4 1/2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other quality, hard grating cheese
pinch of ground nutmeg
4 eggs, separated
pinch of cream of tartar
Pan spray, as needed
The general method for a souffle is to combine a flavored base with egg whites and bake to yield a delicate, flavorful product. This twice-baked souffle is a bit more forgiving and will allow you to make the souffles and hour or two before you need them, rejuvenate quickly in a hot oven, and still serve a delicate product without fear of collapse.
Spray four, four-ounce ramekins with pan spray and set aside. To prepare the base will first make a Bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a small sauce pan and then adding the flour. Mix thoroughly and whisk in the milk. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg. As the mixture comes to a boil it will thicken to a thick sauce. This will provide some of the structure for your souffle. Remove the sauce from the heat and mix in the grated cheese with a rubber spatula. Now add the egg yolks and combine.
Beat the egg whites (with the cream of tartar) to stiff peak. In a mixing bowl, gently fold the base mixture into the whites in three stages. When fully incorporated, fill each ramekin to the top with the souffle mixture and bake in a water bath at 325F for about 18-25 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, turn the entire pan around in the oven to ensure even baking. When finished, the souffles with be rising an inch or two above the rim of the ramekin and be a dark golden brown on top. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool for only five minutes or so. The ramekins will still be hot, but using a towel or kitchen mitt, turn the souffles out into your hand and allow to cool. They will deflate, but fear not, a couple of minutes in a 400F oven will bring them back to life.
Serve the souffles with a small amount of dressed, mixed greens and a fun condiment; we use sun dried tomato tapenade, corn relish, or a creamy mushroom sauce.