I rarely stick to a theme when it comes to cooking. Sometimes that results in a hodgepodge-y dinner; sometimes it’s a win. Tonight was a win.
Staci and I visited a friend in the hospital this morning and when we got back, I wanted to see how the lanbeh was shaping up since I added the olive oil and herbs. It was so delicious! I decided it would be best to do this part of dinner and set it aside so I could focus on the souffle.
I found these beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the grocery store. I sliced them in half so they would be a bit more manageable on the bread. I swiped some olive oil, salt and pepper on them and threw them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
I had a nice rustic sesame loaf that I brushed with olive oil and put it in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes to give it a little crunch all around the outside. Then I melted a few tablespoons of butter in thyme and rosemary while the bread was getting crunchy. I removed the herbs, sliced the bread in nearly 1 inch slices and pan fried the bread until brown.
Once they were browned I removed them to paper towels on a plate to drain. Then I pulled the tomatoes out of the oven, put them in a bowl and covered them with the bread plate, setting it all aside. I also took the lanbeh out of the refrigerator so the edge of the chill could wear off. On to the souffle!
I painstakingly measured everything out first. Julia is a fan of multitasking in the kitchen and her recipes tend to have a lot going on at the same time so I wanted to be prepared. One of the things she has taught me that I love (from the movie I think?) is separating whites and yolks by hand. I don’t know why I love it so much but it feels very zen and nurturing to the recipe somehow. I set the yolks and the eggs aside. I made absolutely sure that not a spot of yolk was in the whites. Even the smallest bit can cause your souffle not to rise.
First up is an egg yolk bechamel. Bechamel is simply equal parts melted butter and flour, cooked until no longer floury tasting but not yet brown, to which boiling milk is added. This makes a thick white sauce that nearly anything can be added to. Sharp cheddar and worstershire and you have the perfect mac and cheese. Many sauces begin with bechamel. This particular one required 4 of the 5 egg yolks I had already separated. I removed the bechamel from the heat and briskly whisked the yolks in, one at a time. Doing it briskly and off the heat prevents scrambled egg bechamel which we definitely do not want. Then just season with salt and pepper and set aside while you start the most important piece of any souffle – the egg whites.
Doing the egg whites takes a bit of time, patience and vigilance. I did overwhip them a bit as you can see. They should be very shiny and stiff. I kept stopping the mixer and checking, just like she said to do, but they didn’t seem tight enough. Then all of a sudden they were a bit grainy and lumpy but not past the point of no return. She says if you overwhip them you can add another raw white in and whip some more without compromising the whites but I didn’t feel like I was that far gone so I went with this.
A dollop of the egg whites gets stirred into the bechamel to build volume in the sauce. I made a cheese souffle so I added a cup of mixed parmesan and swiss cheese which I grated using the rotary grater I mentioned yesterday. Then the rest of the egg whites are laid on top of the bechamel and “cut in” with a spatula, working from the middle to the outside of the pan while you rotate the pan. The key here is incorporating the whites just enough but not too much. It’s an eyeball/gut thing. Then sprinkle a bit more cheese on top. Here is what it looked like before I put it in the oven with high hopes.
It went in a 400 degree oven which is immediately reduced to 375. I had to turn mine down to 350 about 7 minutes in because I felt like it was browning too quickly. When making a souffle, you cannot open the oven for the first 20 minutes or you risk the souffle falling. So I turned on the oven light and cleaned the kitchen to keep my hands from misbehaving. About the time I decided to turn down the oven, I also noticed that MY SOUFFLE WAS RISING! After a total of 25 minutes, I pulled out the souffle which was sky high and golden brown. Make sure everyone sees it immediately because it starts falling very rapidly. By the time I took the picture below, I had already lost about half an inch just moving it from the oven and getting the right lighting. By the time I took it back to the stovetop to serve, it was totally flat. But what success!
I assembled the Italian-flavored lanbeh toast and covered with the tomatoes. They were beautiful!
The souffle was perfectly cooked – light and fluffy as if it was made with bread. It smelled and tasted delicious. The lanbeh tomato toasts were like the freshest mini pizzas on the planet! And you can be so generous with the lanbeh because it’s greek yogurt after all! Super successful Sunday summer supper! (say THAT 10 times real fast!) Let me know if you give it a try – I’d love to hear how it went.
Happy reading, joyful egg separating and spread the love, dear friends!