Friday, March 17, 2017

Spinach and Manchego Cheese Soufflé with Roasted Red Pepper Beurre Blanc

     A Tasty Southwestern Style Savory Soufflé!
     Manchego Cheese originated in La Mancha Spain.  Manchego is a sheep milk cheese that has a nice mellow sharp flavor that goes well with spinach.  In La Mancha, only a certain type of local sheep is used to make Manchego Cheese.  
     Queso Manchego is popular in Mexico too.  The quality of Mexican Manchego cheese can vary from commercial bulk quality to nicely crafted artisan quality.  The commercial bulk style Mexican Manchego shares few characteristics with authentic Spanish Manchego, but it is a nice cheese in its own right.  Commercial Mexican Manchego is most often used for cooking or melting and it is rarely featured on its own.  On the other hand, top quality artisan Mexican Manchego is best featured on a fine cheese platter.
     When making a Spinach Soufflé, two different paths can be taken.  One is to make a very smooth refined strained Béchamel spinach puree.  Only the essence and color of the spinach is in this style of elegant soufflé.  The second method is to add minced blanched spinach the Béchamel sauce, with no straining involved.  The spinach roughage texture is retained when using this method.  Today's Spinach Soufflé is made with the coarser method, so it is a bit more hearty than the refined style.
     When the spinach in a soufflé is discolored or brown, this means that the spinach was not prepared correctly.  The same technique that is used to prepare green herbs for an emulsion oil is used to prepare spinach for a soufflé.  The method involves quickly blanching the spinach boiling water for a few seconds, then shocking the blanched spinach in ice water.  When using this method, the bright green color of the spinach will be retained.  The Spinach Soufflé in the photo examples above is a natural green color that is a result of using the quick blanching and ice water shocking method.  No green food color was used at all.  Even after baking the soufflé for 20 minutes, the spinach still has a bright green color!
     The word soufflé basically means "puff up."  A soufflé can be made to puff up a little bit or a lot.  A soufflé can have a rich dense texture or it can be as light as a feather.  A soufflé can be moist or airy and slightly dry.  The surface of a soufflé can be thin and soft or it can be slightly crusty.  These characteristics can be intentionally achieved by varying the proportion of soft meringue, roux sauce base (or puree base) and the optional addition of egg yolk or an egg yolk liaison base mixture.  
     As a rule, the baking time and temperature is nearly the same for all soufflé recipes.  A soufflé is baked for 20 minutes in a 375ºF oven.   
     A parchment paper collar is usually not required if a soufflé ramekin is only filled 2/3 of the way from the top of the rim.  This amount of empty space allows the soufflé to rise and fill the ramekin.  A parchment paper collar is only necessary if a soufflé ramekin is filled to the rim with batter.  The collar will contain the soufflé, so it retains an even shape above the rim of the ramekin.  A high rising soufflé that has no parchment collar will flower.  A soufflé that flowers is usually criticized, but some soufflés benefit from an unrestrained flowering presentation. 
     The combination of ingredients for the Spinach and Manchego Soufflé in the photos above requires a medium thin béchamel combined with a medium consistency spinach puree, plus 1 egg yolk and a 2 egg white medium soft meringue.  The batter filled each mold just a little less than three quarters full.  The souffle was designed to rise enough to fill the ramekin or soufflé mold after it finished baking.  
     As an alternative presentation, a small portion of extra soufflé was place in a non-stick silicone baking mold.  After baking, the soufflé was quickly popped out of the silicone mold for a free standing presentation.  This is a unique way to present a soufflé and a fancy star shaped silicone baking mold adds even more eye appeal.   

     Queso Manchego Béchamel:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups of medium thin Manchego Cheese Sauce.  
     The plain béchamel is made with no onion pique.  
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux cooks to a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can barely coat a spoon.
     *The volume will be a about 1 1/4 cups.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of grated Mexican Manchego Cheese while stirring.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     *The finished volume will be about 1 1/4 cups.   
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.  (68ºF to 70ªF)

     Spinach Puree:
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup.
     When measuring the spinach, pack the leaves in a measuring cup, but do not pack them extra tight. 
     Step 1:  Boil 2 quarts of salted water in a pot over medium high heat.
     Step 2:  Place 2 1/4 cups of baby spinach leaves in a large strainer.  (A strainer with a long handle is best.)
     Briefly dip the spinach in the boiling water 2 to 3 times, till the spinach leaves barely wilt.  (About 5 seconds is all it takes.)
     Step 3:  Immediately place the strainer net and wilted spinach in a container of ice water.
     Cool the spinach quickly.
     Drain the water off of the spinach.
     Squeeze the excess water out of the spinach by hand.
     Step 4:  Place the cooled blanched spinach leaves on a cutting board.
     Mince the spinach till it resembles a coarse puree.
     Place the Spinach Puree in a container.

     Spinach Queso Manchego Béchamel:
     This recipe yields a little less than 1 2/3 cups.   
     Step 1: Add 1/3 cup of the prepared spinach puree to the container of 1 1/4 cups of Queso Manchego Béchamel.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  *This step is optional.  Pureeing the spinach cheese sauce mixture will create a refined texture.  
     Use an emersion blender or food processor to puree the sauce to a smooth texture.
     Return the sauce to the container and set the sauce aside.  
     Spinach and Manchego Cheese Soufflé:
     This recipe yields enough soufflé batter for a 2 cup capacity soufflé ramekin.  There will be enough extra batter leftover for 1 1/2 cup capacity silicone baking mold!  
     Step 1:  Lightly brush a 4" wide soufflé ramekin (1 3/4 cup to 2 cup capacity) with melted unsalted butter.  
     Very lightly dust the buttered coated ramekin with flour and shake out any excess.
     Set the ramekin aside.
     Step 2:  Separate the whites and yolks of 2 large eggs.  Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and place the yolks in a separate container. 
     Step 3:  Add 1 of the egg yolks to the Spinach Queso Manchego Béchamel while whisking.
     Place the Spinach Queso Manchego Béchamel with egg yolk liaison in a second mixing bowl and set it aside.  (Save the extra egg yolk for another recipe.)
     Step 4:  Briskly whisk the 2 egg whites in the first mixing bowl till medium soft peaks appear.  (Do not whisk the egg whites too tight!)
     Step 5:  Gently fold the egg white meringue into the Spinach Queso Manchego Béchamel and egg yolk soufflé base mixture.  
     *Fold 1/3 of the meringue into the mixture at a time.  The mixture should be barely combined!
     Step 6:  Place enough of the soufflé mixture into the prepared soufflé ramekin, so it is 3/4 full.  
     *Place the extra soufflé batter in a lightly buttered 1 1/2 cup capacity fancy silicone baking mold, but only fill it till the mold is 3/4 full.   
     Step 7:  Place the soufflé ramekin and silicone mold on a roasting pan.
     Bake undisturbed in a 375ºF oven for 20 minutes.
     *The Roasted Red Bell Pepper Cumin Beurre Blanc can be made while the soufflés bake!

     Roasted Red Pepper Beurre Blanc:
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup.  (2 to 3 portions)
     Step 1:  Cut 3 ounces of chilled unsalted butter into 1/2 teaspoon size butter pats.
     Place the butter pats in a container.
     Chill the butter pats till they are needed later in the needed for this recipe.
     Step 2:  Place 1/4 teaspoon of cumin in a small dry sauce pot.
     Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Shake the pan constantly till the cumin becomes aromatic.  (About 20 seconds.)
     Step 3:  Add 3/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped shallot.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce the till only 3 tablespoons of liquid remains.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the reduced wine mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a second small sauce pot.
     Step 5:  Place the sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced roasted red bell pepper.
     Simmer and reduce till only 1 1/2 tablespoons of liquid remains.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the pot on a warm stove top.
     Set the chilled butter pats next to the hot sauce pot.
     Step 7:  Add 1 chilled butter pat at a time while constantly whisking, till the sauce becomes a creamy looking thin butter sauce emulsion. 
     Step 8:  Place the Roasted Red Pepper Beurre Blanc in a ceramic cup.
     Keep it warm on a stove top or in a 90ºF bain marie.
     Stir the beurre blanc occasionally, so the emulsion does not break.

     Spinach and Manchego Cheese Soufflé with Roasted Red Pepper Beurre Blanc:
     This recipe describes 2 different soufflé presentations.
     Ramekin Presentation:  Gently remove the 2 finished soufflés from the oven.    
     Place the soufflé ramekin on a doily lined serving platter. 
     Press a spoonful of the Roasted Red Pepper Beurre Blanc into the top of the Spinach and Manchego Cheese Soufflé shortly after it is served.
     Silicone Baking Mold Presentation:  Place a dry pastry towel or oven mitt over one hand.
     Invert the silicone mold and Spinach and Manchego Cheese Soufflé onto the covered hand and remove the silicone mold.
     Place an upside down plate over the soufflé in hand and invert the plate and soufflé together as one, so the soufflé sits on the plate right side up!
     Spoon the Roasted Red Pepper Beurre Blanc over the edge of the soufflé and onto the plate.
     Garnish with an Itallian Parsley sprig.  

     Viola!  Two ways to serve the same soufflé!  The Roasted Red Pepper Beurre Blanc compliments the savory flavor of the Spinach and Manchego Cheese Soufflé!  

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