Market Matters- Sunchokes: If You Can Puree Em… You Can Souffle Em!

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There is autumn in the air. I got a whiff of someone’s first fire of the season when I awoke this morning. Which put me in the mood for something seasonal from the Hollywood Farmers Market for the week’s Market Matters.

I had already decided I was going to make a soufflé today. Because I have been wanting to do a post addressing some of the issues people have with soufflés. I just didn’t know how I was going to incorporate a soufflé into my Market Matters post, especially now that I my taste buds had a need for something autumnal.

But the truth is, choosing an unusual ingredient for my soufflé only reinforces my theme for today– and that theme is quite simply; despite their big, bad reputation, soufflés are a piece of cake! Well, I hope not literally cake, but you know what I mean.

Because soufflés are not difficult. Soufflés are a roux and egg whites barely mixed together and baked until golden. As I am sure you already know a roux is very easy to infuse with just about any flavor. So I decided to infuse mine with the sweet, nutty essence of sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and pecans. Doesn’t that sound just like the weather outside?

souffle ingredientsThe thing that gives soufflés the aura of difficulty is the way they rise dramatically over the rim of the dish that they are baked in. I am here to discuss a very simple way you can make this happen, so put those fears aside. You can achieve this rise quite easily with a parchment “collar” rising about 1-inch over the rim and tied around the dish. If you fill the soufflé dish all the way to the top of the collar, and take care not to over mix the egg white and roux combination. I guarantee you can get this effect.

However, this is a Sunday at home. The BF and I do not care one tiny bit how far my soufflé rises over the rim. But we do expect it to be impeccable in the ways that matter the most. Taste and texture. So in that case I am not going to bother with the collar, because I have an even easier solution in achieving a light as air soufflé. Use a larger dish!

souffleMy recipe calls for a smallish 5-cup soufflé dish. But I baked it in a larger 8-cup dish. The uncooked soufflé filled about 2/3 of the dish. After I baked it puffed up about 2 inches. Not enough to rise over the dish– but for this casual lunch for two, I was not interested in putting on a show. I was interested in taste and texture. Though I guarantee you had we had friends in for this little lunch I would have put the extra effort into using the collar and getting that 2-inch rise to come up over the rim. My point is you have a choice. Whichever choice you make is of little importance. What matters is the taste and quality of the final product. So if you understand the basics of a soufflé you can take it in almost any direction.

Every soufflé is made from 2 basic components: A roux-like “base” mixed with well-beaten egg whites.

The base provides the flavor and the egg whites provide the “lift”. When it comes out of the oven, a soufflé should be puffed up and fluffy, and it will generally fall after 5 or 10 minutes. This is expected, so do not consider a fallen soufflé a disaster. We don’t eat a soufflé until after it has fallen anyway. The dramatic rise is easy to achieve with the collar I mentioned because it helps direct this lift upward, but is not mandatory. So save your energy for the things that are mandatory in a good soufflé.

Soufflés should not be overcooked. They should not be dense, or heavy. But they should have a certain heft on the palate that comes from well-paired ingredients.

Soufflés get their structure from eggs, but they should not be eggy. All the best recipes I have seen achieve this balance with a 4-egg yolk to 5-egg whites ratio. Don’t try and economize and throw that extra yolk in the mix, or skip one of the eggs whites. The soufflé will become a bit cake-like and dense. Certainly you can think of another use for that extra egg yolk…

A soufflé’s structure may come from eggs, but its flavor is carried into this structure by a simple and classic roux, which is nothing more than butter and flour.

But the beauty of a roux is its ability to carry other flavors along with it. You can make a soufflé any flavor you like just by adding the flavor components to the roux. Common additions include, cheese, jam, banana, lemon, and chocolate. But there are no rules. If you can pureé em… you can soufflé em! I think I just made that up…

So here is my pairing of flavors.

Sunchoke Soufflé with Toasted Pecans serves 4 CLICK here for printable recipe

 

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1⁄3 c pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1⁄4 c plus 3 t grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb sunchokes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1⁄4 c flour
  • 4 egg yolks
  • kosher salt
  • 1 t rosemary leaves, minced
  • 1 t thyme leaves, minced
  • 1⁄2 t sage leaves, minced
  • 5 egg whites

prepping a souffle dishPre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut a length of parchment paper big enough to wrap around a 5-cup soufflé dish, then fold it in half and tie it in place using twine. You want this collar to stick up about 1-inch above the rim. Alternatively you may use a larger soufflé dish and skip the collar though you will not get a dramatic rise over the rim. Whichever you choose, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and brush the bottom and sides of the souffle dish and collar with it. Add 2 T of pecans and 2 T of Parmesan cheese; rotate the dish to thoroughly coat the sides and bottom. Set aside.

Combine the milk and sunchokes in a medium-sized saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered about 30minutes. The sunchokes will have become quite tender.

When fully cooked reserve 1 1/4 cups of the hot milk and strain the rest off the sunchokes. Let them cool slightly before proceeding.

Using a food processor puree the cooled sunchokes until very smooth. Pass the puree through a fine meshed sieve into a bowl. Use the back of a spoon to push as much of the puree through as possible. Discard the solids.

Melt the remaining 4 T butter in a medium-sized sauce pan set over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook whisking the whole time for 2 minutes. Slowly add the 1 1/4 cups reserved warm milk a little at a time as you whisk. The mixture should be smooth and free of lumps. Then add the sunchoke puree, Whisk to incorporate and remove the pan from the heat.

sunchoke souffleWhisk in the egg yolks one at a time until smooth. Whisk in salt, herbs and remaining pecans and Parmesan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites into stiff peaks. Then gently fold the sunchoke mixture into the egg whites taking care not to defalted the egg whites. You need not thoroughly mix them together. A folding motion is better. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish. It should come almost to the top of the collar if using to get a good rise above the rim. But it will still rise and be delicious if your dish is a bit bigger and the mixture does not fill the dish all the way to the top.

Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Serve immediately.

SERIOUS FUN FOOD

Greg Henry

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