Sustainable Cooking by Celebrate Knoxville Food Writer Mary June Thompson. —
I recently had the privilege of touring a local mushroom growing facility, Brewer’s Mushrooms. Housed on a hilltop with a gorgeous view of the Smoky Mountain foothills, their greenhouse (photo featured below) is a fascinating place for a food lover, with a surprising variety of mushroom types in various stages of growth. The mushrooms grow out of bundles of specially heated wood chips or straw that have been inoculated with fungi spores. They thrive in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, and they are grown without the use of any chemicals or pesticides. The proprietors sent me home with a bounty of pristine mushrooms, including lion’s mane, old world blue oyster, golden oyster, king, and shiitake mushrooms. The flavor of the Brewers’ mushrooms is outstanding; their earthiness is perfectly complemented when sautéed with onions or shallots, garlic, and/or thyme. (See our Twitter photos of Brewers Mushrooms @CelebrateKnox.)
Once back in the kitchen with the mushrooms, a quick look through the refrigerator yielded immediate inspiration for a sustainable, local dish featuring these beautiful fungi: some leftover egg whites from making pudding out of the egg yolks, a chunk of smoked gouda cheese, and two pieces of leftover shallot—the perfect makings for a soufflé.
Although a seemingly daunting task to many, I find a soufflé to be a very versatile dish, as it is a perfect centerpiece for brunch or an elegant dinner, and its presentation far outweighs the actual difficulty of preparation. Plus, if you start with whites from whole eggs when making a soufflé, you have the perfect excuse to make a decadent pudding or custard later using the leftover yolks.
Local Mushrooms and Smoked Gouda Soufflé
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
2 cups assorted chopped fresh mushrooms, such as those from Brewer’s Mushrooms
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2-3 Tablespoons unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups milk
1/3 cup unoaked dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
1 large egg yolk
½ cup freshly grated smoked gouda cheese
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a small skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, just until shallots are softened. Stir in mushrooms, season with ¼ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper, and cook for another 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have released their liquid. Add the thyme and cook for another minute. Set aside.
While the mushrooms cook, spray a 1-quart soufflé dish with cooking spray. Evenly sprinkle breadcrumbs over the bottom and sides of the dish, discarding any extra crumbs that didn’t stick. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup flour and remaining ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps. Stir in the wine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once it boils, cook mixture for 1 minute or until thickened. Set aside so it doesn’t burn while tempering the egg yolk.
In a medium heat-proof bowl, add the egg yolk and lightly beat it. Starting with a few drops at a time, slowly whisk about a quarter of the milk mixture into the egg yolk. Return saucepan to medium heat and add egg mixture to milk mixture, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in gouda until melted and smooth. Fold in mushroom mixture. Set aside to cool slightly while whipping the egg whites.
In a large bowl (or alternatively, in the bowl of a stand mixer), add egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat at high speed with hand mixer or stand mixer until egg whites form stiff peaks.
Gently fold about ¼ of the egg whites into the milk mixture to lighten it a bit. Then fold the mixture back into the egg whites, taking care not to deflate the egg whites, until incorporated. Gently spoon into prepared soufflé dish, smoothing and leveling the top.
Place soufflé dish on a sheet pan or piece of foil to catch any drips. Bake for 55 minutes or until the soufflé is golden brown and set. Serve immediately, as the soufflé will begin to deflate as it starts to cool.
Serves 2-3 as a main dish.
Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.