This month we are cooking dishes from places that could be a home away from home. In many cultures, food is a way of making guests feel welcome; I just know that in a place where food is so intrinsically linked with national identity I will fit right in. Although I have never been to France (it is certainly up there on my list of places to travel), I have chosen to cook two French classics: today’s Blue cheese soufflé, and later in the week I will be posting a Tarte Tatin.
What I love about French cuisine is that it is challenging. Most culinary educations are built on mastering the classics, and the classics are French. I’ve heard people talk about a ‘snobbish’ edge to French cuisine, but I think of it more as a high level of respect for quality ingredients, traditional methods and the skill of the chef. Meals are lovingly prepared over several hours, and then eaten with as much care and style as has been put into making them.
Soufflés wait for no one. A single-baked soufflé must be served immediately. There are some steps than can be done in preparation – the moulds can be greased and refrigerated earlier in the day and the béchamel sauce base cooked. The egg whites however must be whipped and folded in just prior to baking, and once baked they must be eaten before they deflate!
I served these alongside a peppery watercress, hazelnut and caramelized pear salad with Dijon mustard dressing to make a great lunch or light dinner. Just remember your timing – prep the salad and dressing before starting the soufflés, then simply dress and plate the salad while the soufflés are in their last 10 minutes of baking.