Updated: Aug 31
I have a very soft spot in my heart for Le Soufflé, as soft and light as a soufflé. This restaurant in Paris is a specialist in soufflés or should I say, a temple to the soufflé, salty or sweet since 1961. I have always love soufflés since my friend Marco whipped them up at a very private club many years ago. To me they are the perfect meal, never leaving you over feed, to me it is classic comfort food. I prefer savory to sweet, but I do know a few that swoon over the Dark Chocolate or Grand Mariner.
After a wonderful time taking in Monet’s Water Lilies at Musee de l’Orangerie at the end of the Tuileries, we went across the street to Le Soufflé for lunch the first time and I was hooked. This small traditional restaurant with a Provence blue façade is understated yet with a fan base that will be there every week or two to indulge. If I lived in Paris, it would be my go to place.
Following the rhythm of the seasons the menu changes and the soufflés are the most versatile and elegant. Traditional cheese, or tomato and basil, chevre and tapenade, chicken and morels, pike and crayfish sauce, and then there is foie gras with fig compote! Died and went to heaven! Oh my God! Yes, Foie gras!
Is it art or is it science? Most think it is sophisticated and mysterious and so damn difficult to prepare that they do not attempt it. But I learned that it was not…. Follow the recipe precisely! Simply a matter of voluminously stiff egg whites, softly incorporated into any base.
The soufflé which takes its name from the French verb souffler to puff, is attributed to a chef Vincent de la Chapelle. This chef was a master working for kings and traveled extensively throughout Spain and Portugal. The recipe for soufflés was published in his French book called The Modern Cook in 1735. That was a LONG time ago.
The science or the art brings us to whip them too quickly and the texture will be off. Cease whipping them before they can form a stiff peak the soufflé may rise lopsided, if at all. Add to that a host of other variables such as the temperature, drafts and texture. Also the baking dish must be prepared properly. But when all the forces come together it is magical.
I don’t believe in come backs but inspiration of the soufflés have found their way back to menus –like at Ducasse’s Champeaux. At home I have made many. Until chef at Le Soufflé lets me into his kitchen I will have to keep trying to make that unbelievable Foie Gras masterpiece.
Blue Cheese and Bacon Soufflé
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup scalded milk
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped
5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 slices of thick bacon cooked well & broken into pieces
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter the inside of two 2.5 cup individual soufflé dish and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick. Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Roquefort and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks. Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest add in bacon bits. Pour into the soufflé dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the soufflé rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.