Savory Winter Squash Soufflé

Served with Prosciutto, arugula, goat cheese with lemon & herbs, and a drizzle of white wine vinegar & olive oil.

I have seen photos of perfectly-puffed soufflé, so I know the highly puffed recipes must exist. But by the time I slid this baby onto the plate without burning my fingers, I had about 30 seconds to snap away before it began to sink in the middle.  I was wishing for a mini Julia Child angel on my shoulder to help me with my puffiness problem, that is, until I tasted the finished product.  Bowl-shaped or not, this savory fall soufflé is light and full of flavor. If you are interested in a dairy-free version, I tried this recipe with a mixture of unsweetened soy milk and lower-fat coconut milk, and omitted the cheese.  It was delicious. For other preparation tips, in Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, the basics of Savory Soufflé recipe is a great  guideline for first-timers.

Ingredients: 1 small butternut squash (or other dense winter squash, like acorn or kabocha. Also can substitute two medium sweet potatoes) Olive or canola oil Freshly ground nutmeg 4 Tbs butter or Toasted Garlic Drizzling Oil 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/2 cups milk (can substitute unsweetened soy milk, or reduced fat coconut milk) 6 farm-fresh local eggs, separated 1 tsp french mustard 1 Tbs fresh thyme, minced 1 tsp paprika or cayenne pepper 2 green onions, chopped 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (optional) Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel and seed the squash (or peel the sweet potatoes), cut into 1-inch cubes and place in a glass baking dish.  Toss with a little olive or canola oil and season with sea salt, black pepper and a little freshly ground nutmeg.  Bake for about 1 hour.  While the squash is baking, gather the other ingredients so they are ready for the next step.  When the squash is cooked, mash well with a fork.  It should measure about 1 cup mashed.

Next heat the Toasted Garlic Drizzling Oil or butter in a medium saucepan.  If using butter, you will need to cook it on medium heat until the water evaporates and the solids have separated.  Make a roux by adding the flour and cooking until it begins to brown, (If using oil, it may only darken slightly).  Slowly pour the milk into the pan and stir constantly with a whisk for a couple of minutes to keep it from going lumpy. It will be like a thick, southern white gravy at this point. Remove from the heat and let cool enough that you can comfortably insert a finger without it burning.  Stir in the egg yolks until smooth, then add the mashed squash, mustard, thyme, paprika, green onions and shredded cheese (if desired).  Stir until combined evenly.  If you are not squeamish about raw eggs, taste the mixture and adjust seasonings to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter eight 4-inch ramekins, or one large soufflé dish.  In a glass or metal bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Transfer the squash mixture to a large bowl and fold in 1/3 of the egg whites with a rubber spoon-shaped spatula. Slowly and gently fold in the rest of the egg whites until it is fairly evenly combined, but take care not to over-mix the batter or your soufflé will be flat.  Spoon the batter into the ramekins or the soufflé dish and place on a baking sheet in the center of the oven.  Bake the small ramekins for about 20 minutes, the large soufflé may take 30-40 minutes.  It is done when the top has browned and it is set, but still somewhat soft.  If it jiggles when you check it, give it a few minutes more. When they are done, serve immediately.