Last summer, I became somewhat obsessed with the farm eggs I was able to purchase at the Government Center farmers’ market. The eggs were beautiful and fresh with bright orange yolks and thick whites. Everything we made with them tasted better, from basic scrambled eggs to cheese puffs. My whole summer revolved around ensuring continued access to these eggs: getting my name on the weekly pick-up list, asking friends and co-workers to pick up eggs for me when I had a meeting on the day of the market or when I was on vacation. Even when we had plenty of eggs in the fridge, I’d buy another dozen, just to be safe. Then, in November, the farmers’ market ended and, with it, my supply of farm eggs.
Going back to grocery store eggs was difficult — the yolks were depressingly pale, the whites a little watery and the flavor lack luster. On my to-do list since the farmers’ market closed for the season was to find a new source of farm eggs that was reasonably close to home. On Friday, I took my first trip to Codman Community Farms in Lincoln, Mass. where they sell farm eggs and humanely raised beef, lamb and pork. The farm store operates on the honor system — take your eggs and leave $2.75 per dozen in the drop box.
The eggs are wonderful, and to celebrate my find, I made a cheese soufflé for dinner Friday night. The thing about soufflé is that it seems daunting, but it’s really not. The only special skill you need is the ability to fold beaten egg whites into the creamy base, and that’s a skill anyone can master with a little practice. The other thing that’s great about soufflé is that it seems like company food, but chances are, you already have all the ingredients you need in your refrigerator. Sure, cheese soufflé is fancy enough to serve company, but I like to make it for dinner on a week night for just Anne and me. With a salad and a glass of wine, it’s a perfect meal and it makes a Wednesday night feel like a special occasion.
Adapted from The New Basics, Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the dish
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks at room temperature
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese*
2 tablespoon minced chives
4 egg whites at room temperature
Preheat oven to 400º. Butter a 6 cup soufflé dish, sprinkle the buttered dish with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, and turn the dish to coat the bottom and sides with the cheese. Set aside.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, whisk in the flour and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, forming a thick paste. Slowly whisk the milk into the roux. Add the salt and pepper and cook the mixture, stirring often, until it comes to a boil and is thick, about 5 minutes. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
Working quickly, whisk the egg yolks, one at a time, into the hot milk mixture. Add the shredded Gruyère, remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan and chives. This is the base. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they just hold stiff peaks. Stir a heaping spoonful of the egg whites into the base to lighten it. Carefully fold the remaining egg whites into the base. You don’t want to deflate the whites too much, but do make sure that the whites and the base are completely incorporated into one, cohesive batter.
Pour the soufflé mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350º and bake about 10 minutes more until the soufflé is puffed and golden. The soufflé will still be a little wet inside, but cooked through. Serve immediately. Serves about 4 as a main dish, and 6 – 8 as a side dish.
* If you don’t have Gruyère, cheddar will also work well.