potato shallot soufflé
A few weeks before I left the SF bay area, a coworker described to me a little restaurant, Cafe Jacqueline, on the north side of the city. The only thing it serves is soufflé, he described, but they're incredible. He also told me that if I made it there, make sure to use the restroom--you have to go through the kitchen, and there you see Jacqueline herself, a miniature French woman with Popeye arms, beating eggs. I never made it to Cafe Jacqueline, but that image stuck. It was so haunting that for the past week I've been fighting the urge to make a soufflé myself, despite the fact that I've never made one before.
But an overabundance of eggs and cream in the apartment forced me to give in--potato shallot soufflé it was. I adapted it from the classic La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange. (Looking up that link I discovered that the English version was translated by Berkeley's own Chez Panisse co-founder Paul Aratow.) The original didn't involve shallots or thyme, but being 100 grams short on the potatoes, I improvised to prevent the dish from being too egg-y.
I beat the egg whites by hand, which resulted in a blister on my right-hand middle finger. When I beat eggs or cream, I do so most efficiently holding the whisk like a pencil or like a hammer, alternating between the two as my muscles get tired, which they certainly did.
As soon as the egg whites were added to the rest of the mix, I fretted over the poor thing endlessly. I probably checked the oven every minute or so. In the end, the soufflé was scrumptious and neither puffing out of the dish nor fallen, which I vote to be a victory. We ate it straight out of the dish.
3-4 potatoes (1 lb)
3 T butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
5 egg whites
salt, pepper, nutmeg, and thyme to taste
Wash and bake the potatoes at 375 until they are fully cooked and mashable. Meanwhile, mince and sauté the shallots until they golden. Remove the potatoes one by one from the oven, keeping it warm for later. As you remove each potato, split it with a spoon and remove much of the skin, dumping the rest into a pan. Mash the potatoes as much as possible before adding the butter and turning on the heat. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and thyme and continue mashing the potatoes smooth as you stir them. Add the cream slowly, no more than a tablespoon at a time. Once the cream is added and the mixture is fairly dry, move it to a porcelain or ceramic dish and stir in the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites into oblivion, or "into snow" per the original recipe. I whisked them until they became very firm peaks, but the original suggested that they should stick to one's whisk as a solid block, like a "clown's wig." Fold the egg whites into the potato mixture until evenly distributed, and then bake for 25 minutes or until quite golden on top. Once it's out, eat it immediately!