Four Cheese Soufflé

Secret tips to achieve high success making your cheese soufflé.

20140413-053537.jpgSuch a classic French recipe. In my family, this is the type of dish we prepared anytime we needed a simple, quick dinner. The basic ingredients, cheese, milk, eggs were always on hand. Here I’m using four cheeses but you can you just one or two. Be sure to respect the quantities.

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Ingredients:
For the Béchamel sauce
1 cup/250 ml milk
1 1/2 Tbsp/25 g butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 Tbsp potato starch
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Soufflé
4 egg yolks
6 egg whites
20-25 g each of Conté, Emmenthaler, Parmesan and Pyrenees Sheep (or gruyère)
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 400F.

20140413-055724.jpgseparate egg whites from egg yolks. Ideally, if you can separate them several days in advance and keep them in an air tight container, the egg whites will develop higher volume when whisking them.
Grate the cheeses and keep the Parmesan separate so you can use some for coating the soufflé dish and some to sprinkle on too of the soufflé before baking.

20140413-071145.jpgbutter the soufflé with a pastry brush and soft butter (not melted, just softened at air temperature) thoroughly. Add 2 Tbsp of flour and 1 Tbsp of grated Parmesan and shake them around the dish until completely coated.

20140413-071442.jpgonce all the sides are coated, shake off the excess.

20140413-071559.jpgprepare the ingredients for the Béchamel sauce.

20140413-071655.jpgMelt the butter.

20140413-071801.jpgonce the butter is completely melted, add the flour and potato starch. Using potato starch will help the soufflé stand up a little longer after taking it out of the oven.

20140413-072059.jpgCook the mixture until it bubbles look like a ‘bees nest’.

20140413-072247.jpgMeanwhile, scald the milk.

20140413-072332.jpgRemove the pot from the stove. Add the hot milk to the butter-flour mixture at once, mixing constantly. The sauce should immediately thicken. You may use a whisk instead of a wooden spoon at this point to ensure no lumps appear.

20140413-072541.jpgPlace back on the stove, medium heat, and continue cooking another few minutes to thicken the sauce further. Mix constantly either with a wooden spoon or whisk.

20140413-072843.jpgSeason with salt and pepper and grate some nutmeg.

20140413-072945.jpgAdd the egg yolks one by one, mixing vigorously after each one. This will render the sauce a bit more liquid.

20140413-073115.jpgContinue to cook a few minutes longer, whisking constantly, to thicken the sauce again and the color changes to a paler yellow.

20140413-073253.jpgtransfer to a large bowl.

20140413-073345.jpgPlace the egg white in a metal mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt, and start whiling on low speed.

20140413-073510.jpgWhisk until medium firm. The egg whites should not be too firm so they keep rising in the oven.

20140413-073642.jpgPlace about 1/3 if the egg whites into the bowl with the soufflé mixture.

20140413-073932.jpgMix thoroughly with a spatula. No need to be careful at this point as we just want to lighten the consistency of the soufflé mixture so it can easily be incorporated into the rest of the egg whites.

20140413-074056.jpgAdd the remainder of the egg whites, either at once or in two parts.

20140413-074227.jpgnow fold the egg whites delicately into the mixture. If you are adding them in two parts, repeat.

20140413-074635.jpg Add the cheeses by folding them in. Reserve a little Parmesan to top the soufflé.

20140413-074828.jpgCarefully pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish, making sure non gets on the rim/sides.

20140413-075020.jpgSprinkle with the reserved grated Parmesan and place in the preheated oven.

20140413-075128.jpgBake for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown. If you are using individual soufflé fidhes, decrease baking time to 17-20 minutes.

20140413-075307.jpgEnjoy! Can be served with a green salad as an accompaniment for a meal.

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Red Snapper with Fennel, Tomatoes and Tapenade

Baking a whole fish is an easy way to enjoy a healthy, fat-free and delicious main dish.  As much as I am a proponent of olive oil in almost all my recipes (even in baking at times), I do not use any oil to bake this fish.  Rather, the flavors of the vegetables, olives, herbs and garlic mix in the covered fish pan and infuse the flesh.

20131116-141318.jpgHere, I used a red snapper, but feel free to use other similar fish that you might find at your local fish market.  This is a great dish to serve with some roasted sweet potatoes.

The baking time depends on the weight of the fish. For a 2.5 lbs. fish, I baked it for about 45-50 minutes at a high temperature (425F).  You can prepare the recipe all the way to the point where you would normally put it in the oven but refrigerate it instead for a few hours until you are ready to bake it.

20131116-141417.jpgIngredients:

2.5 lb red snapper
1 fennel bulb
1 large red onion
1.5 lb. tomatoes
1 cup black olives, pitted
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, peeled, halved, center removed
6 rosemary springs
1 lemon, sliced, for presentation.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

20131116-141600.jpgPlace the water and vinegar at the bottom of the fish baking pan.

20131116-141651.jpgWash and trim the fennel.  Slice it lengthwise. Peel and slice the onion.

20131116-141736.jpgLayer the onion slices and fennel slices on the rack sitting above the vinegar water.  Add 3 springs of rosemary.

20131116-141843.jpgCut the tomatoes in half or quarters depending on size. Reserve.

20131116-141925.jpgPlace black olives, the leaves of 3 rosemary springs and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20131116-142007.jpgProcess until the mixture is smooth to obtain a tapenade.

20131116-142059.jpgAfter scaling the fish and cleaning the inside, make three deep incisions on either side, all the way down to the bone.

20131116-142156.jpgFill the inside and each incision with the tapenade.

20131116-142243.jpgPlace the fish on top of the bed of vegetables.  Add a little sea salt and ground pepper.

20131116-142340.jpgAdd the tomatoes and grind a little sea salt on the tomatoes. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes.

20131116-142441.jpgTo serve, lift the rack out of the fish pan and transfer the fish onto a presentation platter.  Surround it by the vegetables, decorate with a few slices of lemon and some of the fennel leaves. Enjoy!

Brandade de Morue (Salt Cod Purée)

This specialty of Nimes was a common lunch item when we were growing up near Avignon. My mother would prepare it the night before, place it in the oven in the morning prior to leaving for school/work, and program the oven so that it would be ready to be served when we got back home for lunch. Back then every business closed religiously for lunch, and schools were on the same schedule. My parents picked us up from school at noon, we drove home to share lunch, my brothers and I would breathe the fresh air and play in the garden while my parent enjoyed their after lunch expresso, then they would drive us back in time to start at 2pm for the afternoon. Our school days typically ended at 4:30-5pm when we would come back home for ‘le gouter’.
As children, we LOVED coming home to this dish, even though it might contain a bit of garlic for the unaccustomed palate, this was the diet we grew up on: garlic and olive oil.
20131027-142830.jpg This dish can be served either as an appetizer, along with some grilled sliced baguette, or as an entrée, accompanied by other seasonal vegetables. Here I simply cut up some crudités to be used more as a ‘dip’, however, if you want a more authentic version and original flavors, I suggest you served this dish with toasted baguette the first time you make it.
20131027-142916.jpgIngredients for 4 servings:
1 lb salt cod, skinless and boned
1 lb potatoes
1 1/4 cups almond milk
3/4 cup olive oil
8 garlic cloves
a few springs of fresh parsley
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
2 oz parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 F
Rinse and soak salt cod a full 24 hours before starting the preparation of this recipe, changing the water at least 4 times.
20131027-142955.jpgAfter soaking the salt cod (see instructions above), drain and rinse.
20131027-143051.jpgPeel, wash and cut the potatoes in large chunks.
20131027-143232.jpgPlunge the potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water, return to a boil and keep cooking about 10-15 minutes at a rolling boil until the potatoes are tender. Drain, set aside.
20131027-143400.jpgPeel and cut the cloves of garlic in half. Remove the center part. Set aside.
20131027-143437.jpgZest and juice the lemon.  Set aside.

20131027-143519.jpgChop parsley finely.  Set aside.

20131027-143802.jpgPlace the salt cod in a large pot of cold water, bring to a simmer (do not boil), and drain and reserve.

20131027-143844.jpgHeat the almond milk and garlic in a separate pot.

20131027-143926.jpgAdd the salt cod, bring to a simmer, and continue simmering for about 10 minutes.

20131027-144008.jpgPlace the cod, garlic, half the almond milk, potatoes, lemon juice, lemon zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process till smooth, periodically adding more liquid from the almond milk.

20131027-144150.jpgHeat the olive oil and pour in the mixture through the feeder.  Keep processing until completely blended.

20131027-144230.jpgWhen all the ingredients are fully blended, (there should be no lumps from the potatoes), transfer to a large bowl.

20131027-144316.jpgAdd the parsley and black pepper and mix well with a wooden spoon.

20131027-144412.jpgBrush oil on the bottom and sides of 4 individual ramequins or cocottes (showing more on this photo because I doubled the recipe).

20131027-144521.jpgFill the cocottes almost to the top.  This preparation does not rise, so be sure to fill them as much as possible.

The recipe can be prepared ahead up to this point.  If this is so, cover the cocottes and refrigerate, up to one day, until ready to bake.

20131027-144710.jpgFreshly grate the parmesan finely.

20131027-144952.jpgSpread evenly over the top of each cocotte.

20131027-145201.jpgPlace in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, till the tops are golden.

If you had refrigerated the cocotte, you’ll need to bake them a bit longer, maybe another 10 minutes until they turn golden.

20131027-145308.jpg Enjoy!

One last Chef of Provence

Wrapping up our visit, in the Papal city of Avignon, adjacent to the Palace, the restaurant of Master Chef Christian Etienne is a must if you are in the area. Please enjoy below a tomato menu…

20131005-121131.jpg Tomato juice as a palate opener.

20131005-121321.jpgTomato on a bed of tomato goat cheese.

20131005-125055.jpgGaspacho of green and yellow tomatoes.

20131005-121418.jpgTomato mousse in a rail of tomato cracker with tempura snail on tomato coulis.

20131005-125406.jpgMediterranean fish with tomato confit and eggplant caviar.

20131005-125528.jpgMediterranean fish with tomato risotto.

20131005-125630.jpgConversations with wine pairing from the sommelier.

20131005-125749.jpgChocolate cake, mousse, fondant.
20131005-132413.jpgRaspberry cake with fig.

20131005-130139.jpgTomato sherbet.

20131005-130240.jpg After dessert “Mignardises”: Macaroons, Caneles, Pates de Fruits.

Hoping you enjoyed this Provence Chefs series.  Next week we start autumn vegetables back in Chicago 🙂

Another Chef of Provence

Continuing our culinary sojourn brought us to Saint Rémy de Provence in Les Alpilles. At the heart of the village is an exquisitely classy and discrete restaurant: La Maison Jaune. Please enjoy the following creations from François Perraud.

20130928-214124.jpg Delicious ‘mise en bouche’ with herb and garlic olives, olive oil AOC from La Vallée des Baux, and…

20130928-214459.jpg Zucchini soup, quail egg with tomato confit.

20130928-214647.jpgPurple artichokes with goat cheese and herb vinaigrette.

20130928-215050.jpg Cantaloupe from Cavaillon with carrots and radishes accompanied by a vinaigrette with mustard from Meaux.

20130928-215526.jpg Marinated Red Label Scottish salmon with roe, capers, tomato and herbs.

20130928-215708.jpg Steamed fish with seasonal vegetables.

20130928-220608.jpgGoat cheese with fig bread and strawberry jam.

20130928-221538.jpgPineapple carpaccio with vanilla and herb served with ‘pain d’épice’.

20130928-221842.jpg Walnut and hazelnut tart served with fresh citrus and strawberry syrup.

20130928-222324.jpgKumquat, nougat and pate de fruit.
Trusting you enjoy the sharing of these images.

Chef of Provence

Our culinary visit of Provence led us to exceptional chefs. Please enjoy photos of creations from Xavier Matthieu, chef of Le Phebus.

20130921-192048.jpg Tempura snails with licorice and fennel emulsion. A perfect ‘mise en bouche’.

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Pistou soup. The flavors were out of this world. A masterpiece.

20130922-065428.jpg Crayfish Jambalaya. Spicy and yet so delicate.

20130922-153826.jpgSaint Pierre with autumn squash and mushroom. Exquisite!

20130922-153948.jpg Purée de pommes de terre with black truffles. The best and smoothest texture ever coupled with amazing truffles.

20130922-154248.jpg Vanilla and anchovy ice cream with basil and lemon sherbet. Unexpectedly perfect combination.

20130922-154647.jpg Cherry macaroon, apple mousse and pâte de fruit. Sublime!
If your eyes and tastebuds can already anticipate how extraordinarily delicious these dishes are, just imagine how much fun it would be to learn how to prepare them!

Seared Tuna Niçoise

Salade Niçoise was our summer staple growing up in Provence. We picked fresh tomatoes and green beans from the garden every day, seasoned them with a garlic vinaigrette, and added the niçoise olives, tuna, anchovies and other classic ingredients to complete our lunch.

20130725-205406.jpgPersonally I like to sear fresh tuna steaks as much as possible, although a good quality canned tuna in olive oil makes a great alternative. Traditionally, we included hard boiled eggs for convenience of preparation ahead and have them on hand any time. If you have the luxury of cooking soft boiled eggs at the last minute, they add a delightful note of strong color, fine texture and delicate taste.

20130725-205510.jpgIngredients:
1 1/4 lb fresh tuna steak
3/4 lb French green beans
4 fresh farm eggs at room temperature
4 medium size red potatoes
4 vine ripe tomatoes
2 oz flat filets of anchovies
A bunch of fresh flat parsley
2 cloves garlic (or one large one)
2 dozen oil and herb cured black olives or niçoise olives
6 tsp Dijon mustard
6 tsp Balsamic vinegar
10-12 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp Grape seed oil
Freshly ground sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

20130726-054404.jpgSnap the ends of the green beans to pull the threads out if any.

20130726-054452.jpgPlunge them in salted boiling water.

20130726-054528.jpgBoil them till firm tender.

20130726-054608.jpgDrain them in a colander.

20130726-054649.jpgImmediately cool them in a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process and preserve their bright green color.

20130726-054738.jpgWash the potatoes. Cut in half and in thick slices.

20130726-054819.jpgThen, cube all the potatoes.

20130726-054900.jpgBoil the cubed potatoes in lightly salted water till firm tender, and leave in water off the stove to keep them warm.

20130726-055009.jpgChop the parsley, garlic and cut the anchovy fillets into small pieces.
Separately, cook the eggs the same way as for the Asparagus with Salmon Caviar and Black Olive Vinaigrette (see recipe for photos), by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil, adding the eggs, bringing back to a boil and cooking for 3 minutes on timer. Drain hot water from pot and rinse the eggs under cold running water till cool. Set aside.

20130726-055208.jpgPrepare garlic vinaigrette into three separate bowls. Place 2 tsp of Dijon mustard in each, add 1/3 of the chopped garlic in each, a little salt and pepper, 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar, mix well. Add 3-4 Tbsp of olive oil and whisk.

20130726-055253.jpgWash and quarter the tomatoes. Remove the hard core. Slice thinly and place in one of the bowls with the garlic vinaigrette. Toss, add parsley and set aside.

20130726-055332.jpgPlace the green beans in another bowl containing garlic vinaigrette, add chopped parsley, toss and set aside.
For the third salad bowl, drain the potatoes and place them in the last bowl, add anchovy pieces, chopped parsley, toss and set aside.

20130726-055412.jpgWhile I was finishing preparing the salads, my boyfriend offered timely collaboration to sear the tuna. He oiled the fresh tuna steak with grape seed oil and cracked some black pepper. The grape seed oil has a higher smoke point and is well suited for high temperature cooking and can be safely used for searing.

20130726-055455.jpgPlace a tablespoon of grape seed oil in a cast iron pan on high heat to get the pan very hot.

20130726-055546.jpgOnce the pan is hot, place the tuna steak on the bottom and do not move it.

20130726-055629.jpgCover with a splatter guard to prevent the oil from spreading around the cooking surface.

20130726-055714.jpgOnce the bottom of the tuna steak is brown, turn it over with a metal spatula.

20130726-055759.jpgContinue cooking the other side, without moving it, until it browns the same way. Again, cover with the splatter guard.

20130726-055841.jpgWhen both sides are seared, place on a cutting board and slice the tuna thinly.

20130726-055916.jpgStart to plate the salads, peel the soft boiled egg.

20130726-060025.jpgAdd a few slices of seared tuna, some olives, cut the egg in half… Enjoy!