Cheese souffle with lettuce

adapted from Jacques Pepin

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 c sliced green onions
  • 8 c 2-inch slices lettuce (iceberg, romaine, leaf all work)
  • 1/3 c water
  • 5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c milk (we use 2%)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated (will be 2 cups)
  • 7 egg whites
  • 1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • about 12 small strips of Cheddar cheese for decoration

Melt the butter in a large skillet, add the scallions, saute for about 1 minute, and then add lettuce and water. Cover and cook 2-3 min. Uncover the wilted lettuce and let it cook on high heat until the liquid is evaporated – it should be practically dry.

Make a white sauce: melt the butter in a large saucepan, add flour and mix well. Cook on medium heat 1 minute, stirring. It should be light brown and slightly grainy. Add the milk and bring it to a boil, whisking, and make sure the whisk can reach into any corners, because the sauce has a tendency to stick and burn. Keep it cooking until it boils, and is very thick. Then take it off the heat.

While it’s off-heat, add the egg yolks, Tabasco, and salt. Mix fast and thoroughly. The mixture now should be yellow and fairly thick. Add the cheese and wilted greens, and mix well. Set aside.

Butter a low gratin dish, and then add the grated Parmesan, shaking it to cover all the bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 375 F. Now beat the egg whites: put them in a scrupulously clean bowl (a copper one will beat the egg whites higher) and beat them until they are glossy and tight in texture, without either weeping or being dry. They should hold a firm peak.

Now add a quarter of the egg whites to the sauce/lettuce, stirring fast with the whisk. This will lighten the sauce, so that the rest of the whites can be folded in more easily. Give the rest of the egg whites a few strokes with the large whisk to eliminate any graininess, and then fold them into the sauce/lettuce with a large rubber spatula. Fold, don’t stir.

Pour this into the prepared dish, and smooth the top. Sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan cheese, and decorate the top: make a crisscross pattern with the reserved cheese strips.

Bake uncovered at 375 for 15 minutes – and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook for another 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: M. Pepin even gave hints about what to do with any leftover souffle! Cut it into strips and arrange on a buttered gratin dish. For approximately half the original recipe, sprinkle with 1/3 Cup of grated cheese and 1/3 Cup of milk. Place under the broiler in the middle of the oven, so it is not too close to the broiler, and bake for about 10 minutes. The gratin will brown and puff. Serve immediately.