The traditional soufflé, raced from oven to table with, its lovely golden head bobbing precariously, is a pretty sight and may have evinced more gasps of admiration than any other single bit of culinary theater. Even served rapidly by an accomplished maître d’hôtel, it has already collapsed into an indefinable ectoplasmic stuff before the tines of one’s fork can reach it (the uncooked heart of the matter, it is said, serves as the sauce).
A pudding soufflé and, in particular, one that has been gratinéed, being thus subjected to two separate cooking processes, is a sublimely different thing: It is first cooked gently in a bain-marie until done, then unmolded when slightly cooled; it settles somewhat, its volume diminishing, but, inundated with a light-bodied sauce (often simply heavy cream) and put to gratiné, it swells again, retaining its newfound volume. It is light—for it, too, is mostly air—but it remains, nonetheless, firm. One of these little puddings, prelude to an amicable chunk of rare meat, might take many a jaded gastronome by surprise.
Soufflés à la Suissesse, the inspirational source for this recipe, are individual soufflés in which a cup of grated Parmesan replaces the zucchini. They are, otherwise, treated in the same way and are particularly exciting if unmolded onto a bed of parboiled, squeezed, and chopped spinach before being drowned in heavy cream, sprinkled with cheese, and returned to the oven. Of possible variations, I have found mushrooms to be the most interesting (about
The savarin mold permits a strikingly handsome turban-like presentation. If you do not have one, use individual ramekins or custard molds rather than a large mold of unbroken form.
Coarsely shred or grate the zucchini or put through the medium blade of the Mouli-juliènne, reducing them to spaghetti-like shreds, arrange in layers in a mixing bowl, sprinkling each layer with salt, and leave to stand for half an hour. Squeeze the juliènne with your hands—in the bowl and in its liquid—until it is swimming. Pour into a sieve, press to rid it of flagrant moisture, then form the mass into a ball and squeeze tightly and repeatedly between both hands until no more liquid may be wrung from it. Sauté in the butter over a medium flame for from 7 to 8 minutes, tossing often and spreading the mass out again with a wooden spoon—until well dried and lightly colored.
Prepare the béchamel as usual, removing it from the heat as soon as it is stiff and allowing it to cool for a couple of minutes before adding the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Salt and pepper to taste and stir in the zucchini. Beat the egg whites until they stand in peaks, incorporate about one third into the mixture, turning and folding gently, to render it more supple, then carefully fold in the remaining beaten whites.
Pour into a generously buttered quart savarin mold (filling no more than two thirds to three fourths full), smooth the surface with the back of a spoon, tap the mold lightly against the tabletop to settle the contents, and bake for from 20 to 25 minutes (until the surface is firm and springy to the touch) in a bain-marie (placing the mold into a larger pan and installing it at the entry to the oven before pouring in enough hot but not boiling water to immerse the mold by two thirds) at about 350°. Remove the mold from the bain-marie and leave to cool for 10 minutes or so before unmolding onto a large, round, shallow baking dish (porcelain tart mold, for instance—something presentable for serving).
Whisk together the tomato purée and the cream, season to taste, and pour slowly and evenly over the unmolded soufflé, masking it entirely (but permitting only as much as is necessary to coat the inner sides of the soufflé to run down into the well). Sprinkle cheese over the surface and return to a hot oven (450°) for 20 minutes or until the surface is richly colored and the sauce bubbling. Serve onto preheated plates, spooning the sauce to the side of the soufflé so as not to mask the gratin.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.