Welcome to Plucky Thursday, the day where I attempt culinary feats that scare, daunt or otherwise befuddle me.
This week I faced the soufflé, that beautiful, airy dish whose very name causes me to inwardly tremble.
Naturally reticent to experiment before a crowd, I forced myself to make them not just for me, but for my entire Culinary Experimentation Group – a band of marvy friends who meet every Monday night to cook, imbibe and engage in lively conversation
I settled on Gluten-Free Spinach Goat Cheese Soufflés to accommodate the gluten-free diet of one of our members.
Arriving at Don’s house – the scene of our convivial evenings – on a particularly blustery night, I struggled through the buffeting winds, my arms loaded down with eggs, soft goat cheese and bags of spinach.
Greeting one and all I put on a brave face, calming myself with the familiar routines of chopping, steaming and grating. Finally the ingredients were assembled, hand-whipped egg whites folded in and I poured the mixture into twice-buttered ramekins and slid them into the oven.
I tried not to look for the first 15 minutes, and when the timer beeped I was appalled to discover the soufflés hadn’t risen a smidge! I paced to and fro in front of the oven, willing them to poof, PLEASE POOF!!! But they just sat there, in all their gooey, cheesy goodness, getting hotter but not bigger.
Mike and Darren hovered close by, ricing potatoes and stirring sticky lemon chicken.
“Just give it a little more time,” Darren suggested as we peered in through the glass door. We waited another five minutes. Nothing.
Mike urged me to do the “poofy dance”, sure that would do the trick. He obliged us with a demonstration which produced much hilarity but no poofing.
Another three minutes passed, then five, and then HUZZAH!!! Up they came! Golden brown and wondrously poofy!
Soufflés, you are my friend!
Gluten-Free Spinach Goat Cheese Soufflés
Softened butter, to grease the ramekins
1 bag organic spinach, washed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1 tsp finely minced garlic
2 Tbsp sorghum flour
2 Tbsp potato starch
A pinch of Cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 cup milk
7 ounces soft goat’s cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
4 large eggs, separated
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Brush 8 ramekins with softened butter. (using upward strokes on edges “helps” souffles rise properly)
- Set ramekins on a baking tray, chill 5-10 minutes, then repeat with another layer of butter.
- Steam spinach over boiling water until limp and bright green. Remove from heat, then wrap in clean towel and squeeze out the excess moisture.
- Season with salt and pepper, chop fine and set aside.
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan and add onion and garlic. Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes until soft.
- Add the flour, potato starch and Cayenne pepper and stir over low heat for 3-4 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer and stir for a few minutes until the mixture becomes thick.
- Transfer to a large bowl and cool slightly.
- Add goat cheese, Parmesan, salt and pepper and stir to mix.
- Stir in the spinach and and egg yolks. Set aside.
- Beat the egg whites with an electric whisk (or by hand for a VERY long time!) until they hold firm peaks, then fold into the spinach and cheese mixture until just combined.
- Spoon into the prepared ramekins then tap them gently on counter to get rid of any large air pockets.
- Run the tip of a small knife around the edge of each one.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown on top.
- Serve immediately.