If drama is important, the soufflé mixture should fill to the rim of the dish, and you will need to fit an aluminum foil collar, also buttered and floured or dusted with cheese, around the dish to prevent the expanding and stillliquid mass from spilling over the sides. Making a soufflé collar is a bit of a nuisance and can be avoided if you fill the soufflé dish no more than three-fourths full.
– 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature, for dishes, plus 1 tablespoon if using collars.
– 5 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Gouda, or other hard cheese for dishes, plus 3 tablespoons if using collars.
Béchamel Sauce Base
– 3 tablespoons butter.
– 3 tablespoons flour.
– ¾ cup milk.
– Tiny pinch of ground or freshly grated nutmeg.
– ¼ teaspoon salt.
– 5 ounces Gruyère or other firm cheese, grated (about 1 cup).
– 4 egg yolks.
– 7 egg whites.
– Pinch of cream of tartar if not using a copper bowl.
– 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Gouda, or other hard cheese, grated (about ¾ cup lightly packed).
Step 1:To prepare the soufflé dishes or ramekins, brush the bottom and sides of four 8-, 10-, or 12-ounce soufflé dishes with the butter. Coat the bottomand sides of the dishes with the grated cheese, tapping out the excess. If using collars, cut 4 strips of aluminum foil wide enough to stand 2 to 3 inches above the rim of the dish when folded in half and long enough to wrap around the dish with a little overlap. Fold the foil in half lengthwise, butter one side and dust with cheese, and set aside until you are ready to bake the soufflés.
Step 2:To make the sauce base, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth. Slowly add the milk while whisking constantly, then continue to whisk for about 2 minutes, increase the heat to high, and continue whisking until it reaches a simmer, about 5 minutes, thickens, and is smooth. Take off the heat and whisk in the nutmeg, salt, and about 5 grinds of pepper. Add the Gruyère and stir until the sauce is smooth. It will be very stiff.
Step 3:Stir the sauce for a minute to cool it slightly, then beat in the egg yolks one at a time.
Step 4:Preheat the oven to 350°F. To finish the soufflés, put the eggs whites in a copper bowl, or in a stainless-steel bowl with the cream of tartar. Using a mixer on high speed or a whisk, beat until stiff peaks form. Stir about onefourth of the beaten egg whites into the sauce to lighten it. Then gently fold the sauce base into the rest of the whites while sprinkling in the ParmigianoReggiano cheese with every stroke or two. Cut into the mixture and fold, don’t press on the mixture, so as not to deflate the whites.
Step 5:Divide the soufflé mixture evenly among the prepared dishes. If it rises slightly above the rim, smooth off the top with the back of a knife. Run your thumb around the rim of each dish to form a moat about ½ inch wide along the edge of the soufflé mixture. This keeps the top of the soufflé mixture from attaching to the rim. If using collars, wrap each one, buttered side in, around the rim of a dish, and pinch the ends together to hold the collar in place.
Step 6:Put the soufflés on a sheet pan, place in the oven, and raise the oven heatto 375°F. Bake the soufflés for about 18 minutes, or until they have risen an inch or two above the rims. Stick a spoon into the center of one of the soufflés. It should be slightly runny in the very middle. Pull away the collars and serve.