I usually dive headfirst into disaster with a smile, which is why I chose, for my first entry, something I’ve never cooked before in my life–souffle.
Souffle is so gorgeous to look at, lovely to say, slipping off your tongue like the best French words do, but at altitude it can be…cantankerous (as un-lovely a word as the finished product). Souffles at 10,000 feet and above tend to shoot up like a geyser, only to plummet down into a soupy mess.
But I wanted to make a broccoli souffle, and here is what happened:
I was pleased.
Parmesan Broccoli Souffle
1 large head of broccoli, (about 4 cups of stems) or 4 cups of frozen chopped broccoli
1/4 cup butter, or (if you’re feeling like throwing all caution to the wind as I felt this morning) 1/4 cup of bacon grease (its worth it, I promise)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 egg yolks beaten
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
8 egg whites
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (200 Celsius). When you put the souffle in the over, you’ll lower the temperature to 375 degrees (190 Celsius).
Your eggs can be best separated when they’re cold, but the egg whites should be closer to room temperature when beaten to get the highest volume.
Cook chopped broccoli for about 10 minutes. Veggies in altitude need a lot more time than at sea level, but you can get away with 5 minutes if you like your veggies crunchy. Chop again finely. Set aside.
Melt butter in saucepan, stir in flour and cook over high heat for 1 minute. Add milk, whisk vigorously.
Stir until thick and smooth, and continue to stir while adding cheese, salt, and pepper.
Remove from heat and add beaten egg yolks little by little — do not boil or mixture will curdle.
Add broccoli and set the mixture aside.
Beat the cream of tartar with the egg whites with until they are have soft, droopy peaks. The egg whites are the most important part of high altitude souffles. They should NOT be stiff, or they’ll expand and explode when cooked (thus, the geyser effect).
Fold in about a cup of the whites to the broccoli mixture to make it lighter. Then fold the broccoli mixture carefully into the remaining egg whites. If you do this gently enough, the souffle will be perfect. It’s astonishing how perfect it will be.
Pour mixture into an 8 cup buttered souffle dish, then put the souffle dish into a boiling water bath. This will create a soft, steady heat and smooth texture of the souffle. Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees (190 Celsius) and cook for 30 to 32 minutes.
Serve to admiring guests or to your mildly impressed family.