Blue Cheese and Chive Soufflé in Onion Cups
I have a theory that I’m slightly psychic. Today, for your reading pleasure, I will make two (2!) potentially accurate predictions:
1. This will be the least popular post that we’ve put up in about 6 months.
2. The one person who actually tries this recipe will be absolutely delighted, but it won’t matter because nobody will read either this article or the comments.
You see, I’m both a fraudulent psychic and a pragmatist. There is a small percentage of the population who gets as misty eyed and oxytocin fueled as I do when I think about blue cheeses, but that percentage is about, oh, 0.002%. The other 99.998% find blue cheese about as appealing as licking the inside of a hockey glove. Furthermore, of that 0.002% only 1/3 of them will eat onions that haven’t been shredded down to an unrecognizable pulp and dissolved in Bolognese sauce. You see? Prediction 1 was forged in the fires of depressive realism.
That said, this was also probably my favorite dinner this week….maybe 2. I ate my pillowy blue cheese and chive soufflé in it’s edible sweet onion cup with a delightful side salad in a light vinaigrette. Not to filling, and it just hit the spot. And then I a second portion (read: entree) when I was cleaning up the kitchen. And I took the last one for lunch today. If I had any more blue cheese left, I probably would have made it again tonight. But alors, I understand that this post is destined to circle for eternity in the purgatorial Brigadoon of unpopular food blog posts. I’ve made peace with that fact, but I can’t help myself from posting anyway.
Blue Cheese and Chive Soufflé in Onion Cups
- 4 – 6 large sweet onions (such as Vidalia) *
- 5 egg whites
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1.25 cups milk
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1.5 tsp dried mustard powder
- small handful fresh chives (2 tbsp finely chopped)
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese **
- salt and pepper
* The souffle is enough to comfortably fill 6 large vidalia onions. However, if you have some guests coming over that have less of an allium affinity, give them an out by making two portions in 8 oz ramekins or a single 16 oz ramekin (which will cook at the same speed as the onions).
** Surprise! I LOVE CHEESE!!! I love lots of ooey gooey melty delicious cheese, but I equally love smaller amounts of piquant cheese with flavors that blossom in your mouth like a serenade of fermentation. What I’m trying to say is that when you’re singing the blues, it can be easy to hit the wrong key. The flavor of blue cheese is quite strong and really makes or breaks this dish, so choose a blue that you really enjoy. I opted for a classic Roquefort, but if you wanted a milder flavor Gorgonzola would be great, or even the succulent and creamy Bresse de Bleu.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
Thinly slice 1/4″ off the root end of your onions, and about 3/4″ off the top. Peel back the tough outer layers of your onions until you’re at the thick and supple edible layers.
Boil the onions in salted water for 4-6 minutes, or until the outermost layer is slightly tender but still firm. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and cool them in an ice bath.
When the onions are cool enough to handle, gently loosen the outer two layers and press firmly up on the root end to pop the inside of the onion out. Be gentle so that you don’t rip the onion rounds that you need. Slice a thin (1/8″) round of onion off of the base and tuck this inside your onion cup where there is an exposed hole from the root end. Reserve the insides of the onions for another use.
Now then, onto the souffle. Carefully separate your eggs putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan. As soon as it has melted add the flour and whisk it until it forms a sandy paste. Let this cook, whisking occasionally, for only a minute or two.
Slowly add the milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly as you do so to avoid any lumps and clumps. When the sauce is incorporated and smooth (about 30 seconds of whisking) add the dried mustard, oregano, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Take the sauce off the heat.
Whisk your egg yolks until they’re combined and just slightly lighter in color. Add a spoonful of your bechamel (the cream sauce) to the egg yolks and WHISK, WHISK, WHISK!!! Be vigorous and terse. Take charge of this situation. Don’t let those eggs harden up and make a fool of you.
Repeat this with another 1-2 spoonfuls to temper the egg mixture before whisking in the rest of the sauce.
Beat the egg whites until they form moderately stiff peaks. There are a lot of tips out there about how to get the stiffest of egg whites, such as the temperature of the egg, the copper bowl, blah blah blah. The most important thing in my humble opinion is to make sure that there is absolutely not a speck of protein in the eggs. That means no yolk, and no goobers that didn’t get cleaned off of the inside of the bowl. I always wipe out my bowl (and the beaters) with a cloth doused lightly in vinegar before I commence the beats.
Dollop about 1/3 of the egg white onto the yolk mixture……
…and stir it with a spatula until it is uniformly combined.
At that point you can add the rest of the whites to the yolk, but DON’T STIR!! Just lightly, carefully, fold the mixture over with your spatula. Caress the eggs. They like some TLC. After all, if you stir them you risk losing all of the volume that you just tried so hard to make with the whites. Fluffy egg whites are one main key to a high rising souffle. You don’t need to completely incorporate the whites right now, it’s okay to be a bit streaky.
Crumble in the blue cheese and the finely chopped chives. Fold the mixture over several times until the chives and cheese are interspersed.
Nestle your onion cups into an oven safe dish that is just large enough to fit them all. They should be rather snug so that the onions were to start singing, “Lean on Me” it would just make sense. We all need a bit of support now and again.
Spoon the souffle mixture into your onion cups until it’s just about 1/2″ – 3/4″ down from the rims.
If you’re also using baking some of the souffle without onion cups, butter it well and lightly sprinkle the inside with dry breadcrumbs. Pour the souffle mixture in until it’s 3/4″ down from the rim.
Bake the souffles in the center of your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until they’re browned on top and there’s just the teensiest bit of jiggle left in the centers.
Serve the souffles immediately.
Yes, IMMEDIATELY. We’re talking STAT on the ASAP, people. They take about 1/2 hour to cook and about 2 minutes to collapse, so this isn’t the time to assemble people at the table because the souffle has just come out of the oven. Oh no. You make them SIT at the table and wait until that timer goes off. They’ll thank you for it in the end.
Rich with the flavor of pungent blue cheese and the fresh zing of snipped chives, balanced against the buttery sweetness of the onions, this is the kind of souffle that makes you stand up and salute. And then rapidly sit back down because you want another bite….a big one.
And just so that those onion hating peeps out there aren’t feeling abandoned, let me remind you of the alternative:
Another day, another dinner.