I'm amused by soufflés. There's just something terribly camp about them, isn't there? I'm not exactly sure what it is: the acute accent on the e? Or the high drama of 'The Rise", perhaps? The fact that the Table has to wait for the Soufflé, rather than the Soufflé having to wait for the Table- giving you the chance to fuss dramatically around the kitchen, and then to have queeny hysterics when your soufflé collapses.
Control Freaks love them, too. There's all that stuff about the right temperature, the correct way to beat the egg whites, the proper way to do this, the proper way to do that. So I was quite happy to leave this one to The Girl, who came up with a fabulous aromatic soufflé, flavoured with tarragon.
I will go as far as saying that I think her soufflé was the best one I've ever had. Tarragon, as you will remember, has an intense aniseedy, licoriquey, Pernod-y taste, and is considered by le gratin to go extremely well with poultry. It worked well with the cheese in the soufflé, and gave the dish a punchy, herbal flavour. If you like tarragon, you're going to love it. Not that I want to patronise you in any way; I am aware that most subscribers to The Greasy Spoon have probably made more soufflés, than I've had hot dinners:
First you need to turn on you oven. It's really important that you get your oven really hot (200C) as this sudden heat is what makes ths soufflé rise. Get hold of a soufflé dish, and smear the inside with the greasy bit of a butter wrapper.
Next, it's time to make a roux. You'll remember how to do this. Flour cooked in a large knob of butter, stirred until smooth, and then turned into a sloppy kind of sauce with the addition of milk. Keep the pan on a gentle heat and stir or whisk like crazy, until all the lumps have been removed.
Remove from the heat, and let the white sauce cool down a bit (you don't want the eggs to cook as yet). Whisk in three egg yolks, add a dollop of mustard, grate in some Gruyère cheese, and throw in a good handful of tarragon leaves. Season with salt, pepper and lots of grated nutmeg.
Whisk up three egg whites until they're stiff. It's very important not to get any fat in the mixing bowl (ie egg yolk) as this will prevent the egg whites thickening up. The mixing bowl needs to be extremely clean. Finally, mix the egg white into the cheesy, herby, white sauce, using gentle hand movements. Use a metal spoon.
That's about it. The soufflé mixture, not surprisingly, goes into the soufflé dish, and the dish goes into the hot oven. Half an hour later it should be ready. If it hasn't risen properly, you can blame me, this blog, the cat's mother, and the world in general. Nothing like throwing a tantrum to clear the air, is there?