Back when I was in second-year university and suffering from an acute case of young heartbreak, my mother flew all the way out to Halifax for a week to cheer me up.
It was great, actually. I went to class and she made dinner. And in our spare time, I showed her all around the city.
One late afternoon while I was studying, she said she wanted to make a soufflé for dinner and asked if I had any recipes. We checked my cookbooks, but couldn’t find any. We were stumped. (Of course, by that point, I was craving soufflé.)
Then – I had a brainwave.
It was 1998, after all – I could check the Internet!
It seems so hard to believe now, but I could only find one source for recipes on line, out of Berkeley. It was called RecipeSource.
Sure enough, we found a recipe for tomato cheddar soufflé.
Mom baked it up for dinner and it has been our family tomato cheddar soufflé recipe ever since.
However, my mother is one of those cooks who never lets a (very) good recipe go untinkered. If she can add more vegetables, less sugar, or more dried fruit to a recipe, she most certainly will.
In this case, she tried adding asparagus. And she was right: the crunchy bits of asparagus provide a good foil for the airy soufflé. Now, I always add asparagus in the late spring.
This soufflé does not rely on its pretty, puffy exterior to make up for taste. (Which is a good thing, considering how quickly soufflés fall.) Both the cheddar and the tomato juice kick the flavour quotient way up.
You can make the soufflé in both a large casserole dish or in individual ramekins.
I’ve been leaning towards ramekins lately because:
(a) They help justify my ramekin collection; and
(b) They cook the soufflés more quickly
Now, I know you might be thinking that this is all well and good, but soufflés are too intimidating. Not so, I say!
I whipped up these little soufflés – and stopped to take pictures along the way – and made rice and sliced up cucumber and started washing the dishes . . . all in under an hour.
What kind of a gourmet dinner is ready in less than an hour? This one.
The only fancy tool you need is a double boiler. But if you don’t have one, you could always suspend a metal bowl over boiling water. (Be sure to use oven mitts as you hold on to it.)
By the way, I looked up that Berkeley site again just for fun. I found the exact recipe – it even has the same font as I remember. If you’d like to see it, it’s here.
last june: chilli pasta
tomato cheddar soufflé with asparagus
slightly adapted from RecipeSource
3/4 c. asparagus, chopped to 1/3 inch (1 cm) pieces
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. wheat flour
or, gluten-free flours:
1 tbsp. potato starch
1 tbsp. tapioca starch
1 tbsp. brown rice flour
1/2 tsp. salt
sprinkle of cayenne
1 c. tomato juice
1 c. cheddar cheese, grated*
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 egg whites
Butter your casserole dish or ramekins. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Steam or boil the asparagus for 4 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set aside.
Get the water boiling on the bottom of your double boiler. In the meantime, do everything you can to prepare. Measure your flours and salt. Get the cayenne ready to sprinkle. Measure the tomato juice. Grate the cheese. Beat the egg yolks.
Melt the butter in the top of the double boiler. Whisk in the flour(s). Whisk in the salt and cayenne. Let it simmer slightly for a few minutes to bind together.
Slowly add the tomato juice, whisking as you go. Cook and stir until it gets thick. Slowly add the cheese – keep whisking! Slowly add the yolk, whisking as you go. Stir in the asparagus. Cool to room temperature.
Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold them into the cooled tomato juice-cheese mixture. (You may have to very politely show the egg whites who’s boss here, as they have a tendency to be reluctant.)
Slide into the oven. Bake for about 50 minutes in one casserole dish, or 20 – 25 minutes in ramekins.
*Normally, I am a white cheddar girl. But I like orange cheddar for this recipe, because it produces the desired orange soufflé colour, thus indicating it is, in fact, a cheese soufflé.