sauce, and mix well to combine. Pour into the buttered gratin dish and cook immediately, or set aside until ready to cook.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the souffle is puffy and well browned on top. Although it will stay inflated for quite a while, it is best served immediately.

CHAMOMILE FIG COMPOTE (OPTIONAL)

Combine 1 c. sugar, 1 1/2 c. water, 1 t. lemon juice, and 1 chamomile tea bag  in a pot. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil; cook and stir for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bag and add 12 dried figs; bring back to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Crack open the top of the soufflés and pour the compote inside, and serve immediately.