When I was a kid, if there was soufflé on offer, I ordered it. It didn’t matter what flavor—to me it was all about that moment when you tapped your spoon into the fluffy whites and they deflated into a runny puddle of custardy sweetness.
Even if you were a bored eight-year-old sitting through a long French meal, when the soufflé showed up, all frustrations melted into sugar-fueled joy.
This golden, puffy, cheese-filled creation is like a cross between a southern spoonbread and a savory French soufflé, with a good dose of harissa to add color and spice. Serve it for brunch, as a light supper, or as a fancy side dish.
4 tablespoons (½ stick / 56 grams) unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
3 tablespoons (30 grams) finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup (35 grams) fine cornmeal
2 tablespoons harissa, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
4 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
1 cup (4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese
Method of Preparation:
Position a rack in the lower third of your oven and place a baking sheet on the rack. Heat the oven to 400°F. Generously butter a 1½-quart soufflé dish. Coat the bottom and sides with the Parmesan.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Then add the scallions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to a plate and reserve.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet and let it melt. Carefully pour in the milk and heat until it is simmering. Slowly stir in the cornmeal, whisking constantly; continue to cook until the mixture thickens to a sauce-like consistency, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in the harissa and salt, adding more of each as desired. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, blending fully after each addition. Transfer the cornmeal mixture to a large bowl and let it cool to lukewarm.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold stiff peaks, 3 to 4 minutes; the beaten whites should have just begun to lose their sheen. Whisk a quarter of the whites into the lukewarm yolk mixture to lighten it. Then use a spatula or spoon to fold in the remaining whites in two additions while gradually sprinkling in the cheddar cheese and the sautéed scallions. Don’t over-fold; the mixture should still have a few lumps. Transfer the batter to the prepared soufflé dish. Rub your thumb around the edge of the dish to create space between the dish and the soufflé mixture (this helps it rise).
Place the dish on the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until the soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and the center barely moves when the dish is shaken gently, 35 to 40 minutes (do not open the oven door during the first 20 minutes). Serve immediately.