Cheese Souffle
6 servings
This is one of those dishes where the less you futz with it, the better it’ll be. A perfect cheese soufflé on its own is a thing of beauty and the best-tasting cheese produce the most delicious souffle That said, you don’t usually see chives in cheese soufflés. But why not? I like the pretty little green flecks, and they add a delicate herbal, onion flavor. You could swap it out with a smaller amount of minced chervil, tarragon, or another herb, or leave it out. I do like a flavorful, slightly aged cheese in my souffle but you don’t want anything too aged (or dry) because you want it to melt and meld nicely with the other ingredients. Although I suggested Comté or Gruyère, a good-quality Emmenthaler, Gouda, or cheddar would be nice. (Although I did make one with cheddar and it tended to be denser, and not as light, as one made with Comté.) I use 8 ounces of cheese but if you want it lighter, and less-cheesy, you can go with 6 ounces. Cheese can vary in salt so I used a minimum, but feel free to taste the white sauce before using it and if you want to add a bit more salt to it, or the egg whites, you can. What to do with the extra egg yolk? Add it to your next omelet mixture or batch of ice cream (UPDATE: Several commenters said they just added the additional egg yolk when making the soufflé base.)
4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, cubed, plus additional softened butter for preparing the baking dish
grated Parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons (45g) flour
1 3/4 cups (430ml) whole milk, warmed
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
freshly-ground black pepper
pinch of grated nutmeg
bigger pinch of cayenne pepper
5 large egg yolks
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
8 ounces (225g) Comté, Gruyère, or another favorite cheese, coarsely shredded (see headnote)
1/4 cup (12g) minced chives
1. Butter a 1 1/2-2-quart (2l) baking dish generously. Dust the bottom and sides with Parmesan cheese.
2. To make the soufflé base, Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the flour and bring to a low boil. Cook until the mixture has thickened a bit, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, whisk in the warm milk and turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly.
3. Remove from heat and whisk in the salt, a generous amount of freshly ground pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne. Whisk in the egg yolks vigorously, one at a time. Scrape the mixture into a medium to large bowl and let cool a bit until only slightly warm.
4. To make the soufflé, preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC.) Reserve a handful of the cheese, and stir the rest of the cheese and chives into the soufflé base. In a large, clean bowl, or in the stand mixer with the whip attachment, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold their shape but are still moist and creamy. Don’t overbeat them.
5. Fold one-quarter of the beaten egg whites into the soufflé base thoroughly, then fold the remaining egg whites in just until there are no (or few) visible streaks of egg whites. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish, gently smooth the top, and strew the reserved handful of cheese over the top.
6. Bake the soufflé on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes, without opening the oven door. Depending on how you like your soufflés, if you like them on the soft, somewhat runny side, it’s probably done. If you like them firmer, usually 25 minutes (total) is the right baking time. The best way to check it to touch the center at the 20 minute mark. If the soufflé still jiggles and moves freely in the center when you touch it, it’s done, if you like softly-cooked soufflés. If not, put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Serving: Serve immediately, with a green salad, steamed green beans, wilted greens, or another vegetable.

Storage: Some people make soufflès ahead then bake them later. I’ve done that with individual soufflés but have not tried that with a larger one. The egg whites might deflate under the weight of the sauce so if you’re a do-ahead type, you can make the sauce up to step 3, then smear a little butter over the top (to prevent a skin from forming and cover it snugly with food-safe plastic wrap. It can be refrigerated for a few days but brought up to room temperature, before using.