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A soufflé is an original culinary high point

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A long time ago when I was in culinary school – I won’t divulge how long – the world was a different place. For example, we could actually go outside!

In our modern society, kids will go out for sushi and grownups will purchase exotic ingredients at their local grocery store.

Back in the day, the average Canadian wasn’t as knowledgeable about fine cuisine or international flavour profiles as they are today.

When I was in culinary school, I remember the most common thing my friends would ask me is if I had learned how to make a “soufflé” yet? They wouldn’t even know what it was, but it was the only “fancy” food they had ever heard of.

The word soufflé in English literally means “to blow up,” which is a term we don’t typically like to use in a kitchen, especially if we use a gas stove! What it does refer to, however, is a dish that will rise or puff up as it bakes in the oven. A soufflé could be sweet or savoury.

It typically consists of a base (in this case a basic white sauce), a garnish or flavouring (asparagus) and then aeration (whipped egg white).

The asparagus can, of course, be subbed for other veggies or you could even add some diced meat or flaked salmon into it for a variation.

Asparagus is one of the first crops of the season and we do have several local farmers that we can support when it comes out!

Serve this with a leafy salad and you’ve got a complete meal.

The most important step is the separating of the eggs. If you’ve never done it before then it’s worth practicing.  It is very important not to get any traces of yolk in with the whites or they won’t fluff up properly and you might find yourself using language that doesn’t depict a respectful citizen!

Asparagus Soufflé

(Serves 6)

  • 1 bundle asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups 2% milk
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 4  eggs, separated
  • 1 pkg (140 g) soft unripened goat’s milk cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon or dill

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray six 6-oz  ramekins lightly with cooking spray; set on rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

In medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook asparagus for 2 minutes. Drain, plunge into bowl of ice water to cool. Drain again, pat dry. Cut asparagus into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces; set aside.

In same saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until thick enough to coat back of spoon. Remove from heat; let cool slightly.

In large bowl, whisk egg yolks until lightened in colour. Gradually whisk in milk mixture and goat cheese until smooth. Fold in asparagus and tarragon until combined.

In another bowl and using an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Fold one-third into asparagus mixture then fold in remainder. Spoon mixture evenly into ramekins. Bake in centre of oven for 22 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately.

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