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Classic souffle lifts meal beyond routine

Associated Press

The idea of a souffle can seem appealing, something rather special and beyond routine to choose on a menu — but intimidating, perhaps, for the home cook to try.

Well, spare the idea more than a thought. Primed with a careful read-through of the following simple recipe, you may be tempted to give it a whirl. This light and airy dish is a classic, after all; people around the world have managed to whisk up both savory and sweet souffles for who knows how long.

This version is made with cheese and spinach, a favorite combination, and it calls for two cheeses, Jarlsberg and Parmesan, for rich flavor. You can make the souffle in individual ramekins or in one larger dish. Either way it will puff up airily as it cooks (the souffle’s name comes from the French word for breath), and may start to fall slightly when taken from the oven — but this is quite natural and makes no difference to the taste.

Serve the souffle as a main course for lunch or a light supper, perhaps with a green salad.

Cheese Spinach Souffle

Recipe developed for the Associated Press by Jarlsberg Norwegian Cheese

4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing souffle dishes

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups milk, warmed till hot

6 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons minced onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup cooked, drained and chopped spinach (see note)

1/3 cup chopped dill

1 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese (about 4 ounces)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 6 individual souffle dishes (4-inch ramekins) or one 2-quart souffle dish.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. When it foams, add flour and turn heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring, until mixture darkens a bit to a light brown — about 3 minutes. With a wire whisk, whisk in milk gradually and cook, stirring, until mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn off heat and stir in egg yolks, salt, pepper, onion, spinach, dill and cheeses.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Stir a couple of spoonfuls into spinach mixture and very gently, with rubber spatula, fold in remaining whites.

Pour batter into prepared dishes or dish, and bake until souffle has risen and is browned on top: 15 to 20 minutes for individual dishes, 30 minutes for the 2-quart dish. Use a thin skewer to check inside for moistness (it should be creamy enough for a few bits to stick to skewer). Serve immediately.

Note: Frozen spinach, thawed and cooked is convenient to use; a 10-ounce bag yields about 1 cup cooked.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition information per serving: 321 calories, 23 grams fat (64 percent fat calories), 17 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrate, 262 milligrams cholesterol, no dietary fiber, 445 milligrams sodium.

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