One Saturday, back when Jeff and I were dating, we were hanging out at his house when he mentioned that “Doctor Who” was coming on, but he’d watch it later. Being well-versed in the Girlfriend Arts, I told him I didn’t mind at all. I’d watch with him. We could order pizza, and he could answer my questions during the commercial breaks.
“What’s it about?” I asked.
He said there was no way I’d be into it. It was a British sci-fi show about a human-looking alien called “the Doctor” who traveled through space and time. Having adventures. Fighting monsters. But it was funny, too. And sometimes creepy.
The more he talked about it, the more obvious it became that This Was Important.
And, come on, the worst case scenario was that the show would be terrible, but I’d still be snuggled up on the couch with my hot boyfriend. I was good with that.
I had about a million questions during that first episode, but then Jeff asked if I wanted to see another. By three episodes, I was hooked.
Now, we have “Doctor Who” Christmas ornaments.
So, am I excited that the show’s coming back with a new episode March 30? Oh, yeah. Excited enough to tackle a Cheese Souffle in honor of the Doctor’s new traveling companion, Clara (aka Souffle Girl).
Everything I thought I knew about souffles, I’d learned from cartoons. If you open the oven too fast, they fall. If you hit a cartoon mouse with a cartoon sledgehammer in the kitchen, they fall. If you look at them wrong, they fall. According to the world of cartoons, souffles are the most impossible food.
Turns out, that’s only partly true.
I went with Alton Brown’s souffle recipe, because I saw his step-by-step souffle tutorial on YouTube, and it was very reassuring. You’re practically guaranteed success if you do three things:
1. Don’t fight the souffle dish. The fluting on the outside brings more heat inside.
2. Prep all of your ingredients beforehand.
3. Don’t even think about opening the oven for the first 30 minutes of baking time.
As for that whole “collapsing souffle” thing, your souffle will fall a few minutes after it comes out of the oven. That’s normal. What you don’t want is for it to collapse inside the oven, so keep that oven door closed. No sneaky-peekies.
So what does the finished souffle taste like? This is the “impossible food” part. The texture is light and foamy, but the flavor is rich and intensely cheesy. It doesn’t make sense. And, I can’t lie, I got a real rush when it came out of the oven, all puffed up. Add a big green salad and a pack of Jammie Dodgers, and you’ll be ready for a “Doctor Who” date night.
Snuggle up, buttercups!
P.S. “Doctor Who” comes back at 7 p.m. CST, Saturday, March 30, on BBC America.
It’s really important to have the ingredients measured and ready to go before you begin. Otherwise, you might go insane. We don’t want that.
Slightly adapted from Alton Brown (“Good Eats” via Food Network)
- Butter (cold, not melted), for greasing the souffle dish
- 1 tablespoon ground Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups milk, hot (heat it in the microwave for about 90 seconds)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 6 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated (You could also use gruyere or pepper jack.)
- 5 egg whites plus 1 tablespoon water (5 1/2 ounces by weight plus 1/2 ounce water)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Use the butter to grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch souffle dish. Add the grated Parmesan to the bottom of the dish, cover the dish with plastic wrap, and roll the dish around so the cheese coats the bottom and sides of the dish. Place into the freezer.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- While the butter is melting, grab a separate bowl, and combine the flour, dry mustard, garlic powder, and kosher salt. Set aside.
- When the butter stops bubbling (that means the water has cooked out), whisk the flour mixture into the butter. Cook for 2 minutes or until the mixture smells nutty.
- Whisk in the hot milk, and turn the heat to high. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat.
- To Temper the Yolks: In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks to a creamy consistency. Dip your whisk into the warm milk mixture, and then quickly whisk that small amount into your eggs. Repeat once. Add the tempered egg mixture to the milk mixture, whisking constantly.
- Add the cheese. Whisk until incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until glossy and firm. (Make sure your bowl is completely grease-free.)
- Stir 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the cheese base. (This is the only time you should be stirring.)
- Very gently fold 1/3 of the whites into the cheese base. Continue to add the whites by thirds, folding very gently.
- Gently pour the mixture into the souffle dish. Place on an aluminum pie pan. (The pan makes it easier to remove the souffle dish later.) Smooth the top with a spatula, and bake for 35 minutes.