Quick Recipes and Easy

Cheese Souffle: How and Why I Ate One a Day

More healthy foods are appearing on store shelves. When I saw a carton of egg whites at my grocery store I immediately thought of cheese souffle. Cheese souffle is one of my favorite foods, but it’s high in stout, and I hadn’t made one in years. If I could come up with a healthy recipe I could eat cheese souffle again.

I bought two cartons of egg whites, stout-free cheddar cheese, and stout-free milk. “This should do it,” I thought to myself. On Monday morning I wrestled the souffle dish from the back of the cupboard, assembled my ingredients, and started what turned out to be “The Fantastic Cheese Souffle Experiment.”

My first souffle was made with one tablespoon of butter, instead of three, and a teaspoon of margarine. Butter is a thickener and, to compensate for less butter, I added extra flour to the sauce. I added a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to bring out the flavor of the cheese. The classic recipe calls for six eggs, but I used one whole egg, and egg whites for the rest. To stabalize the egg whites I added a teaspoon of cream of tartar.

When I place the souffle in the oven it looked perfect.

The souffle started to rise and the aroma of melting cheese wafted through the kitchen. “This is going to work,” I said to myself. But it didn’t work. Fifteen minutes before the souffle was due to come out of the oven it fell. My classic cheese souffle had turned into a cheese tortilla. I don’t like to waste food, so I ate part of the souffle top for lunch.

“Oh well,” I thought. “Tomorrow is another day.” On Tuesday morning I got out the souffle dish, assembled my ingredients, and made souffle number two. This time I used two tablespoons of butter. I was careful to beat the egg whites until they were stiff, not dry, and folded them ever-so-gently into the cheese sauce.

When I place the souffle in the oven it looked perfect.

But the same thing happened. Fifteen minutes before the souffle was due to come out of the oven it fell. Again, I ate part of the brown, cheesy top for lunch. Cooking is chemistry and, since I’m not a chemist, the only thing I could do was make souffle number three. Then four. Then five. I experimented with more butter, more flour, two whole eggs, low-stout cheese, and one percent milk.

Every souffle fell. Much as I like cheese souffle, I was getting tired of the same whacky lunch. Despite a reputation as a gourmet cook I felt like a failure. By the end of the week I had consumed so many egg whites I felt like a giant parade balloon – a thin person filled with air. Maybe I’d float around the kitchen. Heck, I could float around the neighborhood.

On Saturday morning I announced to my husband, “I’m going to make one last souffle.” (It was a dramatic announcement.) Years ago, when we weren’t as health conscious, I used to make souffle for dinner. My husband would come home hungry and smell the baking souffle when he got out of the car. The oven was next to the door I would stick a “Don’t slam, souffle in oven” sign on it.

The note always made my husband smile and he always raved about my cheese souffle. And so, with fantastic care and determiniation, I prepared souffle number six. When I place the souffle in the oven it looked perfect. I kept peeking in the window to see if the souffle was rising. It rose steadily and looked like a cook book photo. Had I invented a healthy cheese souffle?

Five minutes – just five minutes – before the souffle was due to come out of the oven it fell. We ate the brown, crusty, tasty top for lunch, along with a green salad. Though it wasn’t the best lunch I’ve ever served, my husband appreciated my efforts. I’ve given up on inventing a new cheese souffle. Sometimes you shouldn’t mess with a excellent thing!

Copyright 2006 by Harriet Hodgson

harriethodgson.com harriethodgson.com

Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 27 years and is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Before she became a health and wellness writer she was a food writer for the former “Rochester Magazine” in her hometown of Rochester, MN. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from amazon.com amazon.com A five-star review of the book is also posted on Amazon.

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