Golden, puffy and easy zucchini souffle

Published: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 4:34 p.m.

A savory souffle is a welcome and unusual main course, but the very idea of it strikes fear in the hearts of even some accomplished home cooks.


Zucchini souffle

Time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 servings
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 to 3 medium zucchini, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs, separated
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
¼ cup parsley, chopped
Butter four 1½-cup ramekins or one 6-cup souffle dish. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; when it's hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until very tender, another 10 to 12 minutes. If you prefer, substitute a 10-ounce bag of spinach, chopped and cooked the same way. Drain the vegetables if there is excess liquid, and let cool.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and cheese with some salt and pepper. Add the vegetables and parsley and stir. In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites until they are light and fluffy and just hold soft peaks; stir about a third of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining whites, trying not to deflate them much.
Pour the souffle mixture into the ramekins or dish. Bake until golden and puffy, 30 to 35 minutes, and serve immediately.

And while much of the anxiety surrounding this dish is unwarranted, it's undeniably fussy and intimidating. However, souffles will always rise when prepared correctly. And they do eventually fall — they're supposed to.

Traditional savory souffles rely on a bechamel sauce, itself enough to guarantee you're never going to make one on a weeknight.

Enter the mock souffle, filled with shortcuts that make this dish far less intimidating. This approach eliminates that sauce, using just eggs and cheese for the custard.

To keep the souffle as light as possible, the zucchini is grated (the food processor makes short work of this), and then cooked with onion and garlic until it's really soft, almost melting. (If there's liquid in the pan when you're done, drain it to further lighten the mixture.)

From this point, the process is like making a cake: You whisk the egg yolks and cheese together in one bowl and the whites in another.

The whites should be light, fluffy and foamy, and they should hold soft peaks — you'll know them when you see them. (Don't let any of the yolk get into the whites or else none of this will happen.)

At this point, everything is combined, with the whites added gradually and gently so that they're deflated as little as possible, and then baked. I like to do the souffles individually, but you can make one big one.

In any case, they'll become golden and puffy. They'll begin to deflate in a couple of minutes, but if you get them to the table immediately, the drama will take place there, not in the kitchen.

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