On Valentine’s Day, Cooking by the Book featured a special Bubbles and Bites menu with all the dishes coming from James Peterson’s Glorious French Food. “Glorious” is the right adjective for the armada of wonderful dishes that parade across the pages of this book. For our menu, we offered:
- Individual Goat Cheese Soufflés
- Roast Duck Breast on a Red Cabbage Salad with Almonds and Champagne Vinaigrette
- Steamed Mussels in a Cream, Saffron and Mint Sauce
- Chicken Liver Mouse Served with Salty Focaccia [a Suzi specialty]
- Simplest Chocolate Mouse
Over the next few days, I’ll post the recipes for every course in this lovely meal. I suppose you could wait until next Valentine’s Day to try the whole thing yourself, or you do it all on some earlier night, or you can pick and choose. But somewhere along the way, all of these recipes deserve a try.
The rest of the text below here comes from Peterson’s book. I’m putting the headnotes here because of the care he explains about choosing the cheese for this dish. And the headnotes explain how this is one of the dishes that stretched Peterson’s arms [literally] and mind [figuratively] at a restaurant he once owned in a place called Manhattan.
For years I owned a small French restaurant in Manhattan where I was more concerned with duplicating experiences in France than I was in making money. Hence the restaurant’s eventual demise—too many truffles, too many laborious dishes, and too much Champagne broken out if business was slow or a member of the kitchen staff was feeling a little low. The least practical dish, but a very popular one, was an individual goat cheese soufflé served as a first course. Not only did this keep the customers at the table an extra 20 minutes, but because I insisted the egg whites be beaten by hand (and because of our limited staff, this meant by me), I would be standing next to the stove beating egg whites in a copper bowl, sautéing chicken and steaks, whisking up sauces, and keeping track of those soufflés that were already in the oven.
These soufflés are very easy to prepare and you don’t need to make a béchamel. I’ve never known anyone not to give them a rave review. It’s important to use goat cheese that’s not too hard, not too soft, and with plenty of flavor. I use bucheron (loosely translated as “lumberjack”), which is shaped like a log, 1 foot [30 cm] long and 5 inches [12 cm] in diameter. It’s often sold in cheese stores or fancy supermarkets sliced into chunks about 2 inches [5 cm] thick. If you can’t find bucheron, ask for a medium textured full-flavored cheese, but don’t pay a mint—goat cheese can be very expensive. I use individual 10-ounce [310 ml] porcelain soufflé dishes, 4 inches in diameter and 1¾ inches [5 cm] high. Charlotte molds, which are metal and have little heart-shaped handles, will also work. I don’t use a collar for these soufflés, but if your soufflé dishes are small, you may want to make and aluminum foil collar to add height.
Individual Goat Cheese Soufflés
Yield: 4 portions
For lining the soufflé dishes:
- 1 tablespoon softened butter
- ⅓ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or grana padana
For the goat cheese base:
- 12 ounces [340 g] full-flavored, medium-textured goat cheese
- 6 egg yolks
For the final folding:
- 10 egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- Small pinch of cream of tartar (if you’re not using a copper bowl)
To prepare the dishes, place them on their sides and brush the insides with the softened butter. Put the Parmigiano-Reggiano in the dishes and turn the dishes around until the dishes and foil are covered with a layer of cheese. Don’t touch the inside after this point. Put the dishes in the refrigerator.
To make the goat cheese base, trim any moldy rind off the goat cheese and discard. Using the back of a fork, or a Kitchen Aid with a paddle attachment, mash the cheese with the egg yolks until the mixture is fairly smooth—don’t worry about a few little lumps of cheese. Reserve.
To beat and fold in the egg whites and bake the soufflé, preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the egg whites in a bowl with the salt and, unless you’re using a copper bowl, the cream of tartar. Start beating slowly (slow speed on the mixer) and gradually increase speed. Beat the whites to stiff peaks, about 4 minutes with an electric mixer, 6 to 8 minutes by hand. Whisk about one-fourth of the egg whites into the goat cheese mixture to lighten it and make it easier to fold. Scoop the egg whites into the goat cheese mixture and fold the mixture together with a rubber spatula. Sliding the spatula firmly against the sides of the bowl, reach down to the bottom of the bowl, where most of the heavier sauce base will have settled, and lift up the base, gently folding it over the whites. Continue in this way, cutting into the whites, but not pushing against them, as needed to combine the mixture. Don’t overdo it; a few uncombined pieces of white are less of a problem than overworking the mixture and making it heavy.
Gently pour the mixture into the soufflé dishes and place the dishes on a sheet pan. Slide the sheet pan into the oven. Turn up the oven up to 425°F.
Bake the soufflés for 15 to 20 minutes until they rise by 1 to 2 inches [5 to 7.5 cm]. Make sure your guests are all at the table. (Un soufflé peut etre attendu, mats il ne doit jamais attendre — “A soufflé may be awaited but mustn’t ever wait ” — is an often-quoted axiom.) Move the sheet pan back and forth while closely watching the movement of the soufflé. If you notice the top rocking slightly back and forth, the soufflés aren’t done. As soon as the soufflés appear firm, place the soufflés on plates, and bring them to the table. Provide your guests with dinner forks or large spoon.
Source: Glorious French Food by James Peterson