Savory to Sweet – and Back Again
Souffles are one of the dishes that balance precariously between the opposite realms of the savory and the sweet. A diner could possibly have a souffle for every course of his meal - from a rich, truffle infused goat cheese souffle with endive for his appetizer, to a savory sweet potato souffle served alongside his entree, ending with a decadent chocolate and toasted pecan souffle for dessert.
How, one might ask, is this possible? How can one dish be so interchangeable?
Let's start from the beginning. A basic souffle, savory or sweet, is based upon a mixture of whipped egg whites and pastry cream. What's pastry cream? Well, heat up some milk, add sugar, roux, and eggs, and you've got pastry cream. In previous episodes we've covered bechamel, the roux-thickened milk sauce, and pastry cream is almost identical but for the added eggs and sugar, giving a thicker product. Some variations use cornstarch in place of the roux, which is easily substituted for the flour and recommended to convert the souffle to a gluten free dish. Pastry cream is a go-to item in the pastry kitchen, being used as a base and filling for countless desserts – removing the sugar gives you a simple template that can be used for savory dishes, as in – you guessed it - the sweet potato souffle.
Now, to throw you off just a bit more – you can easily make a dessert or a main dish souffle, savory or sweet, by only swapping out a few ingredients. While a main-dish sweet potato souffle will have some shallots, herbs, mustard, and maybe a bit of cheese or such, a dessert sweet potato souffle will have spices, brown sugar, and maybe a caramel sauce. Where your savory souffle might be inverted and served on a plate with your grilled lamb, the sweet souffle will probably come out still in its baking dish, hovering like a cloud and served with enough pomp to please a queen. Of course, beyond this point we're just playing around with the inherent existential question about what actually defines a dessert versus any other part of the meal – but we'll leave the culinary navel gazing for another episode.
For now, enjoy the 'gray' area of cooking – the dishes that defy us to easily classify them as one thing or another. You'll be glad you did.
SWEET POTATO SOUFFLE
1 1/3 C MILK
5 EA EGG YOLKS
½ OZ DIJON
3/4 LB SWEET POTATO (boiled and pureed)
1 FINE CHOPPED SHALLOT
¼ ts TOBASCO
1/3 OZ LEMON JUICE
SALT & PEPPER TO TASTE
10 EA EGG WHITES
Make roux with butter & flour and toast on low heat for 3-4 min
Incorporate milk slowly over med heat, when sauce thickens simmer 3 min
Whisk in egg yolks and cook 1 min on med heat
Remove from heat and add all remaining ingredients except egg whites
Allow soufflé base to stand for 30 min
Butter 10 soufflé ramekins (6oz)
Whip egg whites to medium stiff peaks
Fold into soufflé base gently with a spatula (do not use a whip)
Fill soufflé ramekins to just below the rim
Place filled ramekins in a 2-inch baking pan
Put the hotel pan into a 350 degree oven (Do not close door to oven)
Fill the hotel pan with hot water half way up the sides of the ramekins
Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 min
Let soufflés stand in water bath on the counter for 15 min
Remove ramekins from the water bath and allow to cool for 20 min
Run a paring knife around the rim to loosen and gently invert soufflé into hand and place on a parchment lined sheet tray
For service: Re heat at 350 for 8-10 min and serve immediately
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