The dreaded soufflé. Nothing impresses or intimidates like this dish. Don’t let the airiness fool you; this is not for the faint-hearted. Properly executed, however, a soufflé is a superb choice for brunch (even if your friends refuse to invite you because they say you’ve just been too much of a downer lately), as a versatile side dish (because no one trusts you to bring a main course anyway), or a light supper-for-one (after learning your ex has already found a new boyfriend). Once you’ve mastered this melt-in-your-mouth light version of the classic cheese soufflé, who needs a boyfriend, anyway?
6 large eggs, separated
1 cup Gruyere or other
2 ½ tb butter
3 tb flour
1 cup hot milk
¼ tsp nutmeg or to taste
½ tsp salt
white pepper to taste
additional butter for the soufflé dish
one unfortunate sighting of your ex-boyfriend in the meat section of the grocery store
Chardonnay, to taste or 1 bottle to drink after seeing your ex in the store
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 6-cup soufflé dish.
2. Separate eggs and set aside.
3. Use the freshest possible eggs. It only takes one bad egg to ruin the entire batch.
4. After ruining five eggs with one bad one, check that you have enough eggs left in the fridge to make a soufflé. Curse the three remaining eggs in the carton.
5. Go to grocery store.
6. While standing in front of the egg case debating between cage-free, organic, Omega-3, vegetarian, cage-free organic Omega-3 vegetarian, and the cheapest eggs in a Styrofoam container, add sighting of ex-boyfriend suddenly and without warning.
7. Duck around the corner into the frozen food aisle.
8. Peer around the corner in time to see another man walk up to your ex and place a package of steaks in the cart, while simultaneously resting his hand in the small of your ex’s back. Deflate slowly. Wonder if your then-vegetarianism was to blame for your eventual breakup.
9. Retreat to the liquor aisle. Consider a bottle of Chardonnay; pick up a fifth of Absolut. In the end, get both.
10. Pause, turn around, and find the man formerly with his hand on your ex’s back now standing in front of the refrigerator case of chilled wine. Back away slowly.
11. At the same time, silently judge his taste in wine when he chooses a very sweet Riesling because your ex likes only dry whites, and anyway, neither one will go with steak, as everyone knows.
12. Wonder if your ex’s tastes in wine have changed before remembering not to care because he’s your ex, damn it.
13. Move to the cereal aisle and wait for your ex and his new boyfriend to finish checking out.
14. Ponder what it was you saw in him in the first place.
Chef’s note: If you get halfway home before you realize you forgot to buy eggs, don’t worry. Just go back and get them because you are going to make this soufflé. Get whichever eggs are cheapest because you’re just going to break them, so what does it matter anyway?
15. Pause at the checkout when the hormone-free, cage-free, organic, vegetarian, free-range Omega-3 eggs come to $6 for a dozen. Buy them anyway.
16. Open Chardonnay.
Chef’s note: A light, crisp Chardonnay pairs well with the delicate flavor of a soufflé. It is best, however, not to attempt to open the wine while still in the car on the way home from the grocery store.
17. Warm milk slowly to avoid scalding it. Consider the numerous occasions you let things get too heated or stay too cold.
18. Melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Do not let meltdown extend beyond pan.
“DO NOT BLEED ALL OVER THE CHEESE.”
19. Add flour and whisk until it starts to froth, because you’re good at whisking things into a froth. Add milk and continue whisking. Add nutmeg and salt.
20. Add egg yolks one at a time. If you have not already separated your eggs, this is a good time to do so. Separating sooner rather than later is best for lots of things besides eggs.
Chef’s note: This is a messy dish that uses a lot of bowls and utensils. Don’t worry! Messes are unavoidable and some people just need to realize that. Of course, it would be something of a waste going to all this effort just for yourself, so why not call a friend and invite them over for an impromptu dinner?
21. Accidentally call ex on speed dial instead.
22. Try to hang up before he picks up.
23. Curse the day caller ID was invented.
24. Make approximately 97 seconds of painful small talk, ending when the new boyfriend can be heard in the background telling your ex that the steaks are ready.
25. Regret saying “Talk to you later” before getting off the phone, especially since your ex said “take care” and that sounded more appropriately final.
26. Delete ex’s number from speed dial, which you should have done sooner.
27. Decide to shop at a different grocery store from now on.
28. Coarsely grate 1 cup, approximately 4 ounces, of Gruyere cheese, being careful not to shred your knuckles.
29. Shred knuckles and curse loudly.
30. Do not bleed all over the cheese.
31. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Overbeaten egg whites will lose their moisture and break down when mixed with other ingredients. Breaking down is not what you want to do at a time like this.
32. Fold the eggs whites carefully into the egg yolk mixture or else it will deflate.
33. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes.
Chef’s note: If it’s your first time making a soufflé, you’re probably going to want to hover around the oven and check on it constantly. Although you can do this, it’s not necessary. You can just set a timer and do other things—clean up the kitchen, Facebook-stalk your ex, or finish that bottle of Chardonnay—while the soufflé does its thing. It’s best just to leave well enough alone, anyway. This is something you’ll learn in time.
34. Remove soufflé from oven when it’s nicely risen and has a golden brown dome.
35. Try not to cry.
36. Allow soufflé to cool before removing from dish.
37. Open bottle of Absolut, and serve soufflé. Enjoy.
38. No, really. Enjoy.
Jeffrey Ricker is a writer based in St. Louis. For more about his work, visit his website.