Finally back in the kitchen, November Daring Cooks Souffle’
Holy cow, it has been 5 months since my last blog. For those that are interested, I was otherwise engaged with my busiest summer of work ever. Many smaller jobs and one great big one that was a 24/7 commitment for just shy of 3 months solid. I was tapped by the boss to scout and produce the new series of commercials promoting Alaska tourism.
Talk about a great way to spend my summer. We traveled to Ketchikan, Juneau, Fairbanks, Denali, Katmai, Kenai, Homer, Seward, and many, many points between. Boats, float planes, helicopters, and at least a dozen different rental cars in cities and towns across this great state became my transportation/office. If you read this blog, are traveling to Alaska, and need either restaurant or hotel reccomendations, just let me know.
Things have slowed down for me for the time being. Until the next big project at least. Time to get cooking. This month’s Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen. A PDF of all the recipes can be found here. They provided several different versions including sweet and savory recipes.
I decided on doing a couple different versions myself. For my first ever souffle’, I went with smoked halibut, kasseri cheese, and sauteed leeks. That means I had to smoke some halibut. I start with brining about 15 lbs in 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of kosher salt, 1 cup of brown sugar, and 1 cup of soy. I let the fish sit overnight in the brine. Then the next morning you rinse, pat dry, and allow to dry further on your smoker racks in front of a fan.
Then all the fish goes into the smoker. I let it go for about 5 hours at a temp of between 120-150F. It was cold outside and I had to put a box over my smoker and then wrap the box in a furniture blanket to keep the temp up.
I am always extra careful to barely cook the fish. Halibut is so easily overcooked which renders a very dry product. Notice how this is still very moist.
I started by prepping my ramekins. Thoroughly butter them and then coat with finely grated parmesan. Be sure to clean the top edge. Put these in the fridge while you get everything else ready.
Now on to the souffle’ proper. Whip 3 egg whites to stiff peaks. I probably could have taken these just a little further but being my first time, I didn’t want to over whip.
While those were whipping in the Kitchen Aid I sauteed the leeks in a Tbsp of butter. When they were soft, I added in about a Tbsp of flour and stirred to mix thoroughly. Then add in a cup of lowfat or fat free milk. Fat is the enemy of a good souffle’ because it will collapse the air bubbles in your egg whites. Stir your leek beschamel until it thickens. Then add in one cup of grated kasseri cheese. I took off the heat at this point.
You now need to add a couple of beaten egg yolks to the cheese sauce. The trick is adding in such a way so that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. I did this by slowly tempering the yolks by adding just a bit of the cheese sauce into the egg yolks while whipping. This brings the temp up slowly. When you have incorporated several spoonfuls of the cheese sauce into the yolks, you can then return the tempered yolks back into the rest of your cheese sauce.
Now you will put the sauce and the egg whites together. I think the best advice I found online was to whip 1/3 or less of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to loosen it up. Then gently with a large spatula, fold in the remaining egg whites. Be especially careful to not deflate the whites.
I lined the bottom of the ramekins with a layer of crumbled smoked halibut. Then gently fill them with the souffle’ mix. I filled these just to the line of parmesan. Put into a pre-heated 400F oven on a cookie sheet. After 5 minutes or so you can lower the temperature to 375F.
Now here is where my blog will differ from Martha Stewart’s. After putting these in the oven I was afraid they would rise into the oven rack above. So I tried to gently remove them and re-arrange the racks. Well my towel had a wet spot on it and when I was halfway through moving the tray, it started to burn the hell out of 3 of my fingers. I just bit the bullet and refused to drop all of my hard work. They did land a little rough on the stovetop. This definitely affected the rise height. Rookie move and I know better. (Insert every known curse word while I ran my hand under cold water)
I kept a close eye on these and took them out after about 25 minutes. They actually peaked after about 23 but I was following the recipe so let them finish. Photographing a risen souffle’ is something to be done fast. No messing around with the lighting or focus because you will miss your best shots.
These were topped with some parmesan after cooking.
I think I have eaten too much smoked halibut over the last week. To the rest of the world these would have been amazing. To me, I guess I was just smoked out, pun intended.
The tops definitely came out light and airy. The rest was more creamy and rich. I enjoyed learning the technique and have since put together a chocolate version. Sweet ones rise a whole hell of lot more.
These were made from chocolate, banana, and macadamia nut.
Be sure to check out the other Daring Cooks for their take on this month’s challenge.
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Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.