The New American Cheese

by Laura Werlin

Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang

280 pages, 2000


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Baby Swiss Cheese Soufflé

from The New American Cheese by Laura Werlin

 

Baby Swiss is a cousin of Swiss cheese, but it does not have the big holes and is made in much smaller wheels. It has some of the flavor characteristics of Swiss cheese, but with less of a bite. Consequently, it is mellower and slightly sweeter. It is a perfect soufflé ingredient. The star anise called for in this recipe heightens that sweetness and adds an exotic twist, but the soufflé is none the worse without it.

Generally, a soufflé can be made with almost any cheese and with almost any favorite herbs or flavorings. It is a neutral host for anything seasonal, such as summer peppers, and it is a perfect showcase for cheese alone. Either way, soufflés never fail to impress. If a fallen soufflé is a frightening prospect, don't worry: it's par for the course. The only prerequisites to a good soufflé are to use a rich and flavorful cheese, to bring the eggs to room temperature before using them, and to serve it as hot as possible. Room-temperature eggs will help increase the volume of the egg whites, resulting in a billowy soufflé.

 

1 tablespoon finely grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

1 1/4 cups milk

1 star anise (optional)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 scant teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 egg yolks, at room temperature

6 egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 pound Baby Swiss cheese, such as Fanny Mason, coarsely grated (or use Swiss Cheese, Emmentaler, or Gruyere)

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Butter a 1 1/2 quart soufflé dish or casserole. Coat the dish with Asiago. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, simmer the milk and star anise over medium-low heat, until it is hot but not boiling.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Slowly add the hot milk, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, cayenne, and black pepper. Cook over very low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and discard the star anise. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

In a medium-size bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the cheese and one quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the mixture, folding just until the whites are coated with the yolk mixture and are about the size of large grapes. Pour into the prepared dish and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the soufflé has risen about 3 inches above the sides of the dish and the top of the soufflé is a deep brown color. Serve immediately.

Serve 4 to 6.