Found Recipes
4:04 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Americans, Just Get Over It And Make The Souffle

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 11:41 am

The souffle shares this in common with some of nature's most vicious predators: It can sense fear. This, at least, according to noted American chef James Beard, who once observed, "The only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you're afraid of it."

The scientific validity of this statement is, of course, debatable — but it's undeniable that many Americans are deeply afraid of making that fluffy French dish. The terrible shadow it has cast over American cuisine extends at least as far back as 1954, when Audrey Hepburn's character in the movie Sabrina failed to make one. Since then, souffles have been collapsing with alarming regularity in cartoons and sitcoms. The deflated souffle has become synonymous with comical failure.

Greg Patent is weary of the notion of the frightful souffle. The food blogger and co-host of Montana Public Radio's The Food Guys says the intimidating reputation is overblown. "If you've ever made a mousse or you've ever made a sponge cake or you've ever made a meringue, you can make a souffle. There's absolutely no difference."

He's been making souffles since he first saw Julia Child whip one up on her original TV show, The French Chef. She called it a "noncollapsible souffle," a cheese souffle with extra egg whites folded in. And that gave Patent the confidence to try his own.

The souffle was a success: "It rose so high, it actually hit the electric element at the top of my stove. I thought, 'Look, this is so much fun.' And I just got hooked on it, and I started doing all kinds of souffles."

Patent discovered this recipe, an American twist on the French classic, while walking through his local farmers market in Montana. "I saw wonderful ears of fresh corn, I saw jalapeno peppers, red bell peppers, I saw cilantro and I thought, 'What if I put those ingredients together and made an American souffle out of a French technique?' "

You can find the delicious result of that experiment below. And before you let the old fear get the better of you, Patent says, know that both the process and the product will be well worth the effort. As you watch through the oven window, "it does all the work for you. The air cells expand, the souffles rise. You'll gush with 'oohs and 'aahs' yourself."

And you'll have your souffle-phobic friends in awe of your abilities. "Just the accolades you're going to get are going to make you want to rush into the kitchen and make another one."


Fresh Corn Souffle

Serves 6

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish

6 ounces (3/4 cup) Gruyere or Comte, finely grated

3 minced garlic cloves

2 cups fresh corn kernels cut off the cob (about 4 ears)

1/2 cup diced (1/4-inch) red bell pepper

2 teaspoons seeded and finely chopped jalapeno chili

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup half-and-half

6 large eggs, whites and yolks separated

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Butter a 2-quart round or oval baking dish (such as a 10x2-inch round) and coat with 2 ounces of the Gruyere or Comte. The cheese will not cover the inside of the baking dish completely; there will be gaps.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put 4 tablespoons of the butter into a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook about 15 seconds. Add the corn, red bell pepper and jalapeno and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepper and corn are partly tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Combine the milk and half-and-half in a small heavy saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Keep liquid hot on low heat.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, wait a few seconds for the bubbling to subside and pour in the hot liquid all at once. Whisk vigorously to make a smooth bechamel. Return the pan to medium heat and bring to boil, whisking constantly. Cook at a boil for 2 minutes until very thick. Take off heat, whisk in salt, pepper and the egg yolks, one at a time.

Beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until the whites form stiff peaks that are not dry. Whisk 1/4 of the whites into the bechamel. Fold in the remaining whites in two additions, along with the cooled corn, red pepper, jalapeno and the remaining 4 ounces of Gruyere or Comte.

Spread the souffle in the prepared dish and place in the oven. This souffle puffs up quite high. Bake about 30 minutes until well-browned and a wooden skewer comes out clean. Serve immediately.

From Souffles by Greg Patent. Copyright 2014 by Greg Patent. Excerpted by permission of Gibbs Smith.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today's Found Recipe asks this question: Why do so many people fear the souffle? Maybe it's because of this scene in the 1954 film "Sabrina." You know, the one with the demanding French chef.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SABRINA")

MARCEL HILLAIRE: (As The Professor) The souffle, it must be gay. Gay like two butterflies dancing the waltz in the summer breeze.

CORNISH: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SABRINA")

HILLAIRE: (As The Professor) To the ovens.

CORNISH: Sabrina is one among a dozen students trying to master this intimidating dish.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SABRINA")

HILLAIRE: (As The Professor) Too low. Too pale. Too high. You are exaggerating. Fair. So-so. Sloppy.

CORNISH: And who wants a sloppy souffle?

GREG PATENT: A souffle will fall if it knows you're afraid of it.

CORNISH: That's Greg Patent, co-host of Montana Public Radio's "The Food Guys," and he's quoting the noted American chef James Beard. Patent is an expert at souffles and says, despite their reputation, they're not that difficult.

PATENT: If you've ever made a mousse or you've ever made a sponge cake or you've made a meringue, you can make a souffle. There's absolutely no difference.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PATENT: A souffle is a light, airy mixture of a very flavorful base with egg whites folded into it and then baked. And it rises entirely due to the air that you beat into the egg whites and fold into the very flavorful base. And it can be a savory creation and it can also be a dessert.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE FRENCH CHEF")

JULIA CHILD: And then three egg yolks and six egg whites.

PATENT: I first got interested in souffles watching Julia Child on her original, black and white "French Chef" series. I recall her making a cheese souffle that she called a non-collapsible cheese souffle.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE FRENCH CHEF")

CHILD: See, that's the beauty of this souffle. You're the complete boss of it at every inch of the way.

PATENT: What it was was a regular cheese souffle, but it had extra egg whites folded into it. And when she took it out of the oven, indeed, it did not collapse. It held its shape. And that gave me the confidence to try a souffle for the very first time. And it rose so high, it actually hit the electric element at the top of my stove. I thought, look, this is so much fun. And I just got hooked on it and I started doing all kinds of souffles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PATENT: This recipe that I want to tell you about came about as I was wondering through my farmers market in Missoula, Montana. I saw wonderful ears of fresh corn. I saw jalapeno peppers. And I thought, what if I put those ingredients together and made an American souffle out of a French technique? And so, I came up with a corn souffle recipe that I just think is one of the best things I've ever eaten.

The souffle is bursting with sweetness from the corn, fresh corn kernels. You know, out of season, you can certainly use frozen corn kernels. You sautee them very quickly, add a little bit of olive oil with some garlic and onion, and then you add diced red bell peppers and finely chopped cilantro. Set it aside while you make your bechamel base, which is a white sauce. And then you will stir your vegetables right into the bechamel. Fold the egg whites carefully into your bechamel base. Let it bake for about 35 minutes and, voila, the air cells expand, the souffles rise. You'll gush with ooh's and aah's yourself. And if you're going to serve it to company, just the accolades that you're going to get are going to make you want to run into the kitchen and make another one.

CORNISH: That's Greg Patent, author of "The French Cook-Souffles." You can get instruction for his corn souffle on our Found Recipe page at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.