I tend to be very sceptical of expiration dates. When it comes to meat, they are too long, butter and eggs, too short. Ibuprofen and film? Not sure what they mean but I usually ignore them. Pascal, on the other hand, is a purist. If it says March 1st on the package then you can only safely eat it up to February 28th and even that might be pushing it. This means that every now and again I need to come up with a recipe that gets rid of nearly expiring items (see Bread Pudding). Soufflé is the end all be all of kitchen sink dishes. You can put pretty much anything in it and it will still turn out great and be impressive to your fellow diners (mine was a total disaster and still got a wow). The word soufflé comes from the French souffler or to puff or to blow, which is basically what happens to this dish made mostly from egg whites and a custardy béchamel. Usually the reason for a soufflé in my house is a surplus of cheese in this instance it happened to be eggs; really nice farmers market eggs that I bought way too many of when the farmer wooed me with his stories of happy chickens; eggs that just so happen to be approaching their expiry date. No matter how many times I demonstrate the ‘how to tell an egg is not bad’ trick to Pascal, the date on the box always supersedes, thus cheese soufflé for dinner.
How to tell an egg is bad: Fill a tall glass ¾ with water and slowly lower the egg into it. Make sure the glass is wide enough to fully accommodate the egg otherwise, bad or good, the retrieval can get embarrassing. If the egg is good then it will sink immediately to the bottom. If bad, it will float either in the middle or to the top, the badder the egg the higher it floats. The reason behind this is that there is a small pocket of air in every egg which grows as the egg ages due to dehydration thus allowing it to float.
1 tbsp flour
2 ¼ cups milk, warmed
2oz finely grated parmesan cheese
4 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/ 400˚F, with the shelf place low in the oven. Place a baking sheet on the rack to rest the ramekin on. See picture above for obvious reason.
Step 1: First prepare the béchamel. Melt the butter in a sauce pan and stir in the tbsp of flour, then integrate the milk until the mixture is smooth. Cook for about 10 minutes continuously stirring as the flour can clump at this stage. Then add the cheese (It doesn’t have to be parmesan but that is the traditional) and the thoroughly beaten egg yolks. Remove from the heat and continue to stir for a minute or two. Then add the seasoning.
Step 2: Whisk the egg whites until stiff and creamy and fold into the custard mixture in halves into a 20cm buttered ramekin. Only fill the ramekin up ¾, see above picture for reason. Put in the oven immediately. Cook for 20 minutes then keep and eye on it. Depending on the weather (seriously) it can take between 25-35 minutes.
Note: You can make step 1 well ahead of time. Also should you wish to add other ingredients such as vegetables etc, just dust them with flour before adding them to the step 1 mixture, this prevents them from migrating towards the bottom.