Philacatessen | Simplest Souffle, Merci Madame Pepin

(Photo by Keri White)

I am a fan of soufflés. But I am not a fan of the mess they make — four dishes at least by the time you separate the eggs, whip the whites, make the béchamel in a saucepan and bake the soufflé. And that’s not to mention the precision timing and the fragility of the soufflé. And the possible catastrophe if you drip an iota of yolk into the whites.

I’m getting anxious just typing this. 

Imagine my delight when I discovered a far simpler way to accomplish the deliciousness of a soufflé with significantly less effort. I saw it posted online, something about a fuss-free soufflé, and I was intrigued — evidently it was Jacques Pepin’s mother’s recipe.

I fiddled around with the recipe, reduced the huge amount of butter and cheese (although there’s still plenty included) and eliminated one egg. The first time I made it I used gruyere and chives. Sublime. The second time, I didn’t have either, so I sautéed finely chopped onions in the butter before adding the flour and used sharp cheddar. Success.

Full disclosure: This does not deliver the uber-light fluffiness of a traditional soufflé. Instead, this version has more creamy depth, almost velvety-custardy.

And you can make it ahead of time and let it sit out for an hour or two before baking it. Or you can make it far ahead of time and put it in the fridge for the day. And you can bake it, planning to serve at a particular time, but if your family runs late, the soufflé won’t collapse. 

Cheese Souffle with Minimal Fuss

Serves 2-4, depending on appetites and what else you are serving

  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus more for the pan
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ cups grated cheese
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives, scallions, or onions (optional)
  • Generous pinch salt, generous sprinkle of pepper

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1.5-quart baking dish and set it aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Stir until a paste forms. Add the milk, whisking until thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Add the cheese, chives, salt and pepper. 

Pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisk until thoroughly blended and pour it into the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown. 


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