The Cheese Soufflé.

Sauce Béchamel: Cheese Soufflé

We’re egg eaters. We eat a lot of them. Lucky for us, we also love a good sauce béchamel. Béchamel is one of the “mother sauces” in French cooking (Hollandaise is another). It is the base white sauce from which many other sauces are created. Adding cheese to béchamel creates sauce Mornay, another classic sauce. Béchamel, Mornay, or Hollandaise can be served over asparagus in the spring,  over poached eggs for Eggs Benny (or Benedict),  on top of bread with vegetables or ham ala croque monsieur and can also be used as the basis for a gratin in the cooler months. And at anytime of year, we love it folded with fluffy egg whites and shredded cheese then baked into a toasted cloud. Poof, it’s a soufflé.

It took us years to take the soufflé plunge. We didn’t talk about it, but soufflé recipes seemed overly complex. But once we figured out just how quickly béchamel comes together – 10 minutes max – and how easy it is to hand whip egg whites, the rest of the work of a soufflé seemed a snap.

While simple enough, a soufflé requires that we all pay attention to a few little details to ensure that a lofty puff of pillowy custard comes out of the oven. The right sized cooking dish, properly beaten egg whites, a tasty base sauce and a hot oven are all that is required for soufflé success. If there is one soufflé rule etched in stone, however, it is that a soufflé waits for no one. It must be eaten piping hot and straight from the oven, served at the table in its baking dish.

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Cheese Soufflé Recipe:

Béchamel Sauce:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 onion, skin and roots removed
1 bay leaf
1 clove
5 black pepper corns
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg

For the soufflé:
5 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, cheddar, Parmesan)
Butter

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the béchamel sauce:

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk with the onion, bay leaf, clove and peppercorns.

While milk is warming, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is completely melted, and before it browns, add flour and whisk thoroughly making sure no lumps form. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned in color.

Strain warmed milk and pour into roux while whisking, again being careful not to let lumps form. Grate a tiny amount of nutmeg into the sauce and salt to taste. Cook, whisking regularly, until sauce thickens, approximately 2 – 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set-aside until ready to use. At this point the sauce bechamel is complete and can be used many different ways.

To complete the soufflé:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack to the lowest setting.

Using a 2 quart soufflé dish and butter and coat the interior with two tablespoons of shredded cheese, fit the soufflé dish with a buttered baking collar made of parchment paper. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl with a hand-held wire whisk (OK, or in your KitchenAid stand mixer or with a hand-held blender) until they just begin to foam. Add a pinch of cream of tarter and a pinch of salt. Continue beating until whites form glossy peaks being careful not to overbeat.

Whisk the egg yolks into prepared béchamel sauce.

Fold one cup of the egg whites into the béchamel and egg sauce until just mixed. Pour the sauce into the bowl of whipped egg whites and gently fold until just mixed. While folding, sprinkle remaining grated cheese into the batter.

Pour soufflé batter into prepared dish. Set dish on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the top is a deep brown, 30 – 40 minutes, depending on the shape of your dish. Test the soufflé with a skewer, it should be clean.

Serve the moment it comes out of the oven by digging into the top at the center using two serving spoons. After all, Soufflé waits for no one.

with a great crumb.

Irish Soda Bread

It’s that time of year again when green is the color du jour and everyone, including your pappy, is attempting to talk with an Irish brogue. Yep, it will soon be St. Patrick’s Day. Time for drinking Guinness and Irish whiskey, eating corned beef and cabbage, and let’s not forget the Irish soda bread. This quick and easy bread can be whipped up in no time.

Make it first thing in the morning with cranberries and orange zest to enjoy with your coffee and Bailey’s Irish Cream, or make a savory loaf with caraway seeds and raisins to go with a traditional stew. However you celebrate this spring holiday, just remember soda bread doesn’t have to be made just in March. Enjoy the bread year round when you want a simple and quick homemade bread without the hours of waiting.

Irish Soda Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour, or graham flour (alternately, you can use all all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon butter, room temperature
3/4 cup + 1 teaspoon buttermilk
2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Irish Whiskey

Optional: 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel, 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, 1/4 cup golden raisins, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, or other small dried fruit

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange peel or caraway seeds, if using, whisk together. Add butter and, using your finger tips, rub together until small crumbs form. Add raisins or other dried fruit if you are using them.

Mix together buttermilk and 2 tablespoons Irish Whiskey, stir well. Stir into dry ingredients only until moistened. Turn dough out onto floured surface (dough will be sticky) knead briefly.

Shape into round loaf and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Flatten loaf slightly. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, cut a cross in the top of the loaf. Mix 1 teaspoon Irish Whiskey with remaining buttermilk and brush the top of the unbaked bread with the mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until golden and bread sounds hollow when thumped on bottom. Cool bread on wire rack. Cut into wedges and serve slightly warm.

Whole wheat toast, kale tzatziki, and avocado slice, make a healthy breakfast, or snack.

Kale Tzatziki Dip

While shopping at Trader Joe’s, Jason tasted a new product that they were sampling, a Kale Tzatziki dip. We rarely pick up tubs of prepared anything, since we know we can make it better at a fraction of the cost. Tzatziki is one of our favorite dips; yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and lemon. It’s so versatile and easy to make, that altering the dip with the addition of dehydrated kale would be a snap. The tzatziki is not only great as a traditional dip with pita bread, or a topping for fallefal, but with some slices of avocado and whole wheat toast, the tzatziki makes a great breakfast spread too. We just finished the last of the batch and now we’re starting to have withdrawals. We can still taste the garlic on our breath from breakfast and we’re wishing we had more in the fridge for a snack after work.

Kale Tzatziki Dip

1 32 oz container whole milk yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (peel can be left on if organic and unwaxed)
3-4 kale leaves, ribs removed and cut into small pieces
1 small garlic clove
lemon
salt & pepper

In a small holed colander line with cheesecloth, place over a bowl and pour the container of yogurt in the cheesecloth. Place in the fridge and allow to sit for several hours or overnight for a creamier, richer texture.

In a preheated 225 degree oven, place the kale pieces on a small baking sheet and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until crispy. Check every 15 minutes and toss to prevent from burning. Once dried, set aside.

In another colander lined with cheesecloth, place the diced cucumber and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the cucumber pieces. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour. At that time, twist the top of the cheesecloth and extract as much water from the cucumbers as possible. Set aside until the yogurt is ready.

Once the yogurt is at the proper consistency, place in a medium bowl with the diced cucumber and dehydrated kale pieces. Using a microplane, grate the garlic clove over the yogurt, then grate the lemon, yellos zest only. Add a small pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper to the bowl. Whisk together until all ingredients are incorporated; taste and season accordingly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.