Discovering the REAL James Beard: Making James Beard's Romaine Souffle Recipe

October 22, 2009 in Entrees, Vegetarian Entrees

James Beards Romaine Souffle Recipe

James Beard's Romaine Souffle Recipe

I discovered this unusual recipe for Romaine lettuce in a recent $1  used-bookstore find: James Beard on Food. It was one of those recipes you know you just have to make.

I brought this book home last week and stayed up until 2 a.m. reading it cover to cover. I couldn’t put it down!  Because of his legendary status, I had always assumed that James Beard, the undisputed King of American Cuisine,  must be the ultimate food snob – a fussy and picky and joyless kind of perfectionist chef. Turns out he was just the opposite. Julia Child described him as “the quintessential American cook . . . endearing and lively . . . he loved people, loved his work, loved gossip, loved to eat, loved a good time.” The book, a collection of his food columns, reveals him to be a witty, thoughtful, fun-loving soul. Wow. An icon made real! It is an honor to cook his recipe.

Here is the recipe in his original words with my modern commentary interspersed in italics.

JAMES BEARD’S ROMAINE SOUFFLE

Cut off the bottom of 1 head of Romaine. Wash thoroughly and chop coarsely. Put into a heavy saucepan with a little water and cook until wilted. Drain well and chop finely. (I used the food processor and pulsed a few times – making 1  1/2 cups.) Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet and cook 3 chopped green onions (thinly sliced) until soft but not brown. Add Romaine and cook, stirring, until moisture has evaporated. In a saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter, mix in 3 tablespoons flour, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring. Add 1 cup extra-rich milk (I have no idea what this is, but I used 2 per cent and it was fine), heated, and cook until thickened. Separate 4 (large) eggs. Beat the yolks into the sauce one at a time, then add 1 cup shredded (medium) cheddar cheese and cook until smooth. Stir in the Romaine mixture until well blended. Season with 1 teaspoon salt (I only used 1/2 teaspoon), 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and 2 or 3 dashes Tabasco  ( I also added a little fresh grated nutmeg).

Lavishly butter a 1 1/2 quart souffle dish, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, coating bottom and sides, and shake out excess. Beat the egg whites (with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar) until they hold soft peaks, and stir about 1/3 of them into the Romaine mixture, blending thoroughly. Fold in the remainder lightly; if small lumps of egg white remain, that’s fine. Pour the mixture into the souffle dish and smooth the top. Put into a pre-heated 400 degree oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 25 to 35 minutes,  according to whether you like your souffle a bit runny in the center, in the French manner, or rather firm. Then rush it to the table, for souffles wait for no man.

Some fun James Beard blog entries by other food bloggers:
James Beard’s Spinach Souffle, Serious Eats
James Beard’s Hamburger Kebabs, Kalyn’s Kitchen
Frugal Cooking Tips from James Beard, Al Dente

– posted by Donna

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