Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Taking Risks: Shrimp & Spinach Soufflé

The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it. – James Beard

Served with a rice, cranberry, green onion and almond pilaf.
I have a confession to make. This is my first soufflé – ever. Never one to take half steps, I decided to jump right into the middle of it with a seafood souffle.

This is the base béchamel.
I assume that normal dessert soufflés would be a little bit easier to start off with. You don’t have to calculate for extra loft to offset the heaviness of the seafood mixture.

I have a second confession. I made this recipe up, basing it on some semi-thorough research of several fish soufflés. Daring of me, right?

I made some calculated risks. One was that I decided to chop the spinach and shrimp in a food processor. I was afraid of large shrimp pieces not being thoroughly cooked before the rest of the soufflé. No worries there – everything cooked perfectly.

And my derring do paid off. “Main” dish soufflés are heavier as a rule than fluffy dessert versions, but it still puffed up, supported itself and kept that height to the table. Ha!

The chopped shrimp and spinach mixture.
This soufflé (of which I am moderately proud) also has a lot of flavour. The tarragon pulls out the taste of the shrimp and complements it perfectly. The spinach adds an interesting green speckle and also does double duty as one vegetable in your meal.

If you’ve never made a soufflé go get a soufflé dish and try one. Nothing ventured, nothing gained... Once your soufflé is done take it directly to the table and serve hot from the dish.

Take Mr. Beard’s advice to heart. After all, if it falls you’ve only wasted a few eggs, plus some expensive shrimp...and bemoan your fate. Or proudly dish it out to your family and guests and call it something else!

Shrimp & Spinach Soufflé
Prep: 20 min  |  Cook: 35-45 min  | Serves 6
2 c. spinach, raw
1 lb shrimp, chopped
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. vermouth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
freshly cracked pepper
6 egg yolks
6 egg whites

The béchamel, shrimp/spinach, cheese and whipped egg yolks.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease a souffle dish with butter.

Place the spinach in a food processor and chop. Then add the shrimp and pulse until fairly fine, with some still identifiable texture.

Put the shrimp mixture in a large bowl before folding the whites.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Blend in the flour. Slowly add the milk and vermouth. Cook and stir until thickened. 

Remove from heat and stir in the tomato paste, tarragon and 1 tsp each of salt and pepper. Stir in the shrimp mixture.

The whites don't have to be absolutely, completely incorporated. If they are
you may have over-folded.
Divide the eggs and whip the yolks until very light and lemon coloured. You need to put lots of air into them. Stir carefully into the shrimp mixture. Then stir in the cheese.

In a clean glass or metal bowl beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. They should be glossy. Gently fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the shrimp. Then fold in the remaining whites. Turn the mixture into the dish.

Right from the oven, about 40 minutes later.
Bake for 35-45 minutes. Test for doneness by sticking a kitchen needle (or piece of straight clean metal wire) into the centre. It is done when the needle comes out clean.

Take to the table and serve immediately.


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