Asparagus Souffle

I spent days gushing about this dish before I even made it to anyone who would listen. And I’ve learned something. Apparently asparagus is not for everyone. Apparently there are people out there for whom the bitter green vegetable of almost no calories does nothing. Maybe they have no taste. Maybe they just hate springtime. I’m not judging. (Oh, I’m totally judging. This stuff is awesome.) But even if you hate asparagus, even if you fear the tiny purple leaflets getting stuck in your teeth and the fact that asparagus has a lot of sulphur-based compounds, make this. It’s pillow-soft, marshmallow smooth, and tastes like a bite of spring. Plus, an asparagus spear has fewer than eight calories. So you can eat anything you want as a side with no guilt. Like a whole chocolate cake.

This recipe is adapted from Italian Slow and Savory. It’s an awesome cookbook. My only problem with it is that I can’t eat almost half of the recipes, which is an issue most Italian cookbooks and I have.

Ingredients (almost fills a 2 quart soufflé mold. Serves 4-6.)

1 pound trimmed asparagus (you’ll need about 1 1/2 pounds before trimming.)

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup flour

4 eggs, separated

nutmeg and salt to taste. I prefer kosher salt because I like the little crunchy surprise it adds, but I’m a total salt fiend.

Butter for greasing pan.

Lemon wedge, for serving.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a 2 quart soufflé mold. Boil the asparagus until very soft, about 10 minutes.

Place the cooked asparagus in the bowl of a food processor. . .

. . .and do science to it pulse until smooth.

Transfer the purée into a large bowl and add milk, flour, salt, nutmeg, and yolks. Some white pepper would be good, too.

Stir the mixture together and set aside. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.

Fold the egg whites into the rest of the batter (I couldn’t take pictures of this step because I only have two hands. I will happily volunteer for the necessary procedures to turn me into Doc Ock. Just putting that out there.) Pour the batter into the buttered mold, put that mold into an 8×8 pan half full of water, and bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes.

My oven got turned off because I wasn’t paying attention and turned off the oven dial instead of turning on the burner under the teapot for some reason for about 10 minutes, and I blame that incident for the weird crack on the surface of my soufflé.

Still delicious. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a salad for a light meal, or with a hearty helping of chicken francese for a decadent one. Either way, lemon it up.

In order to get a bit more rise and a bit more flavor out of the recipe, I think next time I’ll fold in about 1/2 cup of finely grated grana padano or parmesan. It would be fun to fold in various fresh chopped herbs, or dried ancho chile flakes or (for the non-allergic) sun-dried tomatoes.  I’m tempted to spoon it over a twice-baked sweet potato and brown it for the color and flavor contrast. This is definitely a recipe to play around with. It’s surprisingly rich, yet light and airy and quite hard to stop eating. Unless, of course, you hate asparagus.

 

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