Leftovers III – The Final Frontier

So, we did wild rice and chicken and a wonderful meal, then we had more chicken in a nice salad for the first leftover flight, and that was killer too, but…

Open the hangar door and what do we find on day 3? Still more leftovers! OK, there are two viable schools of thought here:
1. Make less food, dummy, and
2. USE what you make when you make a lot!

Of the two options, I like to use what we make; maybe it’s the restaurant roots, maybe it’s just ojos grandes, but either way, we CAN make a concerted effort to not waste food and still enjoy fresh ideas each and every night.

Here’s a for instance for y’all: We love comfort food, (Obviously), and fairly often, this takes the form of casseroles. In so doing, we discovered that if we make a cream-based sauce concoction, (Our faves are the venerable macaroni and cheese, and tuna-noodle, which we will cover here shortly!), we tend to eat it all up within a day or so: On the other hand, when our invention is tomato based, although they’re really yummy, we don’t tend to eat those so quickly, which can lead invariably to waste. The solution? We make the same big initial batch, but instead of putting everything in one casserole dish, we use ramekins, and freeze about half for later dining pleasure. Simple you say? Sure is; so why did it take us years to figure that out? (Don’t answer, that was a rhetorical question…)

Anyway, here are standing before the open fridge, and what we have left is wild rice. So what to do that’s fun and yummy and new?

Soufflé, of course!

I LOVE eggs, not the least because they’re so versatile. Using eggs as a light, fluffy component to bind and enrich other great stuff, (Read wild rice and great cheese in this case), is just a wonderful thing indeed. It looks tough, but it’s not really, and it’s always a joy to pull out of the oven!

Cheese Rice Souffle

The basics of soufflé cooking are really quite simple – Again, it may look fancy and difficult, but it ain’t – Dive in and have some fun!

4 eggs
1 cup milk
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups cheese

Couple of key things for y’all – First and foremost, pull all your ingredients an hour or so before you start to cook; you want this stuff at room temp. Secondly, don’t dilly dally while you’re doing this – Because we’re going to beat egg whites with a lot of air, which is critical to the pretty appearance we’re after, you need to keep things moving along – Not frantic, just steady as she goes!

Preheat your oven to 350° F.

OK, you’re going to do a slightly heavier version of a classic white sauce, AKA béchamel, if you want to get all continental about it.) So we start with a roux, which is nothing more than fat and flour in equal measure: Your butter goes into a sauce pan until it’s melted over medium-low heat. Add your flour and whisk the two together into a paste. Now it’s time to decide whether you like your roux dark or light; if it’s light, (Less of a browned butter taste, naturally), we’ll move right into adding milk. If you prefer things a bit darker, as we do, then allow that butter and flour mixture to gain a little color first. Add your milk VERY slowly, so that you’re never outpacing the elasticity of the flour/butter mixture. Once it’s nicely whisked together, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside for a few minutes to cool.

Note: Classic béchamel has some seasoning involved, FYI; usually onion, salt and pepper. In this application, we’re gonna forgo further seasoning until we got to building our final soufflé mix.

Separate your eggs and put them into small bowls as follows:
3 egg yokes
4 egg whites

Now, as for cheese, what you use is what floats your boat! We used 2 year old WSU Cougar Grate Gold, and incredible white cheddar produced at the Washington State University Creamery, (Which you can find and buy online just like we do, and if you got any jones for killer cheese, you WILL do that!). Grate your cheese.

Whisk your egg yolks until they’re well blended. Now add cheese and egg yolks to your white sauce and mix them together well.

Question you might just ask at this juncture: “OK, Ace; we’re making a soufflé, and I’ve heard of soufflé dishes – How important is that?
EXCELLENT question! Answer; pretty important! A soufflé dish has straight sides, and believe it or not, the wonderful thing y’all are about to make needs and wants those straight sides to climb up. The good news is, they’re available all over the place and cheap. You can also use straight sided ramekins to make individual soufflés, as we did.

Prep a soufflé dish by lightly buttering the sides and bottom, and then lightly coat that with flour: The butter keeps the little beast from sticking, and the flour gives ‘em something to grab ahold of as they make their way to the top!

Put your egg whites in a non-reactive bowl, (I like glass best), and start beatin’ ‘em. You want to beat your whites stiff, but not dry.

‘Nuther Question Time! “Stiff but not dry? I thought we were making food here?”
Good point – You’ll see a number of instructions down the line for the level of egg yolks to be beaten to; soft peak, stiff, dry among them. Once you do this a few times, it WILL make sense to you! When beating, you’re really just adding air to the egg whites; they have a great affinity for holding air in a matrix. As you incorporate more and more air, the volume of the whites increases and the consistency goes from a definite liquid to more of something that starts to look solid to you. At the low end of this semi-solid phase, if you take a beater or whisk and flip a little pit of the mixture straight up, it’ll kind of hold a little peak, like a soft serve ice cream cone, kinda – That’s a soft peak. Beat a bit more and the mix will start to look almost rigid; do the flip again and your little peak will stand pretty much straight up – That’s a stiff peak. Beat it more and you’ll notice that the mix doesn’t glisten as much, and starts to look kinda like Styrofoam; that’s dry – Get the picture? Good; onward!

OK, now your whites are to the stiff peak phase. Poke a finger into your wet mix, (The sauce, egg and cheese stuff), and make sure it’s not hot to the touch; we want to mix, not cook at this phase, OK?

Gently scoop your egg whites into the wet mix and, using a spatula, GENTLY fold the white thoroughly into the mix. Remember, we spent a bunch of time and effort getting all that air in there, so don’t let it out – Slow and easy on the folding!

Pour your soufflé mix into your prepared pan or ramekins. Slide ‘em gently into a middle rack in the oven and bake at 350° F for 20 to 30 minutes. They should rise to and over top of your dishes and look amazing when you open that oven; that said, remember what happened to our popovers? It happens. To everyone. Some time. DON’T worry if they’re not picture perfect, ‘cause they’re gonna be perfectly delicious and there’s always next time!

Enjoy!

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