Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cooking the Land of Cotton: Never Fail Cheese Soufflé

I've been excited ever since receiving my copy of the Land of Cotton cookbook, and having had a success with Asparagus Casserole, I decided to jump back in and try the Never Fail Cheese Soufflé on page 61.

This is a great recipe for you free-thinking bohemians who have chosen to embrace the (ovo-lacto) vegetarian lifestyle. For while it consists mainly of butter, eggs, cheddar cheese, and several slices of white bread, it lacks any actual meat. Considering that this is a Southern breakfast type of dish, the completely lack of bacon or pork sausage is suggestive of either someone with a radical political agenda or on a New Age diet.

All of these ingredients are fairly familiar and easy to source, but one thing bothered me. Wouldn't this turn out all looking a kind of bland yellow? A single dash of cayenne pepper would not be enough to lend much visual interest to eggs and cheese (and milk and bread that were to be covered in eggs and cheese). 

Enter my two colorful helpers: green onions and pimentos. The green onions are bright and add an oniony flavor that's always welcome in a recipe like this, and the pimentos fit just perfectly with the spirit of this cookbook. Together, they're a force with which to be reckoned.

See how festive that is? It looks like Christmastime down Mexico way.

Remember, good things come to those who layer their ingredients patiently. Also, make sure to cut off and discard the tough, indigestible crusts from the white bread. You don't want to give yourself indigestion.

Pro-tip: Cover the riotous fun of the colorful ingredients below with a layer of plain old cheddar cheese for an extra special surprise when serving at table. You're welcome.

If you can manage to restrain yourself from turning the mixture of six raw eggs and 3 cups of milk into some kind of bodybuilder protein shake, pour it over the layers of cheese and bread. Then it's off to an overnight nap of refrigerated bliss. When your baking dish awakes, it'll be time for an hour at 350 degrees.

Behold the baked cheese goodness. When I was first saw this recipe, I arrogantly assumed that it wouldn't be much of a real soufflé. A little heavy and ponderous by French cuisine standards, right? That'll teach me to condescend to cookbooks. Upon opening the oven at the end of cooking time, a towering puffy cloud of cooked cheese stood out above the rest of the dish. Amazing!

The final product was cooked throughout but still very moist with a little superheated liquid oozing on to the plate. If I had given the dish sufficient standing time out of the oven it would probably have been firmer, but that would have meant an extra five minutes without molten cheese and diced pimentos burning my mouth, and I was clearly not going to sit around the kitchen waiting for that.

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