Article and photo by Lisa Crocket
Eggs are an important part of my diet. They’re almost miraculous: cheap, tasty, nutritious and fast. With the notable exception of a period when I dedicated myself to strict paleo eating, and therefore eggs for breakfast almost every day, I almost never tire of eggs. Most weeks, eggs land on the breakfast table multiple times, and in a pinch, they’re good for dinner too. Scrambled egg burritos, veggie frittatas and cheese omelets are in the regular rotation at our house, especially on nights when time is short and the fridge is low on ingredients. In about 15 minutes, I can have a respectable, warm dinner on the table with a bare minimum of muss and fuss.
A few weeks ago, I (again) found myself staring into a fridge that was low on ingredients save for eggs and cheese. A spring snowstorm raging outside made a trip to the store seem particularly unpalatable, but the thought of another veggie scramble simply didn’t appeal to me. I wanted something a little more dazzling than my same old favorites without a trip to the store. So, I went in search for a recipe, doing a Google search using “eggs” and “cheese” and “nothing else, the cupboard is bare.”
My top 100 results were soufflés. Cheese soufflé, 500 ways, all of them slightly different, and all boasting that they were the best. I kept on scrolling, because soufflé seems hard and French and fancy. I had vague recollections of the old 1960s sitcom reruns I watched as a kid, in which some unwitting housewife makes dinner for her husband’s boss, unwisely choosing to make a soufflé, which invariably exploded or collapsed, placing her husband’s employment in jeopardy. Channeling “Bewitched’s” Samantha Stevens, I continued my search.
I had all but settled on a quiche recipe, though, when I thought better of it. I was looking for a challenge, and quiche just wasn’t what I needed. The recipes said the soufflé was easy, and since no one’s gainful employment hung in the balance, I figured the worst thing that would happen would be that the soufflé would be a flop, and we’d call out for pizza. I needn’t have worried. The soufflé was, in fact, easy. Egg whites are amazing, and using them to your advantage will produce impressive results. The soufflé contains most of the same simple ingredients as an omelet, but the flavors come together in a silky, sophisticated way. The final product did deflate just a bit once it came out of the oven, but every recipe I read said that was normal, so I didn’t worry about it.
Even with the time it took to find a recipe and tackle and unfamiliar technique, dinner was on the table in about an hour. The soufflés looked beautiful, tasted delicious, and were happily consumed. Accompanied with a simple green salad to balance the richness of the eggs, it was a lovely, light supper. Put one of these beauties on your table tonight, or serve it at your Easter brunch for a new way to serve an old favorite.
Easy Cheesy Soufflé
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese, grated finely
2 teaspoons flour
½ cup milk
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, separate
Heat the oven to 375. Grease two eight-ounce ramekins, and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Parmesan cheese into each. Set the ramekins aside. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, then add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Add milk; cook and stir until milk is well incorporated and the mixture is bubbly and thick. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the cheddar cheese and the seasonings, then whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Set this mixture aside. In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until the whites hold stiff peaks. Stir about ¼ of the egg whites into the cheese/yolk mixture until they’re well incorporated. Then, gently stir in the rest of the whites so they are evenly mixed, taking care not to “deflate” them.
Divide the mixture evenly between two ramekins, then place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the soufflés are puffed and lightly brown. Serve immediately. Serves two; double the recipe for a family of four.