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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Rise And The Fall: cheese souffle with candied bacon

We eat a lot of eggs in this house.  We adore them poached, gently fried, scrambled, shirred, and folded into cheesy omelettes.  Luckily, our cholesterol levels are in check.  Bring on the eggs!

Last night I wanted a change from our usual breakfast-for-supper routine.  Individual cheese souffles felt like the way to go..  I hadn't made a souffle years.  There was no way the two of us could eat an entire one, so I thought smaller individual souffles would be a better fit.  Although somewhat intimidating,  they were quite simple to prepare. 

I separated 7 eggs with  4 egg whites in one bowl and 3 egg yolks in another bowl..  3 yolks between two people? Healthy.  I started the flavor base by making a thick bechamel with 3 tablespoons of butter, 3 tablespoons of flour, and 1 cup of hot milk, adding the milk after the butter and flour had cooked long enought to cook out the flour taste. After the base reached a good consistency, I tossed in 1/2 cup of  grated parmigiano, 1/2 cup of grated gruyere,salt, pepper, minced parsley, and dill.
While the base cooled,  I tossed  the egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar into my stand mixer and whipped the eggs whites until stiff, but not dry.

To promote a good rise, I buttered two straight sided bowls, sprinkled fresh parmigiano onto the buttered surfaces, and shook out the excess into the souffle batter.

After gently folding the whipped egg whites into the cooled cheesy egg batter, I filled the bowls 3/4 full and slid them into a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes to puff up and rise. 

I wanted something special to accompany our souffles. I thought a candied bacon salad would offer the right oomph.  Now, not even I am crazy enough to come up with the candied bacon concept. I adapted a recipe from Jamie Oliver's America cookbook, , a gift from Michael.

Crazy.  Insane.  Delicious.

While the souffles baked away in the oven, I prepared the candied bacon for the salad.

I sauteed 4 slices of bacon until almost crisp, removed them to a paper towel-lined plate, tossed a smashed garlic clove into the bacon fat for flavor, and sauteed good cubed country white bread until browned and crisp for salad croutons.

 I scooped the crunchy garlic croutons out of the skillet, placed them on paper towels to absorb the excess fat, and wiped the skillet clean before returning it to the heat with the bacon, 5 tablespoons of turbinado sugar, and 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice.

It simmered and popped.  It was beautiful..  I turned the bacon several times to fully coat it with the candied orange goodness.  The sugar caramelized into the reduced orange juice, creating a heavenly syrup that thoroughly engulfed the salty bacon.  I carefully pulled the bacon from the sticky sauce to let it cool and harden.
I stared at the bacon in total disbelief.  It was gorgeous. 

After 35 minutes, I pulled the souffles out of the oven.  Working quickly, I tossed delicate lettuces with julliened green pappers in a light vinaigrette and toppped our salads with the glistening bacon. Fleur de sel and cracked pepper finished them off.

In the short time it took to plate the salads, the souffles fell.  Deflated.  I knew it would happen.  It's the nature of the beast.

I have often used as light as air  when describing food.  The souffle was  like actually eating air.  Well seasoned and flavorful air.  The nutty cheeses had  melted into the egg puffs, adding sensational subtle earthy flavor.  Soft.  Rich.

The tartly dressed salad balanced the richness of the airy souffle while  the candied bacon exploded with salty sweetness. It was ridiculous. Sticky, peppery, sweet, salty, and crunchy. 

 I became a prisoner to the bacon.  I surrendered to it.

Captivated and captured.

The souffles were tasty, too.

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