Sunday, January 3, 2010

Meyer Lemon Crab Souffle

Stacy and I hope all of you enjoyed your 2009 holiday.  We shared the holiday with our family and many of our friends at events that always included good food and good wine.  We capped the season with a New Year’s Eve progressive dinner for twelve that started at our friends Rich and Ann’s for some delightful appetizers, followed by the entrée at our house, then we finished at Mark and Alan’s place for divine crème brulees.  We ate and drank well for over five hours without having to leave our neighborhood which made the evening fun and stress free.

Our part of the meal included three courses starting with individual Meyer lemon crab soufflés which were light, fluffy and delicate in texture and flavor. Home cooks may be intimidated by the complexity of making soufflés and so miss out on offering the item as a scrumptious course or side dish that would add mystique and elegance to their menu.  I invite you to make the following savory soufflé recipe which is fun to do and can be used with any filling whether a protein or vegetable or combination.  Once mastered, this soufflé can be used with most any filling that is in season.

All savory soufflés start with a béchamel sauce which is one of the mother sauces.  A béchamel is a basic white sauce that has many uses besides being the base for soufflés.   A properly made béchamel will keep in the refrigerator for several days so you can make it ahead and then build the soufflé or lasagna or white sauce for fish or pasta during the final prep for a meal.  This greatly simplifies the cooking especially when you are both cook and part of the party as we were for New Year’s dinner. 

Recipe for béchamel Sauce (use to make 12 one-half cup individual soufflés)

1/2 stick unsalted butter
4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Dash ground nutmeg

Set milk in a saucepan and warm to scald but not boiling.
While the milk heats, melt butter in a large skillet over med high heat.
When foam subsides, lower the heat and whisk in flour, then cook, whisking, until pale golden, about 2 minutes.
Add milk a little at a time, whisking constantly until very smooth.
Add nutmeg and bring sauce to a boil, whisking, then simmer, whisking, until quite thick, about 1 minute.

Now you have a beautiful, silky white béchamel sauce.  Congratulations!  A common substitute for béchamel is the ubiquitous can of cream of mushroom soup that tastes like metallic wall paper paste compared to a fresh béchamel so if you see it called for in a recipe, try making the real deal instead as your food will turn out much tastier!

Recipe for Crab Soufflé

Special equipment:
12 ½ cup ramekins
Pizza Stone

Béchamel sauce (per recipe above)
6 eggs separated
1 cup shredded crab meat
1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon minced preserved Meyer lemon rind (you may substitute a tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt mixed together)

Make Soufflés:

Pre-heat oven to 400°F with pizza stone in middle.
Generously butter ramekins, then sprinkle with flour knocking out excess.
Stir together crab, lemon and cheese in a bowl.
Make béchamel from scratch or re-heat if made earlier. 
Remove from heat and whisk in yolks a little at a time (this is called tempering the yolks so that they heat without cooking into scrambled eggs). 
Stir in crab mixture filling.
Beat whites in a bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until they just hold stiff peaks (they should not look dry). Stir a heaping spoonful of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whites until just combined.
Gently spoon into ramekins (leave space at top) and bake directly on the pizza stone until golden brown and top appears set, about 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 8-10 minutes if you want to remove from ramekins.  Otherwise, serve immediately

Buda and I made a demi glace that we thickened a bit with another roux and flavored with a bit more of the preserved Meyer lemon rind.  We also chopped some parsley that was sprinkled on each plate for color.

Stacy and I wish you all delicious 2010 filled with good food, good wine and good friends!

Béchamel on Foodista

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