Soufflé au Comté
We lived in Franche-Comté for ten years when I was a child, years that have been extremely valuable to me as a chef. The quality of the ingredients there at the time was unreal—surpassed perhaps only by their diversity. Jura, in the south of the region, is the epicenter of the world for Comté cheese. We ate a great deal of cheese—on bread, in gratins and quiches, and, of course, in soufflés. My mother’s soufflé mixed three different types of Comté that had been affiné, or aged and tended, for various lengths of time: soft and creamy Comté, aged less than six months; a young, one-year-old cheese that was firmer with a stronger flavor; and finally a fairly dry, older Comté, or comté fort, aged to sharp maturity for more than two-and-a-half years. If my mother had a signature dish, this cheese soufflé might just have been it.
Comté Cheese Soufflé
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- Salt and black pepper
- 3 eggs, separated
- 6 ounces Comté cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and set it aside.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. When it’s hot, whisk in the flour and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula. Add the warm milk to the flour mixture slowly, whisking steadily as you pour. Season the batter with a pinch of salt, black pepper, and a few shreds of grated nutmeg. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let the batter cool for 10 to 15 minutes before whisking in the egg yolks and cheese.
Use the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to coat the insides of 4 individual (6 ounce) ramekins and then dust them with flour.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold them gently into the mixture. Fill the ramekins about two-thirds full with the soufflé mixture. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the soufflés are well browned on top. You may also bake the soufflé in one large, 5-cup soufflé dish. Cook the soufflé longer, 18 to 20 minutes, until it rises measurably above the rim of the baking dish and is nicely browned on top. Serve immediately.
Recipe from French Roots: Two Cooks, Two Countries, and the Beautiful Food Along the Way by Jean-Pierre Moullé & Denise Lurton Moullé.