Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Balsamic Grape Skillet Soufflé ... Sort Of
The first soufflé I ever made was Julia Child’s classic cheese soufflé, which was years ago. I loved it, and am a bit unsure as to why I have not made another since then. Plus, soufflé is such a fun word to say - wouldn’t it be marvelous to say, “I made a soufflé today”? Makes me smile.
Abby Dodge’s Bake Together challenge this month is an enticing one. As soon as I saw her Caramelized Pear Skillet Soufflé, memories of soufflé making emerged and my mind began racing with different combinations - quince and cranberry? mushroom, leek and blue cheese? This seemed a tasty way to step out and try soufflé in a new way – in a skillet with caramelized fruit or veggies.
After a bit of pondering, I decided on grapes. Granted, I am not the biggest grape fan, but I just rediscovered the most delicious juice ever – unfiltered Concord grape – and it has me pausing to rethink grapes. I’ve also been seeing grapes roasted and added to pies and chicken dishes, and since I like anything roasted it seemed that cooking with grapes might open a whole new world. It did.
I tossed some black grapes into my skillet to sizzle in butter, and then poured in a splash of balsamic vinegar and a spoonful of honey. The fragrance of the grapes made my taste buds tingle and I could easily have eaten the entire skillet right then and there and called it good. While the fruit cooked, I whisked together egg yolks, honey and goat cheese, then whipped egg whites to fold in.
My soufflé puffed up into a golden brown beauty. I carefully pulled it from the oven and flipped it onto a serving plate so the grapes would be on top. Alas, I joined many others in a classic kitchen woe – my soufflé fell. Sigh.Were the grapes too heavy? Perhaps I lost volume when folding? I didn’t have enough grapes left to try again, so I began to nibble this one. With its caramelized edges, intense grape flavor and rich, delicate body, I had a hard time stopping. So, in the spirit of Julia Child, I declared victory and called it a soufflé-pancake. A success! And then I had to tuck the rest away so there would be some to share with my family later.
This would be ideal for supper with a green salad and glass of wine (more grapes!). You can be sure I’ll happily make this again, and no matter how it turns out it’ll be delicious. And those plump, balsamic-spiked grapes? Isaac has already requested them in place of blueberries for his birthday pancakes next year.
Balsamic Grape Skillet Soufflé
Adapted from Abby Dodge’s Caramelized Pear Skillet Soufflé
Serves 2 to 4
For the balsamic grapes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
12 ounces black grapes, seeded if needed
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
For the soufflé
2 eggs, separated and at room temperature
1/3 cup soft goat cheese at room temperature
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Have a flat serving plate ready.
Make the balsamic grapes:
In an 8 inch skillet (I used cast iron), melt the butter over medium heat until the foaming stops. Add the grapes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grapes soften, for about 7-8 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and honey and stir to coat the grapes. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the vinegar and honey thicken a little. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside while you make the soufflé.
Make the soufflé:
In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks, goat cheese and honey together until well blended and smooth. Add the flour and salt and whisk until well blended.
In a (very clean) medium bowl or a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on medium speed until the whites are frothy, 30 – 45 seconds. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the whites are very foamy and barely soft peaks. Increase the speed to high and continue beating until the peaks are glossy and form soft, floppy peaks. Do not over mix. Scrape the beaten whites into the yolk mixture and gently fold until just blended.
Heat the skillet (with the grapes) over medium low heat until the mixture is warm. Arrange the grapes evenly in the bottom of the skillet. Gently pour/scrape the soufflé mixture into the skillet and smooth the top. Reduce heat to low and cook until the edges begin to look dry, 3 to 4 minutes.
Using a potholder, slide the skillet into the oven and bake until the top is puffed, golden brown and the center springs back when lightly pressed, 5 to 7 minutes. Working quickly and using potholders (the handle is hot), move the skillet to a cooling rack. Gently place the serving plate on top of the soufflé and invert. Carefully lift off the skillet. Using a small serrated knife, cut into wedges and serve immediately.