Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
Dessert soufflés generally fall under my “do not attempt” list for entertaining at home—too much to do at the last minute and way too fussy. But a cheese soufflé is a different species entirely. It’s basically foolproof, has a sweet retro vibe and makes a good base for experimenting with seasonal flavors, such as sweet summer corn with light, tangy goat cheese. The recipe below, when served with a simple arugula salad, makes for a perfect late-summer weeknight dinner.
For a wine match, my go-to with corn is usually Chardonnay, but the classic pairing of goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc was hard to resist when I found a bottle of Honig’s 2012 Napa Valley bottling for $17 in my local market. Sauvignon Blancs come in a range of styles, from stony and austere to ripe and fruit-forward, often carrying notes of grassiness and citrus in addition to a strong acidic character—a suitable complement to the eggy richness of a soufflé.
In my first trial, I was proven right on the importance of acidity. For a template, I borrowed this recipe for a basic cheese soufflé in the Wine Spectator archive, and modified it by substituting a base of goat cheese and fresh sweet corn for the more wintry gruyère called for by the original. The dish was good on its own, but got better with the wine, which highlighted the tanginess of the goat cheese while the rich food brought out the Sauvignon Blanc's appealing citrus notes.
Still, I wondered if I could tweak the recipe further. Despite the absence of any grassy or herbal elements in the Honig’s tasting note, I thought that adding herbs to the dish might bring out the textbook character of the varietal. Adding three tablespoons of chopped thyme to the second trial proved a success: The wine seemed more three-dimensional with the herbed soufflé, and the thyme helped brighten the dish overall.
A tip for further wine matching: Make a simple dressing of lemon juice and olive oil for a side salad. The citrus will play well to the wine.
Pair with a California Sauvignon Blanc, such as Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2012 (87 points, $15)
Total time: 35 minutes
Approximate food cost: $27
1. Preheat the oven to 475° F. Butter a 4-cup soufflé pan or 4 4-inch ovenproof ramekins, then dust with flour and reserve.
2. In a medium-size bowl, lightly mash the corn kernels with a pestle or potato masher. Add the goat cheese and mustard, and stir to combine.
3. In another medium-size bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 3 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of cold water. Reserve.
4. In a medium-size saucepan, heat the milk over high heat until near boiling, then add 1/4 cup to the egg-yolk mixture and stir to combine. When the rest of the milk is boiling, lower the heat to medium and add the yolk mixture to the saucepan while stirring vigorously. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring until the mixture has thickened. Add the corn and cheese mixture and stir until combined. Remove from the heat, stir in the thyme leaves and reserve.
5. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until hard peaks form. In another large mixing bowl, add 1/3 of the egg whites to the soufflé base and stir until combined. Carefully fold the remaining egg whites into the mixture, then pour into the soufflé mold or ramekins and fill to the brim.
6. Bake the soufflés in the oven for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to 425° F and bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until the top has browned and the soufflé has risen 1 to 1 1/2 inches off the rim. Remove and serve immediately with a green arugula salad. Serves 4.