I am so grateful for good friends - it's easy to be mates when everything is jolly, but when things get tough it is amazing to have people you can rely on :) Last night I had two of my most lovely friends for dinner. As usual we started with a wee whiskey and some nibbles before sitting down to dinner with a good bottle of red. I had been really enjoying playing around with this recipe - a double baked French onion souffle, and for dinner I served it with a beautiful piece of eye fillet topped with garlic herb butter and a bitter green salad. I have always been a sucker for double-baked souffles as there is no angst involved with timing and possible souffle deflation - they do deflate as they cool, and that is just fine, because once inverted and re-heated they are 're-inflated', soft and luscious and bathed in creamy gruyere. The size of these souffles makes them ideal to serve with a salad for lunch, as a starter before a light main (such as fish), or as I did, as a one course meal with a beautiful steak. The French onion flavours would also match beautifully with lamb or chicken. We finished with another recipe of mine that I recently created for Cuisine magazine (that you will see in the future), a beautiful tart and ice cream combination that rounded the meal out perfectly. After dinner we chilled out watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower, an old favourite - a very different kind of coming-of-age movie. I think I was so keen to watch it as it always makes me think of the boys (it's one of Rich's favourites), and it does have a lot of lovely 80s references I can relate to! Hoob is now safely back at uni, settling back in for re-O week (!) and on the part-time job hunt, while Henry is about to start his Interior Design course in Melbourne any minute. It was such a treat to see Rich, he is such a darling, big ole intelligent deep-thinker, and I am hanging out to see Pog when he comes over for his 21st...can't wait! In the meantime I have tucked one of these souffles in the freezer for him...
The reason I started playing with the idea of this souffle in the first place was because I had been approached by the good people at Fisher & Paykel and invited to participate in a little experiment/challenge. They asked me to complete their What's Your Cooking Style quiz, which you can do here to see what kind of cook I am, and then to come up with three recipes which embody that cooking style. I'm always up for a challenge so got straight to it - and it will come as absolutely no surprise to my friends (and anyone who has every worked with me), that my style is The Perfectionist. The result is no fluke, back in the day when watching Friends and assigning characters, I was only ever allowed to be Monica...kind of apt given that she was a perfectionist caterer! Anyhoo, the very first recipe I thought of was this souffle, as it is the kind of recipe that can seem scary, but if you follow the instructions exactly, (and they are not difficult), you are guaranteed a perfect result. Extra good bits - you can make them completely the day before and just re-heat, so there is no last-minute panic, and it also means the kitchen stays nice and tidy during the evening when guests are hovering around, and if you're lucky enough to be preparing the souffles on a Fisher & Paykel induction cooktop, you'll know how extra handy it is to have such instant, precise temperature control, not to mention the easy clean surface - I might be a perfectionist, but that doesn't mean I'm not a bit (lot) messy sometimes!
550g (about 3 large) brown onions, quartered and finely sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Simon Gault Beef Stock concentrate (Or simmer and reduce 1/2 cup of beef stock by half and use 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon brandy
350mls whole milk
1/2 cup plain flour
200g finely grated Gruyere cheese
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Grease and line the bases of 6 x 1 1/4 cup capacity ramekins with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Heat butter in a large, deep frying pan and add the onions. Season well with salt and pepper and add caster sugar. Cook, covered, over a medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, stir in balsamic vinegar, stock concentrate and brandy and cook a further 20 minutes until the onions are sweet and soft. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Cook for 1 minute, then add half of the milk, stir into a smooth oniony paste, then add remaining milk and stir again until smooth. Cook for 6-7 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in egg yolks and half of the grated cheese. Whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt to medium firm peak stage. Add egg yolks to onions and stir to combine. Take 1/2 cup of the egg whites and fold into the onion mixture to loosen. Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold together.
Divide the mixture between the prepared ramekins and place into a roasting dish. Pour very hot water into the roasting dish, coming half way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 25 minutes until soufflés are risen and lightly golden. (Do not panic if they are slightly one-sided or even a bit explody at the top – they will be fine!) Remove the ramekins from the roasting dish and allow to cool for an hour – they will deflate and settle down. Once cool run a small knife carefully around the inside of the ramekins to release the soufflés slightly, and tip out onto into another roasting dish or individual oven-safe dishes and store in the fridge until ready to finish and serve. Soufflés can be prepared to this point the day before serving.
Preheat the oven to 190C. Sprinkle soufflés with remaining Gruyere and pour over the cream. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the soufflés are lightly puffed, golden and delicious, switch the heat source to grill for the last minute (keeping an eagle eye on them!) to ensure a golden bubbling top. Serve with remaining cream drizzled around the base, a sprinkling of parsley and a small bitter green salad. Serves 6
This post was made possible thanks to Fisher & Paykel