The week before we left town on vacation, I was trying my hardest to use up my pantry and refrigerator staples without having to buy more ingredients that may go bad before I had a chance to use them. The meals of that week, as a result, were some surprisingly tasty and innovative dishes, which I am proudly going to be sharing with you in coming days. First up is these Spinach and Parmesan Souffles.
My latest copy of Cooking Light featured several different types of souffle, most of them sweet souffles. While they all sound delicious, and are on my list of things to try, I zeroed in right away on the one savory offering. This one sounded so good, and I had all the ingredients in my house, so I decided to make it for dinner one evening. I figured a side salad and some bread would round out this meal nicely.
This was my first souffle, and I was extremely pleased with the results. There seem to be a few secrets to a successful souffle, which the article in the magazine detailed nicely. The first important step is to coat your individual serving dishes, or ramekins, with something that will allow the egg mixture to cling easily to the sides of the dish and to climb up. In some cases, a sprinkling of sugar may suffice, but for these savory souffles it was breadcrumbs that did the trick. It allows the mixture to rise beautifully, while adding another layer of flavor as well.
The next step is to allow the egg whites to come to room temperature before beating them. Make sure no yolk gets mixed in with the whites; they won't rise otherwise. When beating the egg whites, you want to get them to medium, not stiff, peaks. When you lift a beater straight up in the air, the egg whites should stand at a 45 degree angle, not at 90 degrees.
Finally, the incorporation of the egg whites into the rest of the mixture should be done by gently folding. You don't want to mix vigorously; this will deflate your whites and decrease the lift of your finished product. A great technique when folding ingredients is to scrape the spatula along the bottom of the bowl, then turning the bowl a quarter turn and scraping down along the botton again. Repeat this until the mixture looks uniform.
As you can see, following these steps to the letter results in a pillowy, light, airy souffle that rises high above the rim of the ramekin. You'll want to present and eat them fairly quickly once they are out of the oven; they do deflate dramatically after about 5 minutes.
Not only do these souffles look impressive, they taste wonderful. They are tangy from the Parmesan, with those delicious ribbons of spinach running throughout, and the eggs form a lovely crust on top while being almost impossibly soft inside. I was thrilled with my first souffles, and I do hope you'll give them a try, too. They are so much easier than you think they are!
Spinach and Parmesan Souffles
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 4 souffles
1 1/2 Tbsp. dry breadcrumbs
1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
2/3 cup milk (I used 2%)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1. Place a baking sheet in the oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat 4 (6-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, tilting and turning dishes to coat sides completely.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray. Add spinach; cook for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts, tossing constantly. Place spinach in a colander; let stand 5 minutes. Squeeze excess liquid from spinach. Coarsely chop spinach.
3. Combine 2/3 cup milk and the next 4 ingredients (through black pepper) in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Cook for 2 minutes or until mixture is thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Spoon mixture into a large bowl, and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in spinach, cheese, and egg yolks.
4. Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl, and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Beat with a mixer at high speed until medium peaks form (do not overbeat). Gently stir one-fourth of egg whites into spinach mixture, and gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Gently spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Sharply tap dishes 2 or 3 times on counter to level.
5. Place dishes on preheated baking sheet; return baking sheet to 425 degree oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees; bake souffles at 350 for 21-24 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown on top. Serve immediately.