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Published February 04, 2014, 06:20 PM

Halgrimson: Lettuce Soufflé a treat

Years ago I taught a soufflé class in which we made Jacques Pepin’s Lettuce Soufflé and Pierre Franey’s Chocolate Soufflés.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

“Souffler in French means to inflate, to blow, which is a fitting description of this famous concoction. It is simply a white sauce (or a puree of vegetables or fruit) that’s been seasoned and combined with egg yolks and beaten egg whites. The air bubbles in the whites expand during baking, making the soufflé rise.” – Jacques Pepin

Years ago I taught a soufflé class in which we made Jacques Pepin’s Lettuce Soufflé and Pierre Franey’s Chocolate Soufflés.

I still make the Lettuce Soufflé, and anyone who thinks cooked lettuce is an aberration is wrong. It is sublime, at least the way Pepin does it. I watched him make his soufflé at a class I took at a Minneapolis cooking school long ago. And I wanted to bring him home. But his cookbooks on methods and techniques had to suffice.

Try Pepin’s Lettuce Souffle. It’s a treat. And if you want to see a soufflé being made, sign up for a French Gourmet Dinner class sponsored by Moorhead Community Education. The menu includes a traditional cheese soufflé (soufflé au fromage), and once the techniques for making this classic are learned, they may be applied to any kind of soufflé.

The class is being taught by Soizik Laguette on April 8. Register online at https://communityed.moorheadschools.org

I have adapted the recipe somewhat. I use an electric mixer rather than my copper bowl to beat the egg whites.

LETTUCE SOUFFLE

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup sliced shallots

8 cups 2-inch slices romaine lettuce

1/3 cup water

8 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons flour

1½ cups milk

5 egg yolks

¼ teaspoon Tabasco

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)

7 egg whites

1 tablespoon dry breadcrumbs

Approximately 12 small strips of cheddar cheese for decoration

Melt butter in a large skillet and add shallots. Sauté for about 1 minute, then add lettuce and water. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to wilt lettuce. Uncover and let it cook on high heat until all of the liquid is evaporated. It should be practically dry.

For the white sauce, melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and mix well. Cook on medium heat for 1 minute. Mixture should be light brown and slightly grainy. Add milk and bring to a boil, stirring. Place the palm of your hand on top of the handle of the whisk to slide it into the corners, where the sauce has a tendency to stick and burn. Keep cooking until it comes to a boil. It will get very thick.

Add the egg yolks, Tabasco, and salt; mix fast and thoroughly. Mixture should be yellow and fairly thick. Add cheese and wilted greens and mix well. Set aside.

Butter a 2-quart dish with straight sides, add flour, shake it around, and pour excess flour back into the flour container.

Turn oven to 375 degrees. Place egg whites in an electric mixer and beat very fast for 10 to 15 seconds, then slow down and continue to beat. Increase speed as whites get fluffy. It should take 2 to 3½ minutes for whites to firm and hold a peak. They should be glossy and tight in texture without being weepy or dry.

Add about a quarter of egg whites to white sauce, stirring fast with a whisk. This lightens the white sauce so that the rest of the whites can be folded in easily. Give remaining egg whites a few strokes with the whisk to eliminate any graininess. Then fold whites into base with a large rubber spatula.

Pour into prepared mold and smooth top with a spatula. Run the side of your thumb around the edge of the dish to make it clean and loose so the soufflé doesn’t stick to the edge while cooking. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Decorate the top of the soufflé, making a crisscross pattern with the cheese strips.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees and cook for another 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Readers can reach Forum Food Columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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