Wild Garlic Souffle

Alice Waters’ green garlic pudding soufflé

Alice Waters’ green garlic pudding soufflé
 Photograph: Martin Poole for Observer Food Monthly

If there is a recipe for some kind of twice-cooked pudding soufflé in nearly every Chez Panisse book, it’s because this type of soufflé has become a versatile mainstay of any repertoire.

Easier to execute than a regular soufflé, it has the great advantage that it can be prepared ahead of time – a boon to restaurant and home cooks alike.

Green or wild garlic is available at farmers’ markets in the spring. Thanks to a friend I have some growing in the shady garden, possibly the most useful thing to come from that part of the plot.

You can serve the pudding soufflé as a simple first course, unadorned, or as a meatless main course, paired with a spring vegetable ragout of peas, onions and spinach.

Serves 6
butter 55g
flour 30g
milk 350ml, slightly warmed
thyme 2 sprigs
onion 1 medium
green garlic 230g, sliced
cayenne a pinch
Gruyère cheese 50g
eggs 3, separated
double cream 180ml

Melt three-quarters of the butter over a medium-low heat in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring to keep the flour from browning. Slowly pour in the milk, a little at a time, whisking each addition until smooth before adding more. Add ½ teaspoon salt and the thyme sprigs. Cook over a very low heat for 20 minutes or so, until this béchamel sauce is medium-thick and lump-free. Stir frequently to be sure it is not sticking. Cool to room temperature. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and set the béchamel aside.

Dice the onion and cook over a medium heat in the remaining butter. When the onion becomes translucent, after about 5 minutes, add the sliced green garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and lower the heat. Add a little water to keep the vegetables from browning. Cook until the garlic is soft and the water nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add more water during the cooking if necessary.

Cool the mixture and puree in a food processor. Stir the puree into the béchamel. Add the cayenne, Gruyère and some freshly ground pepper, and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning – the sauce should be fairly highly seasoned. Add the egg yolks, lightly beaten, and mix well again.

Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Generously butter six 225ml ramekins.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks and fold them into the soufflé base. Fill the ramekins and place them in a deep baking dish. Pour hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the soufflés are puffed and golden brown on the top.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath. When the soufflés have cooled a bit, unmould them: run a paring knife around the edge of each ramekin, invert the pudding-soufflé into the palm of your hand, and place it in a shallow baking dish, top side up. The pudding-soufflés can now be held at room temperature for a few hours.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven 220C/gas mark 7. Pour the cream over and around the soufflés. Bake until the cream is hot and bubbling and the soufflés are puffed up again, 6-8 minutes. Serve with the hot cream.

If green garlic is unavailable, you can make a similar puree using leeks, spring onions and a few cloves of garlic.

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