A couple of days ago I harvested a big bunch of chard leaves out in the garden and decided to make Madame Pépin's cheese soufflé with them. Her son Jacques, the famous Franco-American cook and TV personality, gives the recipe and an anecdote about it in his book The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen.
Jacques Pépin writes that when his mother got married at age 17, she didn't know how to cook more than a few very simple dishes. "Yet, she was willing and fearless," he continues. "My father liked cheese souffle', so my mother graciously obliged. She had never made a soufflé before, but a friend told her that it consisted of white sauce (béchamel), grated cheese, and eggs — a cinch!"
Jeannette Pépin proceeded to make a béchamel sauce (butter, flour, and milk) and then mixed in some grated Swiss cheese. She added eggs one by one, stirring everything together. She poured the mixture into a gratin dish and baked it in the oven. Voilà !
"No one had told her that the eggs should be separated, with the yolks added to the base sauce and the whites whipped to a firm consistency and then gently folded into the mixture." Pépin concludes: "Ignorance is bliss, and in this case, it was indeed; the soufflé rose to a golden height and became a family favorite." And it's a recipe or method that I keep coming back to, in the kitchen and on this blog.
And there you have it. Make a béchamel sauce using 6 tablespoons (90 grams) of butter and 6 tablespoons (60 grams) of flour. Let it cook for a few seconds, stirring it well, and then pour in 2 cups (480 milliliters) of whole milk all at once. Cook it until the sauce is thickened and then let it cool down for 10 minutes before adding 2½ cups (about 180 grams) of grated cheese (Comté, Cheddar, Gruyère, or Cantal, for example) and 5 large or 6 medium eggs, beaten.
Stir everything together well and pour the egg mixture into a buttered (or oiled, or non-stick) baking pan and cook it for 30 to 40 minutes in the oven at 400ºF (200ºC). It will rise and top will turn golden brown. Eat it while it's hot and before it falls.So where's the chard? Before starting to make the soufflé, chop and cook fresh chard leaves in butter or with bacon until it's done, and then stir it warm or cold into the soufflé mixture before you pour it into the baking dish. Instant chard soufflé with cheese. No muss, no fuss.
Use spinach if you don't have chard, or some other cooked vegetable (grated zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), fresh or frozen. In my case, I added smoked pork belly lardons along with the chard, which I had cooked with some diced shallots. My photos don't match up perfectly with the text, but I think you get the idea. Here's a link to the recipe for a slightly smaller version of the soufflé, using spinach.